The simple answer is yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we cannot possibly be expected to accept every single recommendation
from every advisory body. The important point is that we treat those recommendations seriously, and respect that advice, not whether we reject them.
Alan Johnson: No, it was not. He is entitled to speak on these issues in the public domain provided he is very clear that when he is speaking personally he is not speaking for the advisory council-that was certainly a pertinent point in his actions last week-and that if he is publishing any documents that in any way relate to the Government framework we get first sight of them, and that did not happen. There are a number of measures; one cannot lay out every single dot and comma of how a relationship should work. All I would say is that since 1971 this particular council, and its chairs, has worked very well for successive Governments, but the situation broke down on this occasion.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Does this saga not indicate that what we need in this country is a straightforward and honest debate about whether the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, now almost 40 years old, and the A, B and C classification that is wrapped up in it are fit for purpose in this century? Please can we have a debate on drugs policy? It is a long time since we did so in the House.
Alan Johnson: I disagree with my hon. Friend in that I do not believe this episode suggests that there should be a review of the 1971 Act. There may or may not be other reasons why an Act that is almost 40 years old needs review, but this episode should be seen in its context of one individual Government adviser acting in a way that I believe undermined the Government rather than supported them in their work.
Dr. Evan Harris: If a scientist is appointed a Government adviser but then told that what he says is dependent on the Government's policy, how can he be an independent scientist when advising the Government?
Alan Johnson: I did not say that, but I can say what Government advisers should not do. Once a decision has been made on their recommendations, that is it; they should get on with being the Government's adviser, not continually return to that decision and seek to undermine the Government's framework. That is quite wrong, and Sir David King, who was an eminent chief scientific adviser to the Government, said as much on Friday evening in reference to this case. A calmer, more rational view, which may be impossible from the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), will suggest that we are in no way attacking science or scientists. We are dealing with one particular case.
Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op):
It seems to me that Professor Nutt has been campaigning for the normalisation or deregulation of recreational drugs. Does the Home Secretary agree that membership of the advisory council should be subject to a strict register of members' interests and a strict ethical code
on conflicts of interest, particularly financial links to the pharmaceutical industry, so that scientific independence is demonstrated?
Alan Johnson: We have a code and it has stood the test of time. Perhaps we should look at it again because it is getting frayed at the edges after so long, but it has stood us in good stead and I would interfere with it reluctantly. I really do not think this incident suggests that the code of practice, how the advisory council does its work or how the Government receive scientific advice are wrong. It is about how one particular individual takes on their responsibilities and, in this case, has failed to keep the confidence of the Minister involved.
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): The Government's chief scientific adviser is Professor John Beddington, who in February criticised the former Home Secretary for the way in which she treated Professor Nutt. Did the Home Secretary discuss the sacking of Professor Nutt with John Beddington before carrying out that act this weekend?
Alan Johnson: I did not discuss it with anybody. It was my decision; he was my adviser and I decided that he had lost my confidence by his actions. It is my confidence that he has to keep, and nobody else's, so I took the action that I am perfectly entitled to take as Home Secretary. I have huge respect for John Beddington, who I believe is abroad at the moment on his work, and I will obviously talk to him on this and other occasions.
Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab):
Does the Home Secretary agree that although he is entirely entitled to have any adviser whom he chooses and has confidence in, the problem is that the wider public do not get a
great deal of independent scientific advice? This kind of incident can weaken the credibility of independent bodies.
Alan Johnson: I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The public get a lot of views and comments from all over the place. One can think of various debates, most recently those on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. There is no absence of views from scientists. It is important to be clear that when someone is the chair of an advisory committee to the Government, their views must not be confused with those of the Government and the public must be clear about their role in that advisory capacity. That is the problem, not a lack of information on the various views in the scientific community.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Can the Secretary of State tell me what I am supposed to say to my constituents following this unedifying spat? He will know that young people in particular are very sensitive to mixed and inconsistent messages on drugs issues. God knows what they are thinking of this chaos. When will the schoolboy squabbling end and the proper adult debate on drugs begin?
Alan Johnson: I would tell them what the leading Scottish drugs expert said this morning. Professor McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow university, who is the adviser on drugs to the Scottish National party Government in Scotland, said that while it is Professor Nutt's right as an academic to state his views on drug risks,
"it is not his right to publicly undermine the decisions taken in relation to those drugs by ministers".
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): First of all, I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, who died in Afghanistan on Saturday afternoon. As we come closer to Remembrance Sunday, we recognise that we owe him and all who have given their lives in the service of our country, and indeed everyone who has served in our armed forces, an immeasurable debt of gratitude.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the European Council held in Brussels last Thursday and Friday. The Copenhagen climate change conference, for which the European Council was preparing, is now less than 40 days away. If carbon emissions are to be reduced and dangerous climate change averted, it is essential that we achieve an ambitious, comprehensive and binding agreement. Concluding a climate change deal will also drive investment in the low-carbon economy and speed up world economic recovery. It will demonstrate that, as at the G20, the world can come together to address the great global challenges that we face together.
In all of this, European Union leadership is fundamental, and now, as we approach Copenhagen, we need to drive forward the negotiations. Let me explain the urgency: to achieve the ambitious, effective and fair deal we need, it is not only developed countries which must act; developing countries too must cut their emissions, reduce deforestation and be able to adapt to climate change. However, to enable them to make an offer by December, we as a European Union and as developed countries need to make a credible offer of financial assistance to them now. That is why earlier this year I proposed a long-term financial agreement between developed and developing countries. On Friday last week the European Council agreed to put on the table for Copenhagen three conditional offers. First, we agreed that Europe will contribute its fair share of the costs of mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, and we endorsed the European Commission view that these are expected to require-including the developing countries' own contributions-around £100 billion of private and public finance annually by 2020.
