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International Development Questions

1st May 2019

Harriett Baldwin answers MPs’ questions on UK Aid to the Department for International Development.

Climate Change

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con)

3. What support her Department provides to help developing countries tackle climate change. [910642]

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)

12. What support her Department provides to help developing countries tackle climate change. [910654]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

Tackling climate change is a priority for the Government. We have committed £5.8 billion to help developing countries to reduce emissions and to manage the impacts of climate change. To date, our support has helped 47 million people cope with the effects of climate change and supported 17 million people to gain access to clean energy.

Craig Tracey

The latest round of funding for the Darwin Initiative has committed £10 million of funding for 52 international projects. Can the Minister confirm that those projects will support and enhance biodiversity and the natural environment right across the globe?

Harriett Baldwin

I welcome the way in which the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has allocated that money. Of course, it is overseas development assistance money that helps to support and enhance biodiversity in countries that are eligible for overseas development assistance.

Huw Merriman

It is very welcome that the Government are doing more to help developing countries with climate change, but the reality, as I have seen for myself, is that the Chinese are leaving a very large carbon footprint in African countries. What more can the Government do to persuade the Chinese to do better in Africa?

Harriett Baldwin

I know that my hon. Friend is an aide to the Chancellor and I know that the Chancellor was in China this week emphasising in his remarks the importance of taking into account the sustainable development goals in development projects. I am very pleased to see that 78 countries, including China, have issued green bonds here in the City of London, with eight different currencies raising $24.5 billion towards sustainable development. The UK has really shown leadership on this initiative.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)

Further to that question by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), does the Minister concede that we must all do what we can to reduce the impact of climate change, but that very significant pressure must be applied to those at the very top in that regard, such as China and some African countries?

Harriett Baldwin

It is really important that we all recognise that the world has signed up to sustainable development goals. Part of that sustainability means that any new investments should avoid fossil fuels as much as possible. We have shown leadership on that recently. For example, the recent round of bids from the Green Climate Fund, which we helped to fund, has led to a lot of renewable energy projects in Africa and elsewhere.

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)

Given the growing climate crisis, should it not be the Department’s top priority to ensure sustainable development, diversification, the end of deforestation, public transport, clean energy and everything else?

Harriett Baldwin

Of course that is a very important priority. Humanitarian assistance continues to be what we spend most on, but the emphasis of that can also be sustainability. We do a great deal to ensure that. ​The £5.8 billion that we have so far contributed to international climate finance gives an idea of the level of our commitment to this issue around the world.

Dame Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con)

I have seen for myself how Tearfund’s programme of providing solar technology in countries such as Bangladesh has transformed the lives of young people, so I am pleased to hear that DFID will extend those efforts into Africa. Does the Minister agree that young people having the chance to study under light at night will help to improve their life chances significantly?

Harriett Baldwin

It is so important that we recognise access to electricity and that we encourage it to be through renewable sources, including off-grid. We recently held a big event here in London for African Energy Ministers, to show them their options on things such as sustainable and clean mini-grids. The UK can do a huge amount in offering both technical and financial expertise.

Chris Law (Dundee West) (SNP)

We all heard amid last week’s climate change protest that low to middle-income countries will be hardest hit. The UK Government continue to tell us that they are world-leading in helping those countries to tackle climate change. However, in 2017-18, fossil fuels made up not 60%, 70% or even 80% but a shocking 99.4% of UK Export Finance’s energy support to those countries, locking them into dependency on high-carbon energy. Does the Minister agree that all this talk of commitment to cutting greenhouse gases is nothing more than simply hot air?

Harriett Baldwin

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to raise questions about UK Export Finance when he has the chance to question our colleagues from the Department for International Trade. DFID’s focus is very much on encouraging access to electricity from renewable sources. So far some 17 million people around the world have gained access to clean energy thanks to our investment.

Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)

I wonder whether the Minister will today commit to auditing and publishing UK aid spending on fossil fuels through the CDC, the prosperity fund and multilateral organisations?

Harriett Baldwin

I am pretty sure that a lot of that information is already in the public domain. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman my understanding that the CDC has made no new investments in fossil fuels since 2012.

