Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Bates during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Syria

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Bates
Wednesday 5th December 2018

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D’Souza
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to support and provide resources for reconstruction programmes in Syria.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
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My Lords, while the conflict in Syria is ongoing, the UK’s focus is on delivering life-saving humanitarian aid to those affected. At the same time, we are making every effort to achieve a political settlement that ends the suffering and helps provide stability for all Syrians in the wider region.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D’Souza (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his Answer. The needs in Syria today are both huge and urgent. More than 50% of medical and educational facilities are in ruins, as is some 30% of the housing. But some organisations are operating in Syria outside the Assad regime; for example: MSF, the White Helmets, Syria Relief and the umbrella body UOSSM. In addition, the ICRC, which holds a long-standing tradition of neutrality and therefore responds to need wherever it finds it, is doing what it can to ensure continued access to essential services including, in some areas, infrastructure services. These bodies cannot always tick all the boxes that DfID requires to release aid, but they do provide accountability through multiple networks at ground level. Will the Government commit to some flexibility in allowing aid via these channels, so that what infrastructure remains can be maintained and further deterioration prevented?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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Certainly I recognise the figures that the noble Baroness outlined about the damage to infrastructure, which were set out in the World Bank’s Toll of War report. I can also confirm that British taxpayers have contributed some £2.71 billion since 2012, making us the second-largest contributor—and this our largest response to any humanitarian situation. When funding goes into a conflict situation, there is a well-established protocol that extra layers of due diligence and tests are needed. If that is not the case, funding to provide humanitarian aid could be diverted into perpetuating the very conflict that we are seeking to resolve. That is the reason that the restrictions and tests are so strict, but we continue to keep the discussions under review and will hopefully work with respected partners in the future.

Overseas Aid and Defence Expenditure

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Bates
Monday 13th November 2017

(6 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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As I just mentioned, the defence budget differs from the aid budget in the sense that it will increase each year in real terms by 0.5%, which is greater than is going into overseas aid. We have announced a national security capability review which is being conducted at the present time. The noble Lord will also be aware of the national shipbuilding strategy which has put in an order for five Type 31e general purpose frigates in addition to the Type 26 frigates ordered in July. We can do both, and we are.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, as I understand it, is not an increasingly large amount of the development aid budget now dispersed among other departments where the same standards of evaluation do not apply, and are certainly not as rigorous as those applied by the Department for International Development?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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It is true to say that around 26% of the overseas aid budget is dispensed by other departments, and a lot of it is spent by Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is investing in education and research, particularly in medicine, along with development matters that will help developing countries. However, we are clear that everything has to be categorised as overseas development assistance; it must meet the primary purpose test, which is that it is for the economic development of the least well-off countries in the world. We are absolutely confident that that target is being met. If it is not met, the money is not categorised as overseas development assistance and therefore we do not meet the 0.7% target. That is why we take it very seriously.