International Mother Earth Day

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Benyon
Monday 22nd April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Protecting natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa continues to be a focus for the United Kingdom. Our support includes the Investments in Forest and Sustainable Land Use program. This is mobilising private investment into forest protection, restoration and sustainable land use. Its highly successful first phase, which ran from 2017 to 2024, operated in eastern, west and central Africa. Our Biodiverse Landscapes Fund aims to reduce poverty and protect and restore biodiversity in environmentally critical landscapes, including the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area and areas in Madagascar and the western Congo Basin. There are many other examples but those are two, to answer my noble friend’s point.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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My Lords, given the importance of deforestation as far as climate is concerned, can the Minister celebrate Earth Day by publishing this week the Schedule 17 forest risk due diligence regulations? He assured the House before Easter that they would be published shortly, so why not this week?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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This forest risk commodities regulation is a good news story and the UK has been pushing for it. The publication of the statutory instrument is imminent and the House will be able to debate it. The UK will be one of the countries at the forefront of introducing sensible, well consulted regulations that will protect forests by making sure that supply chains are rigorously enforced.

UK-African Investment Summit

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Benyon
Thursday 18th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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Sorry, into prosperity—I got that wrong. In co-ordination with our ODA programme, we are seeing the UK as a major influence in that continent, and we want to see that continue.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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The Minister mentioned earlier the high proportion of the population of African countries under the age of 25, and that is particularly true of poorer countries. In many of those countries there are high levels of unemployment among young people, which is extremely destabilising. The cancellation of this conference will hardly help in promoting economic growth through partnerships between the UK and sub-Saharan Africa. Could he at least tell us what the Government will do to try to support countries to reduce this very high level of population growth, which is potentially so damaging?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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We have a range of tools in that respect, but it is mostly done through our ODA money. There is a lot of support particularly for women and girls. I refer the noble Baroness to the White Paper that was published towards the end of last year, which addresses precisely the point of trying to increase female empowerment and supporting women and girls; if you are doing the right thing for them, you are usually doing the right thing for everyone. The most important aspect of raising Africa out of poverty is to see more stability in the region. There are some horrendous conflicts going on, and we are active in trying to resolve them.

Situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Benyon
Tuesday 30th January 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I certainly do. That is the first step in a road out of this sorry saga that we all want to see achieved. I cannot imagine—well, I can imagine what it is like for the families, because on two occasions I have met them, and I am due to meet some more this week. Noble Lords can understand the emotion. When you meet them, it is absolutely a searing realisation of the true brutality of those events and the continuous misery for those families, including the parents of a child who is around one year old. You can only imagine what they feel about that.

On my noble friend’s point about democracy, he is absolutely right. As we can see daily in our newspapers, Israel is a vibrant democracy. There are future changes perhaps—we do not know—but we will support whoever is the legitimate Government of Israel to help to find a solution to this. My noble friend is also right that it has been 18 years, I think, since free and fair elections, or elections, have taken place in Gaza. The Hamas controlling body has no democratic authority. We want to make sure that the future of Gaza does not have Hamas anywhere in it.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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My Lords, while welcoming much of what the Minister has said, will he tell the House what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the Israeli Government actually respond to the request that the UK Government and the Foreign Secretary are now making about an immediate cessation of hostilities to allow for more aid to get in, for hostages to get out and above all for the slaughter to stop with a view to turning this into a permanent sustainable ceasefire, which is demanded by more and more countries and by public opinion in this country? Has the time not come for the UK to cease trading in arms with Israel while it continues to kill thousands of civilians, as we have heard, 70% of whom are women and children, which my noble friend Lord Collins has described from the Front Bench as a humanitarian disaster?

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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We are very concerned with the immediate days—hours, even—of this emerging saga. Whatever any Minister says at any Dispatch Box is very often out of date by the time he or she sits down. First of all, we absolutely accept that Israel has the right to defend itself against the vile terrorism that it suffered on 7 October. We have very strict rules in this country and fantastic oversight, in this place and beyond, of our arms trading arrangements. Any Government should apply those oversights to it, and we do. But it is absolutely vital that we concentrate on the immediate problem, which is getting those hostages released. I pay tribute to the Government of Qatar for their support and great expertise in achieving this. Those who have been involved in the Northern Ireland issue over the years know how galling it is when you see people that you know have done terrible things being swapped for victims of terrorism who have done no wrong. But it does require an enormous amount of courage and determination to make sure that we can get these hostages out and move forward to sustainable, lasting peace.