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G8 Summit

12.32 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the G8 summit in France.

I pay tribute to President Chirac's very skilful chairmanship in guiding our deliberations. We reached significant conclusions on the middle east, on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and on Africa and sustainable development. In addition, we committed ourselves to strengthening the conditions for growth in the world economy. In all, 16 action plans and statements were released at the summit, copies of which have been placed in the House Libraries.

First, on the middle east, we all recognised that a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem is not only vital for stability across the middle east but would deprive terrorists of an issue that they exploit for their own inhuman ends. I need hardly remind the House of the bleak pattern of mistrust, hatred and violence that has blighted the lives of generations of Israelis and Palestinians. Children have been growing up in an area with seemingly no prospect of peace. From the beginning of the intifada in September 2000 until the end of March this year, 2,300 Palestinians and more than 600 Israelis have been killed. There have been too many dashed hopes to be anything other than cautious in assessing the current situation, but since I last reported to the House, the road map for peace has been published, the Israeli Cabinet has accepted it and there has today been the historic meeting between President Bush and the Palestinian and Israeli Prime Ministers in Jordan.

The whole G8 summit united behind the initiative that President Bush is taking, and fully endorsed what is now agreed on all sides as the only ultimate answer to this problem: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. That is an objective of historic significance both for the middle east and indeed for the whole world community, and we in the United Kingdom will continue to support it with every means at our disposal.

Secondly, on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, there was a striking unanimity of purpose that we must urgently strengthen our co-operation in the fight against those two closely related threats. On weapons of mass destruction, we underlined that North Korea's uranium enrichment and plutonium production programmes and its failure to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards were a clear breach of its international obligations. We called on it to dismantle its nuclear weapons programmes. We emphasised the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear programme and called on Iran to sign and implement an IAEA additional protocol without delay or conditions. President Putin made it clear that in the meantime Russia would suspend its exports of nuclear fuel to Iran. Those are important steps to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and I welcome them.

In addition, we took stock of progress on the $20 billion programme launched last year to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, biological or chemical materials left over from the former Soviet Union, to

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which Britain has made a commitment of up to $750 million. We put in place mechanisms to improve the prioritisation and co-ordination of technical assistance for countries seeking to assist in the war against terrorism. We launched new initiatives to tackle man-portable surface-to-air missiles and to tighten security controls on radioactive sources, and we agreed on measures that represent a new drive to cut off terrorist financing.

Thirdly, on Africa and development, the summit brought about the welcome participation of many African and developing nations. We all agreed that a successful outcome to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Mexico in September and the successful completion of the development round by 2005 are of central importance. The wealthy nations of the world simply cannot any longer ask the developing world to stand on its own two feet but shut out the very access to our markets that is necessary for it to do so. Reform of the European common agricultural policy will be vital in that regard.

In addition, we agreed to resolve all other outstanding WTO issues including the compulsory licensing of drugs—the so-called trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, or TRIPS, question—which is important for poorer countries to access drugs for their people, and also essential for progress in the Doha round.

We had extensive discussions about the problem of HIV/AIDS, which now afflicts 42 million people around the world. All of us welcomed President Bush's recent announcement of a $15 billion US initiative to combat it, and I hope that at the European summit in Greece, the European Union will agree to match the US commitment to the global health fund—potentially up to $1 billion a year. We remain on course, too, to eradicate polio from the face of the globe by 2005.

I also set out in some detail my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's proposal to establish a new international finance facility, which could deliver a doubling of current aid flows for recipient countries committed to economic reforms and good governance. Finance Ministers have been asked to report back to leaders on the proposal by September. It is important that we now sustain the momentum behind the initiative.

G8 leaders also took the opportunity to discuss with President Mbeki and other African leaders the good progress that we have made in partnership with the NEPAD—New Partnership for Africa's Development—leaders over the past year in implementing the Africa action plan that was launched at Kananaskis. Over the past year, we have seen the largest ever US commitment to aid for Africa, and many European Union countries, including our own, are increasing aid and development programmes substantially. Consistent with the African-led initiative, we discussed the steps that are being taken to resolve the appalling crisis in Zimbabwe. We condemned the action taken by the Zimbabwean authorities on Monday against their own people and called on the Zimbabwean Government to accept their citizens' rights to demonstrate against the regime peacefully.

I was also pleased that we endorsed the initiative that I launched last year to reduce corruption by getting companies in the extractive industries to make public

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the tax and royalty payments that they make to Governments, and for those Governments to publicise their receipts. I believe that this simple idea could have a powerful impact. Transparency and increased accountability are the best defences against corruption.

Leaders also had a full discussion on the world economy and agreed on the central importance of fostering macro-economic stability and intensifying structural reform as the essential preconditions for strengthening growth. Chancellor Schröder also briefed us on the steps that Germany is now taking to modernise its health and pensions systems and to increase the flexibility of the labour market, and President Bush expressed confidence in the strength of the US economic recovery, based on rising productivity and a pick-up in domestic demand.

