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12 July 2006 : Column 1380

Ann Winterton: Will the Minister raise the issue of non-governmental organisations with President Putin at the G8 this year? Does the Minister agree that the crackdown on NGOs’ operations is very unwelcome, especially in connection with the monitoring of human rights in Russia itself?

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Lady may know that considerable international concern was expressed about the proposed draft new law on the regulation of NGOs in Russia. We have been part of the process of lobbying for reform of that draft law, and substantial improvements have been made to the legislation that has gone through, as opposed to the original draft presented to NGOs and other authorities. The hon. Lady might also like to know that we fund a range of NGOs for work on human rights, democracy and good governance in Russia. Some of them work with Russian authorities, such as those reforming prisons, while others do not. Through that type of work, and through the engagement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, we will continue to raise concerns about how NGOs are restricted and about human rights more generally.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the hard work done in churches such as Lindley Methodist church, which, last week, was one of the smallest churches to beat the drum for fair trade? Like Colne Valley, which is now a fair trade area, it recognises that fair trade is the best way forward to relieve poverty. Will he ensure that that is high on the agenda for the G8 summit?

Mr. Thomas: I pay tribute to the work of the church to which my hon. Friend has alluded, and to other churches and NGO supporters up and down the country who played a crucial role in making the Gleneagles summit such a success last year. There is no doubt that we have more to do on the issue of fair trade. In particular, we need agreement on a fair outcome to the current round of World Trade Organisation talks. We will continue to work to that purpose, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will want to discuss that key issue with other G8 leaders.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): The Minister will follow the progress, or lack of it, at the WTO as closely as anyone. He will therefore be aware that on the three critical issues—greater agricultural tariff cuts by the European Union, better access to developing country markets and lower agricultural subsidies in the US—there is a real possibility of a deal if everyone moves a little. The serious effects of failure are recognised. What steps are he and the Prime Minister taking, in the margins of the G8 and beyond, to help to generate the political will to unlock those talks?

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman is right that a fair outcome to the current round of World Trade Organisation talks would have a potentially huge benefit for the poorest people of the world, as well as considerable potential benefit to UK and EU citizens. He is also right that there is a need for all sides in the
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talks to shift. Recently, there have been signals from several key players that they are willing to move. We are at a critical point in the current round of WTO discussions, and I have no doubt that there will be further discussions in the margins of the G8, as there have been in the run-up to the G8 summit, to finesse the progress needed so that we can sign the type of deal that we all want.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): May I draw to my hon. Friend’s attention the statement to the G8 from the G8 plus 5 legislators forum on climate change, which I chaired at the weekend? Does he agree that if development is not to be undermined by the catastrophic effects of climate change, the international financial institutions must dramatically increase investment in low-carbon energy, and developing countries must be assisted to find measures of adaptation to climate change?

Mr. Thomas: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her work on this issue, and welcome the statement to which she has referred. There is no question but that the G8 summit provides us with an opportunity to continue the discussions on climate change that took place at Gleneagles last year. The G8 Finance Ministers have already committed themselves to work to improve access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supplies in Africa. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be aware of the clean energy investment framework pushed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. A range of international financial institutions are committed to that process, and we are now working with them on the detail of that proposal.


5. Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of UK aid to Uganda; and if he will make a statement. [84331]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): UK aid to Uganda is supporting the Government’s poverty eradication action plan. It includes poverty reduction budget support, major humanitarian assistance in northern Uganda, support to civil society and projects to improve the performance of the Government. The effectiveness of our programme is reviewed regularly. UK assistance to Uganda has helped it to reduce poverty by one third since 1992, to double the numbers of children in primary education since 1996, and to double both clinic attendances and immunisation rates since 2000.

Mr. Vara: I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. What is Britain doing to encourage the Ugandan Government and voluntary organisations to ensure that there is free education and support for children and young people who have escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army?

Hilary Benn: The British Government are funding projects, some of which I saw for myself during my recent visit to Gulu. I was also able to visit Kitgum,
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which is providing support to rehabilitate children and reintegrate them into society. I think that the single most important contribution we have made is the financial support that we have given to Uganda, because it helped the country to abolish fees for primary education. That resulted in a significant increase in the number of children who could get an education, and we want to see the same in all parts of the country.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1.[84312] Dr. Doug Naysmith (Bristol, North-West) (Lab/Co-op): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 12 July.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Before I list my engagements, let me say that I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning utterly the brutal and shameful attacks in India yesterday which killed so many innocent people. Our message from Britain to the people and country of India is that we stand with them in solidarity to defeat this terrorism wherever it exists.

