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International Development Questions

7th June 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to MPs’ questions in relation to her Department for International Development portfolio.

Women's Equality

Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con)
4. What steps his Department is taking to help increase women’s equality throughout the world. [911157]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
Our strategic vision for gender equality focuses on ending violence against women and girls, on girls’ education, on promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, and on women’s empowerment.

Eddie Hughes
It is vital that girls in developing countries have access to high-quality education, so what progress is the Department making to help ensure that happens?

Harriett Baldwin
I am so pleased that my hon. Friend can support the “12 years of quality education” campaign that we are leading around the world, together with France and Canada. It is an incredibly important part of development, because evidence suggests that for every year that a girl spends in school, her lifetime earnings increase by 10%. Hon. Members can see how powerful that is in terms of prosperity for our world.

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
The Women Deliver conference heard this week from Sawsan Al Refai, a Yemeni development researcher and activist, who said:

“It is important for Yemeni women to be at the table, but we need to make sure Yemeni women’s issues are at the table too.”

What is the Minister doing to achieve that?

Harriett Baldwin
I am pleased to say that my ministerial colleague Baroness Sugg has been at that conference in Vancouver this week. The hon. Lady highlights a very important issue, because the evidence and the research that we have done suggests that involving women in peace processes very significantly increases the chances of their being successful and sustainable.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
Does the Minister agree that if we want to make women more equal worldwide, we have to free them from poverty? And does she agree that a road death or serious injury can plunge a family into long-term poverty? Does she agree that we must act now to stop this greatest epidemic of our times, which kills more women and children worldwide?

Harriett Baldwin
May I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s tireless work on road safety around the world? He and I have met to discuss this issue, which is one of the biggest killers around the world. Of course, it is a killer of women and girls as well, and often of girls on their way to school. We are thinking about how we can best make sure that, where there is a need to develop growth—where the World Bank is providing finance, for example—the road safety elements are taken into account from the beginning.

Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op)
In its latest annual review, the CDC claims that, of the jobs it supports, only 32% are for women and 68% are for men. Does the Minister agree it is not acceptable that over twice as many men are being supported with jobs via these investments. Given her Department’s commitment to gender equality, will she take this up directly with the CDC?

Harriett Baldwin
We should rightly recognise the important work that the CDC does in creating these jobs in the first place. This is a vital way in which the UK can be one of the significant investors in some of the poorest and most difficult to reach economies in the world. The equality that we are almost beginning to enjoy here in our workplace has not yet reached many of these developing countries. The hon. Lady raises a sensible and valid point that I will be happy to take up.


Civil Society: Lesotho

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab)
6. What steps his Department is taking to support civil society in Lesotho. [911160]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
There are strong links between the UK and civil society in Lesotho. Our support for civil society includes the volunteering for development programme, through which we are working in Lesotho to support young people’s rights, and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Ian C. Lucas
First, may I thank the Minister for the recent meeting we had on the subject of Lesotho and thank the Government for restoring the high commissioner in Lesotho? Will she work with the high commissioner to build links with civil society in Lesotho, because of the difficulties that exist in terms of the Lesotho Government and corruption? Massive links between Wales and Lesotho have been built up over many years, and we want to help the good people of Lesotho to improve their lives and not be impeded by payments to Ministers in Lesotho, which are causing massive problems.

Harriett Baldwin
Let me put on record our appreciation of the strong links that exist not only, as the hon. Gentleman says, between Wales and Lesotho, but between Wrexham and Lesotho, and of his commitment to them. He is right to welcome the fact that our new high commissioner, Anne Macro, whom I know he has had the opportunity to meet, has now presented her credentials to the Lesotho Government. This will provide an opportunity for those strengthened links with not only the Government but civil society in Lesotho.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
At the same time as we were to reopen the new high commission in Maseru, an announcement was made about Eswatini. Will the Minister update the House on the progress being made on the high commission in Eswatini?

Harriett Baldwin
I am pleased to tell the House that the progress is on track. Although we are not quite ready to announce the name of the high commissioner in Eswatini, I believe someone has been identified for the post. So good progress is being made, and I am encouraging our Foreign Secretary to go to southern Africa to open these two new high commissions later this year.


Cyclone Idai

Sir Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con)
8. What support his Department is providing to people affected by Cyclone Idai. [911164]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
The UK was one of the first countries to respond to the crisis, providing up to £36 million. The Disasters Emergency Committee appeal raised another £39 million. That has delivered rapid, life-saving relief, supporting food, emergency shelter, clean water and health equipment for more than 500,000 people across the region affected by the cyclone. We are now focusing on longer-term recovery, and the UK made a further £12.5 million available from existing resources as part of the recent Beira pledging conference.

Sir Henry Bellingham
I declare my interests in southern Africa.

Does the Minister agree that one lesson we need to take away from this appalling cyclone is the need to concentrate on longer-term flood and sea defences? Will she elaborate a bit on what her Department is doing in that respect?

Harriett Baldwin
Yes. Last time we had exchanges on this subject, I said that I felt it would be impractical to build a sea wall along what is a long and vulnerable coastline, but we are learning that a lot of things do work well. For example, we are making sure that we work on soil erosion and in terms of mangroves, which can provide resistance. There is a lot to do, and I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to increase our research and commitment in this policy area.


Prosperity Fund

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
10. What steps he is taking to ensure that aid spent through the prosperity fund is focused on poverty reduction. [911166]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
The primary purpose of the prosperity fund is reducing poverty through ​inclusive economic growth. Departments that execute prosperity fund programmes are responsible for ensuring that they meet the requirements of the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015.

Bill Esterson
Between 2016 and 2018, the prosperity fund financed 16 fossil fuel projects across the world, including two in fracking. Is not this obsession with fossil fuels, despite the fine words of the Secretary of State, just confirmation that this Government could not care less about addressing the climate emergency, which is, after all, one of the biggest threats to alleviating world poverty?

Harriett Baldwin
These funds are obviously administered by other Government Departments in compliance with the wording of the Act, so I am not sighted on the specifics of what the hon. Gentleman refers to. He will know that we do need to work together as a world to reduce emissions. One of the ways in which we are doing that is to encourage people to power past coal. Often we can do that by substituting less polluting fossil fuels. It may be in that context that these disbursements were made.


Topical Questions

Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
T5. Helping Uganda Schools—known as HUGS—is a small international development charity based in my constituency. Would the Minister meet me and representatives of this wonderful educational and health charity to discuss how DFID can improve access to funding programmes for small charities? [911183]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)
It sounds like a wonderful opportunity to meet representatives of HUGS in my hon. Friend’s constituency. As the Secretary of State said, we do have a small charities challenge fund, and we need to make it easier for small charities such as HUGS to be able to access some of that funding. I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend’s constituents.


Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
T6. I thank the Secretary of State for that very encouraging answer. I hope he will join me in welcoming the peaceful ​conclusion of the elections in Malawi, particularly the increased number of women MPs, even if that was slightly counterbalanced by the loss of some very good incumbents, including a friend of mine, Jacqueline Kouwenhoven, who you may remember meeting some years ago, Mr Speaker. The turnover of incumbents seems to be an increasing issue in democracies across Africa. What is his Department doing through the Westminster Foundation and other such organisations to strengthen democratic institutions and empower women in democracies? [911184]

Harriett Baldwin
Yes. As my right hon. Friend said, the Scotland-Malawi partnership is a very strong one, as the hon. Gentleman has shown with his question. In the recent elections, the results of which we have welcomed, some two thirds of the parliamentary seats in Malawi changed hands. I am not sure if they learned that level of turnover from recent experience in Scotland not so long ago.​


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