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G8 Summit

3. Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his Department's preparations for the G8 summit in July. [1950]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): As the House knows, the key themes for the summit are Africa and climate change. We will press for agreement on reducing poverty in Africa and on how best to address the problem of climate change in the world.

Ann McKechin: As my right hon. Friend knows, there will be a major demonstration in his home city of Edinburgh on 2 July. Does he agree that the most important part of the summit will be ensuring that the voice of Africa is heard, that real progress is made in the fight against global poverty and that the thousands of people in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom who want to protest peacefully are able to do so on 2 July? Will he tell us whether he intends to join them?

Mr. Darling: Like everyone else, I am well aware that of the intention to mount a large-scale demonstration in Edinburgh on 2 July. I believe that the vast majority of people who come to Edinburgh will be there to call for an increased effort on the part of Governments to make poverty history, as well as to address the issue of climate change.

I think that we have a unique opportunity in Scotland, perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity, for the international community to come together, put its past difficulties behind it and present proposals that would make a real difference to reducing poverty not just in Africa but in other parts of the world, as well as dealing with the pressing problems of climate change. Nothing that happens should detract from the importance of the event. I hope that all who go to Edinburgh, as well as all the world leaders who go to Gleneagles and to Scotland in July, keep that at the front of their minds, and I hope that what happens in Scotland will give us an opportunity to build and make the world a better place.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware of my concern about public safety in Edinburgh—that of both visitors and residents—at the time of the G8 summit. What proposals are being discussed to reduce the risks to those travelling to Edinburgh and to those affected by major events in Edinburgh over the week, to ensure that they are safe at the end of the protest?

Mr. Darling: The organisers of the Make Poverty History march have been in touch with the police and the other agencies, and there has been a lot of planning to ensure that the demonstration remains peaceful and those on it can make their point peacefully and within the law. That is what we all want.
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If other people wish to mount demonstrations or do similar things, they must contact the police and get in touch with the council and others. Edinburgh is a comparatively small city, with a population of 450,000. As I said earlier, it would be a tragedy if the focus were on problems relating to the march rather than on far bigger issues that affect the whole world—making poverty history, and climate change. Those are the big issues.

The chief constables for Lothian and Borders and for Tayside have primary responsibility for policing. The relevant councils are also involved. I hope that what happens in Edinburgh and in the rest of Scotland during the week is peaceful, and that it is remembered for the good thing—for what ought to be the beginning of making poverty history.

Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, East) (Lab): The Secretary of State says that climate change is one of the big issues on the agenda. Does he agree that many of the peoples most threatened by climate change are the small nations in the Pacific, many of which are already only a few feet above sea level? Will he ensure that the plight of those poor people is discussed thoroughly at the G8 summit, as well as the plight of the deserving peoples of Africa?

Mr. Darling: I think that the events of Boxing day last year demonstrate my hon. Friend's point graphically. Obviously the tsunami was caused by movements of the earth several thousand miles away, but there is no doubt that climate change is having an adverse effect on water levels.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: this is a pressing issue. The Government raised it in Kyoto, and played a leading role in the Kyoto discussions of the late 1990s. All nations, especially developed nations but also those that are developing rapidly, need to pay attention to the consequences of economic activity, and start taking steps now to prevent the problems that will occur if we do nothing.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): I entirely agree with what the Secretary of State has just said. I also share his concern about what might happen in Edinburgh in terms of safety and security during the G8 summit.

The Secretary of State rightly chose his words carefully. I do not have to be quite so careful. Let me say that, although we all adore Sir Bob Geldof and applaud his good intentions, all he has done for Africa and the publicity he has brought to a cause in which we all believe, the idea of flooding Edinburgh with a million protesters is simply not a good one. Will the Secretary of State join me in calling on Bob Geldof to reverse his call for people to flood Edinburgh, and for him instead to encourage people simply to support the already well organised Make Poverty History event on Saturday 2 July?

Mr. Darling: The shadow Secretary of State for Scotland needs to be careful. Her predecessor was not very careful—and look where he is sitting now.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I spoke the truth.
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Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman says that he spoke the truth. There is obviously a sinner who is not repenting at all, and we look forward to hearing from him further.

