HC Deb 01 July 2002 vol 388 cc21-38 3.30 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the G8 Summit in Canada. Copies of all the documents agreed at the summit have been placed in the House Libraries. I pay tribute to Prime Minister Chrétien for his excellent leadership at the meeting.

This was the first meeting of G8 leaders since 11 September. We reviewed progress made in tackling terrorism, including steps taken to cut off terrorists' sources of financing, and action in Afghanistan and globally against al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks. I set out detailed UK proposals for curbing opium production in Afghanistan, which is the source of some 90 per cent. of the heroin on our streets, and we agreed collectively to step up efforts to deal with this menace. We also agreed a set of practical measures to enhance the security of the global transport system.

The events of 11 September proved beyond doubt that terrorists will use any means to attack our countries and our people. We therefore agreed at Kananaskis to launch a new global partnership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and so help ensure that these deadly materials cannot fall into the hands of terrorist groups. The world's largest stocks of sensitive nuclear and chemical materials are in the countries of the former Soviet Union, above all in Russia. The G8 therefore agreed collectively to raise up to $20 billion over the next 10 years to fund projects under the global partnership. Among our priority concerns are the destruction of chemical weapons, the dismantling of decommissioned nuclear submarines and the employment of former weapons scientists. As part of this programme, the UK plans to commit up to $750 million spread over the next decade.

We also discussed pressing regional issues. On the middle east, G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the two-state vision first set out in the Saudi peace initiative: a state of Israel, secure and accepted by its Arab neighbours, living side by side in peace with a stable and well governed state of Palestine. We called for continuing efforts also on India and Pakistan.

The Kananaskis summit also marked a major shift in the G7's relationship with Russia. G7 leaders agreed that Russia will assume the G8 presidency in 2006 and host our summit that year. Taken together with agreement by both the European Union and the United States to grant Russia market economy status, and with the launch of the new NATO/Russia Council, these moves constitute a significant further step in building a strong partnership with Russia on security and economic issues. The next step is Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation.

But the main focus of the summit was Africa. Let me remind the House why. The tragedy of Africa is that it is a rich continent whose people are poor. Africa's potential is enormous, yet a child in Africa dies of disease, famine or conflict every three seconds. These are facts that shame the civilised world. In Genoa last July, G8 leaders agreed to draw up a comprehensive action plan for Africa. Central to this proposal was the concept of a deal: that African Governments commit themselves to economic, political and governance reforms, and that the G8 responds with more development assistance, more debt relief and greater opportunities for trade.

Over the past year, African leaders have developed the New Partnership for Africa's Development—NEPAD. This is an African-led initiative, which puts good governance at its heart. African countries have pledged to raise standards of governance and have committed themselves to a peer-review mechanism that will provide an objective assessment against these new standards. In response, at Kananaskis the G8 published its action plan for Africa. The plan sets out specific measures in eight areas, and I shall deal with some of them.

Peace and stability are preconditions for successful development everywhere, and especially in Africa. Eight million Africans have died in conflicts in the last 20 years. The G8 committed to intensify efforts to promote peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sudan, two of Africa's bloodiest wars, and to consolidate the peace efforts now being made in Angola and Sierra Leone.

For the long term, we need to develop the peacekeeping capacity of African countries themselves. We agreed that by 2003 we will have in place a joint plan to build regional peacekeeping forces, trained and helped by us. But we must also tackle the underlying issues that so often drive conflict. We pledged our support for the UN initiative to monitor and address the illegal exploitation and international transfer of natural resources from Africa which fuel armed conflicts, including mineral resources, petroleum, timber and water, and to support voluntary control efforts such as the Kimberley process for diamonds.

Around 50 million children in Africa are not in school of any kind. We agreed therefore to implement the education taskforce report, prepared for the summit, which will significantly increase bilateral aid for basic education for African countries that have a strong policy and financial commitment. Recent analysis by the World Bank sets out clearly which policies work. We agreed that where countries have those policies in place, we will ensure that they have sufficient external finance to meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015.

We also agreed to continue our efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS through the new global health fund, and G8 countries committed to provide the resources necessary to eradicate polio from Africa by 2005. Twenty-six countries, including 22 in Africa, have already benefited under the enhanced heavily indebted poor countries, or HIPC, initiative, receiving about $62 billion in debt relief. Eventually, 37 countries are expected to benefit.

At Kananaskis the G8 agreed to provide up to an additional $1 billion for the HIPC trust fund. That will help to ensure that those countries whose debt position has worsened, because of the global economic slowdown and falls in commodity prices, will get enough debt relief to ensure that they are able to exit HIPC with sustainable levels of debt.

On trade, we agreed to make the WTO Doha round work for developing countries, particularly in Africa. We reaffirmed our commitment to conclude the negotiations no later than 1 January 2005 and, without prejudicing the outcome of the negotiations, to apply that Doha commitment to comprehensive negotiations on agriculture aimed at substantial improvements in market access and reductions in all forms of export subsidies with a view to their being entirely phased out.

