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Mrs. Gillan: Did the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary raise the matter of the ICC directly with President Jiang during the Chinese president's visit last week?

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Mr. Vaz: We raised many issues with the president of China. It is important that all such questions are raised whenever we meet Prime Ministers and other heads of state.

We have provided funding to the NGO coalition for an International Criminal Court and helped to fund the South African development community conference on ratification. We have offered support to countries that require technical assistance with ratification, and I repeat that offer today. We share the widespread hope that the United States will sign the Rome statute of the court. The Americans are concerned that their service men operating overseas could be subject to unjustified, politically motivated accusations, but we and our other NATO allies disagree.

We believe that the Rome statute contains sufficient safeguards to protect service men, the most important of which is the complementarity principle that allows domestic jurisdictions the right to try their own people. If serious allegations were made in good faith against British citizens, we are confident that we could demonstrate that there was a remedy in British justice. The same argument would apply to the United States of America.

We regularly make the case for the International Criminal Court with the Americans: it is no secret that we want them on board. The court will be much stronger if the United States is a party to it. The Foreign Secretary has urged Mrs. Albright, the American Secretary of State, to support the court--most recently when they met at the United Nations in September. I assure the hon. and learned Member for Harborough that there is no question of our being rude to the United States--that is not the Foreign Secretary's style. My right hon. Friend has taken every opportunity to ensure that the matter is raised constructively.

The Americans have said that they would like to move towards signing the statute, and we hope that a way can be found to address their concerns. I assure the House that we are very clear on one point: any solution to the United States question or any other problem must not undermine the integrity of the statute that was agreed in Rome or reduce the effectiveness of the court. The Government believe in a strong International Criminal Court as negotiated in Rome.

It is too early to predict when the court will come into being. It will happen when 60 states ratify the statute. I must inform the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that it is not possible to alter that figure because it is set in statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence Committee cannot change it. It is obviously too early to predict when every state will ratify the statute so that we achieve the necessary 60 signatures. Some states can ratify before passing implementing legislation--which is what the four signatories to the treaty have done--but many others, like the United Kingdom, will have to make legislative provisions first and some countries will need to change their constitutions.

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In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun who raised this point, let me say that it is important that we keep in touch with the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive about this issue. Several matters of concern to the ICC are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, which will be clearly consulted before the Bill comes to Westminster. We will have to alter our criminal law before we can introduce implementing legislation, so we will need to make changes before the Bill comes before the House.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have tried gently to persuade me to reveal the contents of the Queen's Speech, but I do not propose to do so on the Floor of the House because I do not know what is in it and I cannot comment on such matters. Hon. Members are quite passionate about this issue--as are the Government--and they want to know whether legislation will come before the next Session of Parliament. It remains our firm intention to be one of the first 60 states to ratify the statute because that is an important demonstration of our support for the court. I cannot say what will be in the legislative programme but we hope that, if we make our intentions clear, others will take our lead and begin the process of ratification.

It is important for the United Kingdom to ratify early so that we can be a founder member of the court. We want to be part of the decision-making process at the first assembly of states. However, I cannot look into the future and predict accurately how soon the statute will come into force. Officials in my Department are already working hard preparing for a Bill. It will be detailed and complex legislation involving several Government Departments and will be introduced as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.

The Bill will set out the practical operation of our relationship with the ICC. It will enable our law enforcement authorities to fulfil our obligation to co-operate with the court in matters such as the arrest and transfer of suspects, handing over information and conducting searches and seizures. The legislation will also give effect to the fines and forfeitures ordered by the ICC and incorporate into British law crimes that are within the court's jurisdiction. That will allow British courts to prosecute those crimes when they occur in our jurisdiction, something that we believe is very important. The primary right and responsibility to prosecute such crimes will continue to fall to the states, and the International Criminal Court will act only when states are unable or unwilling to do so. The Security Council will also be able to refer cases to the court in accordance with its responsibilities for international peace and security.

