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Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions

4th September 2018

Harriett Baldwin answers MPs’ questions in relation to her ministerial portfolio.

Official Development Assistance: Endangered Species

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con)
1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Development on using official development assistance to help protect endangered species abroad. [906708]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
The Foreign Secretary meets the International Development Secretary regularly to discuss Government action on the illegal wildlife trade and to plan for the UK-hosted international conference in October, which will focus on countering that hideous crime.

Mr Jayawardena
Welcome back, Mr Speaker. I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement last week that Britain’s international aid budget will be used to boost mutual trade. Would my hon. Friend the Minister also like to see more aid used to support conservation efforts to similarly boost the protection of endangered species through, for example, more invaluable park rangers?

Harriett Baldwin
My hon. Friend draws attention to the work we are already doing in this area. I had the privilege during the recess of complimenting the British Army, which is helping to train and work with rangers in Malawi. While I was out there I announced a programme that helps with alternative livelihoods to poaching for people who live around that park.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
It is good to be back, Mr Speaker. Last week the press informed us that 10 black rhinos, which are an endangered species, were moved from one location to another without the water there having even been checked. It turned out to be salt water and the 10 rhinos died. Is it not possible to do things better when trying to save endangered species, rather than letting such things happen?

Harriett Baldwin
I did see reports of that very unfortunate incident. I am not clear whether there was any UK Government involvement, but it was a very sad incident. The summit we will host in October will see delegations from all over the world putting their heads together on the ways in which we can tackle the issue, both through law enforcement and through creating areas and safe space for species, and other ways in which we can work together with the rest of the world to tackle this hideous trade.


Sierra Leone: Violence and Political Arrests

Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (Lab)
10. What recent assessment his Department has made of the level of political (a) violence and (b) arrests in Sierra Leone. [906717]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
Sierra Leone held presidential and parliamentary elections in March, and power was transferred peacefully. We are aware of recent allegations of politically motivated violence and we continue to monitor the situation. The new Government have made a commitment to govern for all Sierra Leoneans, and I call on them to honour that pledge and to ensure due process in all cases.

Neil Coyle
I am proud of the large and vibrant Sierra Leonean community in my constituency, but many community leaders have come to see me to discuss their worries about escalating tensions, arrests, violence and restrictions on political activity since the elections earlier this year. Will the Minister meet Southwark’s Sierra Leonean community representatives to outline what the Government are doing in response to their concerns?

Harriett Baldwin
On my visit to the country earlier this year, I was struck by the journey that it has gone through from civil war to the presence of United Nations peacekeepers to the terrible Ebola outbreak, so it was welcome that elections were held this year and that there was a peaceful transition of power. I would, of course, always be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and the community. To reiterate the point I just made, we welcome the inclusive approach that the Sierra Leonean Government are talking about and hope to see it implemented.


Australia: Diplomatic Relations

Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)
14. What steps the Government are taking to strengthen diplomatic relations with Australia. [906721]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
Australia is one of our closest bilateral partners, and diplomatic relations are excellent. In July, we held our 10th annual ministerial talks, where we agreed to strengthen foreign, security and trade relations. The Prime Minister spoke to Australia’s new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on 27 August.

Maggie Throup
I welcome the fact that the first major summit attended by the Foreign Secretary on his appointment was his and the Defence Secretary’s meeting with their Australian counterparts. Will he update the House on the progress made in preparing a free trade deal between our two countries?

Harriett Baldwin
I am sure the whole House will want to welcome Australia’s purchase of nine Type 26 frigates from the UK, which is a significant defence export and means that we have the “Five Eyes” frigate with our friends in Australia.

The UK-Australia trade working group is meeting regularly to lay the foundations for future free trade negotiations. Indeed, there is a public consultation so that the public can express their opinions.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op)
Does the recent removal of the Prime Minister of Australia have any lessons for this country?

Harriett Baldwin
I am sure that diplomatic relations between the UK and Australia, despite the changes the Australians have had at their end, will endure with the stability of this Government.


Topical Questions

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab)
T10. Lesotho Minister John Maseribane admitted to “Channel 4 News” that he had received payments to his personal private bank account from Mr Arron Banks. Will the Foreign Secretary speak to the Attorney General about investigating this matter under the Bribery Act 2010 as this Government contribute to the Government of Lesotho? [906742]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
I can confirm that we have announced this year that we are reopening an embassy in Lesotho. I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing this case to my attention, and I will certainly follow up by writing to him about the matter.


Stephen Kerr (Stirling) (Con)
It is now four years since my constituent Iftikhar Ahmad’s three-year-old son Shahryar—a British subject—was abducted and brutally murdered in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Will the Secretary of State meet me and others to see how we can get justice for this family?

Harriett Baldwin


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