At Monterrey in February the international community pledged to increase official development assistance by $12 billion a year from 2006. In Kananaskis the G8 agreed that at least half of that new money would go to reforming African countries, for investment in line with NEPAD's own priorities. That is a substantial commitment by any standards—an additional $6 billion a year for the world's poorest continent. It recognises Africa's needs, but it is also a strong signal of the G8's confidence that the commitments that African leaders are making under NEPAD really will transform the environment in which our aid is invested.

The UK will contribute its share of those additional resources. I can tell the House that we expect UK bilateral spending on Africa to rise from around £650 million a year now to £1 billion by 2006—three times the level that we inherited from the last Conservative Government.

President Mbeki of South Africa said of the plan that there has never been an engagement of this kind before, certainly not between Africa and the G8…it is a very, very good beginning. President Obasanjo from Nigeria called it a historic moment for Africa and for the whole relationship between the developed and developing world". Africa is not a hopeless continent, as some have described it. Uganda, for example, has reduced poverty by 20 percentage points in the last 10 years, and growth has averaged around 7 per cent. a year. HIPC debt relief and aid have been used to help to provide free primary education. As a result, enrolment has doubled, putting millions of children into school. Mozambique has seen growth of 9 per cent. in the past 4 years, and Tanzania is now providing free primary education. As a result of courageous new policies, Mali has reduced poverty dramatically in the past 4 years.

Of course, we need to do more—much more—but for the first time there is a comprehensive plan, dealing with all aspects of the African plight. For the first time, it is constructed with reforming African leaders as partners, not as passive recipients of aid. For the first time, we link explicitly and clearly good governance and development.

So this is not our destination—of an African renaissance—achieved, but it is a new departure. It is a real signal of hope for the future, and it is up to us now to make it a reality. I am proud of the part that Britain has played in it. There are those who say that Africa matters little to the British people. The millions who donate to charities—who give up time, energy and commitment to the cause of Africa—eloquently dispute this. Africa does matter: to us and to humanity. We intend to see the plan through.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)

May I begin by thanking the Prime Minister for giving me early sight of his statement? Kananaskis was the first G8 gathering since 11 September, and we welcome the practical steps agreed there to fight international terrorism, and to prevent the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. In particular, Kananaskis marked another step in Russia's re-emergence on the world stage, and I believe it right that the G8 should help to reduce her nuclear stockpiles, and very fitting that Russia will assume presidency of the G8 in 2006.

We also welcome the G8's renewed commitment to supporting universal primary education in developing countries, and to assisting those countries in tackling the scourge of diseases such as AIDS, TB, malaria and polio. The progress made on international debt relief is also welcome, although we note that the sums involved barely make up for the fall in world commodity prices that has recently so affected developing economies. The Prime Minister is right to herald the G8's meeting with African presidents and the UN Secretary-General to discuss the New Partnership for Africa's Development as a step in the right direction. However, only last October the Prime Minister told his party conference that a partnership for Africa meant no tolerance of bad governance, from the endemic corruption of some states, to the activities of Mr. Mugabe's henchmen in Zimbabwe. I agreed with him. Does he still stand by that clear statement, and if so, does he not think that the G8 missed an opportunity to send a stark signal to dictators by using the example of Robert Mugabe to show that there will be no meaningful partnership for development with countries that do not respect political freedom and the rule of law?

The G8 summit could have demanded fresh presidential elections in Zimbabwe; it could have co-ordinated sanctions between the EU and north America; and it could have shown that we mean what we say about good governance in the African continent. Did the Prime Minister argue for those things at the conference, and if so, does he not agree that it is deeply disappointing that Zimbabwe did not merit a mention in the communiqué? or in his statement?

The G8 pledged itself to work for peace in the Middle East, based on our vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders". It also talked of the agreement on the urgency of reform of Palestinian institutions and its economy, and of free and fair elections". Last Thursday, the Prime Minister said that, in his view, Yasser Arafat has an attitude towards terrorism which has been inconsistent with the notion of Israel's security. Does the Prime Minister believe that a Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat can ever be consistent with the notion of Israel's security, or does he agree with Secretary Powell, who said yesterday that if the Palestinians don't bring in new leaders, then we shouldn't expect…approaches that may be new or otherwise? Does the Prime Minister agree with that statement or the previous one?

Today, we learn that the United States is threatening to veto the extension of UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia unless American troops are granted immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Did the Prime Minister discuss that with President Bush and other G8 leaders during the summit? Ten days ago, the Defence Secretary told the House, On the ICC, the Government negotiated an effective immunity".—[Official Report, 20 June 2002; Vol. 387, c. 413.] Last week, however, he told a Select Committee that immunity is not quite the right word". Which is it? Perhaps the Prime Minister can tell us what our position is.

Was the Prime Minister not aware of grave misgivings, which we share, that the court could be used maliciously to put our soldiers in the dock merely for carrying out their duties—[Interruption.] Labour Members may complain, but the French have been able to negotiate immunity for their troops for the next seven years as a condition of signing up to the ICC. When we sought in the course of debate to introduce similar protection, that was rejected, even though it was for British troops. Will the Prime Minister tell us once and for all what protection, if any, our troops will have, apart from the judgment of the ICC—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Please let the Leader of the Opposition speak.