I am sure that the House will also want to join me in sending sympathy and condolences to the family of Private Damien Raymond Jackson, who was killed in Afghanistan last week. As we know, this is a difficult mission, but his country can be immensely proud of him, and we mourn his loss.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Dr. Naysmith: Following his visit to Southmead in my constituency, can my right hon. Friend tell me what more local people said they wanted to be done about crime and antisocial behaviour? Did anyone suggest that hugging a hoodie would help?

The Prime Minister: I have to say that I have never felt like hugging a hoodie, other than, possibly, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton, East (Mr. Hood)—and even that sparingly.

In the context of what the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) said the other day, it is important to recognise that although of course we need to tackle some of the underlying causes of crime—that is the reason for the new deal for the unemployed, which the Conservatives oppose, for the Sure Start programme, at which they turn up their noses, and for the extra spending on education and nursery places—we also need strong antisocial behaviour, so that— [Laughter.] Strong antisocial behaviour measures! The right hon. Member for Witney used to condemn them as a gimmick, but I think that most people in the country support them wholeheartedly.

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Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): If the Prime Minister wants to turn this into a session in which I answer the questions and he asks them, he can always call a general election.

May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about the death of Private Damien Jackson? May I also say that we too send our condolences to the victims of those dreadful bomb attacks in India, and to their families? The attacks were indiscriminate and cowardly. They show once again that all countries are at risk from terrorism, and that all of us must stand together to defeat it.

This week the only voluntary police force merger, between Cumbria and Lancashire, was abandoned. The chief constable of Cumbria said


Will the Prime Minister now accept that forced mergers are certainly out of the question?

The Prime Minister: For exactly the reason that my right hon. Friend gave to the Minister of State, this morning, we do not believe—although we have listened to the representations that have been made—that it is sensible to force the merger. Let me explain to the right hon. Gentleman about Lancashire and Cumbria. The reason for the difficulty there is that they cannot agree on the equalisation of the precept—but it is still important, and will be important in parts of the country, for there to be either a merger of forces or a far better strategic capability that crosses borderlines.

Mr. Cameron: Three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister the identical question. I asked him whether he would abandon forced mergers and he said, “No”. Can he tell us what has changed? Has not the Prime Minister been wasting police time?

The Prime Minister: No, we were asked to listen to the representations that were made and we have listened to them. As he knows, the reason why mergers are on the agenda is the report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate—[Hon. Members: “They are off the agenda”] No, they are not off the agenda. We listened because people made representations about the forced mergers that they do not want to see. On the other hand, the point made by the inspectorate of constabulary remains and there will be areas where it is important to have far greater strategic co-operation across force lines. It is also important to proceed with mergers where we find the consent to do so.

Mr. Cameron: So the flagship of forced mergers has sunk without trace. Let us turn to another flagship that is sinking fast—ID cards. Will the Prime Minister admit to the House that the whole project is now being reviewed, including the timetable and the type of card?

The Prime Minister: No, I certainly will not say that, because it is not correct. It is very important— [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman is basing his comments on leaked e-mails in the newspapers, I suggest that he does not raise that topic. If he looks at
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what is happening, he will see that it is important that we proceed with identity cards for the simple reason that if we do not have a proper identity card system, we will not be able to track illegal immigrants in this country or prevent identity fraud and abuse. It is for that reason that we most certainly will proceed to introduce identity cards.

Mr. Cameron: But everyone apart from the Prime Minister knows that the project is in deep trouble. The civil servant responsible for delivering it says that it is being delayed and another civil servant says:

Even the Prime Minister will be gone by then. So who is telling the truth—the Prime Minister who says it is all going fine, or the civil servants who say it is a botched job?

The Prime Minister: They do not say that. What they say is that we have to get the details of how we introduce it right—and we will. It is a huge programme and there are bound to be changes along the way. But the basic point of introducing identity cards, alongside the fact that we will have to have biometric passports introduced in any event, is of central importance to the security of this country. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is actually he who has changed his mind— [Interruption.] Does he want me to go through them? He opposed tuition fees and now supports them; he opposed foundation hospitals and now supports them; and the fact of the matter is that he will end up agreeing with this proposal as well, because it is right and necessary for the country’s security.

Mr. Cameron: This week we have seen police mergers abandoned, ID cards delayed, tax credits completely defrauded and, after all that, we have discovered that we have a Deputy Prime Minister who thinks he is a cowboy! Apparently, he is “really looking forward” to standing in for the Prime Minister over the summer. Please tell us that that is not going to happen.

The Prime Minister: Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman what is going to happen. We will carry on with our policies. I notice again that he has not asked me about any specific policy issue at all. [Interruption.] No, he does not.

