Beirut: Humanitarian Support

Defence – in the House of Commons on 21st September 2020.

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Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

What support his Department has provided to the humanitarian efforts in Beirut.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

Within days of the explosion, Defence deployed HMS Enterprise, the first foreign ship to reach Beirut, in order to survey the blast zone and share crucial data on hazardous material blocking the port approaches. In addition, Defence provided targeted support for Lebanese armed forces who have been co-ordinating the humanitarian response. This included a field kitchen and tents for 500 people, two medical cold storage containers, and a team of advisers.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Conservative, Gedling

I welcome the MOD’s humanitarian response to the disaster in Beirut, but it is important that aid actually reaches the people who need it and is used for the benefit of the people. For example, a donation of tea by Sri Lanka for the victims of the blast was distributed to the families of presidential guards. Can my right hon. Friend tell me how he is going to ensure that aid reaches the people who need it, and also how important defence diplomacy has been in providing that support?

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace The Secretary of State for Defence

Defence diplomacy is incredibly important in making sure that, as my hon. Friend says, the assistance delivered on the ground gets to where it needs to go. It is also incredibly important in making sure we smooth the way in many countries after a disaster or, indeed, just in countries with a different system. That is why we invest in our defence diplomacy network, including our defence attachés. They were first on the ground in Lebanon, and they managed to make way for a number of our advisers, who are in place now. He is absolutely right: we need to make sure that the aid is always targeted to the right place. The defence attaché network does just that, and it will continue to get our full support.