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5. Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): What assistance his Department is providing for research into the treatment of malaria. [000445]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Stephen O'Brien): The Government are committed to a significant increase in our support to help reduce the terrible scourge of over 800,000 known deaths from malaria each year-all of which are preventable. Research is essential to develop new drugs and tools and identify the best way to deliver them in a cost-effective way, and will play a part in our meeting this commitment as we increase our focus and activity on malaria.

Tony Lloyd: In welcoming the Minister to his place at the Dispatch Box, may I offer my congratulations to the Secretary of State who got into the Conservative party manifesto a commitment to £500 million spending per year on malaria, which in particular includes research into a malaria vaccine? Does that commitment still stand, because it will gain support on both sides of the House?

Mr O'Brien: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks, and he is aware that we are committed to spending up to £500 million as he notes, in particular in relation to developing an effective malaria vaccine. Theoretically, there is a real hope of such a vaccine in the future, and we believe that vaccine research therefore plays in important part, but at the same time should not detract from the need to get better at delivering what we know works now. Work on a future vaccine will be focused on what will be capable of being safely delivered, accessible to the poor and with sufficient efficacy to be one of the key tools in the armoury that will continue to have to be used in the battle against malaria.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): Further to that answer, what commitment can the Minister give to the Government's approach to the talks on the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which will take place in September?

Mr O'Brien: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. He will be aware that that issue is currently being considered, and we are looking at all the representations received not only to work towards a negotiation of the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but most importantly to build on the very good work that that fund, which is now the world's largest health fund, has already demonstrated to date.


6. Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): What proportion of his Department's aid to Pakistan was intended for minority groups in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan in the last 12 months. [000446]

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The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): Of £140 million in assistance to Pakistan between April 2009 and March 2010, my Department provided £40.2 million in humanitarian aid for people displaced by conflict in federally administered tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The UK's humanitarian assistance targets those most in need, regardless of population group, following internationally agreed principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Mr Sharma: I thank the Secretary of State for his response, and I add my congratulations to him on his appointment as Secretary of State and to his team. Does he agree that it is not only essential to win hearts and minds among the general populace, but vital to try to assist minority groups in those regions through our aid efforts?

Mr Mitchell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and underline the point that I made in my answer-that our humanitarian assistance targets those most in need, following internationally agreed principles of neutrality and impartiality. I can tell him that I shall shortly be going to Pakistan, and I shall look very specifically at the point that he has made. I can tell him also that since the 2008 conflict, the UK has given humanitarian support, providing shelter, food, health care, clean water and sanitation in order to help people recover their livelihoods when they return to their home. I know that that has been a matter of concern to him.

Female Genital Mutilation

7. Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): What steps he plans to take to ensure that projects to prevent female genital mutilation have access to internet-based funding programmes. [000447]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Stephen O'Brien): The Government condemn female genital mutilation as an extreme violation of women's and girls' human rights. An estimated 140 million women and girls have been subjected to that practice. Internet-based funding, such as GlobalGiving, is increasingly helping civil society organisations to access funding for programmes to prevent female genital mutilation. We will look at that area over the next year as we design the poverty impact fund, which will support innovative ways of working.

Jim Sheridan: Genital mutilation is condemned by most humanitarian organisations, so how does the Minister plan to ensure that his "My Aid" programme will not disadvantage unpopular programmes? As I understand it, his party's green paper says that if 25% of people vote for Malawi, that country's programme will get 25% of the funding. But how will he protect vital programmes that do not have the X factor and do not receive an internet vote?

Mr O'Brien: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for identifying the key issue of FGM. We will certainly consider carefully what he has said, as we look to roll forward the programmes, in order to ensure that we deal in the most effective way by bearing down not only on the activity, which is clearly intolerable, but on the
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societal and cultural drivers that lie behind it. That is what will be most influential in driving the funds to help the programmes.

Departmental Aid Programmes

9. Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): What steps he is taking to ensure maximum effectiveness in respect of the aid provided under his Department's programmes. [000449]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Andrew Mitchell): It is essential that we spend every pound of aid effectively. We will do that through rigorous independent evaluation, greater transparency and an unremitting focus on results. We will transform the transparency of aid information, ensuring accountability to UK taxpayers and people in developing countries. The UK will review all aid to focus it on results and on outputs.

