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There are two key elements to that. First, more effective and transparent markets are critical to reducing the uncertainty that contributes to high prices. That will be discussed tomorrow at the European Council. We will use the Council to push for European leadership in developing a new global dialogue between oil producers
and consumers. That is critical to encouraging market stability and establishing a common understanding of supply and demand trends.
David Miliband: I will give way in a moment; let me just finish the point. A common understanding is vital to ensuring the necessary investment in oil production capacity and to keeping the markets supplied in an appropriate and timely manner.
On gas and electricity, the UK has been a strong advocate of further liberalisation of energy markets across Europe. That is important; it will help to ensure more efficient use of gas and electricity, and it will contribute to ensuring the lower prices that everyone wants.
Mr. Cash: In the light of the state of the European economy as a whole, will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why the Greek, Italian and Spanish economies are in such dire straits? There is 20 per cent. unemployment in eastern Germany. What is so wonderful about this European Union when it is not working?
David Miliband: There we have the authentic voice not just of the rebels in the Conservative party but of the heart of that party. The hon. Gentleman is at least honest about his own agenda, which is that Britain would be better off outside the European Union. His denunciation of all that is European reminds me of what his former heroine, Lady Thatcher, used to say about problems coming from Europe and solutions coming only from here.
Angus Robertson: Scotland is the largest oil producer in the European Union, so will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there is no impediment in EU law to the introduction of a fuel price regulator that would offset the increasing costs for motorists here or anywhere else in the EU, and that there is no impediment to the establishment of an oil fund, such as that in Norway, in which oil profits are invested, so that the economy can support the benefits of that win in the natural lottery for ever, and not just for a year or a decade?
David Miliband: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is arguing for a European regulator of oil prices, but we have not proposed that. I will leave his question about the lottery for another occasion, or for my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe to deal with in his winding-up speech.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Is it not the mother or all ironies that Conservative opposition to the Lisbon treaty has intensified at precisely the moment at which the need for international co-operation over fuel prices, energy efficiency and the fight against climate change has become more obvious?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and the Conservative partys true colours have been revealed in this debate. The Conservatives are not defending parliamentary sovereignty but defending an outdated view of the way in which the EU could, and should, work.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Russian Federation is one of the most important providers of energy to Europe, yet many European companies are anxious about their investments there, because they are nervous that in future the Russian Government might suddenly decide to seize those assets. Is it not important that Europe speaks with a united voice to Russia, to make sure that the security of our energy supply from Russia is guaranteed, and that there is no bullying of the nature that we saw towards Estonia and Ukraine?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Russia is a classic area in which the EU nations are stronger by working together. Europe is the largest energy market for the Russian Federation, and it is right that a common energy policy should be developed. That is how we will get a good deal for all Europeans, as well as ensuring that security of supply issues are addressed.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): There is a problem with the liberalisation of energy markets. If we take the comparison between the French and ourselves, we see that the French have gradually moved into the British energy market, and taken over companies. We face the prospect of their becoming the major bidder for our nuclear industry if we are going for a serious rebuild, which I support, yet when the British try to look at how they would enter the French energy market they realise that there is no opportunity whatsoever to do that. It is a one-way streetthat is what is wrong with liberalisation.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is exactly why we welcome the agreement at last weeks Energy Council for significant unbundling requirements in the EU. That is an important step forward. I will obtain the figures, before my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe makes his winding-up speech, on household electricity prices in Britain compared with those in other countries, but we are, in fact, benefiting from foreign investment in this country.
I said that there were two aspects of the debate on oil prices, which are related to the need to reduce demand in the medium to long term. We can make a difference in the short term, whether on white goods or on light bulbs, but in the long term the massive increase in oil prices underlines the need to shift from high-carbon technologies towards low carbon. I am happy to associate myselfand I am happy for the Leader of the Opposition to associate himself with mewith the argument that a time of high oil prices is a good time to go green, not a bad time. In fact, high oil prices demonstrate the need to reduce demand, and we can make a difference, including through the European Union.
