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International Development Questions

13th February 2019

Harriett Baldwin answers questions from MPs to the Department for International Development.

Female Genital Mutilation

Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
2. What steps she is taking to help eradicate female genital mutilation in developing countries. [909192]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
The UK leads the world in our support to the Africa-led movement to end FGM. In 2018, we announced the biggest single investment worldwide to date by any international donor: a UK aid package of a further £50 million to tackle this issue across the most affected countries in Africa.

Rachel Maclean
I am sure that I speak for all Members in expressing disappointment that the FGM Bill did not receive its Second Reading in the House last week. I am pleased to see that the Government have committed to bring the Bill back in Government time. Will my hon. Friend confirm that her door always remains open for any Member of this House who wishes to discuss what the Government are doing to stop this appalling crime?

Harriett Baldwin
I am pleased to be able to confirm that, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, wearing her gender equalities hat, has reached out to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope). She hopes to sit down with him and other colleagues should they wish to discuss this important issue.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
Since I got my Female Genital Mutilation Bill through Parliament in 2003, we have had only one successful prosecution. That is a disgrace and I feel embarrassed talking about the eradication of FGM in other countries, but I wish to ask about what is being done in Kurdistan. My past experience leads me to believe there is a problem with FGM there, so are we tackling it?

Harriett Baldwin
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that FGM happens in many countries in the world. The DFID funding that I mentioned and the work that we have been doing has been focused specifically on 17 African countries. In that regard, I am pleased that 8,000 communities, representing more than 24 million people, have pledged to give up the practice.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
Will the Minister tell us why the Government have not introduced legislation—they control the House and could get it through—rather than leave it to the vagaries of a private Member’s Bill? If they are interested in it, they should do something about it.

Harriett Baldwin
My hon. Friend would lead me down paths that are best left to the Government Whips and the Ministry of Justice, but the UK does of course believe that we can work with some of the citizen-led movements in Africa to change perceptions around FGM.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
The Minister alluded to the Africa-led initiative, which has been positive, but will she not undertake to be much more emphatic in trying to co-ordinate an Africa-wide initiative to eliminate this vile practice?

Harriett Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the fact that this is a worldwide effort. We focus our efforts in countries where the practice is most widespread and where there is the greatest opportunity to work with the African-led movements to really effect change on the ground.

Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
We have just had the first prosecution for FGM in this country; what more can this country do to prevent families from taking their girls abroad to have FGM done to them?

Harriett Baldwin
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have done a lot in this country to change domestic legislation—for example, to put reporting requirements on parts of the NHS. One must pay tribute to the tireless campaigning by courageous activists, both here and overseas, in respect of changing the practice and changing communities on the ground.

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
Everyone would agree that we need to tackle female genital mutilation. The Minister will be aware that the private Member’s Bill on the issue was scuppered. In the light of that, does she understand that confidence in the Government’s willingness to deal with the issue has been shaken? It is important that they now move quickly to restore that confidence.

Harriett Baldwin
I encourage the hon. Lady to continue with that confidence. We can point to a strong track record of working on this issue, not only in the UK but with some of the African-led initiatives in African countries. She will have heard it announced during the urgent question on Monday that the Chief Whip has committed to taking forward the UK legislation as quickly as possible.


Prosperity Fund

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
5. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that aid spent through the prosperity fund complies with her Department’s duty to reduce levels of poverty. [909195]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
The primary purpose of the prosperity fund is to reduce poverty through sustainable and inclusive economic growth in middle-income countries. Other Departments are responsible for ensuring that their overseas development programmes from this fund meet the requirements of the International Development Act 2002.

Daniel Zeichner
Climate change will hit the world’s poorest people hardest, so why on earth is 29% of the energy component of the prosperity fund being spent on oil and gas extraction, including supporting fracking in China?

Harriett Baldwin
I know that the hon. Gentleman shares my commitment to doing what we can to tackle the incredibly important issue of climate change. We should be wholeheartedly supporting opportunities that work as climate change initiatives to move power beyond coal.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker
What a pleasure to call a west country knight, no less—Sir Gary Streeter.

Sir Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con)
I strongly support DFID Ministers’ approach to the prosperity fund, which looks to promote economic reform in middle-income countries, where 70% of the world’s poorest people live. Are not trade and economic reform still the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty?

Harriett Baldwin
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that the way in which the world will end poverty is by having sustainable and inclusive economic growth. To achieve the sustainable development goals, we need to crowd in not just development finance, but $2.5 trillion annually for development.

Chris Law (Dundee West) (SNP)
Alleviating poverty should be at the core of everything that DFID does. As such, I am sure that the Secretary of State will be just as deeply concerned as I was to see the former Foreign Secretary throw his weight behind a report published this week that calls on changing the Department’s purpose from poverty reduction to further

“the nation’s overall strategic goals”.

Will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that the Department will not become a subsidiary of the Foreign Office and that the 0.7% of GNI will be firmly committed to poverty reduction?

Harriett Baldwin
Yes, I can confirm that that is the Government’s policy.


Topical Questions

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
My right hon. Friend will know that the restrictive common agricultural policy has damaged agriculture in Africa. After Brexit, what can we do to stimulate trade, particularly with farmers in sub-Saharan Africa?

Harriett Baldwin
I am pleased to reassure my hon. Friend that there is already a lot that we can do. There are many products, such as avocados and cashew nuts, that we simply cannot grow in the UK, and I know that UK consumers and African producers will benefit from growth in those areas in years to come.


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