Mr. Duncan Smith

They hate it when they get difficult questions as they never hear the answer—[Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister agree with the criticism of the United States launched by the Secretary of State for International Development yesterday in the media and the newspapers? If Kananaskis is to be remembered, it will be judged by what it achieves for southern Africa, especially the 13 million people starving in that region. This is an opportunity to strike up a genuine partnership with Africa that will endure beyond the following day's headlines. It is a two-way street, however, offering long-term assistance delivered to an agreed timetable from the developed world in return for a genuine commitment by developing countries to improve the governance of their people. But it takes action, not just words. If, with all the might at its disposal, and with the Prime Minister at the conference, the G8 cannot even bring itself to demand change in Zimbabwe, what hope is there for the rest of Africa?

The Prime Minister

If I may say so, I thought that that was an extraordinary demonstration of the right hon. Gentleman's priorities. I make no apology whatever for using the vast majority of the statement to deal with Africa. It was extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman had more to say about the International Criminal Court than the state of Africa. I shall deal with the issue of Zimbabwe, but first I shall deal with the International Criminal Court, which the Conservatives supported when it was debated in the House. At the time, a Conservative Front-Bench spokesman said: It is a great shame that in the negotiations at Rome, where our team and others bent over backwards to try and assuage the fears of the USA…the USA ultimately felt that it could not join the countries that signed up". Another Conservative spokesman said: I urge the Government to introduce legislation to allow us to ratify the statute in order to realise their intention that we should be among the first 60 states to do so".—[Official Report, 27 October 1999; Vol. 336, c. 934–36.] There is therefore a tinge of opportunism in the Conservatives' stance today. We have taken our position because we were advised that as a result of the safeguards in place—in particular the issue of complementarity, which means that provided that a nation state is capable of trying people for any crimes, the ICC does not have jurisdiction—it is inconceivable that our peacekeepers would be brought before the court in that way. The best test of whether that is correct or not is what has happened with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which has been running for seven years and has far more intrusive powers than the ICC. In those seven years, not one peacekeeper has been up before the court. The ICC is designed to deal with people committing war crimes or genocide, and I believe that that is right. I entirely understand the concerns of the United States of America, which are perfectly legitimate. Our view, however, is that they are met by the principles that I set out and the constraints on the international court's development.

On Zimbabwe, let me make it clear that it will not benefit in any way from the African plan, precisely because of the outrageous conduct of the Zimbabwean Government. That is why it is so important that the plan makes it clear that only the countries that engage in good governance will qualify for the extra aid and assistance. As for what we should do about Zimbabwe, at every level—in the European Union and elsewhere, in the negotiations with the United States—of course we raise the matter.

I looked very carefully at the words of the shadow Foreign Secretary when he was lambasting the Government for our position on Zimbabwe. I could not find a single sensible, constructive suggestion from him to deal with the matter. This is a classic instance of the Conservatives seizing on an issue, running with it hard, and having nothing but sheer vacuous nonsense to say about it.

On HIPC, the right hon. Gentleman speaks about the sum barely making up the difference. Let us be clear. When the Government came to office, we had nothing like the help in place for Africa on debt relief or anything else. What we have done through the additional aid means that billions of dollars of debt relief will be saved for those countries, so that the money can be put into education. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome that. [HON. MEMBERS: "We did."] Well, I suppose that it was a welcome of sorts. It is one of the features of the Conservatives that although in general they are against spending any money, in particular they are always in favour of spending more.

On the middle east, in relation to Chairman Arafat, let me repeat what I said last week. I believe that if the middle east is to have a chance of getting the peace process that it needs, we need serious people to negotiate with. I have said why I believe that Chairman Arafat has let down the Palestinian people, in particular by rejecting the deal that was offered by Prime Minister Barak: he did a huge disservice to the process of peace in the middle east.

It is for the Palestinians, of course, to decide whom they elect. We are not in a position to decide that for them, but the point that we must make and that the Americans are making is that if they end up electing leadership that is not serious about partnering the peace process, it will be difficult to make the changes that we want. That is the reality, and it is why we and the Americans have both been saying it. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the vast majority of countries agree.

In particular, leaving aside for a moment the issue of Chairman Arafat, the key thing that the Bush speech did, and the reason why I think that it should be strongly supported, is that it set out the following principles, which are vital for progress: security for the Palestinian people, and a proper security infrastructure rebuilt; political reform of the Palestinian institutions—that is vital—en route to a viable Palestinian state, living side by side with a secure of Israel. As a result, if there are those changes on the Palestinian side, there must be from Israel in return the commitment to an end to settlements, withdrawal from the occupied territories, and a resolution of the issue on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

That is what is important. I believe that we have the basis of a forward plan for the middle east that can work. I believe that it will work, but only if we make sure that those principles are properly implemented. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that the attempt to make differences between ourselves and the Americans may suit the Opposition, but it does not suit the peace process at all.

