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United States of America

10. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the UK's bilateral relations with the United States of America. [196790]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): It has been a key foreign policy objective of this Government to maintain close co-operation and consultation with the United States Government and Congress, alongside a close and deepening relationship with our EU partners. That co-operation will continue. There is a huge range of issues on which progress in the world would be faster if Europe and the United States could agree.

Hugh Bayley: Britain's bilateral relations with the United States are important because hardly an issue of global policy—world trade talks, the global fight against AIDS or the fight against terrorism—can be resolved without America playing a leading role. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should encourage the United States to use to the full its soft powers of diplomacy and development aid to tackle the problems, as well using as hard military force where necessary?

Mr. MacShane: I very much agree. We should use our parliamentary soft power to build stronger links with the elected representatives of the American people on the Hill and in the state governments. In many states,
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quite progressive policies on environmental change and stem cell research have been adopted, and there is much more that is progressive and closer to our way of thinking in America than is sometimes reported. I therefore hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will take part in deepening that interparliamentary dialogue.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): The French Foreign Minister has said that the European Union should become a power to rival the United States, and the Spanish Prime Minister has confirmed that the EU constitution would be an important step towards making the EU the world's strongest military power. Is it not increasingly obvious that moves towards a common EU foreign policy risk weakening the western alliance just when we should be strengthening it? Will the Minister take the opportunity to reassure the United States that this country wants no part in any attempts to undermine NATO and that we still regard our close relationship with America as the best guarantee of freedom in Europe?

Mr. MacShane: I think that the hon. Gentleman was misquoting an article in German in Der Spiegel that included an interview with the Spanish Prime Minister—I will send him a translation. A new approach would be most helpful, because the Leader of the Opposition is unwelcome in Washington, unwanted in Europe and unelectable in Britain. The Conservative party needs to rebuild its fences with the United States, rebuild its connections with Europe and start talking sense on foreign policy for the first time in seven years.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): Notwithstanding my hon. Friend's positive remarks, would he raise in any talks about that relationship the issue of United States protectionism, particularly the fact that we cannot export anything that is to be used by the US Department of Defence without the US manufacturing the goods. There is therefore a strong protectionist factor, and I hope that that can be reviewed in the light of the new relationship that he spoke about.

Mr. MacShane: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, as I represent Rotherham, where Europe's finest engineered steel products were threatened with tariffs imposed by the last Administration. I hope that the next Administration will not listen to some of their American trade union friends and go down the protectionist road. Isolationism, whether on the part of the Conservative party or whether in the form of protectionism by American unions, is unacceptable.


11. Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): What recent representations he has received on the impending Iraq elections. [196791]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): We have received numerous representations on the elections in Iraq, all of which support the holding of free and democratic elections in January. We fully
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support the Iraqi Interim Government in their commitment to that timing, as set out in UN Security Council resolution 1546. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, advised by the UN, is doing excellent work to ensure that technical preparations are on course for January.

Bob Spink: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his answer. Of course, we all want the elections in Iraq to be successful, and we acknowledge the extraordinary bravery and professionalism of the Black Watch in helping to create a stable and secure backdrop against which elections can be held. What further support is being considered for the Black Watch, and what plans are there to replace it in December so that Security Council resolution 1546 is delivered?

Mr. Speaker: Order. The question should have been about the elections.

Middle East

12. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the implications for the road map of the statement by Mr. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Sharon, that the Gaza disengagement plan involves the removal of the creation of a Palestinian state from the peace process. [196792]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): We believe the road map is the way forward and that disengagement is a first step towards a comprehensive peace settlement. Whatever rhetoric we may hear from either side, that is our goal and we shall stick to it. Prime Minister Sharon has reaffirmed Israel's commitment to the road map.

Richard Burden: I agree with my hon. Friend. Does he accept that many people believe that Mr. Weisglass only put into words what is happening on the ground, including the news just this week of a threat to wells in Wadi Fukin in the west bank? Echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) said, I urge the Minister to ensure that when the Prime Minister meets President Bush he emphasises that the important thing is not words any more but action to make sure that peace is achieved for the benefit of both Israelis and Palestinians?

Mr. Rammell: There is consensus across the House that we have the right way forward in the road map. What we need is renewed impetus and momentum, which is very much what the Prime Minister will be talking about when he goes to Washington later this week. In the context of what Mr. Weisglass said, it is important to note that his reported remarks are out of step with the policy of the Israeli Government. We
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strongly welcome the fact that Prime Minister Sharon has indicated that, and indicated his continuing commitment to the road map.

West Indies

13. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the progress of reconstruction in the West Indian islands damaged by recent hurricanes. [196793]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean caused extensive damage and destruction. The statement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made to the House on 12 October gave details of what this Government have done to help. Since then, we have announced a further £5.5 million in assistance to Grenada, the island most severely affected. Baroness Howells visited Grenada as the personal envoy of my right hon. Friend the
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Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and our assistance to the region now amounts to almost £10 million.

Joan Ruddock: I am sure that the whole House will be extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he congratulate the Marsha Phoenix Memorial Trust in my constituency, which, like many Caribbean communities across London, is raising funds for the Grenada hurricane appeal? Will he also tell us what plans the Government have to assist the islands of the West Indies in preparing better to avoid such tragedies in future, when there may, unfortunately, be further hurricanes?

Mr. Rammell: I should certainly like to congratulate the trust in my hon. Friend's constituency on the work that it is doing. Bearing in mind that this hurricane season has been the worst for some 90 years, it is critical that we do everything we can to find out what factors created that situation and what we can do to help. That is at the forefront of our thinking at the moment.

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