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Finally, on climate change, a few hours ago we heard that the talks in Copenhagen were suspended-although I am told that they restarted a few minutes ago-because of differences in the international community between the developing and developed world. I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that the "I will if you will" brinkmanship needs to come to an end. Too many players are making their commitments conditional on the commitments of others, so will the Prime Minister make a unilateral commitment to help break that deadlock? The Committee on Climate Change said that to meet the European Union target of 30 per cent. cuts on 1990
levels by 2020, the UK would need to cut its emissions by 42 per cent. by 2020. The Prime Minister does not need to wait for anyone else to make that commitment. Will he make it today?
The Prime Minister: First, let me deal with Afghanistan. It is right that at a conference discussing Afghanistan, not only the coalition partners should be present but so too should regional neighbours, and that is our intention. It is very important to recognise that in the longer term Afghanistan's future is dependent on both non-interference by its immediate neighbours and economic and cultural co-operation between Afghanistan and its neighbours. We will do what we can to advance that process-difficult though it has been to get some of the neighbours even to talk to each other. That is part of the discussion that will take place at the conference. There will be discussion too of the role of Pakistan, because if action can be taken on both sides of the border against al-Qaeda and against the Taliban, we have a better chance of succeeding in our objectives in Afghanistan.
When President Karzai comes to London, we will expect him to be able to show progress on the anti-corruption laws he is proposing and the anti-corruption taskforce he has set up. Last week, there were 12 arrests for corruption. Obviously, people will look at the appointment of his Cabinet and the appointment of district and provincial governors, and at what they say. He is holding a conference on those very issues in Kabul tomorrow, and I hope that will show the determination to make progress. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that President Karzai is determined to come to London with a plan to deal with some of the problems in Afghanistan that have been intractable over many years.
As far as climate change is concerned, there is a European offer of 20 per cent., to go to 30 per cent. if we can get an ambitious settlement-where other countries join in going to the ambitious ranges they have set. If Japan, Australia and Brazil, with their very ambitious ranges, and South Korea can go further, and if we can see the movement we want from other partners in the negotiation, our wish is to go 30 per cent. But we will have to get not only intermediate targets agreed with other countries and statements about national emission plans from the developing countries, but also, as I have said before, financial agreement and technology exchange agreements. Verification issues will be raised as well, so there is a lot of work still to be done at Copenhagen. I know that the right hon. Gentleman wants the most ambitious agreement possible and I am grateful for the support he will give us in these efforts.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister referred to Pakistan. He knows of the great sacrifices being made by the civilian population and the military in Pakistan in fighting extremism. Did he discuss with President Karzai the importance of effective co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in combating extremism in the Pashtun areas on both sides of the Durand line?
The Prime Minister:
As my hon. Friend, who is an expert on these affairs, will know, we wish to work with the Pakistan Government, not simply for them to deal
with the problem of the Pakistan Taliban, as they have done in the Swat territory and equally in Waziristan. We want to work with them to deal with those areas where there were problems also with the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan, so we want to see the maximum co-operation between President Karzai and the Pakistani authorities, including President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani, and we want to see more effective co-operation between the armed forces of both countries so that in the end we can have joint measures that will protect the border areas. Co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be very much more important in future years. I am grateful that we have the present level of co-operation with Pakistan on the issues that I raised in my statement, but we want to see further co-operation on security issues strengthened in the months to come.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): It is good to hear that our troops in Afghanistan are getting more mine-clearing equipment, but at the expense of what? A recent review set up by the former Secretary of State for Defence says that the defence equipment programme is unaffordable. Is that right?
The Prime Minister: We have increased defence spending every year. There is £1 billion more being spent on defence this year, and we have given real-terms rises to defence of nearly 10 per cent. over the past 10 years. In addition to that, we have provided for the equipment needs and the other additional needs associated with the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is because we announced additional money from the Treasury reserve to pay for new equipment that the Mastiffs and the Ridgbacks are going into Afghanistan as vehicles, additional helicopters were able to go to Afghanistan, and the anti-IED commitment is being provided. We have met all the requirements of our military forces on the ground to enable them to mount their campaigns in Afghanistan. I am sorry that Conservative Members are trying to dispute that, when the fact of the matter is that all urgent operational requirements of the Ministry of Defence have been met and will continue to be met.
