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House of Commons

Tuesday 5 July 2005

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

G8 Summit

1. Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): What assessment he has made of the economic impact of the G8 summit on Scotland. [8165]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): It is too early to say at this stage, but Scotland has benefited from various international events in the past.

Daniel Kawczynski: I should like to thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but, according to the First Minister, the conference will net Scotland about £500 million. If that is correct, will he give us a public explanation of how that figure was reached? If towns such as Shrewsbury wish to host international events in future, we should find out whether, in view of all the trouble created and the need for the police, it would be worth our while making that money available for such tourism.

Mr. Darling: I was wondering when Shrewsbury was going to come into all this. The hon. Gentleman would, I think, accept two points. First, when this country holds international events, it is right that they are held in other parts of the UK as well as in London. That has happened under successive Governments and I believe that it is a good thing. Secondly, and more importantly, we acknowledge that world leaders have a unique opportunity this week to show a commitment to making poverty history and to dealing with a big issue such as climate change. Nothing that happens on the periphery should detract attention from those big issues. I, for one, am very pleased that Scotland is playing host to the G8 conference.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Like my right hon. Friend, I welcome the conference and the benefits that it will bring to Scotland. Undoubtedly, though, the short-term benefits are a little more mixed, to put it mildly. Given the undoubted extra policing and security costs that will fall on local authorities and police authorities in Edinburgh and elsewhere, will the Secretary of State confirm the details
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of the financial assistance given by the Treasury to the Scottish Executive? Does he agree that it is important for some of that assistance to be passed on to the local and police authorities to help meet the extra costs of policing and the security measures?

Mr. Darling: There have been extensive discussions between the Government and the Scottish Executive. My hon. Friend is right that the Government have made available to the Scottish Executive £20 million as a contribution towards the policing costs of the G8 summit. It is worth remarking that, on Saturday, more than 225,000 people walked through the streets of Edinburgh with virtually no trouble whatever. That sent a very powerful message to the whole world that people from all parts of the UK and beyond want to see action at this week's G8. It is regrettable that yesterday and to some extent today a handful of people have been more concerned about themselves than about the big cause itself. I hope that most people will concentrate on Saturday's success, for which a lot of credit goes to the police and all the organisers. I hope that people will also regard yesterday's events for what they are—a needless distraction.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I join the Secretary of State in commending the fantastic rally that we saw on Saturday and in contrasting it with the appalling scenes that we witnessed in Edinburgh yesterday. Perthshire is now bracing itself for the arrival of these anarchist factions and it will want to know what the Secretary of State intends to do to ensure that the problem will be dealt with.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the only way to create a real economic impact from the G8 is to leave a permanent legacy or a resource in Perthshire to continue to develop the work on and ensure compliance with anything agreed at the G8 summit? Will he join me in lobbying the Prime Minister to ensure that we secure such a legacy and resource?

Mr. Darling: I saw the hon. Gentleman's press release, which seemed to concentrate more on himself and on Perthshire than anything else. I suppose that is what the hon. Gentleman does. There are two issues to consider. First, over the coming week, there is absolutely no place in Scotland for the completely needless violence that we saw yesterday and earlier today in some places. Instead, people should concentrate on the big issues of putting poverty behind us, dealing with climate change and solving Africa's problems. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that those are the big issues. Secondly, I believe Scotland will benefit from this summit and other international events, but the most important thing is not what we do for Scotland, but what Scotland and Britain can do for the rest of the world. That is the big message that we should concentrate on.

Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East) (Lab): But does my right hon. Friend agree that, while what Scotland is doing for the rest of the world is crucial, it is nevertheless important to recognise that it is appropriate for Scotland to host the event as it provides an opportunity to showcase our beautiful country as a place in which to live, to work and to do business? Will he decry those people who are trying to undermine the event for very dubious political capital?
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Mr. Darling: I agree. Any event like the G8 summit must be a very good advertisement for Scotland, and the same is true for any international event whether it be political or cultural. It is encouraging that the number of people visiting Scotland has increased over the past few years, and I expect that to continue. My hon. Friend is also right to say that the Scottish economy is growing, with record numbers of people in work. As I said earlier, it is important that we concentrate on the good that can come from this week—for Scotland and, more importantly, for the rest of the world. That depends on whether the world leaders gathered in Gleneagles in the next few days can make sure that firm action is taken to put in place a programme to help alleviate and end poverty, and deal with climate change.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): I agree with the Secretary of State that Saturday was a great and peaceful triumph. Let us hope that the scenes that we saw yesterday are not repeated through the rest of the week. Although Scotland and the rest of the country will benefit from the G8's presence at Gleneagles, a repetition of those scenes will mean that people who live and work in and around Auchterarder will not. If damage is caused and people there suffer loss as a result, will the Government undertake to compensate them?

Mr. Darling: It would be better for us to concentrate on supporting the police in the action that they must take to contain people who are not prepared to demonstrate peacefully. The police have made it clear, however, that they are anxious to accommodate people who wish to demonstrate and protest peacefully. Many of the organisations represented in Scotland this week have been in touch with the police and made the necessary arrangements. The problem yesterday was that the people involved refused point blank to co-operate with the police, which made events difficult to control. The Lothian and Borders police force, and the other forces involved, deserve our full support for what they did to try and contain the demonstration. I am sure that other forces will do exactly the same in the ensuing days, if necessary. However, we must all do everything we can to ensure that the demonstrations are peaceful and that people are able to go about their day-to-day activities.

Mrs. Laing: Again, I agree with the Secretary of State and completely support what he says. I also offer my total support for what he is trying to do.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to assure President Chirac that Scotland's agriculture and food production are major economic assets? He might like to point out that Robert Burns was right when he compared "French ragout" and

unfavourably with the

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my hope that the many thousands of extra visitors from the world's press at Gleneagles might discover just how good haggis is? That would increase its sales around the world, and boost Scotland's economy.
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Mr. Darling: I am sure that the haggis industry will much appreciate the hon. Lady's endorsement of the product, and that many hon. Members present will agree with her too. On the broader point, I am sure that there will be many interesting and long conversations over the dinner table at Gleneagles this week.

Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be inappropriate to consider the economic benefit of the G8 summit too narrowly? Will not Scotland derive the greatest benefit from decisions made at Gleneagles to eradicate poverty in Africa and to ensure that continent's rise as an economic power? That regeneration will present an opportunity to develop Scotland's historic trading links with Africa.

Mr. Darling: I am sure that people caught up in yesterday's event, and whose businesses may have been affected, have legitimate concerns, and we are keen to understand their position. My hon. Friend is right to say that the G8 presence in Scotland, and our presidency, present us with a unique opportunity to deal with some major problems that affect the whole world. As I say, I hope that this week is remembered for what the world began to do in the long process of ending poverty and dealing with climate change. Those are the big issues that we should keep in sight—not just this week, but next week, next month and over the next few years.

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