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Breast Cancer

19. Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to improve breast cancer services for women. [3485]

Ms Jowell: The Government are committed to improving the provision and availability of high-quality cancer services and will direct savings achieved from cuts in the cost of NHS bureaucracy into patient care. As a first step, £10 million has been made available for breast cancer services to speed up access to diagnosis, reduce waiting times for treatment and support networks of specialist breast teams.

Dr. Starkey: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which will reassure many women throughout the country. It is important that, once women have been diagnosed, they get the appropriate treatment. Will my hon. Friend outline the steps that are being taken to ensure that research is properly disseminated so that clinicians can take the right decisions on the most appropriate treatment for individual women?

Ms Jowell: An essential part of rebuilding a national health service is to ensure common and high standards of care, wherever women are treated. The Calman-Hine approach to cancer treatment could not be effectively implemented by the last Government because of the obstacle of the internal market. By implementing that, we can take a co-operative approach to treating people with cancer and guarantee the high quality to which my hon. Friend refers.

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Denver Summit

3.30 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the summit of Eight held at Denver last weekend. I have placed in the Library of the House the communique and other documents issued following the summit.

One of the most stimulating discussions at Denver was on the need for structural reform in all our economies. Different countries face somewhat different problems, but we all face the challenge of how to take advantage of increasing globalisation and provide new job opportunities. In many countries, unemployment, particularly among young people, is far too high.

We need to combine greater labour market flexibility with action to improve work incentives, skills and employability, and reduce the risk of marginalisation. The summit welcomed the UK's plan to take forward work on that at a meeting of G8 Finance and Social Affairs Ministers in London early next year, and then at the Birmingham summit.

We also discussed the problem of transnational organised crime, which is a growing preoccupation for us all. Crime is becoming increasingly sophisticated and international, and criminals will quickly exploit the newest technologies to evade detection. We must fight them on their own ground, developing greater international co-operation and new techniques to match the threat.

Over the coming months, we shall work up specific proposals on co-operation against crime, including drug trafficking and financial crime, which we can then consider in detail at next year's summit.

In Denver, the Finance Ministers reported on the progress that they had made on measures to increase financial stability. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will lead the follow-up next year on plans further to improve co-operation between financial supervisors.

The summit focused particular attention on Africa. We agreed on the need to combat poverty through debt relief, improved market access and support for education. The priority is to focus assistance where it is most needed and will reap most benefit--that is, those countries that are introducing economic reforms and which respect the principles of human rights and good governance.

We emphasised the importance of not wasting money on unproductive, especially military, expenditure and of combating corruption. I announced that, over the next three years, Britain would increase by 50 per cent. our support for primary education, basic health care and clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

We discussed United Nations reform, and welcomed the Secretary General's efforts. We encouraged him to undertake a system-wide review of the UN and its agencies. We agreed on the need to develop the UN's ability to prevent and resolve conflict, and we all recognised the need to solve the UN's funding crisis as soon as possible.

The leaders of the Seven also agreed to provide $300 million towards the cost of restoring the sarcophagus over the Chernobyl reactor to prevent any further leak of radioactive material.

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I was pleased to get the strong support of all other leaders for our views on Hong Kong. The communique underlined the G8's durable interest in Hong Kong's stability and prosperity, and looked forward to democratic elections there for a new legislature as soon as possible.

Foreign Ministers discussed a number of regional and global issues, and presented a detailed report to Heads of Government. The summit issued a separate statement on Bosnia, reaffirming our commitment to the peace agreement, and backed efforts to achieve a lasting settlement in Cyprus. The communique also records unanimous support for progress towards a legally binding international agreement to ban anti-personnel land mines.

I welcome Russia's participation as a major partner in the summit of the Eight. President Yeltsin played a fuller role than ever before, and we agreed to continue our efforts to help Russia to integrate into the global economic system. Russia will shortly be participating as a creditor in the Paris Club.

We naturally devoted considerable time in Denver to environmental issues, many of which are being followed up at the UN General Assembly special session which opened yesterday.

There is much that we need to do to improve the environment we live in. Cleaner air, cleaner water, less congestion and better use of scarce resources matter to all of us. In developing countries, alleviating poverty is the key to sustainable development. We are committed over time to reversing the decline in Britain's development assistance that occurred under the previous Administration.

Much of the public attention, though, has focused on efforts to tackle the threat of global warming. We made some progress at Denver, which I hope to see consolidated at the UN session in New York. Everyone accepted that, by the time of the Kyoto conference later this year, we must agree binding targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions beyond the year 2000.

As the House will know, the European Union has already put forward proposals for a target reduction of 15 per cent. in greenhouse gases by the year 2010. The British Government have indicated their readiness to go further. We are already likely to achieve a reduction of 10 per cent. in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000.

