Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th July 2018.

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Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham 12:00 am, 4th July 2018

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

[In British Sign Language]: On 24 July we will hold a global disability conference here in London, organised by the UK Government, by the Kenyan Government and by the International Disability Alliance. For too long, in the world’s poorest countries, disabled people have not been able to reach their full potential because of stigma or not enough practical support. I am proud to be focused on this area, which has been neglected for too long. The conference will support the global effort to advance disability inclusion for some countries’ most vulnerable people. [Applause.]

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

As a boy, my ayah came from Somaliland, which was a British protectorate then. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explain what her Department is doing to help that great country, which has always been a friend of the UK?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. UK assistance to Somaliland includes support for critical economic infrastructure, humanitarian assistance, police and justice support, and engagement in counter-terrorism and security. We provided rapid response in the aftermath of the tropical storm, and we will also support Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission to plan and prepare to deliver elections next year.

Hear, hear.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Reuters has reported that fighting in Hodeidah has forced around 2,000 high school students to take a dangerous six-hour journey across mountains to sit their exams in Sana’a, but more than 2 million children are reported to be out of school in Yemen, and the conflict is having a profound effect on their education. What are the Government doing to end the conflict?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We are giving every support to the work of the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, who, almost as we speak, is in Sana’a and talking to the coalition parties. Only through this UN negotiation might we get a resolution of the conflict.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

I know through personal experience the good work DFID does with the Foreign Office in promoting trade with developing countries. Will the Secretary of State continue to work with the Foreign Office to make sure we offer better trade deals to developing countries, particularly those in Africa, than they currently have with the European Union?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

As I said, leaving the EU affords us the opportunity to develop our own trading deals with those nations. We work incredibly closely with the Foreign Office, including through our ministerial teams coming together once a week to discuss these matters.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

The recent aid transparency index showed DFID a commendable third but the FCO a poor 40th in the global rankings of aid agencies. Can the Secretary of State explain the discrepancy between the two and ensure that all UK aid spend meets the same standards of quality, poverty reduction and transparency?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

As the hon. Gentleman knows, earlier this year I convened the first cross-ministerial official development assistance group. Every Department that spends ODA money, and the National Security Council, which looks after the cross-government funds, meets at that group, through which we will provide training, support and the tools DFID uses to get other Departments to the standard we want them to reach.

Photo of Luke Hall Luke Hall Conservative, Thornbury and Yate

Building on the Government’s efforts to tackle modern slavery in the UK, will the Secretary of State update the House on what steps she is taking to tackle modern slavery overseas?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

Tackling modern slavery is a priority for the Department. Last year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced £40 million of new funding that aims to reach at least 500,000 people at risk of slavery. We will continue to work on this as a priority.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Ministers will be aware that as we speak the bulldozers are moving into the Palestinian settlement of Khan al-Ahmar. That will lead to the forced displacement of the residents there, in a clear breach of international law. Will the Minister assure me that we are on the ground now, gathering evidence of these breaches of law, so that those who are responsible will later be legally accountable?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I will be answering an urgent question on this matter shortly. We have taken a great deal of interest over many years in the affairs of those Bedouins at Khan al-Ahmar. I visited them just a few weeks ago and this remains a matter of great concern to the UK.

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

At the recent royal highland show, a number of excellent charities were exhibiting, including the Scottish-based landmine clearance charities the HALO Trust and World Vision. Will the Minister reassure the charities and me that this Government will continue to be committed to the 0.7% international aid budget and the support they give to these charities?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt The Secretary of State for International Development, Minister for Women and Equalities

Absolutely; that is our policy. I will be visiting the HALO Trust tomorrow. It does a tremendous amount of work de-mining in many parts of the world and it is a very valued partners of ours.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

Healthcare workers tending wounded in Gaza are coming under fire from the Israeli defence force. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Israeli Government about this unacceptable and barbaric practice?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We have many discussions with the Government and state of Israel about the issues recently in Gaza. Although it is right for Israel to protect itself, aid workers and medical workers should never be a target for attack.