Previous Section Index Home Page


11 Jun 2007 : Column 521

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): In the meetings that the Prime Minister had with President Putin, was the issue of national missile defence tracking stations being built in eastern Europe and in this country raised? Does he not think that there is a danger that the signal we are sending to Russia on that issue is one of encouragement of a new arms race? Would it not be better to have a moratorium on such constructions in order to encourage mutual disarmament?

The Prime Minister: Well, I did obviously have a discussion with President Putin about that. His view is that it is a provocation while ours is that it is something in which we have been engaged for a number of years and that it is not aimed at Russia—indeed, the very siting, in Poland and the Czech Republic, is an indication of that. As I understand it, the talks between President Putin and President Bush were reasonably constructive and it will be important that we continue to work with Russia on the issue. It is not a new issue that has suddenly arisen; we have been debating it for several years, which is why I do not really think that it came as a surprise to Russia, so it is important that we see it in the context of other issues.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Did the Prime Minister explain to the leaders at the G8 summit why the policies he has supported in the middle east have plunged Iraq into chaos, established Iran as the dominant influence in the region, engaged British troops in an unachievable mission in southern Afghanistan and are now destabilising both Turkey and Pakistan?

The Prime Minister: No, I did not. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that I am afraid I do not recognise that either as a description of our foreign policy or, more important, of the challenge we face. As I have said many times, we shall not beat the terrorist threat by conceding to it.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): I welcome the emphasis on the world trade talks at last week’s meeting, but does my right hon. Friend understand concerns that the meeting at Potsdam this month with the G4, which does not specifically include members from the least developed countries, may lead people to feel that the interests of the poorest in the world will not be adequately addressed? Can he advise me how the United Kingdom Government will ensure that their voices are properly heard and that the development package agreed at Hong Kong will be secured?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Part of what we did at the G8 was to recommit to the aid for trade package, which is a very important part of helping the developing world. However, within the context of the G4 and representation there from Brazil and India, we shall have the opportunity to debate the case on behalf of the developing world as well. Without going into details about the headline numbers, we are actually quite close—a lot closer than we have been—and the important thing to understand is that even if we were to agree what is on the table at the moment the benefits for the poorest countries in the world will be considerable; but I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that we have to remember that this is a development round and what was agreed at Hong Kong should be implemented.


11 Jun 2007 : Column 522

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Con): May I add my congratulations to the Prime Minister on his achievement on the environmental front, particularly, and on taking such a strong line with President Putin? Does he agree that it may be desirable, and even necessary in the future, to link the world trade talks and the climate change agenda if we are to exert leverage on such countries as Brazil over deforestation, for example? Brazil is the major potential beneficiary of a new world trade agreement and if we lose the possibility of that linkage we may reduce chances of reaching the agreement that we so much want on both fronts.

The Prime Minister: I understand entirely the point the hon. Gentleman is making. I was quite heartened by the contribution of the President of Brazil at the G8, which made it clear not merely, obviously, that he wanted a good outcome to the world trade round, but that he took seriously Brazil’s responsibilities in relation to deforestation. Through the December meeting, there is a chance of agreeing something far-reaching on that—the atmospherics on that at least, I thought, were good.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s remarks about increased expenditure on HIV treatment programmes, but may I raise with him the problems in improving programmes to reduce HIV transmission rates in a number of African countries? In some countries, such programmes have not been as successful as they could be because some donors insist that they are focused on the abstinence and being faithful parts of the ABC approach—abstain, be faithful, use a condom—and do not ensure that funds are made available for condoms? Did my right hon. Friend raise those issues at the conference, in particular with President Bush, as the United States is one of the donors that are the biggest culprits in the matter?

The Prime Minister: It was not a specific part of the discussion, but the effectiveness of transmission programmes was. My hon. Friend is right: the difficulty is that maternal transmission, as I saw for myself in Africa a short time ago, is a huge problem. More and more young people are growing up with HIV/AIDS through absolutely no action of their own.