Finally, let me deal with the point that the right hon. Gentleman made, in so far as he dealt with Africa at all. He said that this announcement is a deal. Yes, it is, and it gives us an important chance to make a way forward for Africa, but let us not believe that the whole of Africa is encapsulated in Zimbabwe. It is not. I am pleased to say that, increasingly, Zimbabwe is the exception in Africa, not the rule. At the same time as we take the possible action—not the impossible action—against Zimbabwe, let us congratulate those African leaders on their boldness in coming forward with the initiative, let us support it, and let us make sure that the Africa plan, which initiates the process, is carried through with the determination and vigour that has given rise to it.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)

Although all sane and democratic-thinking people throughout the world will acknowledge the importance of the summit, not least as another essential reaffirmation of the fight against international terrorism, which poses the most fundamental threat to us all, I think that the Prime Minister will accept that despite the progress achieved, there were elements of serious disappointment about the summit.

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge, not least when we hear some of the more strident tones on this side of the Atlantic as well as on the other side, that an important lesson is that progress can be best effected through efficient international institutions in which countries play a constructive role and do not run with the tide of short-term populist opinion, which, when it comes to unilateralism, far less isolationism, history proves does not work and will not deliver? Does he agree that that is an important conclusion to emerge from the weekend and from the events that have followed on since the summit itself?

Specifically, in welcoming the reaffirmation statement about the middle east process, will the right hon. Gentleman again take the opportunity to underscore the fact that it never looks good for international countries, democratically based, to be seen to be trying to dictate what other countries should be deciding, not least through a democratic process, however difficult the circumstances may be, where the leadership of those other countries and other states are concerned?

Secondly, on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, and given the importance that the Prime Minister rightly attached to the developing role of Russia on many fronts

over coming years, was there any discussion, or did he have the opportunity to raise, the role of Russia in giving financial and practical support to Iran to develop a nuclear reactor? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there is considerable international anxiety as to the use to which such a facility, such a capacity, could be put. Russia will be a major and primary beneficiary of the extra funds that are being deployed, to which the United Kingdom will be contributing. Has leverage been exerted on the Russian authorities in that respect?

Thirdly, there is the central issue of African relief. Obviously, there will be a great welcome for the progress that has been achieved. The Prime Minister quoted the World Bank, but will he acknowledge that the bank has said in the context of what was achieved—that is the progress that was made at the G8 summit—that many of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries will still have unsustainable levels of built-in debt for a long time to come? Therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged, this can be only the beginning of the process. It is by no means the termination of a process.

Finally, I return to the important lesson of international co-operation. As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, as a party that has long since supported the International Criminal Court, will he confirm again that this country will continue its commitment in that direction, and point out to the American Administration the fundamental error of their ways in that respect?

The Prime Minister

Of course, we support the International Criminal Court. It is a commitment that we inherited from the previous Government. That is quite apart from our own position.

As for the United States and the Palestinian Authority, it is important to be clear about what the United States is and is not saying. The United States is not saying that the Palestinians cannot choose who they want. They can choose who they want. The United States is merely saying that if the Palestinians choose someone who is not a serious partner for peace, that will make it far more difficult to conduct negotiations, and frankly I agree with that.

As for the WMD, it is true that there are worries about Iran's nuclear weapons programme. There are also worries about other countries' nuclear weapons programmes. However, the WMD focuses specifically on the countries of the former Soviet Union. That is important because it is in those countries that there are large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. There is the nuclear programme, and so on. They need help to clean up the nuclear submarines, for example, and we should give them that assistance.

In relation to the African situation and NEPAD, the truthful position is that, of course, there is a lot more that must be done. It is true that we will make a significant impact on the situation, but we will not manage to deal with it all. However, we have made huge progress on where we were a few years ago. The fact is that we have a plan in place that allows us to deal with all the issues in a comprehensive way, increase aid and assistance in return for good governance and deal with issues such as conflict resolution, which are dramatically important in respect of this issue. It is no use dealing simply with issues of debt and aid; we must deal with debt and aid, trade, conflict resolution and some of the specific health

and education issues. The benefit of the plan is that it gives us an overall framework within which we can work, but the political will must continue for many years.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which the G8 has handled relations with Russia. It is very important that signals are given to the Russian people that Russia is a welcome partner at the very top table because there is a role for the Russians to play. The Americans deserve congratulations on the funding provided for nuclear stocks improvements. Long before Europeans took the issue seriously, the Americans were contributing and trying to persuade the Russians to make their nuclear stocks safe. The contrast with the United States position on the International Criminal Court is odd, as it is moving in almost the opposite direction on that issue. An America that, at its best, gives leadership and, working together with the rest of the world, gives us all something to work towards, is equally one that at certain moments, as in dealing with the ICC, heads in completely the opposite direction and gives the world the wrong view, namely, that it wants to behave above and beyond international law. That is not possible even for the United States.

