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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating this Statement. In doing so, can I also thank the Prime Minister for attending the funeral of President Reagan last weekend? This was a very moving occasion in which the world recalled a great American and a great world leader. Is not the very fact that President Putin is now a part of the G8 process a reflection of the giant contribution to world peace and freedom of Ronald Reagan and my noble friend Lady Thatcher, in leading the free world to victory in the Cold War?

Themes of liberty, freedom and vigilance against threat were foremost in our minds this last weekend, both in view of the Sea Island summit and elections here at home. We have been critical of aspects of the planning of the aftermath of the Gulf War, but our position is clear. We believe that the Prime Minister was right to align government and country behind President Bush in the war against terror. Indeed, it is clear that the names of Bush and Blair will be as inextricably linked down the years as Reagan and Thatcher.

The Statement describes the kind of people arrayed against us and against Iraqi freedom—and we are right to oppose them. So may I ask for an assurance from
 
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the noble Baroness that, whatever Liberal Democrats may do to Labour councillors in Newcastle, her view is that the Government must stay the course in Iraq? Does she agree that, after the debacle of Spanish withdrawal, it is vital that the enemies of a peaceful and stable Iraq get the message that this Government and this Prime Minister will not waver?

Of course, I welcome wholeheartedly the unanimous vote on UN Resolution 1546 endorsing an interim Iraqi Government and setting out a timetable for future progress. The challenge is to translate that into progress on the ground. If the new government are to be, and be seen to be, sovereign, what does that mean for decisions on the use of troops? Clarity in this area is essential.

Last month the Prime Minister said that, while operational control of our troops in Iraq after 30 June must remain with British commanders, political control over their deployment will be a matter for the Iraqi Government. Is that still the position for us and for US forces too? Can the noble Baroness tell the House of any further international contributions now expected to share the burden in Iraq? In particular, are there any prospects of other UN members, including Arab states, agreeing to provide troops? What is the latest position in respect of NATO and, in particular, its role in the training of troops?

We are told that President Chirac liked the American food, but his views on NATO assistance to Iraq were less digestible. Would not training for Iraqis from other NATO countries be greatly helpful to our forces and to the Iraqi Government?

The G8 pledged to "work together" on cancellation of Iraqi debt. How is this work to be taken forward in light of the differences between the United States and France on the matter? Furthermore, when there are elections in Iraq, have the Government considered, in the light of the experience of the past few days, whether will they be all-postal elections or whether we will argue for a fully verifiable secret ballot?

We welcome the constructive discussion of the still grave situation in the Middle East. We also support strengthening of co-operation on global counter-terrorism, with a focus on the security of international travel, though we hope that a balance will be struck between the need to confront terrorism by all legitimate means and the vital personal liberties of the law-abiding.

We also support steps agreed against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. What progress can the noble Baroness therefore report in the case of North Korea? On Iran, the G8 said it deplored Iranian behaviour on nuclear weapons and urged it to comply with its commitments. The UK, through the Straw initiative, has laid great emphasis on the closeness of its links with the Government of Iran. So what are the Government doing to persuade the Government of Iran to do what is required of nuclear powers—to co-operate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency?
 
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We very much welcome the resolutions on combating polio and on HIV. But can we on this side urge more resolute action on two other tragic problems concerning Africa? First, in respect of the disaster in Darfur, I express our horror at recent developments and welcome the extra £15 million in UK assistance announced last week. But if government bombing occurs in Darfur, could the Security Council not authorise a no-fly zone to protect civilians? Are we pressing urgent consultations on this?

Finally, can the noble Baroness say—and this has been a special area of responsibility for her—what discussions took place at the G8 on the issue of Zimbabwe? Was I alone in finding it bizarre that, in a Statement devoting so much time to Africa, Zimbabwe was not even mentioned?

The last time that the noble Baroness answered questions in this House, her line was ineffective in the face of Mugabe's growing catalogue of humanitarian atrocities. She said that she would check the following points. What is the latest number of refugees from Mugabe's tyranny now seeking sanctuary in Botswana, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries? How is it that the sanctions in place do not prevent the visit to Britain of Gideon Gono, the Governor of the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank? Does that not illustrate a need for urgent tightening of EU sanctions to include, in the words of the Movement for Democratic Change,

If the International Cricket Conference can withdraw Test status from Zimbabwe, surely the British Government and the G8 can bar the door to Mugabe's henchmen. In her response, will the Minister say whether she might ask the Prime Minister to make sure that this subject will be on the agenda at the EU summit in Dublin? That will give us another subject to debate when we deal with the Statement on that next week.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I also offer these Benches' personal condolences to Mrs Reagan and her family on the death of the 40th president of the United States. We would have expected the Prime Minister to attend the celebrations of a great man's passing and are glad that he did so.

