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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): It was welcome that in his opening statement my right hon. Friend referred to tackling illegal logging. However, will he say what concrete measures will be taken to deal with this very difficult issue? Will the summit's hosts do anything about their position as recipients of many of the destroyed rain forests of Indonesia? Will Britain put its house in order in relation to the Amazonian rain forests?
The Prime Minister: That is a perfectly fair point. The most that I would say about the measures taken at the summit is that we have started a process. The matter was not even an issue at last year's summit, but it is now. All the countries involved in the summit are obliged to report back on what they are going to do to try to curb illegal logging.
That is a desperately important issue because at present we are despoiling vast amounts of the world's environment. There have already been serious consequences, and there will be more unless we take action. I do not pretend that we have done more than begin a process, but, partly as a result
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): As the Prime Minister has shared with the world his appreciation of President Clinton's qualities, will he share with the House his appreciation of the contribution at the summit of President Putin?
The Prime Minister: Yes, I would be pleased to do that. I thought that President Putin made an outstanding contribution, not only in his description of the reforms in the Russian economy, which are immensely important for us, but in his description of the talks that he has held recently in North Korea, China and elsewhere. Overall, he was extremely impressive at the summit.
One of the most important elements of summits such as the one that has just been held is the opportunity to build relationships, trust and confidence between leaders. That can be vital. As happened in Kosovo, countries' interests can be in conflict, and the ability to speak openly and frankly to people is a very important part of getting such a conflict sorted out.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): May I thank my right hon. Friend for his continuing efforts on debt relief, which will be welcomed by my constituents? However, with a new round of world trade talks about to begin, a new financial architecture is needed. What are my right hon. Friend's proposals for putting environmental issues at the very heart of the new trade agenda?
The Prime Minister: I shall deal first with the process of debt relief. Nine countries have now gone through the process. In Bolivia and Uganda, projects are under way and spending has been put in hand on schools, hospitals, infrastructure and jobs. The help for people in those countries is already visible as a result of the cancellation of debt. That shows how important it is to get the other countries through the process.
The WTO round will include environmental issues, but it is important that we ensure that questions to do with the environment and labour standards do not become a covert way of keeping out developing countries' goods. Therefore, I think that we must take account of the concerns that my hon. Friend raises, but we must do so in a way that is sensitive to the worry of developing countries that such concerns are merely back-door forms of protection.
I can tell my hon. Friend that there needs to be a big push to start the WTO round again. Whether or not that happens by the end of the year, the European Union has set a good example by stating that it will open up market access for the majority of its goods to the developing countries by 2005, and I urge other countries to take a similar lead.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): Further to one of the questions asked by the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), will the Prime Minister explain what he really meant when he said to the Japanese Prime Minister that a British decision on the
The Prime Minister: Let me explain to the hon. Gentleman again, because I am often asked that question, or a similar one, by Conservative Members: I am not saying that political and constitutional issues are not involved--of course they are. However, in relation to the Government's position, we have resolved those issues. We believe that the essential issue, therefore, is whether the euro is in the national economic interest. Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman--[Interruption.] I wish that hon. Members would listen. I have said that of course there are important political and constitutional questions, but the issue is whether there is a constitutional barrier to joining. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) would say that there was, and so would many other Conservative Members. If that is the case, his policy of ruling out joining for five years only is absurd. If there is a constitutional barrier, then rule it out for good. It is the Conservatives who need to resolve this constitutional question rather more than us.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): While I had my doubts about the leisure shirt in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was photographed, I was pleased, overall, with the outcome of the summit. Will he give more detail about what was proposed for tackling the AIDS epidemic sweeping Africa? Are there practical proposals to enhance public health provision, have cheaper drug costs, enhance the village hospitals in Africa and, equally importantly, get African leaders on side so that they do not say that it is all just about poverty?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a series of justified points. The target has been set for the reduction of AIDS. It is important, however, that that is backed up by concrete measures. We, for example, are increasing the amount of support that we are giving to AIDS programmes in Africa. What my hon. Friend refers to in respect of education and local hospitals is vital. I also agree with him that it is important to have a serious and open discussion on AIDS so that the measures that we are taking will be effective. At the Durban conference a short time ago, representatives from all over the world discussed the issue.
The poverty in which people live makes it more likely that they will get the AIDS virus. That is absolutely true. What is also undeniably true is that unless we take preventive and educational measures, we have little chance of dealing with this issue properly. I hope very much that having set a specific target, and put in place the process to follow it up, we will be able to take the action necessary.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the Prime Minister tell us how many children in the poorest countries of Africa could have been educated in a primary school for a year with £450 million? Would that not have been a better use of most of the money spent on the summit? It would, after all, still have left £50 million to spend on a good few bottles of a very good wine so that delegates could get to know each other.
When the Government set targets in domestic politics, there are usually incentives or penalties to encourage Departments or agencies to achieve them. What steps will the world leaders take to make sure that their intentions are translated into action?
The Prime Minister: There are a variety of things that we can do, although it is obviously not the same as in domestic government. For example, on money laundering and the fight against organised crime and drugs, if we proceed on the current basis, the eight new measures that have been agreed by Finance Ministers will be implemented by each of the countries involved. There will then be a report back throughout the course of the next year on how that process is proceeding. The result of that will be substantial changes to the laws of various countries. That is an example of what we can do.
In respect of the targets on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa, again there is a process in place. In a sense, the best thing is for us to be called to account for that. I think that, partly because of the Cologne process on debt, there is an obligation upon us to go further on debt. Even though people want us to go far faster and further, if we had not had that Cologne summit I do not think we would have even made the progress that has been achieved so far. Under a domestic Government, the matter is different, but there are none the less political incentives built into the process.