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Andrew Mitchell: Haiti response must be swift and well co-ordinated

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said:

“Throughout the whole country, there will be great concern for the people of Haiti at this awful time. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is least well equipped to cope with this catastrophe. As all evidence shows, the actions that are taken in the immediate aftermath of the disaster will determine how effectively the needs which result are addressed. In this case, the whole international community should ensure a swift and effective response, though clearly the US is in the key position to provide help.

“Can the Secretary of State give further details about the composition of the UK assessment team that has been despatched to the region: when will it arrive, and when will we know what further support the UK Government can offer?

“Can he assure the House that the whole Whitehall machinery, as well as just DFID, is firmly joined up on this point?

“Can the Secretary of State provide us with any information about the number of British nationals who are currently in Haiti, their situation, and steps that are being taken to look after them?

“As I have said, the United States will no doubt have the leading role in the international response. What recent conversations has the Secretary of State had with his counterparts in the US to ensure that the international response is properly coordinated?

“Many members of the British public will want to do all they can to support the people of Haiti at this time: what guidance can the Secretary of State give as to how their efforts should best be directed?

“Can the Secretary of State update the House on how the neighbouring Dominican Republic has been affected?

“In 2007 Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Shadow Minister for International Development, became the first senior British politician for some time to visit Haiti, and spent time with the UN forces there. We hear that the UN forces have been hit hard by the earthquake. Can the Secretary of State update the House on the latest news about the impact of the earthquake on the UN mission in Haiti, and what discussions has he had with colleagues at UN DPKO in New York about this?

“Our total focus at the moment must be on saving lives and getting help to those who need it. But will the Secretary of State accept that, in due course and when the time is right, we need a full review of Britain’s emergency response process?”

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