1. Reducing debt in the developing world

Lord Collins of Highbury (Labour) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with international counterparts on a strategy to reduce debt in the developing world.

Lord Collins is the Labour Party’s spokesperson for foreign and Commonwealth affairs and international development in the House of Lords.[1]

1.1 Summary

In December 2023 the World Bank observed in its most recent international debt report that the risk of countries not being able to make payments on their debts had been rising in the developing world over the past 10 years.[2] It warned that the world’s poorest countries were now at increasing risk of “tumbling into a debt crisis” and this constituted a “grave danger to prospects for progress on global development goals”. Indermit S Gill, senior vice president and chief economist at the World Bank, said the report “sound[ed] an alarm about the danger confronting low- and middle-income countries—particularly the poorest”. He added:

In 2022, the latest year for which data are available, low- and middle-income countries paid a record US$443.5 billion to service their external public and publicly guaranteed debt. In a time of pinched government budgets, these payments diverted spending away from health, education, and other critical needs.

Debt servicing costs on public and publicly guaranteed debt are projected to grow by 10 percent for all developing countries over the 2023/24 period—and by nearly 40 percent for low-income countries.[3]

Mr Gill argued the situation warranted “quick and coordinated action by debtor governments, private and official creditors, and multilateral financial institutions”.

The UK government’s international development white paper, published in November 2023, recognised that progress on the sustainable development goals was at risk by an increasing number of countries being in “severe debt and unable to access affordable finance to grow their economies”.[4] The document set out an ambition to “strengthen the international debt architecture” to address this issue. It also set out a number of actions the UK would pursue towards this aim, including pushing for the “common framework for debt restructuring to be improved and expanded”, and helping “debtor countries meet their capacity needs around debt management, including debt transparency and accountability mechanisms”.

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2. Children in Gaza

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (Green Party) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department is doing to ensure the lives and security of the children of Gaza.

2.1 Summary

The continuing crisis in Gaza has had critical humanitarian consequences. Since the armed raid by Hamas forces into Israel on 7 October 2023, and the subsequent large-scale military incursion into Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), according to contested estimates from the Gazan Ministry of Health more than 27,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza, and a further 67,000 have been injured.[5] It is estimated that 70 percent of those killed are women and children.[6]

As of 5 February 2024, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA estimates that some 75 percent of Gaza’s population (1.7 million out of 2.3 million people) are displaced, more than half of whom are children.[7] Much civilian infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed and many of those displaced have been forced to move repeatedly in search of safety. There is a significant shortage of food in Gaza, particularly as aid agencies continue to struggle to deliver adequate resources, and levels of disease are rising as clean water becomes increasingly scarce and poor sanitation spreads. The UN children’s agency UNICEF has estimated that “all children under five in the Gaza Strip—335,000—are at high risk of severe malnutrition and preventable death as the risk of famine conditions continues to increase”.[8]

For 2023/24, the UK has committed £87mn in aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.[9] This includes £60mn announced in October/November 2023. A total of £16mn was provided to UNRWA before funding was suspended on account of the recent controversy regarding the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff in the 7 October 2023 attacks.[10] Alongside supplies from the UK being delivered to Egypt, ministers have also been engaged in diplomatic efforts to increase the supply of aid entering Gaza, including pressing Israel to permit deliveries via the port of Ashdod. The UK is also supporting the United Nations World Food Programme in establishing a humanitarian land corridor for aid to move from Jordan into Gaza.[11]

In response to a recent parliamentary question specifically on what aid the UK is providing to children in Gaza, Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty said the UK had provided £5.75mn (from the £60mn announced in October) to UNICEF to support their work in, amongst other things, “assist[ing] over 5,800 children with severe malnourishment and 853,000 children, adolescents and caregivers affected by the conflict, to receive emergency and child protection services, including mental health and psychosocial support”.[12]

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3. Implementing the AUKUS security partnership

Lord Walney (Crossbench) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs what progress His Majesty’s Government had made in implementing the AUKUS security partnership between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America.

3.1 Summary

AUKUS is a trilateral defence and security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.[13] It was first announced in September 2021 and consists of two pillars:

  • Pillar 1 focuses on supporting Australia to acquire its first conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.[14] (It does not involve the transfer of nuclear weapons to Australia.)
  • Pillar 2 focuses on cooperation in eight advanced military capability areas: artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, innovation, information sharing, and cyber, undersea, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic and electronic warfare domains.[15]

The agreement reflects the UK’s renewed policy focus on the Indo-Pacific, first articulated in the government’s 2021 integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy and reaffirmed in the 2023 refresh of the review and the subsequent defence command paper.[16]

The leaders of the three AUKUS partners issued a joint statement on progress on the second anniversary of the agreement.[17] The statement cited the delivery pathway agreed for pillar 1 and said the partners continued to make progress across capability development programmes within pillar 2, including in artificial intelligence and autonomous capabilities.

In a written ministerial statement made on 4 December 2023 following an AUKUS defence ministerial meeting, Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps provided an update on progress across pillar 1 and pillar 2 areas of activity. This included the ongoing collaboration to deliver conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia and how strategic alignment in the three partners’ national defence strategies was “facilitating unprecedented collaboration in advanced technologies”.[18] On 8 January 2024, Minister for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge added that the partners had “made significant progress in developing the AUKUS partnership”.[19] He added:

The AUKUS defence ministerial meeting last month announced a range of tri-national activities taking forward advanced capabilities, including our deep space advanced radar capability, DARC. Australian personnel are training in the UK and the US, and £4 billion-worth of contracts have been awarded to UK companies building SSN-AUKUS [submarines]. Finally, [the US] Congress passed legislation to enable AUKUS to facilitate frictionless trade between partners, including the reform of the international traffic in arms regulations.