The Prime Minister

What my hon. Friend says about the United States position on Russia and the problem of weapons of mass destruction is absolutely right—America has taken the lead on that issue. In relation to the ICC, America has a very clearly established position that it has held under both its current Administration and the previous one. We have an equally clear position, which has been held under both our current Administration and the previous one. It is important to recognise that there will be differences from time to time. However, it is wrong to see that as colouring the entire relationship. It is important to understand that, from time to time, on issues such as climate change or steel and the tariffs imposed in the United States, there will disagreements, but the broad basis of the relationship between this country and the United States is absolutely solid. It is a foundation stone of British foreign policy and will remain so, and it is absolutely vital that any people, from whatever quarter, who want to undermine it realise that that is not in the interests of this country, America or the wider world.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

The Prime Minister made only the briefest reference to India and Pakistan. Will he expand on that, especially in the light of the very worrying report that al-Qaeda forces now seem to be moving into Kashmir? I am sure that he appreciates more than any of us the danger that will arise if such people start to fish in those exceptionally dangerously troubled waters.

The Prime Minister

That is right—it is a very substantial danger. For that reason, it is important to ensure that Pakistan does all it can to prevent terrorists from crossing the border and the line of control there. There is evidence that it has stepped up its efforts significantly. I think that we have a respite from this issue, but we have not solved it by any means. What is important is that we redouble our efforts to ensure clear dialogue on the basis of an end to any form of Pakistani complicity in terrorism, and to ensure that, in response, there is proper dialogue between the two countries about all the issues between them, including Kashmir, so that the matter can be resolved as it should be—between two countries, rather than in the way in which it has been dealt with in the past few years. He is right to stress the very real and recurrent threat from al-Qaeda in Kashmir and elsewhere.

Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the leadership that he is giving on Africa, which contrasts significantly with the neglect and disengagement of 18 years of Conservative government.

My right hon. Friend rightly spoke about NEPAD and the sense of partnership that it creates. That has to be so. One of the major problems is that the resources of Africa are not used for the people of Africa—they are robbed from them by corrupt elites and corrupt Governments. We must play our part by ensuring that northern firms do not support corruption and by backing the campaign that northern firms—such as BP, which has agreed to be part of it—should declare the money that they put into Africa so that the people of Africa know what is being given to their Governments and can identify the corrupt resources. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

The Prime Minister

I agree strongly. On my hon. Friend's first point, he is right, and that continues to be a major priority for the Government. His second point is also important. Part of the discussion at the G8 was about how we ensure that we put in place guidelines on the way in which companies operate in Africa. The more that companies report exactly what money they are paying to Governments, the more likely is transparency and therefore a reduction in corruption. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all that he has done in campaigning long and hard on the issue. It is partly because of the activities of people such as him that the matter now features so prominently on the agenda.

Tony Baldry (Banbury)

No fair-minded person would doubt the Prime Minister's commitment to Africa, but he must surely accept that the additional aid for Africa from the G8 summit is fairly niggardly. Given that President Bush, having announced the millennium challenge account at Monterrey, was not prepared to commit any further funds to Africa, would it not be more appropriate—rather than trying to pretend that something is there that is not there—to have a special summit for Africa that focuses on its real needs and tries to find the real resources that are necessary if we are to take it forward into the 21st century?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman's comments echo some of those made by the non-governmental organisations, but he is being a little unfair. The fact is that at Monterrey, as a result of the American commitment to an additional $5 billion and the European commitment to an additional $7 billion, there was a substantial uplift in aid. The agreement at Kananaskis was for countries to decide how much money they give in their own way, and we expected that half or more of that would go to Africa. Given that only two—perhaps three—of the G8 countries give as much as 50 per cent. to Africa, that is a big uplift in itself. Overall aid to sub-Saharan Africa—I speak from memory—is about $12 billion to $13 billion, so to increase that by 50 per cent. is fairly significant.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we have to go far further, and we probably would have wanted to go further, but we still achieved a significant amount. Other things—I would single out conflict resolution—are as important as aid money. A particular view that I hold is that probably the single most important thing that we can do for central Africa is to get that conflict resolved and some stability in place. These are potentially rich countries, and if we can combine conflict resolution with access to our markets—it is scandalous how many tariffs against African goods remain in developed countries' markets—that, as much as the aid package, will contribute to the rebirth of Africa.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Was my right hon. Friend able to raise within the G8 the issue of American steel tariffs? Does he agree that that rather selfish unilateral action by such a major country flies in the face of the wider message that the G8 as a whole is trying to promote in the context of Africa, NEPAD and the wider development for which we all need to take responsibility?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We made it clear that we strongly disagree with imposing steel tariffs. We are seeking exclusions for British companies and I believe that approximately 20 have been granted. We are pressing for many more. Some 30,000 tonnes of British produce will be exempted, but we shall continue to press for more. Although I appreciate the American position, it is in the interests neither of world trade nor of the American steel industry. It is better to compete freely and openly.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley)

The Prime Minister said that the Conservative party has no policies on Zimbabwe. I shall offer him one. I support Zimbabwe's exclusion from NEPAD, yet recently Mr. Mugabe was able to travel to Rome for a Food and Agriculture Organisation summit without a peep of protest from the Government. His chief of police, who is a very sinister man, was able to travel to Lyon, similarly without a peep of protest from the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary. Is not it insulting to the 3,000 white farmers who are about to be expelled by the end of August and the 800,000 black farmers and employees who have also been expelled by Mugabe's thugs to tell them that we can do nothing more to help them and that we cannot even enforce a travel ban on Robert Mugabe?

