HL Deb 14 June 2004 vol 662 cc531-42

4.43 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the G8 Summit in the United States, which I attended last week. I thank President Bush for his chairmanship of the summit and the people of Georgia for hosting it. I have placed copies of the Chair's summary and summit documents in the House Libraries.

"At the outset, I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing my condolences to the families of the two British contractors killed in Iraq this morning.

"At the G8 summit, we all agreed on the importance of transferring authority in Iraq at the end of the month to a fully sovereign Iraqi Government. We welcomed the formation of the new Iraqi Interim Government. The unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the resolution on Iraq demonstrates the international consensus to support the new government of Iraq under Prime Minister Allawi and to support the vision of a modern, democratic, federal and stable Iraq.

"The new president of Iraq expressed his thanks for the sacrifices made by the coalition forces to free his country from the evils of the Saddam regime. He was absolutely clear that there was no desire among the Iraqi people to go back to the past. He entirely rejected the notion that the people of Iraq were unable to make democracy work or that the insurgents represented anything other than a small minority of Iraqis. Indeed, he described the reality to us vividly. Those who carry out violent attacks, blowing up water and oil pipelines, leaving ordinary Iraqis to go without power, are not patriots, he said. They are terrorists whose agenda is to cause chaos. They are determined to stop us succeeding. But we will succeed, with Iraq not just a better place for Iraqis but for the wider region and the world.

"This led on to a discussion of the initiative to help build reform across the broader Middle East and North Africa region. We agreed a set of proposals to help bring greater democracy, freedom and stability to the whole of that region, working in support of those in the region who want to make progress towards modernisation and reform. Reform must of course come from within. The G8 responded positively to ideas from regional leaders, most notably at the Arab League Summit in Tunis, where Arab leaders expressed their determination firmly to establish the basis for democracy".

"We met a number of leaders from the region—from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and Turkey. We agreed a comprehensive and detailed plan of support to give momentum to the initiative. We set out concrete measures to address the illiteracy, poverty and under-development of the region, to make the most of the region's entrepreneurial and cultural traditions on which it could thrive. We established the Forum for the Future, which will bring together foreign and economic Ministers from the G8 and countries in the region. The inaugural meeting will be held in the autumn.

"We also discussed the Middle East peace process. We agreed that the basis for progress is still the road map, which sets out the path to the two-state solution. We agreed that the quartet should meet in the region before the end of this month, and that it should now come up with a specific set of actions to restore momentum on the road map. Those should cover political reform of the Palestinian Administration, a security plan and an economic plan.

"Taken together, all these various initiatives amount to a vision of a Middle East which is no longer a source of instability and extremism, but of increasingly more democratic states which respect different religions and human rights and can live peacefully within the world community.

"On the final day of the summit, we concentrated on Africa. Leaders from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Algeria and Uganda joined us. African issues are now a well established part of the G8 agenda. We agreed a number of new measures. We have to ensure that, when there is a conflict in Africa, we have the peacekeeping ability to back up and support a political settlement. So the G8 made a commitment to ensure that up to 75,000 peacekeeping troops will be trained and ready to be deployed on peacekeeping operations by 2010. The UK intends to train, directly or indirectly, 17,000 African troops in this period.

"We also discussed the grave humanitarian and political crisis in the Sudan, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development visited last week. The UK is the second largest donor to Sudan, giving £36.5 million this year alone. The G8 pledged assistance in ending the conflict and bringing humanitarian assistance to those in need. We agreed to work together to help the UN lead the international effort to avert a major humanitarian disaster. We also agreed a new initiative to extend AIDS vaccine research. We confirmed the polio eradication target. We agreed on new measures to help break the vicious cycle of famine and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.

"The Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries Initiative has given welcome relief to the crushing burden of debt that has held back so many of the poorest countries. We have already agreed some 70 billion dollars of debt relief for 27 countries, 23 of which are in Africa. We reaffirmed our commitment to implement and finance this initiative fully. We agreed to work with all parties concerned to extend the initiative from the end of this year to the end of 2006. This agreement opens the door for another 10 countries to benefit from over 30 billion dollars of debt relief. This will free up vital resources which can be spent on health and education and the eradication of poverty.