I think we still have quite a long way to go. We agreed to earmark money up to $5 billion, but I agree that we still have to reach into the basic reasons why programmes are successful. Without question, those reasons involve absolute honesty about how we can best change behaviour and being realistic and reasonable about what we require of people. On the other hand, as a result of what we have agreed on the transmission programmes there will be a greater focus on the matter, and there will therefore be a greater opportunity to get those arguments across.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): There is a lot to do on debt relief, HIV/AIDS and the environment, and on behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru I welcome the progress made at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. Does the Prime Minister accept that it is standard practice in the G8 that necessary prior consultation on agreements should take place before they are signed with Libya or anybody else?


11 Jun 2007 : Column 523

The Prime Minister: Of course it is. That is precisely why on the face of the agreement there is a requirement for consultation with the devolved Assemblies. Before any agreement can be concluded, there has to be consultation with devolved Government, including in respect of Libya and Scotland. All that would have been required was an inquiry from the First Minister’s office and the matter would have been cleared up immediately. Instead, we were subjected to a claim that we were trying to drive this through without consultation with the devolved Government in Scotland, which is simply not correct.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for taking the trouble, with all the pressures in his diary, personally to address the global G8 plus 5 legislators’ dialogue in the German Bundestag just before the summit. The fact that his leadership is so recognised explains why he was presented with an award for global leadership and environment by a senior member of the Japanese Government, Mrs. Koike, and Senator McCain from the US. There has been a shift on the part of the Americans, and my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the role that he has played.

The US proposes a meeting in the autumn of the G8 plus 5. Does the Prime Minister think that that will add value to the process, or does it merely duplicate the process that he started at Gleneagles?

The Prime Minister: I think that it does assist the process. If the United States holds such a meeting—of the G8 plus 5 or perhaps with two other countries—most of the countries sitting round the table will have agreed binding targets or will be in the process of agreeing them. Most will agree with the 50 per cent. cut in emissions, so it is somewhat unlikely that the US will hold such a meeting without some definitive progress arising out of it. For years, the world has said to America, “Get on board with this issue and start to lead on it”, and when it does the world says, “Are you trying to take it over?” President Bush made it clear at the summit that America saw the meeting as contributing to and not conflicting with the UN process. That is important. Unless we have agreement between the major emitters, the rest will never happen. I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind words, and for his considerable work on the issue.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree that the recent spat between Russia and the west has little to do with the merits of missile defence and everything to do with the sensitivity that the Russians feel about how they believe they have been treated by the west over the past 15 years? Will the Prime Minister use such influence as remains to him so that on those matters, and only those matters, on which there is a legitimate joint interest—missile defence is one—the United States does not merely inform Russia of its intentions but tries to treat it as a partner in future policy?

The Prime Minister: Yes, I think it is important that America does that. After all, America and Russia share some clear strategic goals, not least in ensuring a unified UN position vis- -vis Iran. America and Russia want to co-operate in plenty of areas, and the recent statements by President Bush and the offer made at the
11 Jun 2007 : Column 524
bilateral meeting by President Putin show that they both understand that they have to find a modus vivendi in which each country pursues its interests, but in a co-operative way. However, it is important that Russia understands that when we support democracy in certain countries, for example, we are doing so not because we are pursuing a strategic interest that is aimed at Russia, but because we genuinely believe that that is the right principle. We need to be able to have a dialogue with Russia in which we take account of its genuine concerns and fears, yet do not allow them to obscure things that it is important we stand for in the long term.

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): I, too, welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and congratulate him on the progress that he has made towards civilising George Bush. However, given George Bush’s record on climate change, what confidence can we really have that he will deal proactively with the problem in the remaining 18 months of his term of office? What assessments has my right hon. Friend made of the Chinese response to George Bush’s new-found commitments? Is China happy that he has done the right thing?

