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Yemen

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 16th December 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 11:30 am, 16th December 2015

What steps her Department is taking to tackle the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

This is one of the world’s worst human crises: 80% of Yemen’s 21 million people are in need of aid. The UK is playing its part. We have committed £75 million and are the fourth largest donor.

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he update the House on what role the UK Government are playing to help bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Yemen?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

Peace talks began today, and yesterday a ceasefire commenced. I would urge all parties to observe the ceasefire. Her Majesty’s ambassador and DFID are in the margins of the peace conference affording what assistance they can.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I welcome all the efforts that have been made by the Government, including the ceasefire, but the real problem is getting aid into Yemen. What can we do to raise the blockade?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

We have invested £1.7 million in the UN vessel investigation mechanism. I hope that that will have a quantum effect on the number of vessels that are able to dock in the ports—60 last month, 55 the month before. It is getting better, but we are far, far short of what is necessary.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

My right hon. Friend will no doubt be aware of the recent report by Save the Children which highlighted the devastating impact of the conflict on medical facilities in Yemen, with some 69 hospitals destroyed or damaged by the end of October. While one wishes the peace talks well, what can the Government do in the interim to ensure the combatants are dissuaded from targeting medical facilities?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That report is being scrutinised and investigated. We call on all combatants to observe international law, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made this point very forcefully on his recent visit.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Following that reply, does the Minister agree that there is an overwhelming case for the United Nations Human Rights Council, which in the last year has referenced international humanitarian law 17 times to call for an investigation into breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen?

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (International Development)

The conflict in Yemen has seen 6,000 dead and 30,000 injured. The World Health Organisation says health services are on the brink of collapse. As it was world universal health coverage day yesterday, will the Minister today commit to help rebuild Yemen’s crippled system?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

We have already committed £75 million to this, the worst crisis in the world, and I do give that commitment. We are already planning for the reconstruction of Yemen.

Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment)

What discussions has the Minister had with the Foreign Office about concerning reports from Amnesty International and others that British-made weapons sold to Saudi Arabia are being used in the conflict, in breach of human rights laws?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne The Minister of State, Department for International Development

The UK has the toughest standards for the export of weapons. The hon. Lady should be aware that the coalition is acting in support of the legitimate Government of Yemen after an illegal coup by an armed—[Interruption]—force.