"This series of initiatives confirms the growing importance of Africa for all of us in the G8. The UK alone will spend £1 billion in Africa next financial year. A major part of the agenda for our G8 Summit next year will be the work of the Africa Commission that we have established. The commission will report back next spring with a series of agreed recommendations for action. We will then work with the rest of the G8 to take them forward.

"The other major part of the agenda for the UK presidency of the G8 in 2005 will be climate change. We need to make progress with ratification of Kyoto; but we also need to look beyond Kyoto and its 2012 time frame.

"We had an extensive discussion of the world economy. We agreed on the need for further structural reforms in our economies to accelerate growth. We discussed the current level of oil prices, notably the recent pledge by OPEC to increase production. On trade, there was broad agreement to press ahead with the Doha Development Round. We called on all parties to take the measures necessary to get the round moving forward. The benefits are clear: substantially reducing trade barriers could boost global incomes by 500 billion dollars a year, with most going to developing countries.

"On non-proliferation, we adopted an action plan building on and enhancing the existing global non-proliferation regime. We recognised the need to strengthen controls on the transfer of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology. We agreed to have new measures in place before next year's summit.

"The G8 was originally created to discuss economic issues. Of course we still do this but, increasingly, the focus has moved towards issues of international solidarity. This is because it is clear that in an interdependent world, what blights or enhances one part of the world affects the other parts too. It is morally right that we extend democracy, cut poverty, remove the causes of conflict and instability and bring the hope of advancement to all nations. But it is also now clearly in our enlightened self-interest.

"If global terrorism and the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are the new security threat that we face, we recognise that it cannot be defeated by security measures alone. Political freedom and rising prosperity as much as force of arms will be our ultimate shield. The G8 this year recognised this reality. We look forward to deepening it under British chairmanship next year".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.53 p.m.

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 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?

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, all individuals who play a leading role in perpetuating the illegitimate rule of Mugabe"? 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.

5 p.m.

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.

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, common vision of two states, Israel and a viable, democratic, sovereign and contiguous Palestine, living side by side in peace and security', 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 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?

5.9 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for their comments. I shall try to address the points that have been made. On the first point of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about seeking an assurance from the Government about staying the course on Iraq, I think that this Government have shown their absolute determination. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have made it absolutely clear that we intend to stick with the Iraqi people.

On the issue of sovereignty and political control, which was also raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, it will be a sovereign Iraqi Government and political control will rest with them. We have made that absolutely clear. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister confirmed that only this afternoon when making the Statement in another place. Noble Lords will know that troop activity is being dealt with through an exchange of letters. There has already been some discussion of that matter.

As regards NATO, the issue here is not as explained by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. It is not a matter of NATO being a successor to the coalition. There has been discussion about the possibility of NATO engaging in training of the new Iraqi army on the basis of requests from the new Iraqi Government. I do not see any problem with that, but clearly that would be a matter for discussion between the new Iraqi Government and NATO members.

The issue of Iraqi debt will be resolved through the Paris Club. I refer to differences with respect to the percentage of debt to be written off, rather than the principle of debt write off. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, regarding his comment about elections and postal ballots, nice try! Clearly, it will be for the Iraqi Government and the UN to determine the best method in that regard. The noble Lord will not draw me on that point.

As regards North Korea, six-party talks are ongoing although they are somewhat slow. Noble Lords will know that the EU and a number of EU Foreign Ministers, including my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, have been involved in discussions with Iran and have taken centre stage in them. IAEA meetings are ongoing today and tomorrow.

We are the second largest donor to Darfur. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said that we shall look into the possibility of a no-fly zone. I shall, of course, report to the House the outcome of any discussions on that.

As regards Zimbabwe and the refugee issue, I sent a letter on 26 May, which I put in the Library of the House, which makes clear that the Botswana Government issued a press statement on 22 April in which it made reference to the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana. The statement said that in 2002, 26,214 Zimbabweans had been involved in criminal activities in Botswana, and as of 25 March 2004, some 681 Zimbabweans were held in Botswana prisons. The statement also said that between 1 January and 25 March 2004, 8,394 illegal Zimbabwean immigrants had been repatriated to Zimbabwe. However, we have no way of clarifying those figures. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth spoke about the number of Zimbabwean refugees in Botswana and Mozambique in October 2003 and put the figure at some 400,000 in Botswana and 200,000 in Mozambique.