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the Prime Minister speak.

The Prime Minister: We will continue to introduce the antisocial behaviour legislation that the country needs; we will pursue identity cards because they are right; and we will continue with our health and school reforms because they are right. We have launched the energy review and the pensions proposals and we will carry on making the decisions that are right for the long-term interests of this country.

Mr. Cameron: I asked the Prime Minister a pretty simple question: is the Deputy Prime Minister going to be running the country in August when the Prime Minister is away? Yes or no?

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The Prime Minister: I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the arrangements are exactly the same as they have been in previous years. The important thing is that when it comes to the country’s future in terms of the economy, public services, law and order, pensions and energy—indeed, when it comes to the big decisions—this side has the answers and the right hon. Gentleman cannot make up his mind. [Interruption.] He will not even dare debate the policy ideas. In the last few weeks, he has launched his proposal for a Bill of Rights, and he launched his law and order policy on Monday. The fact is that none of his proposals stands up to scrutiny. If the country wants the right long-term decisions, it will carry on backing this Government.

Frank Cook (Stockton, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will recall the ardent support that he and his constituents in Sedgefield gave my constituents in Stockton and Billingham in the campaign that I led to oppose the disposal of 100,000 tonnes of high level/intermediate level radioactive waste in the disused anhydrite mines of Billingham. We won the campaign, thanks to the Prime Minister’s support, and the campaign for the other four sites in Billingham. Has the Prime Minister’s attitude and that of his constituents changed? If so, how and why?

The Prime Minister: I should think that their attitude has not changed to storage in that specific place, but, as my hon. Friend knows, we will have to deal with decommissioning nuclear waste, irrespective of what else happens, because we have had nuclear power in this country for more than half a century. We must obviously take care of decommissioning the waste and the nuclear power stations. If we are to ensure that this country’s energy supplies are secure in future, and that we can grow sustainably and reduce CO2 emissions, we need the full balance of policies—energy efficiency, renewables and replacing existing nuclear power stations.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the expressions of sympathy and condolence from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition?

Last week, the Prime Minister told me that it was not true that the United States had to meet a different standard of evidence from the United Kingdom in extradition cases. On 16 December 2003, Baroness Scotland told the House of Lords that the United Kingdom had to reach a higher threshold than the United States. Which is true—no difference or a higher threshold?

The Prime Minister: The evidence I have from the Attorney-General’s consultations with the senior Treasury counsel is twofold. It may help the House if I set it out. First, in the Attorney-General’s view, the test that the United States applies—probable cause—is roughly analogous to the test that we apply in this country. [Interruption.] But secondly—if the House will listen—and perhaps more important, according to the senior Treasury counsel, even under the old test of having to provide prima facie evidence, those people would still be extradited. Indeed, the case for extradition was originally mounted under the old law,
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not the new one. However, I totally understand the concerns of the particular individuals and their families. The Attorney-General has spoken to the US Department of Justice and has been informed that the American prosecutors will not oppose bail as long as the appropriate conditions are put in place by the court or agreed by the defendants. It would not be right if we ended up applying a higher standard and burden of proof to America than to many other countries, including European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even countries such as Azerbaijan and Albania.

Sir Menzies Campbell: That does not appear to deal with the contradiction between what the Prime Minister said last week and what Baroness Scotland said to the House of Lords. Will not the Prime Minister accept that the Government have negotiated an unfair treaty, against the interests of the British people, which was needlessly rushed through the House of Commons in Committee proceedings that lasted only 90 minutes, and that it is absurd to continue to act under it when the United States declines to ratify it? In view of the anxiety in the business community and both Houses of Parliament, will the Prime Minister now renegotiate the treaty?

The Prime Minister: Again, let me explain to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the basis of the matter—that the United States is extraditing people from the United Kingdom in circumstances in which we could not extradite from the United States—is wrong according to the information that I have. Those people would have been extradited even under the old treaty provisions. “Probable cause”, which comes under the American constitution and will remain even if the treaty is ratified, is similar to test that we apply. The real issue, which I understand for obvious reasons, is consideration for the men and their families were they to be refused bail in the United States. We are doing everything that we can to avoid that, but if we were to end up reversing the extradition treaty, we would not take away a special privilege that is given to America but impose a special detriment on America. That cannot be right.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend accept that, when I was mugged and robbed in London, the hooded youths responsible were simply making a plea for love and understanding? [Laughter.] Does he agree with my constituents, who think that the overwhelming majority of young people are decent and law abiding but who look to this Government’s antisocial behaviour laws for protection from the menacing minority—laws that the Liberal Democrats oppose and the Conservatives undermine?

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