Thanks to the commitments that were set out in March 2007, the EU is already leading the way on this agenda. The Commissions 2020 package of climate change commitments was published in January. Negotiations are under way to determine what steps each member states needs to take. The French presidency has, I am pleased to say, pledged to secure political agreement on the package by the end of 2008, which is essential for Europe to be able to show the rest of the world, including a new US Administration, that it is serious about restructuring its economy towards low carbon, including two items that are particularly important
across the whole Commission package: first, the commitment to up to 12 carbon capture and storage plants across Europe, which are vital for containing carbon growth; and, secondly, much lower emissions from cars. Both those items have been agreed in the EU.
I do not think that now is the time to start cherry-picking parts of the Lisbon treaty?[ Official Report, 16 June 2008; Vol. 477, c. 712.]
May I tell him from the work that I do on the European Scrutiny Committee that that is already happening? The external action service and the external borders agency are coming in, and there is the European armaments agency and so on. Will he guarantee to prevent the stealthy introduction, which is already happening, of parts of the constitution?
David Miliband: I am grateful for the display of Europhobia from the hon. Gentleman, because the truth is that not a single one of the legal items in the European treaty can come into force until the treaty comes into force. I wish that his membership of the European Scrutiny Committee helped him to understand that basic point.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I accept that we cannot implement the treaty without ratification and without the Irish making a decision that allows for ratification in Ireland, but there are areas where we need to co-operate with our EU colleagues, such as the justice and home affairs agenda. We are not going to stop that co-operation just because ratification is a problem. Where we need to co-operate, within EU rules, we will continue to co-operate with our colleagues: we have to do that.
The Foreign Secretary appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee last week, and he told us that work was going on at official level to set up the European external action service, which is euro-speak for the Foreign Ministry. Will he tell the Council meeting this weekend that work anticipating the Lisbon treaty must stop forthwith, otherwise it is a clear abuse of and insult to the Irish voters who tried to put a stop to it all?
David Miliband: I think that I am right in saying that I gave the Committee the view that there would be a lunch-time discussion at the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers on Monday about the external action service. I am happy to tell the right hon. Gentleman that that discussion was cancelled because of the Irish vote. I hope that he takes succour from that fact: far from the bulldozer continuing on its merry way, the discussion of the external action service among Ministers was stopped, precisely for that reason.
David Miliband: The hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) has been trying to intervene for a long time, but his will be the last intervention I will accept for a while, as I want to get on and leave time for other Members.
The Irish were misled by the No Campaign and did not understand the Treaty and therefore their vote is of no consequence and the European Union should press ahead.
David Miliband: It is better, if there are unnamed quotes, that I refrain from commenting on them, but I will tell the hon. Gentleman what my view is, and what I will say to other Foreign Ministers, and what the Prime Minister will say. The Irish Governments request for more time to consider what they are going to do should be respected.
The second big issue that will be discussed is rising food prices, which have affected consumers throughout Europe. The EU has already taken some sensible steps to moderate the pressure on food prices. It has removed the set-aside requirement for 2008, increased milk quotas and suspended import duties for cereals. The Council will consider what further mid to long-term measures it can adopt to help alleviate the problem. The Prime Minister will make the case for a re-examination of the impact of biofuels on food production, and we will also continue to reiterate our support for a reforming CAP health check over the next six months.
The Council will also address the international impact of rising food prices. We have already witnessed food riots in Haiti, Cameroon, Somalia and Senegal, and in Ethiopia, where 4.5 million people are in dire need of emergency food aid, aid agencies are warning of a new famine. Again, the EU has a responsibility and the opportunity to help to alleviate pressures, not only in the short termfor example, through the donation of more than $515 million to the World Food Programmebut in the long term.
Two aspects of that issue are particularly important. First, the EU needs to ensure fair competition and free trade not just internally but internationally. Securing a global trade deal is more important than ever, because import restrictions, tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies will not ensure affordable prices or adequate supplies in the long term. Secondly, in order to increase productivity for the longer term, the EU must do more to support investment in agriculture in the developing world. That means not just more money on equipment and fertilisers, but more investment in scientific and technological research that could help to ensure higher yields in the future.
