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Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) (Lab): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on achieving a greater sense of purpose at this G8 summit than at any previous one that I can recall? Whatever criticism is now being made of the aid and debt package, is not the outcome a far better deal than anyone could have dared hope for only six months ago?
On the issue of follow-through, Russia takes over the presidency next year and may not have our long experience and ties with Africa. Will my right
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hon. Friend consider what structures we could create within the G8 to maintain the momentum that he has started and to ensure that future summits review progress and commitments that will necessarily take some years to fulfil?
The Prime Minister: I thank my right hon. Friend for his supportive statements. Yes, we certainly should consider what follow-up mechanisms are necessary. On climate change, it is clear that we will follow up, particularly given that the problem has been identified for the Japan summit of 2008. However, in co-operation with the UN, we must ensure that we also follow up in respect of Africa. If we reach this time next year and find that some of these great policies have not been pushed through, there will, quite rightly, be a great deal of cynicism. We must make sure that we push the policies forward.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): On trade, President Bush has made it clear that he is prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies if the European Union also does so. What does the Prime Minister think about the French position on this matter? If the EU negotiates as one in respect of the WTO, we may move forward only at the slowest pace, so has the Prime Minister been able to make any progress with respect to the French position on this matter?
The Prime Minister: We have agreed that we will set a credible end date. That includes the European Union position, which includes the French position. We have not actually set the date, but it has been agreed that such a date will be set and that substantial progress on this matter will have to be made at the Hong Kong ministerial meeting. I cannot be absolutely certain, but my sense is that we are on track to reach an agreement in 2010. The French position, to be fair, is that they are prepared to act if other countries are also prepared to act on their subsidies.
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): On aid and debt relief, the G8 summit was clearly an enormous success, for which my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor both deserve huge credit. However, if we are to assist African development, is it not right for us to cancel debt unconditionally, rather than make it conditional on forcing some of the world's very poorest countries to open up their markets when, before they are able to build up their own industries, they are not remotely in a position to face the full force of international economic competition?
If President Bush is still unwilling to take any serious meaningful action to combat climate change, should we not be doing far more to reach out to the large, growing and influential group of US political and industrial leaders who are prepared to tackle the problem? For example, there is the Republican governor of California, the Republican mayor of New York, the chief executive of General Electric and the mayors, I believe, of about 140 cities across the USall of whom have voluntarily decided to enforce carbon emission reductions within their own jurisdictions.
The Prime Minister:
I thank my right hon. Friend for his words. On trade, we are very clear in the
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communiqué that the opening of markets should be viewed from the point of view of the developing world as a process in which developing countries need to have the capacity to trade effectively. Free trade is in their interests in the end, but if it were to happen overnight without a proper process for those countries to engage in and to construct that necessary capacity, it would be difficult for them. That is one of the reasons why we have increased aidin order to allow them to try to achieve that. We also made the point that it is necessary for many of the African countries to try to break down the barriers of trade between themselves, as there are still major tariff barriers within Africa as well. We have taken my right hon. Friend's point well on board.
As to climate change, the climate group that we have established does precisely what my right hon. Friend mentioned. It involves the state of California, businesses and other countries that share our perspective. In the end, it depends on what people want. I think that, if there is a willingnessand I think that there isfor the Administration to engage on this issue, we might as well engage them and see where we get to. We can pursue the other dimensions with the states, business and industry at the same time. It is important to remember, as I often say, that the Kyoto treaty was, unfortunately but truly, rejected by 100 to nothing in the US Senate under the previous American President. Sometimes people see the US Administration as the only issue in respect of this matter, but I think that it is possible to move the debate forward and our engagement with other groups and people in America is an important part of that.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): The House has received this report with gratitude, because, after all the negative statements that were made, it is nice to know that positive steps are being taken on health and on poverty issues, especially in Africa. I put the question, however, of agricultural export subsidies. The Prime Minister needs to know that the farming community in Northern Ireland is an essential part of our economy. That community has had no real standard of farm income for a long time, and there is considerable worry in the hearts of those men that maybe this year, or perhaps 2010, will be their last. Will they be consulted and will they know what steps are being taken and what the future holds?
The Prime Minister: This is obviously important. We need the farming community to be strong, and as the hon. Gentleman rightly says there is concern in Northern Ireland and elsewhere when people talk about phasing out subsidies. We have time to gear up for this, however, and it is important that we are in full consultation with the farming community about any decision that can be reached. I would say, too, that we can sometimes exaggerate the significance for the poorest countries, particularly in Africa, of the barriers we presently have on trade.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab):
I applaud the $3 billion dollar package for the Palestinian Authority and my right hon. Friend's key role in helping to bring that about. Does he agree that, even so, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will continue to live in poverty, deprivation and unemployment of third-world standards unless and until they can live in a free,
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independent and internationally recognised Palestine, and that pursuit of the road map is the key to achieving that?
The Prime Minister: I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. It is important that disengagement and the support for the Palestinians is the first step towards a final negotiated settlement and not seen as an end in itself.
Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): I warmly welcome the extra money for Africa and agree with the Prime Minister that that must go hand in hand with improving governance in many African countries. Did he discuss with his G8 colleagues whether we in the west can do any more to underpin good governance in African countries by supporting democracy, the rule of law and the general thrust towards freedom? Is there room, perhaps, for an initiative along the lines of the one that America introduced in relation to the middle east?
We can provide help for democracy but should also make the important point to African countries, which I think a new generation of African leaders increasingly understands, that we could put all the aid in the world into Africa and it would make no difference unless it went into countries that had at least the beginnings of a proper judicial system, a proper commercial system, a proper fiscal system
The Prime Minister: With property rights, and so on. That is very important. The lessons of what countries need to do to attract the right levels of private sector investment and so on are not hard to describe, even if it can be difficult to do. We can show how good governance has its own financial reward; without a shadow of a doubt, that is true. The other thing we can do, which we are working on with business, is the so-called extractive industries transparency initiative, which is to make sure that companies that pay money are open and transparent about the money so that we can root out the corruption that has bedevilled Africa for so long and that is so deeply unfair to its people. If we started to get the right systems of governance in place, the other thing that would happen is that the younger generation of highly talented Africans would want to stay to engage in the politics of their own country, which is tremendously important. Far too often, they have seen no future in that, and although international institutions benefit enormously from them, it would be better for their own countries if they were there.
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