Mr Ellwood: I am grateful for that reply and welcome my right hon. Friend to his new appointment. He stressed that Afghanistan is our main foreign challenge. How will he ensure that the money that is poured into Ministries in Kabul is able to make its way all the way down to the front line-to those communities that need it most?

Mr Mitchell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who knows a great deal about those issues. We have looked very carefully at the mechanism for delivering that aid, which is vital to the development effort in Afghanistan, and independent analysis suggests that the World Bank trust fund, which, as he will appreciate, pays out on the basis of receipts for work carried out by the Government and Government employees, is a highly effective way of getting money through to the front line.


12. Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department's work to promote stability and the development of civil society in the Caucasus. [000452]

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Alan Duncan): DFID no longer has bilateral aid programmes in the Caucasus region. The UK Government's conflict prevention pool, including civil society support, remains active in the region. The UK also continues to support development in the Caucasus region through its membership of multilateral institutions, including the EU.

Mr Marsden: I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that given the continued progress towards a resolution of conflicts in the region, particularly in respect of Nagorno-Karabakh, it is very important that, at a multilateral and primary level, the Government give support to those sorts of activities?

Alan Duncan: We will look very closely at the hon. Gentleman's representations in the context of all the reviews that we are currently making.

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Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-


Q1. [000426] Mr Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 2 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the soldiers who have died in Afghanistan in the last week: from 40 Commando Royal Marines, Corporal Stephen Curley and Marine Scott Taylor; and from the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, Gunner Zak Cusack. These were men of outstanding courage, skill and selflessness. We must never forget their sacrifice.

The House will also be alarmed and shocked by the events unfolding in Cumbria today. Police were called to Whitehaven at 10.35 this morning after shots were fired by a man, and I regret to report that a number of people have been shot and at least five people have died. I can confirm that the body of a gunman has been found by the police. The chief constable of Cumbria is working closely with other forces and other emergency services to ensure a co-ordinated response to these rapidly moving events. The Government will do everything that they possibly can to help the local community and those affected, and to keep the House informed. A full statement will be made to Parliament tomorrow. When lives and communities are suddenly shattered in this way, our thoughts should be with all those caught up in these tragic events, especially the families and friends of those killed or injured.

Mr Carswell: All parties in this House will welcome the coalition's proposals to eliminate quangos and shift power away from unelected functionaries to elected representatives. The biggest quango of the lot is, of course-[Hon. Members: "The House of Lords."] It is the other place, a legislative Chamber largely appointed by the Executive. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will bring forward proposals in the next 12 months to make all our law-makers accountable through the ballot box?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question. I do not always give him answers that make him happy, but this time I can. There will be a draft motion, by December, which the House can vote on. I have always supported a predominantly elected House of Lords, and I am delighted that agreement has been reached on the coalition programme. [Interruption.] I can already hear what a challenge around the House it is going to be to achieve the consensus that we need, but I hope that after all the promises of reform, this time we can move towards a predominantly elected second Chamber.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Corporal Stephen Curley and Marine Scott Taylor from 40 Commando Royal Marines, and to Gunner Zak Cusack from the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery. As the Prime Minister said, they were brave men who died in the service of our country. We must never forget the sacrifice that they made.

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I strongly support what the Prime Minister has said about the dreadful shootings in Cumbria. We offer our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have been killed and our strong support for the police, the emergency services and the local communities in Cumbria.

May I ask the Prime Minister about the Israeli interception of the Gaza flotilla? I am sure that he agrees that there has been a tragic loss of life, which has angered the Palestinians and dismayed friends of Israel, too. Can he tell the House what is the current position of the British nationals who have been detained by the Israelis? Will he tell us how the Government can contribute to international efforts to make the Israelis recognise that the blockade of Gaza is prolonging the suffering of the Palestinians and making peace in the middle east even harder to achieve? This blockade must end.

