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The Prime Minister:
Let me start with Zimbabwe where I believe that, as on some of the other issues raised, there is common ground. It was a major breakthrough at the G8 that the Russians and other countries agreed we should impose sanctions on Zimbabwe and that a UN envoy should go to Zimbabwe. The Secretary-General was at the G8 and wants to do that immediately. It was a major breakthrough that people agreed that the sanctions should start with the major figures in the Mugabe regime. I do not deny that the European Union has a wider list, but internationally agreed sanctions right across the world to deal with
assets held by members of the Mugabe regime in Africa, and assets that we know are held in Asia and perhaps in parts of Europe outside the EU, will be a major prize.
I accept that the United Nations resolution goes further in two major respects, and detailed negotiations are taking place in New York at the moment, but I hope that the whole international community, having seen the statement of the G8 and the statement of the African Union about the illegitimacy of election process, will agree that they should take together the action we proposesanctions, with the embargo that would happen on arms, and the envoy to Zimbabwe. It is a delicate situation: violence is being practised against members not just of the community in Zimbabwe but of the Opposition party which has a legitimate claim to having won elections to Parliament. It is important that we support the mediation efforts that are taking place, but it is also important that the whole weight of the international community is behind the efforts to secure transition in Zimbabwe. I believe that time is short for that, so it is important that the UN pass its resolution as soon as possible, and I hope that all countries and all continents will get behind it.
The second issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised was climate change. I have to disagree with him: it is major progress that the major countries, including America and the rest of the EU and Japan, have signed up to an international agreement that, if accepted, would mean a cut of 50 per cent. in carbon emissions by 2050. That did not happen a year ago and it has obviously not been possible for many years in our discussions on climate change. For it to happen at the summit is an important step forward.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman properly appreciated that agreement that there would be a need for interim targets in 2020 and 2025 was also an important step forward. There was a suggestion that countries should provide their national plans to do so. We are not just putting forward proposals that there be targets set that have to be met by our childrens generation, but that there are targets that have to be met by this generation as well.
The developing countries are now readier to sign up to mitigation efforts and to their own standards for meeting the climate change agenda. That will be part of the talks that are about to take place, including all the different summits in the run-up to Copenhagen, as well as a full discussion of climate change issues at the next G8 meeting with the major economies that I have just listed. What makes it possible for developing countries and emerging markets to sign up to targets has not yet been properly recognised as an outcome of the summitthe $150 billion or so being made available through the World Bank as part of public-private partnerships to enable those countries to invest in alternatives to coal-fired power stations and deforestationso that they can invest long-term in sources of energy that are more environmentally efficient. I believe we have made major progress on the climate change agenda. The right hon. Gentleman raised this, and it is very important that we recognise that Europe is leading the debate; but we can lead the debate only as part of Europe, playing a full part as a member of the European Union, and I hope at some point that at least the sensible voices in the Conservative party will wake up to that.
On food prices, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We have put forward major changes to the common agricultural policy, which is up for review this year. It is part of the budget settlements of the last few years, and I hope that other members of the European community can be persuaded of the need for major reform of the common agricultural policy.
We need to act on famine now, which is why additional money is being provided by all G8 member countries to deal with the famines in Africa and elsewhere as a result of rising food prices. We need to invest in the equivalent of a green revolution in Africa to complement what happened in Asia, so that Africa ceases to be a net importer of food but, with a population mostly dependent on the land, starts to become a net exporter of food. That will be to their benefit by raising their earnings, and also to that of the rest of the world by reducing food shortages. More and more, the development agenda, the environmental agenda and the economic agenda are coming together and, as I have said to other countries that are looking at their development aid budgets at the moment, it would make no sense for them to cut development aid because it is needed to help Africa with both the agricultural agenda and the environmental agenda.
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that we did not do enough on millennium development goals at the summit. It is true that there is legitimate debate among countries about the level of development aid [ Interruption. ] The right hon. Gentleman said that countries were not meeting their commitments to the 2010 target. We in Britain are meeting our commitments, and it is right to tell other countries that they, too, should meet their commitments. That is why we try to turn the abstract promises of the past into concrete commitmentswhat was being said on health, malaria, education and agriculture and dealing with the problems of food.
I come now to the world economy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has understood the message from the G8 summit: although we can do a great deal in our own countrieswe have raised the winter fuel allowance and frozen fuel dutywe have responsibilities to the environmental agenda, as he used to recognise, which is why we are dealing with pollution from cars. There are global problems that require global solutions. Conservative blindness to the need for co-operation in the European Union means the Conservatives do not recognise the need for global action in the way we do. We will continue to work for global co-operation to deal with food, to deal with oil, to deal with commodities and to make for a smoother functioning global economy. I hope all parties will come to recognise that global co-operation and global leadership are now more necessary, not less relevant than before.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I thank the Prime Minister for the advance notice of his statement.