The Prime Minister

The travel ban is enforced on Mr. Mugabe but he cannot be prevented from travelling to the Rome summit, as the hon. Gentleman knows. However, let us be clear that whether or not he goes to the Rome summit will not affect the position in Zimbabwe. This can be done only by action by the other countries in the region and the ability of people in Zimbabwe to make a difference.

If the Conservatives' great policy, which will lead to a change of Government in Zimbabwe, is to prevent Mr. Mugabe from travelling to Rome, it shows how far

they are from reality and how close they are to opportunistically making political capital out of the matter.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on upholding the right of the Palestinian people to elect a President of their choice. I have returned from a working visit to Israel and the occupied territories during which I held discussions with people from a wide spectrum of opinion. I assure my right hon. Friend that a four-page speech by President Bush that contains two pages of instructions to the Palestinians and two paragraphs of exhortations to the Israelis will not advance the peace process that we all support, especially when the current charade of dismantling Israeli shanty town settlements leaves in place 145 settlements that violate international law. The decent Jewish leadership that took over from the British was able to suppress the terrorism of Begin and Shamir only when it had the integrity of an Israeli state to defend. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the genuine movement towards suppressing the evil terrorism among Palestinian extremist groups can happen only when a Palestinian state has its integrity to defend?

The Prime Minister

First, I know that my right hon. Friend takes a great deal of interest in and has spoken passionately and persuasively on the issue for many years. I am doing my best to help the process, and I believe that that means supporting America's initiative. A state is merely a constitutional theory unless it contains institutions that can give life to it.

The most important priority is security and rebuilding the security infrastructure in the Palestinian territory. We will help in any way that we can to achieve that. The Americans are working urgently on plans to ensure that it is done. Let us suppose that we get a political process going again. We need a way to indemnify ourselves, if I can put it like that, against the next suicide bomb.

If another suicide bomb explodes and terrible carnage ensues, and more civilians die and the process collapses, it will be a long time before we get another realistic process in place. We need a valid security infrastructure with integrity so that we can be sure that the Palestinian authorities are doing everything possible to bear down on terrorism. That would mean that if any extremists who wanted to wreck the process and were hostile to the concept of Israel managed to carry out a terrorist attack, it would not derail the process. In the longer term, however, there are elements in President Bush's speech that offer us a clear way forward, provided that we engage intensively to bring that about.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

The Prime Minister fairly said that much needs to be done after this conference. May I remind him that, in March, a UN conference called for some 10 times more aid than was being offered at this most recent conference? Will he tell the House when the $60 billion being asked for by the African countries will be achievable, and when the all-important trade rules will be relaxed in Africa's favour?

The Prime Minister

We have to deal in the realms of the possible. It is not possible to get $60 billion, but there has been a significant uplift in the aid given, and the debt relief programme is also extremely important. The idea is to get that flowing as quickly as possible. Countries such as ours have significantly uplifted their aid already. We are now providing somewhere in the region of double the amount of aid to Africa that we were a few years ago.

On trade, the recommitment to the Doha process was absolutely vital—in particular, the focus on the phasing out of agricultural subsidies. The challenge for the developed world is to come up to the mark on the reality of our position on trade, so that it matches the rhetoric of free trade that we preach in the developed world. That involves arguing our position strongly in Europe, the World Trade Organisation and elsewhere, and we shall carry on doing that. We need the united support of the House and the help of other allies to do so.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Economic conflict and collapse in Africa often feed into wars and conflicts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Behind that is often currency speculation, which produces the economic collapse in the first place. Is the G8 taking seriously the problems of currency speculation, and what proposals is it coming up with to deal with them?

The Prime Minister

The most important thing we can do is to ensure that proper financial systems, and proper accounting standards for them, are in place—a process that we started in 1998. I do not favour measures such as the Tobin tax, or other taxes on currency speculation. The best security against financial collapse is the integrity of financial systems and proper accounting standards to ensure openness and transparency in the way in which countries—and, indeed, companies—operate. That is the best guarantee.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)

What did the Prime Minister tell the other G8 members about the dramatic fall in Britain's productivity rates in relation to world competitiveness that has taken place under his Government?

The Prime Minister

I am pleased to say that I was able to report that the British economy was in a strong position, not merely in relation to productivity, but elsewhere. When I think back to the time when I was in opposition and the hon. Gentleman was a Minister—[Interruption.] If we look back 10 years, we see that this country is in a rather stronger economic position now than it was then. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to remind the House of the 15 per cent. interest rates, the unemployment that stood at more than 3 million, and the gross underinvestment in our public services at that time. So, I am pleased to say that I was able to give a rather better analysis of the state of the British economy than I would have been able to do when the hon. Gentleman was in office.