Ministers have since provided updates on specific pillar 2 programmes via a series of written parliamentary questions (see section 3.2 below).

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4. Palestinian statehood

Lord Jackson of Peterborough (Conservative) to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what discussions he had with the government of the United States before his announcement on 1 February that the United Kingdom should recognise a Palestinian state in advance of the conclusion of any future bilateral talks between Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people.

4.1 Summary

The UK has continued to call for “prolonged humanitarian pauses” in the Israel-Hamas conflict to allow further aid to enter Gaza and to facilitate the release of hostages, and for progress to be made towards a “sustainable ceasefire”.[20] The foreign secretary has also indicated that the UK is considering bringing forward recognition of Palestinian statehood as one means through which a lasting end to the crisis could be found.[21]

Lord Cameron said that Palestinians needed “a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution”.[22] He added that the UK would work with international allies, including at the United Nations, to examine how a Palestinian state would function. As part of this path to statehood, the foreign secretary also said that Hamas would have to leave Gaza and the Palestinian leadership help by forming a new government “which can immediately start to deliver”.[23]

With regard to the timing of recognition, Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said that the UK government was clear that “bilateral recognition alone cannot end the occupation”, and that “Britain will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace”.[24] The United States has also indicated that it could recognise a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, according to reports suggesting the State Department is considering a shift in policy.[25]

When questioned whether this represented a change of existing UK policy during an interview with Piers Morgan on 5 February 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “our position is the same. [The foreign secretary] was saying that we are committed to a two-state solution. We absolutely are committed and that’s been a long-standing position of the UK government”.[26] Asked directly by Mr Morgan if the UK would consider recognising a Palestinian state before the conclusion of any peace process, the prime minister said that the foreign secretary’s remarks had been “over-interpreted”, and that the UK would recognise Palestinian statehood “at a point where it is most conducive to the process”.

4.2 Read more

Cover image © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Annabel Moeller.


  1. UK Parliament, ‘Lord Collins of Highbury: Parliamentary career’, accessed 8 February 2024. Return to text
  2. World Bank, ‘International debt report 2023’, 13 December 2023; and ‘Developing countries paid record $443.5 billion on public debt in 2022’, 13 December 2023. Return to text
  3. As above. Return to text
  4. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘International development in a contested world: Ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change’, 20 November 2023, CP 975, p 13. Return to text
  5. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel: Flash update #113’, 7 February 2024. The United Nations coordinates data from the Gazan Ministry of Health regarding casualty figures and publishes a daily dashboard on the impact of the conflict on civilians in Gaza available here: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’, accessed 9 February 2024. Israel has been critical of the UN’s reporting, arguing that UN agencies have demonstrated bias against Israel in the past. However, UN agencies remain the only third-party sources coordinating up-to-date data on the situation on the ground. Return to text
  6. Associated Press, ‘Women and children are the main victims of the Israel-Hamas war with 16,000 killed, UN says’, 20 January 2024. Return to text
  7. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel: Flash update #113’, 7 February 2024. Return to text
  8. UNICEF, ‘Statement by UNICEF on the risk of famine in the Gaza Strip’, 22 December 2023. Return to text
  9. House of Commons Library, ‘UK aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip: FAQs’, 2 February 2024. Return to text
  10. For further detail, see: House of Lords Library, ‘Humanitarian situation in Gaza’, 5 February 2024. Return to text
  11. HC Hansard, 29 January 2024, cols 620–1; and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘Humanitarian situation in Gaza: The UK government’s response’, 6 February 2024. Return to text
  12. House of Commons, ‘Written question: Gaza: Children (12853)’, 7 February 2024. Return to text
  13. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘UK, US and Australia launch new security partnership’, 15 September 2021; and House of Commons Library, ‘The AUKUS agreement’, 11 October 2021. Return to text
  14. House of Commons Library, ‘AUKUS submarine (SSN-A) programme’, 22 November 2023. Return to text
  15. House of Commons Library, ‘AUKUS pillar 2: Advanced capabilities’, 9 November 2023. Return to text
  16. Cabinet Office, ‘Global Britain in a competitive age: The integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy’, 16 March 2021, CP 403; and ‘Integrated review refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world’, 13 March 2023, CP 811. See also: Ministry of Defence, ‘Defence’s response to a more contested and volatile world’, 18 July 2023, CP 901. Return to text
  17. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Joint leader statement to mark the second anniversary of AUKUS’, 15 September 2023. Return to text
  18. House of Commons, ‘Written statement: Update on the AUKUS defence partnership (HCWS89)’, 4 December 2023. Return to text
  19. HC Hansard, 8 January 2024, cols 12–13. Return to text
  20. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘Foreign secretary returns to Middle East to support efforts towards regional stability’, 30 January 2024; and ‘Humanitarian situation in Gaza: The UK government’s response’, 6 February 2024. Return to text
  21. Guardian, ‘UK will consider recognising Palestinian state, says David Cameron’, 30 January 2024. Return to text
  22. James Landale, ‘UK considering recognising Palestine state, Lord Cameron says’, BBC News, 30 January 2024. Return to text
  23. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘We all abhor unpleasant deals, but that’s what must happen if we are to solve the Gaza crisis: Article by the foreign secretary’, 28 January 2024. Return to text
  24. HC Hansard, 30 January 2024, cols 705–8. Return to text
  25. Telegraph (£), ‘US ‘could recognise Palestinian state’ after war in Gaza’, 31 January 2024. Return to text
  26. Piers Morgan Uncensored, ‘Piers Morgan vs Rishi Sunak round 2: Prime minister discusses Israel-Hamas war, NHS, Rwanda and more’, YouTube, 5 February 2024. Return to text