On the more serious matter, no one doubts Bob Geldof's conviction and his determination to make the world a better place. What he did 20 years ago with Band Aid was truly remarkable and deserves nothing but praise. I am sure that in expressing his sentiments, he was saying that he wanted the Make Poverty History march to be a success and for progress to be made at the G8 summit. As I said earlier, there is a serious point. We want this summit and the events surrounding it to be remembered for Governments making progress towards reducing poverty and addressing climate change. That is why, if anyone wants to arrange new events or to do other things, I strongly advise them to get in touch with the police, the council and the others involved, so that we can ensure that those who come to Edinburgh can be accommodated safely and that the demonstration is peaceful. Above all, there is the small matter of accommodation. As the hon. Lady will know, Edinburgh is an extremely hospitable place that accommodates many thousands of people each year. But even Edinburgh, despite its renowned hospitality, can reach the stage where it is full up.

Mrs. Laing: This is most unusual—I agree with the Secretary of State again, and I hope that many people will pay heed to what he has just said. Does he agree that in addition to the aims of the G8—I share his views on that point—this is a great opportunity to show that Gleneagles and the surrounding countryside is one of the most beautiful places in the world? Which of Scotland's many other great benefits will the Secretary of State be promoting to the thousands of extra visitors that the G8 will bring to our country?

Mr. Darling: There are many aspects of Scotland that I will promote, but while the hon. Lady is waxing so lyrical, perhaps she could add to her list the benefits of a strong economy, low inflation, increased prosperity and low unemployment. Those are all the benefits that Scotland has seen thanks to a Labour Government.

Renewable Energy

4. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues regarding the development of renewable energy sources in Scotland. [1951]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): Scotland Office Ministers and officials are in regular contact with UK Departments and the Scottish Executive on a wide range of energy-related issues.

Mark Lazarowicz: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer and congratulate him on his appointment to the Scotland Office. He will know that Ocean Power Delivery, which is headquartered in my constituency, has won a contract to build the world's first commercial wave farm, showing that Scotland and the UK can lead the world in renewable energy. However, he will also know that that wave farm is to be situated in Portugal.
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What can he do to ensure that Scotland and the UK develop wave energy on a commercial basis? I should add that such a programme would cost much less than the £10 billion required to support a civil nuclear programme.

David Cairns: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I am aware of the project that he mentions, and I congratulate OPD on winning that order from the Portuguese. This is a Scottish success story, in that we have developed the technology that is being purchased abroad. Of course, the project would not have reached this stage had it not been for the investment of a significant amount of taxpayers' money. OPD has benefited from £3.2 million of such investment from the Department of Trade and Industry's technology programme, and it is benefiting from the investment of £6 million in the European marine energy centre in Orkney, where such technology is being trialled. In addition, a £50 million fund is to be set aside, which OPD can bid into to develop marine energy further. Taken together, that demonstrates that the Government are not only committed to renewable energy but are making resources available to make that happen in Scotland and elsewhere.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): I add my welcome to the hon. Gentleman in his new capacity. When he discusses renewable energy with his colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry, will he highlight the potential around the whole coast of Scotland for tidal current energy? Is he aware that a project currently under way off the coast of Caithness could see commercial generation within 18 months, that the project is reckoned to be some 400 per cent. more efficient than onshore wind, but that the required grid transmission space is blocked by wind farms that may never be built? Will he therefore ensure that his colleagues understand the need, particularly from the north and the islands, to have a suitable reservation of grid capacity?

David Cairns: Yes, I am aware of those concerns. If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me further about the specific project that he has in mind, I will be happy to do so. As he knows, it is simply a fact that wind technology is at a far greater stage of advancement. If we are to meet our ambitious target of producing 10 per cent. of electricity from renewable sources, it will be achieved largely through wind technology. However, wave technology is not that far behind, and we are making additional sums available so that it can be progressed. Eighteen months seems an ambitious target; I have been told that it will be some three years before the project comes on stream. However, I will be happy to continue that dialogue with him.

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