John Cryer (Hornchurch)

I was pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say, particularly about debt and education. May I remind him that, more than a decade ago, almost as a direct result of International Monetary Fund policies in Rwanda, tuition fees were imposed on secondary school children there and, later, even on primary school children? As a direct result, those children were wandering the streets when the militias started recruiting and they consequently became involved in the civil conflict. Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that he will do all he can to ensure that such policies are not pursued in any African country, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa? Secondly, does he detect any inconsistency between the reactions in certain quarters to Mugabe and the previous reactions to Pinochet?

The Prime Minister

I think I will leave the last part to general speculation.

Mr. Duncan Smith

Answer the question.

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to shout protests of support for General Pinochet, he is perfectly entitled to do so. To be absolutely honest, that is on a par with the rest of his judgments on foreign policy. As for the other question—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman should be advised against making sedentary interventions, as he is not very good at them.

In relation to the first part of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer), there is a serious issue about Rwanda. It is extremely important that we keep up support for Rwanda and I think that we are probably the largest single donor to it, but the key to that part of Africa is a stable resolution of the conflict. We will play our part in that and we are working far more closely, for example, with the French than ever before. All those issues, such as education, can be far better dealt with in that context.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells)

Will the Prime Minister comment on the Oxfam report published in April that shows that the European Union applies the highest tariff peaks against the world's poorest countries and also that the EU launches more anti-dumping measures against the developing world than America, Canada and Japan combined? What is he doing to puncture that hypocrisy in the EU, which pretends to be and promotes itself as the friend of the poor, but in reality keeps out their products?

The Prime Minister

We are pressing very hard for Europe to change its position, which is important. Of course, the everything but arms initiative, which has been of help to some of the poorest countries, very much came about as a result of the initiatives taken by this Government, but I have to say that the only way we will get the EU to move is by being in a position of some influence in the EU, not on the sidelines of it. That is why I have to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's general position on Europe, and that of his Front Benchers.

Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands)

I very much share and welcome the focus on Africa and the developing world, but during the discussions on agricultural subsidies was concern expressed about the recently passed United States Farm Bill, which massively increased production subsidies? Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that that will undermine and jeopardise our efforts to reform the common agricultural policy?

The Prime Minister

That is why it is important to try to knock down protectionism of all sorts, and concern was certainly expressed by the African countries about the United States Farm Bill and about the CAP. That is why it is important that we continue our efforts to reform the CAP, which would in any event be necessary as 10 additional countries are coming into the EU.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

Despite the Prime Minister's reaffirmation here today of his support for the Anglo-American alliance, has he noted that, since his recent talk with President Bush about Palestine, some commentators seem to think that the lengthening list of countries scheduled for regime change by the United States now includes the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister

I thank the hon. Gentleman, both for his contribution to the transatlantic friendship and for the implication of his statement that, certainly, the United Kingdom Government are unlikely to be changed by the Conservative Opposition—that is for sure. Let me say to him that there are people on the right of politics, such as him and the leader of the Conservative party, and some, indeed, on the left who want to cause trouble for this relationship wherever they possibly can. That is wrong, it is irresponsible and it is not in this country's national interest.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has ensured that the African agenda is so firmly on the G8 summit agenda. A moment ago, he said that conflict resolution is particularly important, but does he agree that tackling HIV/AIDS is almost equally important due to its capacity to undermine the ability of countries to deliver on the plan? He said that that is part of the plan, but will he say more about the importance he attaches to it and whether the plan is a robust, effective and realistic response to the issue?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is entirely right—HIV/AIDS is a major part of the problem in Africa, where millions of people have died of the disease in the past few years. The frustrating thing is that people know what works: we can see that in the programmes in Uganda and other countries that have taken effective action against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I think that I am right in saying that Africa is the only continent in the world where people's life expectations are falling rather than rising. That is blighting development in Africa.

We established the global health fund, and we are putting money into it. We are also trying to ensure that pharmaceutical companies, drugs companies and others work with us to ensure that the drugs that provide people with the most effective treatment are freely available. I agree with my hon. Friend entirely—all these issues must be dealt with together. A major part of the efforts to improve the situation on HIV/AIDS is the investment in education, sex education and poverty reduction.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)

Did the G8 summit consider the recent report by the Salvation Army, which warned of an impending crisis in sub-Saharan Africa partly because of the floods, but also paradoxically because of drought? The Salvation Army report warns of a serious starvation problem. If the G8 summit considered that report, what does it intend to do about the problem? If it did not, will the Prime Minister look into that report urgently?

The Prime Minister

The Salvation Army and many others have been active on this issue, and I congratulate them on the position that they have taken. An important part of the deliberations had to do with water and sanitation. It was agreed at the G8 that that would form a major part of the discussions in South Africa in September. We hope that we will be able to put forward specific proposals for dealing with drought in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Prime Minister expand on his significant references in his opening statement to foreign weapons scientists? Did he have Iraq in mind? Whatever one's views on Iraq, would not it at least be wise to have an endorsement from the G8 and the United Nations before contemplating further military bombing action?

