HC Deb 12 May 1992 vol 207 cc492-3
Q1. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Prime Minister what are the specific objectives of Her Majesty's Government at the Earth summit.

The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major)

The Government's specific objectives for the Earth summit are signature of global conventions on climate change and biodiversity; a statement of principles on forests; a short "Rio declaration" of environment and development principles; a comprehensive action plan; and reinforcement of international institutions dealing with environment and development.

Mr. Hughes

As that was the Prime Minister's first parliamentary answer, will he make it his No. 1 priority this Session to tackle the global environmental crisis? Is he aware that the secret documents that we have seen contain proposals which amount to a watering down of the tough energy-saving commitment and replace specific targets with vague promises, and are to be put to the European Commission tomorrow? Will the Prime Minister ensure that, at the Earth summit and thereafter, tackling the global crisis will be his priority and that of his colleagues on the world stage?

The Prime Minister

This is an important conference—an important priority—and there is a great deal to be done. The political will is there, not just in this country but in countries around the world. It appears that the attendance at the Rio summit will be very high—and very high at Heads of Government level. I must emphasise that what is agreed at the conference is only the beginning of the work that needs to be done. Some people might set their expectations too high. There is bound to be a limited amount of success at Rio. There will be a good deal to be done subsequently in this country, in the European Community, and beyond.

Mr. Lester

If my right hon. Friend gets a chance to watch television, I am sure that in the past two or three days, and certainly this month, he has noticed the beginning of the one world '92 campaign, linking 66 nations' broadcasters throughout Europe as well as the general public in preliminary matters to the Rio conference. On 30 May, it will culminate in a day of action throughout Europe and the tree of life, for which I am sure he has signed his pledge. Will he support all the work that is being done to involve the public in this issue because, however much we feel that it is important, without general public support we shall never get anywhere?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. It needs a commitment by Governments, by which I mean Governments across the world. Little will be gained if some contribute while many others do not. A great deal of commitment by individuals will also be necessary. This may be one of the areas of policy where it is often the individual driving the Government, rather than the reverse, in terms of commitment to the environment. I have little doubt that individuals in this country and beyond will commit themselves to these environmental and desirable aims.

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