Written statement to Parliament

Gifting of search and rescue equipment to Syrian civil defence

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Foreign Secretary William Hague has updated Parliament on gifting of search and rescue equipment to Syrian civil defence teams.

The Rt Hon William Hague

The Foreign Secretary William Hague:

It is now over two years since the Syrian conflict began and the situation remains catastrophic. Our estimates are that over 100,000 people have been killed, with more than half of the Syrian population now in need of humanitarian assistance. The UK is committed to doing all it can to promote a political settlement to the conflict and to alleviate the humanitarian suffering.

My statements to the House on 11 November 2013 and 13 January 2014 outlined the intensive political and practical support we are providing to the National Coalition to alleviate suffering inside Syria. As a part of this work, the UK is supporting emerging moderate local governance structures in opposition-held areas to improve the delivery of services to local communities. We plan to expand a UK-funded pilot project to train and equip local council civil defence teams in northern Syria, enabling them to provide search and rescue, fire-fighting and first aid services in areas under attack. This project is carried out in cooperation with the National Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) and builds on earlier deliveries of civil resilience equipment to local councils through the ACU.

The departmental Minute laid today sets out in detail our plans to gift further civil defence equipment to local council teams in Syria as part of the expanded project. This gift will consist of sets of equipment for nine 25-man teams, including commercially available personal radios, cutting and rescue tools, uniforms and protective gear such as fire helmets and goggles, fire extinguishers, stretchers and individual medical kits. The total cost of the proposed gift is approximately £700,000, which will be met by the Government’s Conflict Pool Fund. The overall value of the uplift to the project is £2.1m, which includes training for nine teams of approximately 25 people, a communications campaign, support for mechanics to repair and restore fire-fighting vehicles, and crisis management training for governorate level council, police and civil defence leaders.

The equipment will help local communities deal with the aftermath of attacks, improve the service delivery capability and legitimacy of local councils and assist them in saving the lives of those injured and in alleviating humanitarian suffering. It will also underline the UK’s continued support to the moderate opposition.

The use of Conflict Pool funds to cover the costs of the gift has been approved by members of the Conflict Pool Strategic Programme Board from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence. The gift has been scrutinised to ensure that the provision of this equipment is consistent with export controls and complies with our international obligations. Recipients have been carefully selected to prevent equipment being given to those involved in extremist activities or human rights violations. All our assistance is carefully calibrated and legal, is aimed at alleviating human suffering and supporting moderate groups and is regularly monitored and evaluated.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of fourteen parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which the departmental minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a Parliamentary Question or a Motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

Further information

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Read about the UK is responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries

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Published 23 January 2014