Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

The central challenge in international development going forward will be the quality, expertise and number of our permanent staff on the ground. As international development becomes more complex, with conflict and climate, as we have to work more closely with other Departments and, above all, in a world in which developing countries are looking not for money, but for expertise, over the next 15 years we will have to increase the expertise, the quality and, above all, the number of civil servants, moving away from short-term consultants to having British experts on the ground.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

I am sure the Secretary of State will be aware that Birmingham this week joined Cardiff, Sheffield and Tower Hamlets in calling for the recognition of Somaliland. Does he agree that diaspora communities here in the UK play a crucial role, not only in Somaliland, but in many other contexts, in providing not only direct assistance, but the type of trading, business and expert links that can help development in so many countries?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

We are immensely fortunate in the UK with our diaspora communities because they provide both powerful advocacy, for example, with Somaliland on female genital mutilation, and expertise—linguistic, deep country expertise—to ensure that our programmes on the ground are of the requisite quality.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

Mindful of recent Ebola outbreaks, what lessons have been learnt to help countries become more resistant to Ebola, particularly in the health sector?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

I am lucky enough to have just returned from the Congo, where I was looking at Ebola in Beni and Butembo. The situation of Ebola in the Congo is serious; we now have—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. The Secretary of State is a cerebral and intellectual fellow, of prodigious brain power, and he deserves a more respectful audience than he is being accorded. Let us hear the words , digest them and learn from them.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

What needs to be heard is not my cerebral power, but the issue of Ebola in the Congo. The House needs to be serious about that. There is an Ebola outbreak now in the Congo, which has already crossed the border into Uganda. On Sunday, we had an outbreak in Goma, a city of 2 million people. If we do not get this under control, this Ebola outbreak, which is already the second biggest in history, will cause devastating problems for the region. We must invest much more in the World Health Organisation, in developing the public health services in the neighbouring countries. Above all, we must step up to the challenge and be serious as a nation about this deadly disease.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

One in 10 of the world’s population still do not have access to clean, decent water supplies. I know the Government are trying hard to rectify that, but will the Secretary of State look at the article today by the chief executive of WaterAid calling for greater support in this area?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

The provision of water and sanitation is central. It is vital for health. It is also vital in schools, for ensuring that girls remain in school, and it is vital for tackling any kind of water-borne disease. So good investment in water, which DFID prioritises, needs to be one of the three fundamental pillars of development, along with education and health.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What assistance is being provided to the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are seeking to cope with Haitian migrants making a hazardous sea crossing and settling in that British overseas territory?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

My hon. Friend is right to highlight this, and I am pleased to say that the conflict, stability and security fund has been used to help the Turks and Caicos repair its radar, so that it is able to detect boats that may be carrying people trying to access the islands. He may be aware that early in 2018 the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Mounts Bay was also deployed in order to provide a deterrent to those who wish to make that perilous crossing. We will consider other ways of using the CSSF in this region in the future.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

July is set to be the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Areas such as the Lake Chad basin, where more than 4.5 million people are already displaced, are the most vulnerable to these temperatures. The Secretary of State’s ambition to double spending in the long term is admirable, but what more does he think could be done now to support those countries that are in the frontline of the climate emergency?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the issue of climate is now driving conflict. In the Lake Chad basin there simply is not enough ground for people to feed their oxen or plant crops. We need to invest in climate-resilience projects, which means looking not only at the crops but at the reasons why there are now conflicts, from the Chad Basin and Nigeria right the way across east Africa, between people with oxen and people who are planting. In particular, Sahel is central to DFID’s new initiative. We are opening embassies in Mauritania, Niger and Chad, and much more of our investment is now going to go into the Sahel region.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

The recommendations in the report by the Bishop of Truro that was launched this week—the Foreign Secretary requested the review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians worldwide—will be implemented effectively only with cross-departmental engagement and support. Will DFID provide that support?

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin 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 am pleased to add my voice of welcome for the report commissioned by the Foreign Secretary. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight some of the important points made in the report. She will be aware that, in addition to freedom of religion and belief, the UK is, as we heard from the Secretary of State, helping communities with their adaptation to some of the other drivers of conflict highlighted in the excellent report.