Britain in the World

Part of Fifa – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 1st June 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Justice) 7:21 pm, 1st June 2015

I refer to my entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

We have heard seven fantastic maiden speeches this afternoon, so I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Members for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) and for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), to the hon. Members for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) and for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and to my hon. Friends the Members for Burnley (Julie Cooper) and for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn). I am sure that all seven will have a fantastic time serving in this House.

This year is an important one for international development, with a summit next month in Addis Ababa on financing for development, a summit in New York on the post-2015 sustainable development goals in September and the Paris climate change conference in December. Those provide an important opportunity for the UK to play a leading and constructive role.

Ten years ago, I visited the African country of Rwanda for the first time. I saw for myself the remarkable progress that the people had made in the 11 years that followed the horrors of the 1994 genocide, and I saw the hugely positive impact that the Department for International Development had made in supporting Rwanda’s progress. Rwanda is a great example of how development policy can help to rebuild countries riven by conflict. I welcome the Government’s reaffirmation of the 0.7% commitment to overseas aid, and I urge the Secretary of State to use the opportunity of her closing speech today to challenge those EU countries that have not made the progress that we have made, and to say that it is simply unacceptable that the EU’s timescale for the achievement of 0.7% is so slow.

Of course, international development is not just about aid. That is why the Addis Ababa summit on financing for development is so important, ensuring that we can expand the sources of finance available to grow businesses in the least developed countries. There is a focus on infrastructure, including water, sanitation and energy, and a focus on promoting public services, including health care, education and social protection.

Like their predecessor, this Government have rightly placed support for women and girls at the heart of international development. I pay tribute to the former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, for his important work on tackling violence against women and girls.

Increasingly, conflict is both a cause and a consequence of the challenges we face in international development. I would like the Secretary of State to address two current situations in her closing remarks. The first is what is happening in the Central African Republic, where we have seen progress over the last month with the Bangui forum and the Brussels conference. There is a real prospect of national reconciliation led by the Central Africans themselves. Europe is committed to establishing a trust fund to support the Central African Republic, which is welcome. Will the Secretary of State consider making a UK contribution to that trust fund?

The second was raised by my hon. Friend Jonathan Ashworth—the plight of the Rohingya people in Burma, who face extraordinary persecution. Many of them are now living in camps, while others have escaped on boats. This is an urgent humanitarian crisis, in which the Governments of Burma and its neighbours surely have a responsibility to protect the Rohingya people.

I believe that the work of DFID is crucial and that its impact will be maximised if a commitment to development is placed at the heart of Government—across all Departments and speaking with one voice. Parliament itself can play an important role through the Select Committees, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and other bodies. Let us resolve today to place international development centre stage in this Parliament, because it is both the right thing to do and in the best interests of our country, our economy and our long-term security.