Such targets are tough, but they are achievable by policies that are sensible in their own right: an integrated transport policy that makes public transport more attractive and gets traffic flowing more smoothly; increasing the use of renewable forms of energy; improving energy efficiency in firms and the public sector, bringing it up to the standards of the best, and increasing the use of combined heat and power; and improving energy efficiency in homes--for example, through promoting self-financing schemes by the energy suppliers.

Measures aimed at producing environmental benefits are often seen as burdensome or unachievable when they are first proposed, but experience shows that sensible measures produce sensible results--as we saw with measures to promote the use of unleaded petrol, for example.

We discussed a number of other key environmental issues, including the need to work for an international agreement on forests, with suitably high standards.

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We also discussed how to increase access to clean water and sanitation, and how to improve international co-ordination of efforts to protect oceans and to manage fisheries.

This was my first G8 summit and I was struck by how much better the discussions were when we had time to focus on the key issues common to all our countries. Next year, I want to take that further and concentrate on fewer issues in greater depth. In some senses, it will mean a return to the original concept of G7 and G8 summits, using the opportunity for informal but substantive discussions.

At Birmingham, I want to concentrate in particular on two subjects: the issue of jobs and employability, and the challenge posed by organised crime. The first will be a major theme of our presidency of the European Union in the first half of next year. Both are of central importance to all the G8 countries.

I am grateful to the President of the United States for his hospitality at the Denver summit this year and to the authorities there, and I am grateful to the people of Birmingham for agreeing to host next year's summit, which I am confident will be an equal success.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I welcome many aspects of the Denver summit, in particular the new and deeper participation by Russia, and the conclusions on Hong Kong and on closer co-operation in fighting organised crime.

Does the Prime Minister agree that there is often too much on the agenda at such summits? I welcome his readiness to continue the efforts of his predecessor to reduce their length and to give them sharper focus.

I welcome also the discussion at Denver about the need for structural reform of economies, and the section of the communique that calls on countries to

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the achievement of increased responsiveness in the United Kingdom is a vindication of the strategy adopted by the previous Government, and is one of the reasons why the new Government have inherited the best economic prospects in a generation? How will he continue to work towards that objective? How does he believe that he will be supported in that endeavour by introducing job-destroying rigidities, such as the social chapter, into the labour market?

I welcome also the acknowledgement that aging populations mean that

Does the Prime Minister believe that the United Kingdom is one of those countries? If so, will he recognise that pension systems can be sustained better and future pensioners advantaged by pursuing innovative pensions policies rather than disparaging them?

The communique calls for "active aging strategies". Can the Prime Minister tell us what an active aging strategy is? Does he have one?

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The Prime Minister referred also to aid for Africa and announced increased support for primary education and other projects in sub-Saharan Africa. That is a worthy objective, but from which budget will the additional funds be drawn?

I thank the Prime Minister for congratulating the previous Government in his speech in New York on their environmental achievements--although we wish that he had done so before. Will he remind the House that, thanks to the actions of the previous Government, this country is one of only three in the world that are on course to meet the Rio targets? Do the Government understand why that is so? Does the Prime Minister agree that successful free enterprise economies that are based on private ownership are in the best position to safeguard the natural environment, and that sensible incentives often work better than heavy-handed regulation?

What specific measures does the Prime Minister propose in order to achieve the additional 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to which he is now committed? Can he clarify that commitment, as it was not in his statement to the House this afternoon? He mentioned policies to achieve that objective that are in place already or are so general as to be meaningless. When will he be able to shed more light on those proposals? Will they entail going back on statements made by his Industry Minister favouring coal-fired rather than gas-powered power stations? Will he pursue that target irrespective of the actions of other countries or only in concert with them?

The Denver summit failed to agree on new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Does the Prime Minister share our dismay that the G8 failed to reach a new agreement, since real progress can be made only through international agreement? In the light of our special relationship with the United States, does the Prime Minister agree that it is regrettable that President Clinton did not accept the proposed new targets? How will the Prime Minister persuade him to do so? Is it not vital to have international agreement on targets for the decade ahead, just as targets for this decade were negotiated successfully by the previous Government at Rio?

Will the Prime Minister reassure the House that any increase in taxation in order to meet environmental objectives will be matched by reductions in other taxes so that legitimate environmental concerns are not used to justify large rises in the overall burden of taxation? The country wishes to know that, along with the fine words and the worthy objectives, the Government can produce some specific policies, successfully negotiate international agreements, and produce tax proposals that have the desired effect without damaging the growth of enterprise that, alone, provides the means of safeguarding our environment.

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