The Governor of the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank is not on the EU banned list. Noble Lords know that that list was expanded to include those at the heart of the Mugabe regime, but the Governor of the Reserve Bank is not on that list.

I rather think that the decision that was taken that Zimbabwe could not participate in Test series related to its inability to play cricket at the highest levels, rather than to anything else, due to an internal dispute with its cricketing authority.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to the membership of the G8. The noble Baroness will know that a number of outreach events have occurred; two at this summit and others at other summits. This is a meeting involving the richest countries in the world. Discussions have occurred about whether or not the G8 should be extended. Obviously, the extension from the G7 to the G8 was one aspect of that. As with discussions about the UN Security Council and whether that should be extended, noble Lords will understand that these are difficult and sensitive ongoing discussions. However, for the time being, we have to accept that the G8 involves the richest countries in the world. The outreach events are an important element of that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to Israel and the Middle East. I found the noble Baroness's comments somewhat negative, particularly in view of the progress that has been made recently. The noble Baroness is normally extremely fair in addressing these issues. I do not think we can say often enough that we seek a two-state solution. There are still many who do not even agree that that is something for which we should aim. It is important that we restate that commitment.

A UN Security Council resolution has condemned what happened in Raffa. That is very important indeed. There was no veto of that resolution on the part of the United States. The Quartet has come up with a number of practical measures that need to be taken forward. I refer to the issue of security for Palestine. The noble Baroness will know that we have played a very important part in that regard. A World Bank trust fund for Palestine has been established. Progress is being made. It is not as fast as some of us would wish, but we all know that when dealing with peace processes one can take steps forward, steps back and sometimes one has to go sideways. However, the important thing is that the G8 has made the statement. There has been activity in the UN and elsewhere, and we need to concentrate on that.

I turn to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and to trade. The write off of 70 billion dollars of debt, and the potential for the write off of another 30 billion, with the addition of 10 further countries to the HIPC initiative, is very important indeed. Again, I found the noble Baroness's tone on that matter somewhat negative. I cannot agree more with the noble Baroness regarding trade. We need to see an end to export subsidies. We have worked tirelessly to achieve that. The G8 has called for decisions to be made by July with respect to the framework for continuing WTO negotiations. We need to continue on that path.

5.17 p.m.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, I note that the noble Baroness did not say why the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is not on the banned list. That is surprising considering that he is well known to be more important than most members of the Zimbabwe Cabinet.

Did the G8 leaders, possibly at the lunch they had with six leading African statesmen, urge the African leaders to speak out against Mr Mugabe's recent announcement that all arable land in Zimbabwe is to be nationalised with all the terrible consequences that will have for the Zimbabwe economy, which is already in a terminal state, and the bad effect that it will have on the economies of the neighbouring countries? If they expressed those wishes, and urged the African leaders to speak out accordingly, what was the response of the African leaders, and if they did not do so, why not?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord will know, because I have said it many times from this Dispatch Box, as has my noble friend Lady Symons, that we have had ongoing discussions on Zimbabwe with our African partners, including with a number of the leaders represented at the G8 meeting. I believe that on the previous occasion that I answered a Question on Zimbabwe I made it absolutely clear why I considered that African leaders felt able to make very strong comments in private but not in public; namely, because of the history of Zimbabwe, the perceptions of their people with regard to the role of the British Government in that, and the fact that UK governments historically have been seen as supporting white farmers and a grab for land—that is how it has been described to me by Africans—and not supporting the black population of Zimbabwe when it needed to have its land back.

Lord Prior

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware of the deep resentment of the United States and Britain that still exists, not so much regarding their part in the war but its aftermath? Will she impress on her colleagues the importance of not believing that a western-style democracy will come quickly to the Arab world or is necessarily the right answer to the problems that the Arabs face? If we try to do too much to press that, there will be an even greater reaction and greater resentment among people who are very proud and independent?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord heard what was said in the Statement, which is that the G8 made it absolutely clear that it wants to support the reform agenda of those in the Middle East. It is not a matter of us seeking to impose anything, but very much one of supporting the reform activity being undertaken in the Middle East by those countries and leaders who are moving in that direction.