Mr. Bellingham: I agree with the Foreign Secretary about global trade and free and fair competition, but does he agree that the time has really come for all the countries of the EU to stop set-aside? Too much land in the EU is still being set aside. It is completely crazy, and it runs totally contrary to what he said a moment ago.
David Miliband: I just referred to the CAP health check, and that is precisely the sort of issue that it can address. The budget for 2013-plus is for anotherlaterday, but the CAP review this year is an opportunity to address precisely this issue, and I agree that we should push forward with it.
On foreign affairs, the priorities for the European Council are Zimbabwe, Burma and the Balkans. Foreign Ministers will also discuss the Iran nuclear issue. On Zimbabwe, given the levels of violence being perpetrated by Mugabes regime, including the torture and murder of opposition supporters and the cruel ban on humanitarian operations, it is clear that ZANU-PF is determined to intimidate its way to victory, irrespective of the human cost. However, brave people in Zimbabwe are determined to stand up for their rights, and their determination needs to be matched by our own.
Already, there are credible reports that violence and intimidation against certain sections of society, intended to prevent them from exercising their democratic rights, are having the opposite effect. Zimbabweans are determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman will know that Mugabe was not arrested for war crimes because to have done that would have been outside the law. The hon. Gentleman may have his own views about war crimes, but I am sure that he will agree that the law needs to be followed in the prosecution of any war crimes case.
There are three immediate priorities for the EU in respect of Zimbabwe. First, we must continue to support all those working for democratic change within Zimbabwe. The priority is to get as many election observers in place as quickly as possible, so that they can witness what is happening on the ground and act as a deterrent to further violence and manipulation.
Secondly, we must continue to work to ensure that states and leaders in the region press Mugabe and ZANU-PF to stop the violence and allow people to vote. There are signs that Africa is increasingly frustrated with Mugabe and his criminal actions. The public letter by 40 prominent Africans, including ex-leaders of Tanzania and Botswana, shows todays African leaders the way forward, and we will urge them to continue to make their voice heard.
Thirdly, we must continue to ensure that the international community as a whole maintains the pressure on those who are responsible for the violence. It is right that we continue to raise that issue at the UN Security Council.
Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab):
I am sure that my right hon. Friend shares the disgust of Members from all parts of the House at seeing Robert Mugabe living it
up in a five-star hotel on the Via Veneto, but the UN gives diplomatic immunity to world leaders who travel to summits, and that overrides the EUs travel ban, so Mugabe was immune from prosecution there. Is not the issue to reform the UNs diplomatic protection for people to ensure that criminals such as Mugabe can be brought to justice?
David Miliband: That is certainly the issue in respect of Mugabes attendance at the Food and Agriculture Organisation summit. I agree that the full force of international law must be felt for anything involving breaches of human rights.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): The Foreign Secretary will know that in the past few years, the European Union has given the Southern African Development Community countries €50 million to support better governance and democracy and so on. Will he ensure that the European Council sends the clear message to SADC that its countries must put pressure on the Mugabe regime both before the election and after it if, as we all fear, Mugabe steals it with his intimidation, violence and vote rigging? SADC countries must stand up to him and not go down the path that Mbeki has taken.
David Miliband: The aid that we are giving to boost democracy in African countries should be maintained, but I certainly agree that we must ensure that southern African countries recognise the strength of feeling that exists in this country about the issue. Of course, the strength of feeling exists in their own countries, too. There are 4 million refugees outside Zimbabwe, which means that there is no chance of a free and fair election because they will not have a chance to vote. Those people are a burden on the rest of southern Africa.
David Miliband: No. I am going to make some progress. [ Interruption. ] Oh, I had promised my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston that I would give way to her on the issue. I am terribly sorry.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): Will the Foreign Secretary look again at the recommendation from the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, which makes it clear that one thing that the Government could do is withdraw President Mugabes knighthood?
David Miliband: That is one thing that we could do, but now is not the time to play Mugabes game and make the issue a dispute between him and Britain; now is the time to make the issue the two different visions for the future of Zimbabwe. Obviously, my hon. Friend is right that that recommendation is an option.
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