G8

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 19th June 2013.

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Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 12:43 pm, 19th June 2013

I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s statement. Let me start by commending him on holding the summit in Northern Ireland. Fifteen years ago, holding a G8 summit in Enniskillen would have been unthinkable. Peace has transformed Enniskillen, and the location of this summit alone is testament to what can be achieved through politics and dialogue. It is a credit to all the people of Northern Ireland.

Let me take the G8 issues in turn. On hunger and nutrition, it is completely unacceptable that there is enough food in the world for everyone, yet 1 billion people still go hungry and 2.3 million children die every year from malnutrition. I therefore welcome the agreements and commitments made during the hunger summit. The task must now be to ensure that these commitments will be delivered. Does the Prime Minister agree that we are right to stick by our pledge of 0.7% aid as a proportion of national income and does he further agree with me that we should be using all the moral force that we gain from that position to urge others to follow suit?

On trade, we welcome and support the launch of negotiations on a free trade agreement between Europe and the United States. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will tell all his colleagues, including the Cabinet, that this is a timely reminder of the importance for jobs and prosperity of staying in the European Union?

On tax havens, the Prime Minister said that one of his goals was to make sure that there will be public registries of who owns companies and trusts. What blocked getting agreement on that at the G8? Will he clarify whether the agreement reached by rich countries on information sharing, which he mentioned in his statement, will from the outset apply to developing countries? As the IF campaign has said,

“a summit focussed on transparency can’t justify keeping this information secret” from poorer countries.

Let me turn to the devastating situation in Syria. It was right for the Prime Minister to prioritise this crisis and make it the focus of this week’s talks. We welcome the announcements of additional humanitarian relief, in particular the doubling of UK aid. However, as the Prime Minister has said, the answer to this humanitarian crisis is a political solution. All of us recognise the scale of the challenge of bringing together an international community that has been deeply divided on this issue, and there are no easy options.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that it was

“a strong and purposeful statement on Syria”.

Although we welcome the centrepiece of that statement being a commitment to the Geneva II conference, will the Prime Minister explain why there was no agreement on its starting date? It is being reported that the conference is now being pushed to July or even later in August. Based on his discussions this week, could he now tell us when he expects the conference to take place?

On the substance of Geneva II, the Prime Minister has spoken today about the importance of the agreement in Enniskillen on a transitional governing body with full Executive authority, based on the maintenance of key institutions of the state and an inclusive political settlement. Does he accept, however, that every one of those commitments featured in the Geneva I communiqué back in June 2012? The Prime Minister spoke of this G8 providing a moment of clarity on Syria, but will he set out how in concrete terms yesterday’s statement moves us closer to a political settlement?

On arming the rebels, the Prime Minister now says that it is not his policy to do so. Given that the Geneva conference has already been delayed, is he able to envisage any circumstances in which he would seek to arm the rebels before the conference takes place?

Given the limited nature or the progress achieved this week, does the Prime Minister still maintain that focusing so much time and effort in the days and weeks preceding the summit on lifting the EU arms embargo was the right way to spend political capital and energy?

The reality is that we did not witness the long-hoped-for breakthrough on Syria at the G8 summit, and we need to be candid about that. None of us should doubt the difficulties of the choices that confront this Government and all Governments around the world. The Prime Minister knows that, on the steps agreed this week to tackle terrorism and on the issues of Afghanistan and, indeed, Libya, I have given him my full support. May I urge him in the months ahead, however, to proceed with the greatest possible clarity on his strategy and purpose and to seek to build the greatest possible consensus across this House?