The Prime Minister: As I said earlier, if people want America to move, and it moves, let us at least say that it has moved and try to make the best of that. This is important, and things are lot a more credible because America is saying that it will hold its own meeting with very much the people around the table at the G8. Something else needs to be said because in this debate, to be frank, countries sometimes hide behind America’s position. The truth is that no one will agree a substantial cut in emissions as part of a global deal unless China is also part of that. The Chinese have adopted a constructive attitude. They have a principle—a common, differentiated set of obligations—that we need to flesh out. However, we will need to do that while recognising the two absolute realities of the question of climate change: America will not agree unless China is part of the deal, and China will not agree unless it is able to develop its economy. We have to find a solution somewhere in that.

I think that the solution is a set of interlinking systems that, around a carbon price, incentivises business and industry to develop the technologies of the future. That is why the European emissions trading system, as it develops, has the possibility of considerably incentivising business to make changes to the way in which it works. However, let us be clear: the European trading system would be more radical if there were also a system in America and an obligation on the developing world. There is every possibility of achieving that, but it is in the negotiation, which will involve America and China, that the solution will be found.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister agree that the use of condoms is critical in fighting AIDS. When he meets the Pope, either as Prime Minister or perhaps afterwards, I hope that he will take the opportunity to make that point.

Will the Prime Minister reflect on his policy with respect to meeting the target of global universal treatment for HIV? His Government have a policy of
11 Jun 2007 : Column 525
trying to remove women and children who are being treated in this country for HIV and AIDS to countries where there is not such treatment because they do not have the required immigration status. Especially at a time when we are using those countries’ doctors, is that humane and logical?

The Prime Minister: It is important that we ensure that we treat people who are here fairly. We will put £1.5 billion into HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa over the next few years. However, the trouble is that if we say that everyone who is HIV-positive and comes to this country can get treatment here, we will create a real pull factor for people to come here. We must be careful about how we do this.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): I welcome the G8’s acknowledgement that the world’s poorest countries are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, whether that is desertification, drought or rising sea levels in places such as Bangladesh. I also welcome the commitment to working through the United Nations to ensure that climate change policy is implemented. Is my right hon. Friend confident that the United Nations has the clout to enforce such international agreements? Is this perhaps an opportunity to give a new urgency to questions of UN reform so that we can ensure that it will have the oomph to deliver in the future?

The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is important, and I think that he is right: once an agreement is made, it is important that it is properly enforced. Personally, I think that reform of the UN Security Council is now long overdue. However, he is also right in saying that for poorer countries adaptation will be very difficult indeed, and that is why a specific part of the communiqué is geared precisely to making sure that as part of a global deal we help the poorest to adapt to the change in climate.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Some unkind souls have suggested that in bilaterals with Sarkozy and Merkel, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to cobble together a deal on the European constitution, which would give us the constitution, but by another name. Perhaps the Prime Minister can assure us that that did not happen. If such negotiations or conversations did take place, would he like to share them with the House of Commons? We do have some right to be consulted, do we not? At the moment, the matter is not so much an enigma wrapped in a riddle as a secret locked away in a spin doctor’s briefcase. We would like to know.

The Prime Minister: I am used to unkind souls occasionally casting aspersions on what we are trying to do, but on that point I can assure the hon. Gentleman that although it is, of course, important to discuss the issue with our European colleagues, before we get to the summit which is coming up in the next couple of weeks, there will be ample opportunity to discuss those issues.

Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab): May I invite my right hon. Friend to say a little more about
11 Jun 2007 : Column 526
what he anticipates the benefits will be of expanding education in Africa in the way that he announced today? In my constituency, refugees who have rightly been granted asylum from such countries as the Congo, Cameroon and increasingly, sadly, Somalia, tell me when I meet them how grateful they are to Britain and to my right hon. Friend’s leadership for changing attitudes to Africa within the G8. He can rightly be proud of that change.