If words could transform the world, the summit would be revolutionary. No one can disagree with the stirring rhetoric about the needs of the developing world, about Zimbabwe and about the urgency of the ongoing trade talks. However, G8 summit words count only if they are translated into action, which is why although of course I welcome the strong language on Zimbabwe and the initiative being taken in the United Nations, I wonder why the Prime Minister has not
taken more active steps in practice at home and abroad. For example, nearly three weeks ago I asked him to allow Zimbabwean asylum seekers to have the right to stay in the UK and to work to support themselves before they return home. He said he would think about it. What has he actually decided? What is he actually going to do?
Today, the Prime Minister saidstirringlythat
our aim is that there will be no safe haven and no hiding place for the criminal cabal that surrounds...Mugabe.
Of course. Will he go further than the United Nations? As he knows, Zimbabweans cannot be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court at present because they are not signatories to it. However, if the UN Security Council were so to decide, the Prime Minister could tell Mugabe and his henchmen that if they did not give up power within the next six months or so, one step outside Zimbabwe would mean they would be detained and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Will the Prime Minister take that step?
I am equally concerned that the Prime Minister is not honouring with action at home the rhetoric on the sharp increase in household gas prices. The G8 has rightly expressed concerna concern that is particularly acute in the UK, with predictions that household gas prices will increase by 40 per cent. by the winter. As I have asked the Prime Minister several times, why is he not doing what other EU countries have done to recoup the subsidy given to energy-generating companies through the emissions trading scheme to install smart meters and energy-efficient measures in our households, and give real meaningful help to the most vulnerable families struggling to pay their fuel bills? He says that one of the major conclusions of the G8 summit was radical measures to improve energy efficiency. Taking steps to revolutionise the energy efficiency of our housing stock would do precisely that, but he seems to refuse to do it on the scale that is needed.
Finally, is it not true that the G8 is struggling to have any real influence over some of the worlds major emerging powers? Much has changed since the 1980s, when the G8 was seen as the boardroom of the world where all the big decisions were taken and everyone else followed. Today, emerging powers such as China and India are a bit like large shareholders, demanding change that the board cannot deliver, and since today is the day for Tory jokes about Heathcliff, I hope that the Prime Minister will agree that the G8 should not die a death like Heathcliffa man ranting and raving at a world he can no longer understand, control or change. [ Interruption. ] It is indeed. Does the Prime Minister agree that the G8 should expand to include India and China?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentlemans remarks about Zimbabwe, and I shall deal with one of the issues that he has raised. We all agree about the need for sanctions, the need for a UN envoy and the need to report on the human rights situation so that the whole world can see what is happening in Zimbabwe. As the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, but under the sanctions proposals that we have put forward, anybody who tries to leave Zimbabwe will be denied travel access, and that will be clear in the resolution at the United Nations.
The right hon. Gentleman did raise with me the question of people seeking asylum from Zimbabwe, and I did say that we dealt on a case-by-case basis with the right to asylum, and that is still the policy. However, I can confirm that no one is being forced to return to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom at this timeno one. I can confirm also that we are actively looking at what we can do to support in this country Zimbabweans who are failed asylum seekers, who cannot work and who are prevented from leaving the UK through no fault of their own. They are provided with accommodation and vouchers to ensure that they are not destitute, but we are looking at what we can do to support Zimbabweans in that situation, and we will report back to the House in due course. However, I repeat to the right hon. Gentleman that no one is being forced to return to Zimbabwe at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of fuel efficiency. The G8 accepted 25 recommendations for greater energy efficiency, and I must say that probably the most controversial one relates to cars and the future of vehicles, with the promotion of electric technology, plug-in vehicles and hybrid cars. I believe that all countriesJapan, the European Union countries and Americacan make huge progress on that immediately, and we are putting, I think, £100 million into research to encourage companies to move forward on the issue.
The right hon. Gentleman asked what we are doing to ensure that people have access to cheap energy efficiency measures, such as loft insulation. No Government have done more than this Government to tackle those problems. Three million people are about to benefit from the measures on loft insulation and on draughtproofing, and he seems to forget that we have also signed with the utility companies an agreement that they will provide £100 million next year and £150 million in future years to help low-income households to do exactly what he says should happen. So we have the winter allowance, we have the £150 million that will come from the utility companies, we have our own programme for fuel efficiency and we are doing everything we can to tackle fuel poverty. I accept that in difficult economic times, which every country in the world is experiencing, as we have explained, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help people in this country.