Dan Carden

The Labour party has committed to divesting DFID of all fossil fuel projects, which directly undermine the global goals on climate and sustainable energy.

“It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on…general wellbeing.”

Those are not my words but David Cameron’s. GDP is a crude indicator that tells us nothing of people’s wellbeing, inequality levels or the health of our planet. However, this Secretary of State seems concerned only with increased competition and mobilising private finance to deliver the global goals. Is it not time that the Government woke up to the need for new policies and measures that focus on people and planet?

Harriett Baldwin

In that case, I am sure the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the human capital champion at the World Bank. He will be aware of the extensive impact that our spending has on both health and education around the world. We are taking part in the voluntary national review of the sustainable development goals. I am sure he will welcome that, according to a recent UN study, the UK has actually become a happier country and has increased its happiness in the world.


Plastic Pollution

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con)

6. What steps her Department is taking to tackle plastic pollution throughout the developing world. [910646]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

DFID is committed to helping developing countries tackle the problem of plastic pollution. We are spending up to £39 million to help poorer countries find practical ways to improve waste management and identify ways in which manufacturing processes can reduce plastic pollution.

Rebecca Pow

Does the Minister agree that we should increasingly put sustainability at the core of all our funding, particularly around plastics? For example, Tearfund is running projects that enable people to earn a living while cleaning up the planet. This is the direction we should be going in.

Harriett Baldwin

Of course, all our work is designed to achieve the sustainable development goals, so sustainability is crucial. Tearfund has done some amazing projects, and I am delighted today that we are announcing that we will match fund a WasteAid project in Cameroon that will help with exactly what my hon. Friend refers to—people earning a living from cleaning up plastic and stopping it going into our oceans.


UK Companies: Contracts

Sir Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con)

7. What proportion of contracts her Department has awarded to UK companies in each of the past five years. [910647]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

DFID has awarded more than 80% of its contracts to UK-registered companies in each of the last five years.

Sir Hugo Swire

One of the achievements this Conservative party can be most proud of is its aid budget and the fact last year Britain was the only member of the G7 to meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid—an astonishing £13.9 billion. Of course, this attracts criticism in some quarters. Does the Minister agree that one way to negate some of the criticism of the perceived largesse of taxpayer money would be to encourage proactively more British companies to win some of those contracts, without of course contravening state aid rules?

Harriett Baldwin

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight this point. In fact, I think we are the only country in the world to have put that 0.7% figure into statute. He will see from the numbers that in open competition 80% of our contracts have been awarded to UK-registered firms, but of course we would like to see more and smaller companies, and our procurement team has been out on a range of regional tours across this land to encourage more people to bid for our contracts.


Topical Questions

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)

T2. There is real concern that not enough is being done to help the people of Mozambique, particularly now that ​Cyclone Kenneth has struck. What is the Minister doing to ensure that global communities step up their response to the first cyclone relief fund, and do all that they can to remedy this humanitarian disaster? [910656]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, but I think we can be very proud of the work that the UK team in Mozambique is doing to deal not only with Cyclone Idai but, now, with Cyclone Kenneth. The team has been at the forefront in providing practical and financial assistance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State held a meeting at the World Bank the week before last to look into attracting other donors to make longer-term reconstruction investments in Mozambique.


Stephen Kerr (Stirling) (Con)

T3. It was World Malaria Day last week. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the UK’s contribution to the global fight against this preventable disease, which kills hundreds of thousands of children every year? [910658]

Harriett Baldwin

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his leadership in this area. He has personally visited victims of malaria, and I know that he champions the UK’s leadership role and the £500 million a year that we are spending on preventing this terrible disease, which leads to the death of a child every two minutes in our world.


Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)

T7. Mr Speaker, I am sure you are aware that the newly elected President of the Gambia is an avid Arsenal fan, but can the Secretary of State tell us what country-specific direct support she is giving to help the Gambia rebuild its economy and democracy? [910662]

Harriett Baldwin

Many Presidents across many African countries support a range of different teams, and this is a huge part of the work we do because it touches on so many young people as well. In the light of Soccer Aid last year, I pay tribute to the President of Gambia. Of course DFID has a range of programmes in Gambia, but through Soccer Aid we were able to raise lots of money from football fans, and I think everyone should welcome that.


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