Mr. Speaker: Order. A further 26 right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. As usual, I should like to be able to accommodate everybody, but in order for me to do so, short questions and short answers will be required.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I met a delegation of Afghan MPs in Geneva a few weeks ago. They are extremely grateful for the efforts being made by this country on their behalf. However, one woman in the delegation-I cannot say publicly what she told me in private-said that women are still extremely vulnerable in that country. I have raised the matter in the Chamber several times in the past. The UN has criticised the Afghan Government for not doing enough to protect women. This woman is in danger. Will the Prime Minister raise the matter-the situation of women-during the Afghan conference in London in January? That was one of the reasons why we went in to help Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister:
My right hon. Friend is right. We made representations about the Shi'a family law that was discussed in the summer. The President ensured
that some of the discriminatory parts of that were removed as a result of international pressure, as well as that of people in his own country, including women, urging that he change the position. I realise that the rights of women in Afghanistan are an issue that we must promote at all times when we are discussing the future of Afghanistan.
It is true that as a result of what has happened over the past few years, whereas no girls went to school, there are now 2.5 million girls at school. For the future of Afghanistan, that is a vital change that is happening. Increasing the numbers of children at school, including girls, is a vital part of the programme. At the same time, maternal mortality was among the worst in the world. I understand that one in eight births ended in the death of the mother as a result of the inadequate facilities. I am told that recent research suggests that 100,000 children are now surviving to the age of five who would otherwise not have done so, as a result of the improvements in tackling infant mortality and child health. These achievements are a result of bringing health and education to the people of Afghanistan. My right hon. Friend is right: we must never forget the importance of these issues-the social and economic improvement of the condition of the population-when we are talking about the future of Afghanistan.
Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): The Prime Minister's announcement of an additional £50 million for three years on counter-IED and intelligence work is very welcome. Will that money come as an urgent operational requirement from the Treasury, or will it come from within the existing defence budget?
The Prime Minister: The Chancellor reported in the pre-Budget report that expenditure on Afghanistan from the reserve was something in the order of £600 million three years ago. It will be almost £4.5 billion in the next two years. That is as a result of additional money made available by the Treasury.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): Very recently, seven Taliban attacked a convoy that was being protected by 300 members of the Afghan army. Almost all those 300 fled the scene immediately, and one of their generals said that they have no motivation to risk their lives for an election-rigging President, for their own country or for the international community. The Afghan police are a lawless bunch of depraved thieves. Does the Prime Minister really believe that we can build a solid security service on those collapsing foundations?
The Prime Minister:
There are two views we can take about Afghanistan, and my hon. Friend takes a different one from mine. The first view is that the Taliban have a huge amount of support in Afghanistan and the Afghan people will not resist them. The second view, however, is the one I take-that the Taliban have very limited public support from the people of Afghanistan. All opinion polls show, and all the evidence that we have is, that the public do not want the Taliban to return in Afghanistan. The public know the damage that the Taliban did in the past; they know the threat to women's rights; they know the damage that was done to children's education; and they know the justice that the Taliban meted out unfairly, particularly against women. Our best estimate is that the people of Afghanistan, by a
very substantial majority, do not want the Taliban to return to government. The people want to be assured that there is security, guaranteed by Afghan forces and by the alliance forces working together. Over time, they will want to see security kept by the Afghan army, Afghan police and Afghan security services, and that is what our strategy, which we have proposed for some time, is working towards. I do not accept my hon. Friend's initial premise that the Taliban have anything like the support that he suggests.
The Prime Minister: I think the hon. Gentleman has got to understand that the total amount of additional public expenditure-on top of the defence budget-in Iraq and Afghanistan is £14 billion. That is on top of the defence budget; that is additional to a rising defence budget. I think he has got to understand also the scale of the investment that we have made in equipment, which is in the order of £5 billion. He should look at the overall amount of money that has been invested in Afghanistan, including £1 billion alone in new equipment for vehicles, as well as the extra investment in helicopters and IED equipment. The total sum for equipment is £5 billion, much of it spent in the past two years to make for better vehicles. In the Chancellor's pre-Budget report we have allocated, as the hon. Gentleman knows, in the reserve sufficient funds for Afghanistan in the coming year. I do not think his criticism of us should be that we have spent too little on or invested too little in the safety of our forces. We have done whatever is necessary.
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware that the whole House will be much encouraged by his trip to Afghanistan, in particular his direct conversations with President Karzai? The number of troops being committed is very encouraging, but the quality, as my right hon. Friend knows, will be very important too. That will depend on provincial governments, so could we see a start by President Karzai on some reorganisation of the Kandahar provincial government, which is so central to the problems associated with corruption?
