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International Development Questions

28th February 2018

Harriett Baldwin answers MPs’ questions on the work of the Department for International Development.

Aid Spending

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)

5. What steps she is taking to promote value for money in aid spending. [904082]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)

It is vital that aid spending delivers rigorous value for money and is well spent. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that we must ensure it “cannot be better spent”. All projects are measured against a robust monitoring framework to ensure they remain cost-effective.

Daniel Kawczynski

I thank the Minister for that answer. I am sure she will agree that she constantly has to justify to the electorate the amount of money that is spent overseas. With that in mind, what steps are being taken to ensure that more of the equipment utilised is ​British, that more of the non-governmental organisations employed to carry out the work are British and that the armed forces, where appropriate, are also involved in helping these projects?

Harriett Baldwin

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the important role that our armed forces have played, not only in tackling Ebola in Sierra Leone, but in tackling the hurricane in the Caribbean last year. As he will know, the Secretary of State and I are both former Ministers in the Ministry of Defence and we are keen to ensure we work closely with our colleagues there.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)

I was concerned to read that £160,000 of the £5.8 million of UK aid spent with Venezuela was being used for training its repressive security services. I understand this was under review last summer, so will the Minister update us with the latest on that?

Harriett Baldwin

My understanding is that the small amount of spending that happens in Venezuela is to support human rights organisations and the British Council’s work on education. I shall certainly take back the hon. Lady’s representations to ensure that what she says is not the case.

Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)

I thank the Minister for her answer. How can we win back public support for what aid does if she believes that the best way of spending aid money is through the armed forces, and with more on outsourcing to the private sector and less on actual poverty reduction? Does she not see that that approach will only add a misperception to the growing doubt on who is best placed to deliver aid?

Harriett Baldwin

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not welcome the amazing work we are doing through the delivery of international aid, through so many different organisations, be it in partnership, such as she seems to resent, with our colleagues in the conflict, stability and security fund or by working with colleagues in the health service on their amazing response to the outbreak of disease in camps in the Rohingya crisis.

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Topical Questions

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)

T3. I do not usually get that reception. ​The South Sudanese Government are preventing effective non-governmental organisations such as Christian Aid from providing aid to those who desperately need it in South Sudan. What more can be done to put pressure on that Government to allow such charities the access that they need? [904095]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right: it is a scandal that the South Sudanese Government are charging non-governmental organisations to deliver aid. The aid is getting through, and we should pay tribute to the people who are delivering it, but we are putting pressure on the Government to allow easier access for humanitarian aid.

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Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con)

Following on from my recent question to the Prime Minister on the Open Doors World Watch List, will the Minister considering earmarking a fixed minimum percentage of international aid to tackle religious persecution?

Harriett Baldwin

My hon. Friend deserves tribute for the way in which she raises this issue. In the 70th year since the United Nations’ universal declaration of human rights, it is a scandal that almost three quarters of the world’s population live in countries that restrict religious freedom. We do a lot in this area. Although we do not fix the percentage, it is important to respond to that need.

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