Secondly, we set out our offer of public finance, agreeing that the overall level of the international public support required to make sure that a Copenhagen deal would benefit developing countries is estimated to lie in the range of €22 billion to €50 billion per year by 2020.
Thirdly, we agreed that we should start support immediately to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and adapt to climate change, contributing over the next three years, as a European Union, our fair share of a global fast-track initiative of €5 billion to €7 billion per year.
"other key players making comparable efforts",
"not undermine or jeopardize the fight against poverty and continued progress towards the Millennium Development Goals",
The European Union has already committed to cut our emissions by 30 per cent. on 1990 levels by 2020 as part of the right international agreement. Now these financial offers yet again show the determination of the whole European Union to ensure an ambitious climate change deal in Copenhagen.
I can also report that the Council agreed that at the time of the next accession treaty, the protocol on the charter of fundamental rights will be applied to the Czech Republic. The next step is for the Czech constitutional court to make its ruling, which is rightly a matter for that court. I believe that we have made real progress, but it is only after we are sure that the treaty will come into force that a new European Commission will be appointed and the Council will be able to appoint its new president.
Investment across Europe is forecast to contract by 10 per cent. this year with an expected loss of 8.5 million jobs. So at the European Council we had to decide first whether we should withdraw the fiscal stimulus now or maintain it until recovery was secured. We agreed unanimously-with no country dissenting-that
"the supporting policies should not be withdrawn until the recovery is fully secured."
"European strategy for jobs and growth"
"continued political commitment to active labour market policies".
"prevent high unemployment levels from becoming persistent."
"investment in the industries and jobs of the future",
"strengthen the internal market"
"promote increased trade".
In addition to the completion of the Doha trade round next year, progress on bilateral trade deals and the recent trade agreement with Korea will create up to €20 billion in new export opportunities for firms across the European Union.
We also agreed on reform of our banking systems, which includes putting in place new rules on capital and liquidity and bonuses. We also agreed to the continuation of work to strengthen the supervisory framework in the European Union, following the decisions taken at the Council in June.
The Council also expressed its deep condolences to the families of those killed in last week's Taliban attack in Kabul. We reaffirmed our determination to fight terrorism in every part of the world and our resolve to see our commitments through in Afghanistan. And we emphasised our
"confidence in the United Nations' leadership in coordinating the international community's efforts".
"strengthen the civilian capacity of the state institutions in Afghanistan and Pakistan"-
something that has been at the heart of British efforts in recent years. And the European Council expressed its concern about the security situation in Pakistan and reiterated Europe's readiness to assist further the displaced members of the Pakistan population.
This afternoon, I have spoken to President Karzai and discussed the importance of moving quickly to set out a unity programme for the future governance of Afghanistan. Afghanistan now needs new and urgent measures for tackling corruption, strengthening local government and reaching out to all parts of Afghan society, and to give the Afghan people a real stake in their future. President Karzai agreed with me that Afghanistan now needs to strengthen its army and police numbers so that over time we can reduce the number of British troops.
"continuing concern about the situation of staff members of European Union missions and European citizens in Iran who recently have been on trial"
"their prompt and unconditional release".
"grave concern over the development of Iran's nuclear programme"
"persistent failure to meet its international obligations."
Once again, we have shown that by acting not alone but together, by working not against our mainstream European partners, but with them, and by putting Britain not on the fringes of Europe, but at the heart of Europe, Britain will be stronger, and Europe and Britain will be better off for that.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, killed in Afghanistan at the weekend? We owe a debt of gratitude to him and his family that we must never forget.
In Afghanistan, now that Hamid Karzai has been confirmed as President, will the Prime Minister ensure that our support for the Karzai Government is not a blank cheque, but is contingent on serious progress being made on tackling corruption and upholding the rule of law? I want to ask the Prime Minister about the three main issues that were raised at the summit, climate change, the economy and the Lisbon treaty, and of course the two words that did not pass his lips-Tony Blair-because I cannot believe that the Prime Minister did not mention the one issue that seemed to be discussed wherever the leaders met: who should be the president of Europe. When considering his efforts to get Tony
Blair the job, will most people in Britain not feel that it is completely unacceptable to see an unelected Prime Minister pushing for an unelected president, under a treaty that no one was allowed to vote for?
Climate change is an area where the EU has a vital role to play. Will the Prime Minister confirm that it already has the powers that it needs to do so? There is nothing in the Lisbon treaty that adds anything to the EU's ability in this area. We welcome the commitments on carbon reductions, which were repeated at the summit, and the agreement on the €100 billion climate change fund. However, is it not the case that, despite that headline figure, there was no agreement on which European countries should pay what or by when, and that there was no firm commitment on the financial help to be given in the vital first three years after an agreement at Copenhagen is signed? The Swedish Prime Minister seemed to say that the European contributions would only be voluntary. Can the Prime Minister explain what that meant?
Next, on the economy, the Prime Minister said at his press conference that there was a target of 10 million new jobs in Europe by 2014. Yet is it not the case that unemployment in the UK is now higher than it was in 1997, that 5 million people are on out-of-work benefits and that we have practically the highest youth unemployment in Europe? When he looked across the table at other EU leaders, did he recall that Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, France and Germany have already come out of recession, while Britain is still stuck in recession?