The Prime Minister: I thank my right hon. Friend for that. In relation to education, it is important that we ensure that we meet the millennium development goal. The interesting thing is that as a result of the debt relief that has been given in the past few years, there are millions more children at school in Africa. If anyone ever asks, “Where does the money go to when we give debt relief and so on?”, I would say that countries such as Tanzania have seen massive increases in the number of children in primary education as a result. The other point that she makes relates, of course, to the self-interested reason for action on Africa. If we allow those countries to descend into conflict or even deeper poverty, they become prey for various extremist forces, and of course they also create large numbers of refugees who then seek to come to our country, so there is a good reason of self-interest to act on Africa.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): It seems to me that President Bush injected a welcome note of realism and was very constructive in pointing out to the G8 that there was no point in their talking to each other about climate change if the United States and the fast-developing economies of China and India were not involved in the process. The Prime Minister seems to recognise that, and he seems to see that it is in our interests to help those countries to reduce emissions. Has he seen the analysis that I have seen, which suggests that the marginal cost of helping China and India to reduce their carbon emissions is actually less than the cost of doing it for ourselves? In other words, it is in our interests, both economically and in terms of carbon emissions, to help them financially on that issue.

The Prime Minister: Yes, that is right, and of course the whole purpose of building up something such as the clean development mechanism—for all the problems associated with it, it none the less does generate real income—is to be able to create a resource through which we can help those countries to use technology. For example, as we develop carbon sequestration or hydrogen fuel cell technology, we can share that technology with them. That is a crucial part of the issue. The problem with the whole debate, as I reflected when I heard what the leaders were saying, is that it is a matter of fairness what obligations each country has. It is a matter of fairness that the developed world, having developed, should not penalise the developing world, which wants the benefits of development. Unfortunately, the climate does not change according to where the emissions come from; that is simply a matter of science and fact. Therefore it is important that we make sure that the technology transfer and the sharing of the science is an integral part of any deal. Otherwise we will find it very hard, for understandable reasons, to persuade China and India to be part of it.


11 Jun 2007 : Column 527

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May I join the Leader of the Opposition and others in congratulating the Prime Minister on his great success at the summit, which is a tribute not just to his personal skills but to the role that he has carved out for Britain, our special relationship with the United States and our pivotal role in Europe? Although the Outreach Five will be consulted throughout the process, does he not think that it is time that we should expand the G8 to include those five nations which, after all, represent 2.7 billion people, compared with the 800 million people in the G8? As a master of summitry, does he not think that it is time to expand the G8?

The Prime Minister: It is going to be an increasing feature—let me put it diplomatically—of those summits that they involve, as a matter of course, the other five countries. It becomes very difficult—a bit like reforming the UN Security Council—to see where we draw the line, but as the Chinese economy, for example, grows over the next few years, it will become increasingly bizarre to discuss the leading world economies without China being present. However, that is for another time.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): On Kosovo, the Prime Minister and the House will recall the contribution made to the first Balkan crisis by the premature recognition of independence for Slovenia and Croatia by Germany. Can he give us an assurance that the UK Government are firmly against any premature recognition of Kosovan independence, particularly until the practical consequences have been worked out, not least the protection of minority communities in Kosovo?

The Prime Minister: The protection of minority communities is an important issue. That is where Russia, for example —[ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I expect hon. Members to stand at the beginning, so that I can make a calculation as to who I am going to call. The hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) should not come in at the last moment.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): I have been here throughout.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman therefore had an opportunity to stand at the beginning.

The Prime Minister: Russia has a point in that it is important that we give proper protection to minorities. We are not going to move out of step with the international community—we will move in step with it—but the difficulty, as became apparent when we discussed Kosovo in detail, is that if we do not go down the path laid out by Mr. Ahtisaari, what happens? It is important that we do not do anything premature, but it is important that we reach a conclusion.


Next Section Index Home Page