I hope that the very existence of the court will reduce the number of future crimes of this kind. However, we must be realistic: the International Criminal Court will be needed and it will require our support, politically and financially. I was pleased to witness cross-party support for the ICC this morning, and I trust that it will be borne in mind when the Bill passes smoothly through the House.

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Climate Change

11 am

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): Climate change has been discussed many times in the House and we are well versed in the arguments, but I make no apology for returning to the subject and what the UK Government's response to it should be.

The global impact of climate change has never been so apparent. The Red Cross said that last year's natural disasters were the most damaging on record and predicted that catastrophes would become more widespread and devastating as climate change takes hold. Unveiling the organisation's 1999 report, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said:

According to the report, more natural disasters occurred in 1998 than in any other year on record. The report noted that climate change has made the consequences of disasters more complex.

In 1998, global mean surface temperature was the highest since records began. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that to avert the worst impacts of climate change, cuts of 60 per cent. in carbon dioxide emissions must be achieved by 2050. In the UK, climate change could lead to an increase in the frequency of extreme weather conditions. Average wind speeds could rise, resulting in 30 per cent. more gales in Wales and southern England during the winter, thus increasing the risk of hurricanes.

Global climate change is a reality; its global impact is undeniable. What are we doing about it? We all know that the UK has a legal obligation to reduce by 12.5 per cent. its output of six greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012--the Kyoto target. However, before the adoption of the Kyoto protocol, the Labour party, in opposition, pledged to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. from their 1990 levels by 2010. That was a welcome commitment, but it seems as though the Government have lost their momentum on climate change. Perhaps discussion of the climate change levy disguises the real issues and problems that the Government need to address.

The fifth conference of the parties to the climate change convention began this week. The UK must play an important role there, in keeping alive the Kyoto protocol with its binding obligations to reduce greenhouse gases. The Government must act globally. However, action to prevent irreversible change to our climate must also be taken at home, so the Government must act locally.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. However, I draw his attention to a problem in my industrial constituency. I led a deputation to the Treasury complaining of the severity of its proposed measures. My constituency is based on steel, and steel workers are concerned that the levy will lead to job losses. Since our deputation to the Treasury, British Steel has merged with a Dutch company and the loss of jobs is one of our

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worries. In that context, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the local consequences if Her Majesty's Government impose too great a tax?

Mr. Brake: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I understand his concern. I welcome the fact that the Government are holding consultations on the climate change levy. However, I hope that, at the end of that process, they will not tear the guts out of the climate change levy so that its environmental impact is reduced to nothing. I am sure that the Minister will respond to that point later.

We need to take action locally to prevent climate change. What the Government achieve at home is a key litmus test. A failure to act nationally will affect the UK's international reputation on environmental matters. The Government must maintain the lead in those matters, and the 20 per cent. target must be achieved.

I am not the only Member who is concerned that the Government might fail to achieve their 20 per cent. target commitment. It is interesting to note how the Government's language on this matter has changed since 1997. In 1997, Labour's election manifesto gave a clear commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010. That was stated throughout 1997, and repeated to the House by the Prime Minister. By 1998, the 12.5 per cent. Kyoto figure was described as a target; the 20 per cent. target became a domestic aim.

In their consultation paper on climate change, the Government stated that they intended to move beyond the legally binding target towards a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. However, they did not state which policies they would implement to achieve that target. Regrettably, the Chancellor failed to mention the 20 per cent. target in his Budget speech, although he did mention the Kyoto target. More recently, the 20 per cent. target was described as a "domestic goal" in the Government's annual report, but it was not listed as one of their 177 commitments.

Unfortunately, in 1999, the situation has worsened. It seems that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister continue to forget the 20 per cent. reduction pledge in their manifesto; they refer only to the Kyoto target. The 20 per cent. target has now been relegated to something that the Government will "move towards". When the Minister responds, I hope that he will reassure us that the Government still intend to hit that 20 per cent. target and that it is not merely something that they will be moving towards.

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