The Prime Minister: I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for what she said about our troops, and also for raising the issue of the events off the coast of Gaza. What has happened is completely unacceptable; we should be clear about that. We should also deplore the loss of life. Indeed, I have spoken to the Prime Minister of Turkey to extend our condolences for the Turkish citizens who have been lost. We should do everything we can to make sure this does not happen again; I stressed this point in a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.

In answer to the right hon. and learned Lady's specific questions about British nationals, 42 British nationals are caught up in this. I believe that around 37 of them have had consular access and that all of them will be coming home, and we need to make sure that they are reunited with their families as fast as possible.

The right hon. and learned Lady also raised the issue of international efforts to get the blockade open. As she knows, and as the shadow Foreign Secretary will know, we should do everything we can through the United Nations, where resolution 1860 is absolutely clear about the need to end the blockade and to open up Gaza. I would say in addition that friends of Israel-and I count myself a friend of Israel-should be saying to the Israelis that the blockade actually strengthens Hamas's grip on the economy and on Gaza, and it is in their own interests to lift it and to allow these vital supplies to get through.

Ms Harman: I thank the Prime Minister for that answer, and I know that we will be hearing more from the Foreign Secretary in a statement immediately after these questions.

Can the Prime Minister give me an answer on another important issue-one that I raised with him last Tuesday-about prosecuting rape? We know that it is often only after many rapes that a defendant is finally brought to court, and it is often only at that point that previous victims find the courage to come forward. By making rape defendants anonymous, he is going to make it harder to bring rapists to justice.

The Prime Minister: I know that the right hon. and learned Lady cares very deeply about this issue, as do I. The fact that rape convictions are so low in this country is a scandal, and we need to improve on that. That means working with the police, and also doing more to help rape victims, including backing rape crisis centres.

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On the issue of anonymity, I sat on the Home Affairs Committee that examined this issue; it was of course a Committee in a previous Parliament, dominated by Labour Members, and very ably chaired by Chris Mullin. We came to the conclusion that there was a case for saying that between arrest and charge there was a case for anonymity. The coalition agreement mentions the issue of anonymity, and we will of course be bringing forward proposals, which the House can then examine and debate. I think that there is a case for this to happen, but I understand what the right hon. and learned Lady says-that it is important that the publicity around a case can help to bring forward other people who have been raped. I understand her case, but I think that this does represent a good way forward.

Ms Harman: I welcome the Prime Minister's recognition of the first point. However, does he not also recognise that to single out rape defendants, which is what he is proposing to do, sends a very powerful message to juries in rape cases that the rape victim is not to be believed, and sends a devastating message to rape victims that, uniquely of all victims, they are not to be believed?

The Prime Minister: I do not accept that. The Home Affairs Committee looked at this very carefully and came to conclusion that in this case there was a case for extending anonymity, also because in rape cases, obviously, those who have been raped have anonymity themselves, and that was the case with this limited extension. We will be bringing forward proposals that can be debated and discussed in the House of Commons. We all want the same thing, which is to increase the number of successful rape prosecutions and to send more rapists to jail: that is what this is about.

Ms Harman: I am sorry, but I think that that is a disappointing answer, because the Prime Minister shows no understanding of the progress that has been made on prosecuting rape, and he does not realise how seriously this will turn the clock back.

May I turn to another subject that I believe the Government should reconsider-the married man's tax allowance? It would go to only one in three married couples, and would cost half a billion pounds a year. Can the Prime Minister tell the House how that would contribute to cutting the deficit?

The Prime Minister: I am an unashamed supporter of families and marriage, and I simply do not understand why, when so many other European countries-I remember often being lectured when I was on the other side of the House about how we should follow European examples-recognise marriage in the tax system, we do not. I believe that we should bring forward proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system. Those in our happy coalition will have the right to abstain on them, I am happy to say, but I support marriage. We support so many other things in the tax system, including Christmas parties and parking bicycles at work, so why do we not recognise marriage?

Ms Harman: The Prime Minister knows that this will not keep couples together; he is just hoping that it will keep his Back Benchers on side. He has not answered the question: how will this planned tax cut help reduce the deficit?

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