The reason I think the right hon. Gentleman underestimates the importance of the G8 is that, for the first time, I see a recognition that, when facing an oil shock, food price rises and the credit crunch, we need joint international action to solve such global problems. There will have to be a major reform of the international institutions, the necessity for which we have been promoting for some time anywayeven before the financial shocks. Over the next few months, there will be increasingly co-ordinated action by, and collaboration between, the major economies to do what we can to reduce our dependence on oil, to stabilise the energy market, to deal with the problems of financial instability, to help with the difficulties of food prices and to keep the world economy moving forward. I hope that all parties in the House will support that.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab):
No one would compare my right hon. Friend to Edgar in the novel, so that is some consolation. May I congratulate him on showing a photograph of someonean Opposition party activistwho was murdered in Zimbabwe? It
should, I hope, have awakened in the other G8 leaders further interest in that countrys tyranny, but would it not be totally irresponsible if any member of the Security Council decided to veto the proposed British resolution on sanctions and on the embargo? One hopes that that will not happen, but it would be deplorable if it did.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a huge interest in these matters over time. The major advance is that the whole membership of the G8 supports the need for sanctions. I accept that the UN resolution is more detailed, because it not only asks for the UN envoy to be appointed under specific circumstances, but names 14 individuals, demands that the UN monitor the sanctions over a periodthis will affect the whole international community, not just the G8and calls for an arms embargo. I urge every United Nations member country to support the resolution. There cannot be change in Zimbabwe without the G8 sending the strongest possible message that the international community supports such change, and I hope that United Nations memberseven those that in the past have not supported such action on Zimbabwewill realise that in terms of humanitarian aid, this is an emergency, that a criminal cabal is running a country without legitimacy, and that the people of that country need relief from the miseries to which they are subjected.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): The Prime Minister stated that in his meeting with President Medvedev, he addressed the subjects of Litvinenko, the British Council and TNK-BP, but he did not share with the House the Presidents response. Will the Prime Minister confirm that when, in fact, he received a very negative response from President Medvedev to each of those three issues, he reminded the President that he had said that the improvement of the rule of law in Russia would be one of the priorities of his presidency? And did the Prime Minister think to suggest to the President that the rule of law means not just that the people obey the law, but that the Government of Russia should, too? The process might start with the three matters to which the Prime Minister referred.
The Prime Minister: I had a very full discussion with President Medvedev about those issues. The meeting ran substantially over time, because of the detailed discussion of the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raises. I reminded the President that the British Council was operating within the rule of law and that it was completely unfair to deal with the British Council as the Russians did. I hope that its full position will be restored as soon as possible. On BP, I made it absolutely clear that the visa decision was not a commercial issue, but an issue for the Administration themselves, and that whatever were the difficulties with the commercial relationship between two Russian companies, the Russian Government had a duty to look at the visas. I made it clear also that the Litvinenko issue would not be closed. We have justice to do on the part of someone who was murdered on British soil, and the current position is not acceptable.
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):
I congratulate the Prime Minister on the strong and principled leadership that he showed at the G8 summit, and on Zimbabwe I welcome the sanctions measures that he announced. However, will he consider three additional measures:
first, to return home the ruling cliques sons, daughters and other relatives who are being expensively educated abroad; secondly, to ban all Air Zimbabwe flights to the European Union, including Britain, and internationally; and thirdly, to discuss with the South African Government their continued supply of electricity, which enables Mugabe and his ruling clique to escape the universal and persistent cuts that are imposed on almost everybody else? Finally, as a fellow anti-apartheid activist of decades ago, my right hon. Friend will recall that exactly the same arguments were used against sanctions on South Africa as are now being used against sanctions on Mugabe. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has a long-standing interest and suffered a great deal from his involvement in anti-apartheid campaigns over many years. He is absolutely right that many things must be considered, and he mentioned the supply of electricity and energy from South Africa to Zimbabwe, but I must say that the starting point is to have the whole international community imposing sanctions. It is all very well for one country or one continent to take action, but it works successfully only when we have the whole international community behind what we are doing so that the regime is genuinely isolated from the whole international community.
We have now started work in the United Kingdom to identify assets in other countries of Africa, where we know they exist, in Asia, where we believe that the regimes members have assets stocked away, and, of course, in America and Europe. We are doing a forensic assessment to identify the physical assets, the bank accounts and the financial holdings of those 14 main people, who are part of the Mugabe cabal. That is the first step, and it is my hope that we will have the whole international community behind us so that the full pressure is felt on the Zimbabwean Administration.
Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Both the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition have emphasised the importance of the Doha round. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to express his support for Commissioner Mandelson against the attacks made on him by the President of France? Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the tragic irony of the situation is that the root cause of Commissioner Mandelsons difficulties lies in the disastrous decision taken by Tony Blair to renew the common agricultural policy for a further 10 yearsa decision that has made it impossible for the European Union to make the constructive contribution to the Doha round that we would all like to see?
The Prime Minister: I am sure that the European Trade Commissioner will be delighted at the support given him by the former Leader of the Opposition; if I may do so, I shall convey the right hon. and learned Gentlemans support directly to him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may have noted the comments of the President of France only yesterday in Japan. He said that he, too, would support a deal that was against the protectionist sentiments that were flowing around the world and he called on other countries, including Argentina and Brazil, to play their part in making a trade deal possible.
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