Gaza: Humanitarian Aid

Defence – in the House of Commons at on 25 March 2024.

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Photo of David Simmonds David Simmonds Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner

What steps his Department is taking to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince Conservative, Colchester

What steps his Department is taking to assist in the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

What steps he is taking with the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs to increase the number of aid shipments to the middle east.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. The UK, including the Ministry of Defence, is working collectively with allies, partners and international organisations to deliver desperately needed aid to the Gazan population.

Photo of David Simmonds David Simmonds Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner

My constituents are rightly proud of the work that our armed forces are doing to facilitate the delivery of aid, to prevent a colossal humanitarian catastrophe. What further steps can be taken to ensure that British aid finds its way to civilians in need, rather than into the hands of Hamas fighters?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

That is one of the greatest challenges in the current situation. We are working with the British Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN World Food Programme, the Egyptian Red Crescent and others to ensure that aid gets to the right places. That is extremely challenging, and has slowed down aid delivery.

Photo of Will Quince Will Quince Conservative, Colchester

The Israeli Government have said that they want to “flood” Gaza with aid. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that we will work with our partners globally to get more aid into the hands of civilians in Gaza, and will assist the Israelis to deliver on that pledge as soon as possible?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

I inform my hon. Friend that we have already delivered 74 tonnes of humanitarian aid via the RAF, and 87 tonnes through the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. In addition, we are pursuing land, air and maritime routes.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

With half of Gaza already starving and the rest teetering on the edge of famine, and the UN Security Council voting for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, access to humanitarian aid is crucial. This month, the Foreign Secretary stated that the UK would support the building of a temporary pier in Gaza to allow hundreds of extra daily truckloads of aid into the strip. Will the Secretary of State outline what steps he is taking, along with the Foreign Secretary, to ensure that the pier is constructed as quickly as possible?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that I have sent teams both to Tampa to work with US Central Command and to the region to help with planning and constructing that pier. In addition, right at the beginning of the conflict, I ensured that we did hydrographic research, to aid in exactly this kind of situation, when the conditions were right to get a pier built. This is not a trivial endeavour, but we are working to deliver the pier as quickly as possible; there is the potential to get 2.5 million meals a day to Gaza.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Flooding, Oceans and Coastal Communities)

The UK Government’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid depends on the UK’s relationship with its middle eastern partners. What impact does the Secretary of State think that recent events and UK Government foreign policy decisions have had on that crucial relationship with those middle eastern partners?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and I have been very proactive in speaking to and making multiple visits to the region. I have visited the majority of countries in the middle east and Gulf region to discuss exactly the points that she has raised. There is now a large-scale programme of using a pier to get food in, in addition to the many other efforts made. As my hon. Friend Will Quince pointed out, the issue is not just getting the aid there, but then distributing it; that is a great concern.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

When will the Government make a further public determination on Israel’s commitment to international humanitarian law, given the man-made famine unfolding in northern Gaza, which is compounded by Israeli moves to obstruct access to aid? If the UK finds, as the UN Secretary-General, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International did, that the Israeli Government and the Israel Defence Forces have violated international law, what steps will the UK Government take to prohibit further arms sales to Israel, pending a resolution of the situation? Given that the Security Council has just called for a ceasefire, what steps will the Government take through the defence sector to accelerate all available aid for civilians in Gaza?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Defence

It is a pity to ask all those questions without referencing the 100-plus hostages who are still being held by Hamas, who brutally slaughtered the population deliberately rather than as a by-product of war. The hon. Gentleman asks a number of questions. I can tell him that on arms exports to Israel, an issue for which I am responsible, it is, to put it in proportion—I think, from the top of my head—just £48 million for the past year. The numbers are actually very small indeed. He will know that his latter question is one for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.