The Prime Minister: I talked to President Karzai about the governorships of Kandahar and Helmand, and about the appointments that he will make to his Cabinet in the next few days. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is the quality of local government on the ground, the quality of the Afghan army and, particularly over time, the quality of the police in Afghanistan that will be so vital to success in the future. But what I saw yesterday was Afghan recruits training, at a high level of demand from the British trainers, and acquitting themselves well. What I have also seen in Governor Mangal in Helmand is a governor who can show that you can get resources directly to the people and build up a system of law. Wherever that is not happening, action should be taken, and we will give our views directly to President Karzai.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con):
The Prime Minister did not answer the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the case for going to war in Iraq on the grounds that it
would be inappropriate because an inquiry on that is being held at the moment. Does he believe, then, that his Defence Secretary's remarks on condemning going to war without giving correct proof were inappropriate?
The Prime Minister: I did not answer the question because this is a statement on the European Council and on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an inquiry has been set up to look at all the issues affecting Iraq.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): The Prime Minister is well aware that all wars have to end with some kind of political settlement or negotiation. We are now in our ninth year of this war in Afghanistan; billions have been spent and thousands of lives have been lost. At what point does he envisage some kind of political engagement with those people in Afghanistan who are not supporters of Karzai and his corrupt Government, but who want some other solution?
The Prime Minister: I think my hon. Friend draws the wrong conclusions in his remarks. Britain cannot be safe from terrorism unless we deal with problems that exist not just in Britain but on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we do not take on al-Qaeda and prevent it from having space in Afghanistan, with the freedom of movement to plan operations in Britain, then we will be failing in our duty to the security of the people he represents in London and people in the rest of the country, who have had to suffer from terrorist plots that have been organised from the Afghan-Pakistan border. Yes, it is right that Afghanistan is an infant democracy where problems existed in a very big way during the election campaign, but it is better for us to build Afghan forces that are under an Afghan democracy, to build up security services that are under an Afghan President who is elected by the people, and to build up local government in Afghanistan than to give up and allow the people who never wanted us to take the action that was necessary to win this argument. This is about the security of the people of Britain.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): The Prime Minister has rightly praised our brave troops in Afghanistan, who include my former regiment, the Coldstream Guards. He said that he would provide more equipment and support for the armed forces. The armed forces do not operate only in Afghanistan, so can he reassure the House that the future defence budget will be fully funded and explain who was responsible for the chronic deficit and underfunding in defence that has occurred over a number of years and is highlighted in a devastating report by the National Audit Office? Sadly, it is embargoed until midnight tonight; otherwise, I would quote from it.
The Prime Minister:
The time when the defence budget was cut massively was under the Conservative Government between 1992 and 1997. Defence expenditure has risen in real terms by 10 per cent. since 1997. I keep repeating to the hon. Gentleman that the urgent operational requirements of our defence forces when they are in action abroad, as they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, are met by separate claims from the reserves. I think he should look at the arithmetic of what has actually happened, and he will see that extra urgent operational requirements have always been met by the Treasury. I
really do think it is unfortunate, when he can see the additional resources that have been made available, the reserve claims that have been paid and the urgent operational requirements that have been met, for him to try to tell the British people that our armed forces have not got the equipment they need. They have the equipment for the job they are doing.
Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): Pacific island states are already suffering significant effects from global warming. They have produced national adaptation plans, but do not have the money to implement them. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that money is available from the EU funds for this adaptation now, as without it the implications of global warming will only continue to get worse for those islands?
The Prime Minister: I know from my hon. Friend's work that she knows very well the challenges that are faced by the island states. She also knows some of the countries that were present at the Commonwealth conference because she has very strong links with them. I know perfectly well that countries from the Maldives to Bangladesh look to the climate change conference in Copenhagen to give answers to the problems they face as a result of immediate and urgent requirements owing to climate change. The purpose of the European contribution-$3.5 billion a year in 2010, 2011 and 2012-is to contribute to a worldwide fund of something in the order of $10 billion a year, principally for the expenditure on adaptation that she wishes to see. There is a proposal that the island states that have suffered most of all will get a proportion of that fund to enable them to take action immediately. We know very well that some of the problems they face are urgent and have to be addressed not just in the next few years but in the next few months.
Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Does the Prime Minister recognise that he does not need an inquiry to know that his "thank you" to the British troops would be all the stronger if it contained an apology, to them and to the people of Afghanistan, for the failure to resource the war there properly in the early years because of the folly of going to war in Iraq on a false prospectus?
The Prime Minister: I am sorry that the Liberal party is trying to follow the Conservative party in subscribing to a myth that the Afghan campaign has been underfunded. That is totally wrong, and I hope that in the interests of the unity of our country in facing the terrorist threat, the Conservative party and the Liberal party will recognise that we are spending more on our armed forces and on meeting urgent operational requirements than we ever did.
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