European Council

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 23rd June 2009.

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Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party 3:31 pm, 23rd June 2009

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks in support of the decisions of the European Council. I shall start where he ended, on Afghanistan. Let me make it absolutely clear that the number of troops in Afghanistan, as a result of decisions we made a few months ago, has risen over the course of this year from 8,100 to 9,000. That will be the case until after the Afghanistan elections take place over the summer and autumn months. There has been an increase, not a decrease, in the number of troops that we have set aside for the vital purpose of defending democracy in Afghanistan. I know the sacrifices that our British forces have made and the difficult terrain in which they operate, and I think the whole House will want to give them support in the magnificent efforts in which they are engaged to keep the peace in Afghanistan, bring stability to the region and ensure that democratic elections take place.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned law and order, and I want to remind him of one justice and home affairs issue. As part of the Lisbon treaty negotiation, we secured an extension of our existing opt-in to asylum and migration measures, but we remain ready to co-operate on issues to deal with crime, so that we can deal particularly with the problem of organised crime across Europe.

We are in agreement on the importance of climate change, and indeed of the new evidence that is now available to us about the seriousness of the problem. The challenge for us is to get an agreement internationally on two big issues, and hopefully we can make progress even before Copenhagen. The first is to get intermediate targets so that countries are bound not simply to long-term targets but to intermediate ones—2020, 2025 and so on. I believe that we are making progress, but a number of countries have still to make their announcements on what they are prepared to do. The second thing is financing and the energy efficiency measures that have to be taken in developing countries, which do not have the money to move from, say, coal or other relatively cheaper sources to the energy-efficient investment that we are asking them to make. The world will have to make available the necessary resources, which is part of the discussion that we must have in the run-up to Copenhagen.

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about the importance of financial services to our economy, but as I said to him last week, I do not think that he can assume that high street or ordinary retail banks and investment banks are not both sources of the problems that we have had, because high street banks had problems and investment banks had problems. His determination to separate the two is perhaps not the best way to move forward. In both cases, what we need is proper supervision, but we need it now, at a cross-border and international level. That is the purpose of the European measures that we have brought forward. I know that he wants to support greater co-operation in Europe, and this is one way in which British banks and British financial institutions can benefit from greater European co-operation.

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