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The Prime Minister: The most important thing we can do is to ensure that proper financial systems, and proper accounting standards for them, are in placea process that we started in 1998. I do not favour measures such as the Tobin tax, or other taxes on currency speculation. The best security against financial collapse is the integrity of financial systems and proper accounting standards to ensure openness and transparency in the way in which countriesand, indeed, companiesoperate. That is the best guarantee.
Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire): What did the Prime Minister tell the other G8 members about the dramatic fall in Britain's productivity rates in relation to world competitiveness that has taken place under his Government?
The Prime Minister: I am pleased to say that I was able to report that the British economy was in a strong position, not merely in relation to productivity, but elsewhere. When I think back to the time when I was in opposition and the hon. Gentleman was a Minister[Interruption.] If we look back 10 years, we see that this country is in a rather stronger economic position now than it was then. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to remind the House of the 15 per cent. interest rates, the unemployment that stood at more than 3 million, and the gross underinvestment in our public services at that time. So, I am pleased to say that I was able to give a rather better analysis of the state of the British economy than I would have been able to do when the hon. Gentleman was in office.
John Cryer (Hornchurch): I was pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say, particularly about debt and education. May I remind him that, more than a decade ago, almost as a direct result of International Monetary Fund policies in Rwanda, tuition fees were imposed on secondary school children there and, later, even on primary school children? As a direct result, those children were wandering the streets when the militias started recruiting and they consequently became involved in the
The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman wants to shout protests of support for General Pinochet, he is perfectly entitled to do so. To be absolutely honest, that is on a par with the rest of his judgments on foreign policy. As for the other question[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman should be advised against making sedentary interventions, as he is not very good at them.
In relation to the first part of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer), there is a serious issue about Rwanda. It is extremely important that we keep up support for Rwanda and I think that we are probably the largest single donor to it, but the key to that part of Africa is a stable resolution of the conflict. We will play our part in that and we are working far more closely, for example, with the French than ever before. All those issues, such as education, can be far better dealt with in that context.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): Will the Prime Minister comment on the Oxfam report published in April that shows that the European Union applies the highest tariff peaks against the world's poorest countries and also that the EU launches more anti-dumping measures against the developing world than America, Canada and Japan combined? What is he doing to puncture that hypocrisy in the EU, which pretends to be and promotes itself as the friend of the poor, but in reality keeps out their products?
The Prime Minister: We are pressing very hard for Europe to change its position, which is important. Of course, the everything but arms initiative, which has been of help to some of the poorest countries, very much came about as a result of the initiatives taken by this Government, but I have to say that the only way we will get the EU to move is by being in a position of some influence in the EU, not on the sidelines of it. That is why I have to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's general position on Europe, and that of his Front Benchers.
Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands): I very much share and welcome the focus on Africa and the developing world, but during the discussions on agricultural subsidies was concern expressed about the recently passed United States Farm Bill, which massively increased production subsidies? Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that that will undermine and jeopardise our efforts to reform the common agricultural policy?
The Prime Minister: That is why it is important to try to knock down protectionism of all sorts, and concern was certainly expressed by the African countries about the United States Farm Bill and about the CAP. That is why
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): Despite the Prime Minister's reaffirmation here today of his support for the Anglo-American alliance, has he noted that, since his recent talk with President Bush about Palestine, some commentators seem to think that the lengthening list of countries scheduled for regime change by the United States now includes the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Gentleman, both for his contribution to the transatlantic friendship and for the implication of his statement that, certainly, the United Kingdom Government are unlikely to be changed by the Conservative Oppositionthat is for sure. Let me say to him that there are people on the right of politics, such as him and the leader of the Conservative party, and some, indeed, on the left who want to cause trouble for this relationship wherever they possibly can. That is wrong, it is irresponsible and it is not in this country's national interest.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has ensured that the African agenda is so firmly on the G8 summit agenda. A moment ago, he said that conflict resolution is particularly important, but does he agree that tackling HIV/AIDS is almost equally important due to its capacity to undermine the ability of countries to deliver on the plan? He said that that is part of the plan, but will he say more about the importance he attaches to it and whether the plan is a robust, effective and realistic response to the issue?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is entirely rightHIV/AIDS is a major part of the problem in Africa, where millions of people have died of the disease in the past few years. The frustrating thing is that people know what works: we can see that in the programmes in Uganda and other countries that have taken effective action against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I think that I am right in saying that Africa is the only continent in the world where people's life expectations are falling rather than rising. That is blighting development in Africa.
We established the global health fund, and we are putting money into it. We are also trying to ensure that pharmaceutical companies, drugs companies and others work with us to ensure that the drugs that provide people with the most effective treatment are freely available. I agree with my hon. Friend entirelyall these issues must be dealt with together. A major part of the efforts to improve the situation on HIV/AIDS is the investment in education, sex education and poverty reduction.
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury): Did the G8 summit consider the recent report by the Salvation Army, which warned of an impending crisis in sub-Saharan Africa partly because of the floods, but also paradoxically because of drought? The Salvation Army report warns of a serious starvation problem. If the G8 summit considered that report, what does it intend to do about the problem? If it did not, will the Prime Minister look into that report urgently?
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Will the Prime Minister expand on his significant references in his opening statement to foreign weapons scientists? Did he have Iraq in mind? Whatever one's views on Iraq, would not it at least be wise to have an endorsement from the G8 and the United Nations before contemplating further military bombing action?
The Prime Minister: On the last point, I have nothing to add to what I have said on many occasions. On the first point, I did not have the weapons scientists in Iraq particularly in mind. Although it may seem strange and prosaic to say so, it is important to realise that large numbers of people are employed on those programmes and if we are not careful they may be poached and employed by rogue states or terrorist groups. Dealing with the scientists who have been engaged in these weapons of mass destruction programmes is an important part of the overall deal.