Extract from Hansard 1st June 2015

House of Commons Debate on the Queens's Speech  1st June 2105 7:56 pm

Taken from Hansard

Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab): It is a privilege to follow the new hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), whom I congratulate on his maiden speech. Perhaps he could continue to do us a service by delivering Labour leaflets in future. It is also a privilege to follow the new hon. Member for South Antrim (Danny Kinahan), and I congratulate him on his speech. As a keen cyclist, I think I know the company to which he refers, but I am probably not allowed to mention it in the Chamber—it is a very good online company that I should think provides a lot of employment in his constituency. I also thank the electors of Leeds North East for returning me for a fifth time with the highest number of Labour votes ever achieved in the constituency, once the home of the late, great Sir Keith Joseph but now a solid Labour seat.

I am proud that, among the many good things that the last Labour Government did, they established the Department for International Development in 1997. That was the first time that development had a Minister at Cabinet level in any Government in the western world. The coalition, of course, continued that support for international development across all parties. Earlier this year, the millennium development goal of 0.7% of gross domestic product being assigned to international development was enshrined in statute. I hope that the new Government will also continue that commitment to the wise spending of UK taxpayers’ money to help fight poverty in the poorest countries of the world.

As a member of the Select Committee on International Development in the last Parliament, I saw first hand how effectively DFID works and the good reputation it has in all the countries in which it operates. Last February, for example, the Committee went to Nepal. We saw for ourselves not only the contingency work against earthquakes that DFID was paying for but all the other excellent projects that help to bring some of the poorest people in the world out of poverty. I hope that the work for which DFID paid saved lives when the earthquake came just two months later. DFID has also supported the fight against the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Committee visited those countries in 2014 just before the terrible outbreak.

DFID also supports Syrian refugees, not in the UK but in the neighbouring countries to which they fled such as Lebanon and Jordan, where we went in March 2014. Jordan is one of the most water-poor countries in the world, yet it supports a 20% increase in its population from Syria. We went to the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, where we saw how a city the size of Cambridge—100,000 people—had been created in just 12 days, largely paid for by British taxpayers’ money and very well operated. We visited the poorest farmers in the Jordan valley, seeing how DFID cash was used there in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to support those farmers and ensure they could bring their produce to market.

Finally, I wish to say a word about the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which was set up by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) when he was Secretary of State for International Development. In 2013, I took over responsibility for chairing the ICAI Sub-Committee of the International Development Committee. In that role, I was asked to be involved in the appointment of the new chief commissioner and three other commissioners to take over from Graham Ward, the first chief commissioner, who was appointed by the then Secretary of State in 2011. I am delighted that Alison Evans, the former chief executive of the Overseas Development Institute, has been appointed. She will do a good job to make sure that we get value for money for all our spending on overseas development and aid.

Note: Fabian's contribution was limited to 4 minutes by the Deputy Speaker