My first question is about the Iraqi situation. Given that it is of crucial importance that the coalition partners mean exactly what they say about the return of sovereignty to Iraq, can the Minister say whether the new Iraqi Government were consulted in any way about the proposal that NATO might become the successor to the coalition in Iraq? It seems to these Benches to be crucial that Iraq should have been consulted but there has been no clear statement one way or the other on the matter. Can the noble Baroness also confirm whether it is now absolutely clear that political control over military actions that affect the people of Iraq will be an issue of consultation with the new government? The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked a similar question.
 
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Turning to the question of the greater Middle East initiative, which was a substantial part of the outcome of the G8 summit, first, was any consideration given to the current membership of the G8? It is interesting that a large part of the time was spent on the Middle East and Africa and yet the G8 continues to be dominated by the western world, with the addition of Russia. China, India and countries from Africa or anywhere else in the developing world, to which so much of the discussion was directed, were not represented. It seems to many of us to be curious that this political anomaly should continue.

The greater Middle East initiative refers to a partnership with the Middle Eastern states. In that context, can the Minister say what that partnership is meant to constitute? For example, will there be any attempt to bring the Arab nations into a closer relationship with the question of the Middle East, which is regarded as the second crucial issue discussed at the G8 summit? Is there any possibility of involving Arab nations in the discussion of Iraq and of the Middle East? Can she tell us what relationship there is with the Barcelona process, which has been the leading method by which the European Union has tried to discuss our relations with North Africa and the Middle East, which are central to the whole concept of the Middle East initiative? I am concerned that there is a relationship between the Middle East and Japan, a relationship between the Middle East and North Africa and the United States, and a relationship between the Middle East and North Africa and the European Union, but there appear to be three separate initiatives that are not, so far, clearly brought together.

Turning to the Israeli/Middle East conflict, I express profound disappointment from these Benches on what has been the reiteration of a continual theme. I do not hold Her Majesty's Government primarily responsible. I am well aware of the tremendous efforts that have been made by the Minister and her colleague on the Bench beside her. But we have now heard over and over again about the so-called,

as stated in the Declaration on the Middle East. Every single time this statement has been made—it has been made in one form or another at at least the past three summits—the Palestinian territory becomes less and less viable. I must express my profound disappointment and that of these Benches that once again no reference whatever is made to the continuing spread of settlements; to the wall, which now goes deeply into the West Bank; or to the possibility of withdrawal from the West Bank. That is what really matters for a viable Palestine, not just withdrawal from Gaza which, frankly, could not add viability to any country at any time as it is largely what is sometimes known as a "basket case", with 60 per cent of its people unemployed.

It is crucial that G8 summits address this issue. It is the cancer of the Middle East and nothing will be resolved unless it is resolved. I am well aware that Her Majesty's Government have made huge efforts but I
 
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must express profound disappointment that once again the G8 has reiterated the same tired old formula. It is not altogether surprising that so many people no longer believe in the words of G8 summits because so often they seem to mean so little in practice.

In that context, I must say that on Africa the continuing support of the HIPC initiative for another two years is not a great step forward. It might be described as the minimum to keep that initiative going. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has continually pushed out and expressed ambitions for much more effective dealing with African debt. In some cases, African debt should clearly be written off. He has again and again brought forward initiatives. Rather sadly, one must say that so far the G8 does not seem to have mobilised behind those initiatives. This is a minimal proposal.

On the issue of peacekeepers, they have been mentioned at the previous three summits. Yet we now face a disaster in Darfur, which may almost equal what happened in Rwanda, and so far no peacekeepers have been available and none has been sent. If we are to train more peacekeepers, can the Leader of the House tell us what steps we will take now to try to deal with the unfolding tragedy of Sudan? The attention of this Government, and many other Governments, has been drawn to this time and again by Members of the Bishops' Benches, the Cross Benches, the Opposition and, indeed, by Members of the governing party. Some day we may turn around and ask ourselves why those peacekeepers were not ready at the time when they were desperately needed.

In that context, a scorched earth policy is clearly emerging in Sudan. Members of this House may have heard the discussion this morning on the "Today" programme. A witness to what is going on clearly indicated the scale of the disaster there and very strongly indicated the probable involvement of the Government of Sudan. I do not want to say that we know that that is so but we do know that the Government of Sudan could stop it if they chose to do so, at least in the localities where these terrible mutilations and sacrifices are happening. Can the Leader of the House comment on that issue?

Finally, the G8 summit rightly refers to the issue of ending export subsidies in trade, which is probably the single greatest thing that can be done to help Africa. The Leader of the House understands the African economic situation very well indeed. At the summit two years ago, it was suggested that export subsidies would be withdrawn within the following year. One year ago, that was reiterated. To the best of my knowledge, export subsidies continue, both from the EU and from the United States. Does the Leader of the House agree that if we are seriously to help Africa with regard to AIDS and economic development, at a minimum the G8 summit must mean exactly what it says and export subsidies should be withdrawn by no later than the time of the next G8 summit?
 
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5.9 p.m.


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