Finally, G8 Heads agreed to step up our collaboration on science and technology to help combat the long-term problem of climate change. It is crucial that we tackle this, but in ways that encourage sustainable growth and development. The G8 must lead the way, working in partnership with developing countries. We will focus on renewable energy, the hydrogen economy for transport, fuel cells and biodiversity.

After the sharp disagreements in the world community over Iraq, the summit represented an important coming together of leading nations. In the past few weeks, we have seen the restoration of unity in the UN with resolution 1483. As important as anything else, on the very issue of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, there was a renewed sense of urgency and purpose. Of great significance, we have seen the middle east peace process, despite all the cynicism, moving forward again. Whatever the differences of the past few months, the summit showed common purpose on these key issues. It is now the task of the whole world community to build on the objectives that have been reached which are of such fundamental importance to us all and to the wider world.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement.

The G8 meeting in Evian came at a time of rapid change in world events. Renewed optimism characterises the middle east peace process, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and we face a massive obligation to rebuild Iraq and to equip it to be governed at last by its own people. International institutions and relations between countries are still under strain, and the continent of Africa is threatened by widespread famine, the blight of HIV/AIDS and the disastrous political collapse in far too many countries.

I begin by expressing the hopes of Conservative Members for the success of today's potentially historic meeting in Aqaba between President Bush, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas. We support the creation of a Palestinian state living alongside a secure and respected Israel, as the Prime Minister said. We therefore join him in warmly welcoming President Bush's commitment to the great prize of peace in the middle east and realise that great perseverance will be required from all sides if that peace is to be achieved. Continuous reciprocal steps are essential for the success of the road map.

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The G8 summit talked of a comprehensive peace settlement involving Lebanon and Syria. As the Prime Minister knows, for the road map to work it must be more than just a bilateral agreement between Israel and Palestine, so how will the Lebanese and Syrian tracks, as referred to in the discussion, be integrated into that road map process? What admission in Evian did the Prime Minister receive from the Russians, Germans or French that the removal of Saddam Hussein has assisted rather than retarded the momentum towards the middle east peace settlement?

The G8 summit represented an important opportunity for divisions between world leaders over the war in Iraq to be addressed. Some nations, such as Russia, with its willingness to halt nuclear exports to Iran, appeared more willing to address those divisions than others. We should welcome that, and I agree with the Prime Minister that that was a significant step. However, while I welcome the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1483 and the more positive signs of co-operation between the G8 member states in building sustainable peace in Iraq, may I ask what is the Prime Minister's latest assessment of the timetable under which Iraq will be equipped to govern itself? Are there any hospitals that, even now, weeks after the military action has ceased, still require basic medicines and supplies? If there are, what plans are in place to ensure that that is resolved?

On Africa, last week Bob Geldof powerfully warned that famine and disease are once again stalking that continent, and Ethiopia is running out of food. Some 8,000 people a day are dying of HIV/AIDS across the continent, and Zimbabwe has been brought to its knees by the contemptible conduct of a dictator, Robert Mugabe. I welcome the fact that the G8 at last discussed Zimbabwe. That is vital. I also welcome its condemnation of Mugabe's brutal actions and his continuing activities. What action is being taken in response to the emergency in Zimbabwe? What future action does the Prime Minister believe we can take, and what do his Government believe they will do alongside other Governments to resolve that? What action is being taken in response to the emergency in Ethiopia?

We welcome the expressed intention of the EU heads of state to support President Bush's commendable initiative to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. We hope that the next EU summit will at last turn those words into firm action. Does the Prime Minister think that that will be the case?

We are surprised and disappointed that the Prime Minister's statement makes no mention of the Congo. The country is on the precipice of the most bloody ethnic genocide. The French were the first to refer to the issue of troops, and were even critical about British troop deployments, which I find a bit rich. Is it not right that France and Belgium should take the lead in ensuring that, if necessary, security forces go to the region, where historically they had such an influence, or would that in itself cause a major problem? Will the Prime Minister tell us what sort of troop deployments he believes Britain is capable of committing, and whether he considers such a commitment necessary?

While every effort must be made to alleviate the suffering of so many Africans, we must also lay the basis for self-government in Iraq. The search for WMD must continue urgently, without let-up. I do not believe that

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the issues raised in this country in the past few days were about weapons of mass destruction. I believe that Saddam Hussein had them, and I hope and believe that we will find them. It is right for Britain to have liberated Iraq; the Prime Minister was right to do so. However, the reconstruction of Iraq requires that there should be a foundation of trust in the Government's actions at the time and subsequently. There is the risk of jeopardising that trust. I hope that over the past half hour, the Prime Minister has had time to reflect on the need to re-establish that trust, and that he will now review his position and grant an independent judicial inquiry.

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