Occupied Palestinian Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:45 pm on 29th April 2004.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:45 pm, 29th April 2004

I shall come to some of the specifics of what we have said to the Israeli Government in a few seconds. The Government have made representations on a series of the issues that have come up in the debate and we will undoubtedly have to continue to do so.

In the absence of progress towards the sort of peace that we all want to see, we need to recognise that there is a limit to what development assistance can achieve. What is most needed is a relaxation of Israeli closures and eventual withdrawal, so that the Palestinian economy can take off and drive the lifting of the Palestinian people out of poverty, which everybody wants and to which the Select Committee's report rightly alludes.

Of the recommendations in the report that are specifically for DFID, the vast majority are already part of our approach, a point to which the hon. Member for Banbury alluded. A number of our projects specifically seek to enhance the prospects for peace, such as our support to the negotiations support unit and our support to the Palestinian civil police. Without progress on Palestinian security, Israel is unlikely to meet its road map commitments and the road map will probably fail.

It is not just Israel that will benefit from improvements in the quality of Palestinian civil policing. Better civilian policing is very much in ordinary Palestinians' interests and could help to demonstrate that road map implementation can bring visible improvements to their daily lives.

Mr. Clappison asked specifically what we are doing about security. Only recently, we posted a senior policeman from Northern Ireland to the west bank and Gaza to help the Palestinian Authority to plan civil policing and law and order better.

It is absolutely right to continue to provide support direct to the Palestinian Authority. Sustainable poverty reduction is not possible without a political solution. The Palestinian Authority are the key vehicle to help to deliver the negotiated settlement back to the Palestinian side.

As I said at the outset, the Department is developing its own country assistance plan. I have not had time to respond to every hon. Member's specific points, but I will draw the attention of the Secretary of State to this debate and to many of the concerns raised by hon. Members. I hope that those interested in the issue will recognise that their concerns have been taken on board when the country assistance plan is published in due course. I thank the Select Committee again for its comprehensive report and welcome the opportunity to have had this debate.

It being five minutes to Six o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.