The Prime Minister

On the last point, I have nothing to add to what I have said on many occasions. On the first point, I did not have the weapons scientists in Iraq particularly in mind. Although it may seem strange and prosaic to say so, it is important to realise that large numbers of people are employed on those programmes and if we are not careful they may be poached and employed by rogue states or terrorist groups. Dealing with the scientists who have been engaged in these weapons of mass destruction programmes is an important part of the overall deal.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire)

The Prime Minister briefly mentioned heroin production in Afghanistan, which is a scourge not only on the streets of the west, but in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Could he give more details of what steps were agreed to curb the production of Afghan heroin, given that it is estimated that about 90 per cent.—some say 98 per cent.—of the heroin in this country comes from Afghanistan?

The Prime Minister

That is right: 90 per cent. or more of the heroin on British streets comes from Afghanistan. I think that about 70 per cent. of total world production of heroin comes from Afghanistan. We are engaged in intensive efforts to destroy as much of the poppy crop as possible. For this year, we have achieved a certain level of success—not as much as we would want, but a significant percentage of the crop was destroyed. We have agreed at the G8 summit and elsewhere that we will step up those efforts for next year. That will include ensuring that the farmers in Afghanistan are given alternative sources of production, taking action against people who are trading and dealing in the drug, and in particular taking action at the borders of Afghanistan where the drugs leave that country.

One startling fact is that if we analyse what happens on the ground, we discover that the farmers in Afghanistan do not make much money out of that crop; the money is made further down the line. I believe that it is possible to persuade farming communities to engage in a better, more sustainable, legal form of production. That is what we are trying to do, and the G8 agreed that we should step up those efforts.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

I agree with the Prime Minister about the importance of our relationship with the United States. However, does he share my concerns that unilateralist action by the American Administration with regard to the International Criminal Court could lead to great instability in the Balkans and withdrawals from Kosovo and Bosnia? Does that not emphasise again the importance of the European Union countries working collectively for the common security and defence policy?

The Prime Minister

My understanding is that discussions are continuing on the UN situation in Bosnia. I think that we should let those discussions continue and give them a fair wind.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

When will the EU member states sit down to hammer out a thoroughgoing reform of the common agricultural policy? I am glad that the Prime Minister agrees that the way in which it prevents fair trade for African countries is a moral outrage. Is it not time for him to get his colleagues to do something about it?

The Prime Minister

Those discussions continue the entire time. The right hon. Gentleman knows which interests are blocking reform. However, we have at least a better chance of achieving reform with the enlargement of the European Union, because if the common agricultural policy is not reformed at that stage the payments will be unacceptable. The United Kingdom, Germany and other countries are leading the charge on this; we must ensure that we overcome substantial resistance elsewhere. It will take some time, but that is what we will try to do.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on efforts to reduce trafficking in heroin, not least because of the effect on south Wales valley constituencies where heroin use is becoming something of an epidemic. The next epidemic might well be crack cocaine. Was there any discussion at the G8 summit on international trafficking in crack cocaine?

The Prime Minister

There was no specific discussion at the summit, but we are working with other countries that are faced by the same menace to take all and any action that we can to deal with the problem. This is a recent phenomenon—particular countries are sourcing this and particular organised gangs are trading in it. We are working very hard at a police and intelligence level to deal with it.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

Although we warmly welcome the G8 summit's concentration on the NEPAD proposals, and although I hope that the Prime Minister was correct in observing that Zimbabwe is the exception rather than the norm in Africa, may I put it to him that it was unfortunate that Zimbabwe was not criticised by the summit? Zimbabwe is heavily involved in the Congo civil war; its regime has singularly failed to feed the Zimbabwean people due to attacks on farmers, white and black; and the recent election was a classic case of corruption. If we are to ensure that all other African nations can respond to the NEPAD proposals positively, surely we should be seen to be taking action, bravely and correctly, against Zimbabwe at the G8 summit and elsewhere.

The Prime Minister

Everything that the right hon. Gentleman says about Zimbabwe is right—the question is, what is the best way to effect change? My view is that the best way is to put all possible pressure on the African countries in the region that have the greatest ability to influence the situation. I was able, during the course of the G8 summit, to talk to President Mbeki and President Obasanjo about that. It is extremely important that we keep up that pressure and make it clear, as I have just done, that Zimbabwe cannot benefit from the African deal from NEPAD. We are obliged to give certain humanitarian assistance, but Zimbabwe will get no other assistance from us and from those other countries. I am afraid the tragedy is that change is most likely to come from the region or within. We must work in the most effective way possible.

It is not really an issue of courage; our position on Zimbabwe is clear and open. Sometimes, being the country that always takes the lead does not help some of the opposition forces in Zimbabwe. The right hon. Gentleman probably realises that. However, we do everything that we can and if there are sensible and constructive suggestions as to what else we can do, we will certainly listen to them.