With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G7 in Germany earlier this week. I went to the summit with two clear aims: to advance our economic security and to protect our national security. The two, of course, are interlinked, because you cannot have one without the other, and I believe that at this summit we made some progress on both.
First, on economic security, we reached important agreements on trade, global poverty, green growth and corruption. On trade, I was determined to progress the EU’s trade deals with other G7 countries, which, together, could be worth around £20 billion to our economy every year. The G7 agreed to step up efforts on the EU-Japan deal and to accelerate immediately all work on the EU-US trade deal. It is over 700 days since we launched negotiations at the G8 at Lough Erne and every day without a deal is costing the global economy £630 million, so the agreement talks about finalising the outline of an agreement by the end of this year.
We want all countries to grow, including the poorest, not just for their benefit, but because we all benefit from the wider increase in global growth. So we should never forget what has been called the “bottom billion”. We agreed on the importance of setting ambitious goals at the UN in September that can eradicate extreme poverty in our world by 2030, and we reaffirmed our previous commitments on aid. Britain is keeping its promises to the poorest in the world, and I directly encourage others to do the same.
Turning to green growth, there were important agreements about the global deal we hope to reach in Paris at the end of the year. It needs sufficiently ambitious emissions targets to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 2° within reach. It needs binding rules with real transparency and accountability, so that countries have to follow through their commitments. And it needs a long-term goal for emissions cuts at the upper end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations, so that businesses have the confidence to invest in low-carbon technology. We also reaffirmed our strong commitment to mobilise the climate finance that will be so essential for developing nations and making sure that they sign up to an agreement.
There was a new element that I added to this G7, and that was fighting corruption. We met just after the FIFA scandal, but the point I made was that corruption is not just wrecking an institution that is vital for football, but is sitting at the heart of so many of the problems we face around the world today. Cutting corruption by just 10% could benefit the global economy by $380 billion every year. And corruption does not just threaten our prosperity; it undermines our security, too. So at this summit I was determined that we should do more to confront this issue. In Britain we have passed the Bribery Act, with a 40-strong team of criminal investigators to enforce it, and we have ensured that all our 28 country aid programmes include anti-corruption measures. But we need the full support of our international partners. We made some progress in Germany: we reaffirmed our commitment to the issues around tax and transparency that I first put on the table in Lough
Erne two years ago; we will work with the OECD and the G20 to finalise an international plan to stop companies from artificially shifting their profits across borders to avoid taxes; and the G7 will push for a targeted monitoring process to ensure its implementation. More than 90 countries have agreed to share their tax information automatically by the end of 2018, and the G7 urged others to follow suit so that more people pay the tax that is due.
Britain has become the first major country in the world to establish a public central registry of who really owns companies, and now other countries must follow, with the implementation of their own national action plans, which is a key step in countering money laundering and corruption. We also agreed that leaders should give special focus to corruption in the run-up to the UN in September and the G20 in Turkey, which will culminate in a major anti-corruption summit in London next year.
Turning to national security, a number of issues were discussed, beginning with ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We have a three-pronged strategy. First, in Iraq, we are helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defeat ISIL on the ground. We have already trained more than 1,200 Kurdish troops in Irbil, and at the summit I announced that we will now deploy an additional 125 military personnel to expand that training effort right across Iraq. Secondly, I met Prime Minister Abadi and reiterated our support for his efforts to build an inclusive Government that brings the country together against the common enemy that is ISIL. Thirdly, we need to do more to tackle the causes—not just the consequences—of this terrorist threat. That means defeating the poisonous ideology of extremism at home and abroad.
In Syria, there is no greater recruiting sergeant for ISIL than President Assad’s war against his own people, so the G7 called for a genuine UN-led political transition as the only way to bring peace and defeat terrorism in Syria.
In Libya, there is a real danger of ISIL terrorists exploiting ungoverned spaces to establish a new base from which to plot attacks against European countries while criminal gangs are exploiting an open corridor to make Libya the new gateway to Europe for people smuggling. We agreed to give our full backing to the UN-led effort to put in place a national unity Government in Libya, and we agreed on a comprehensive approach to going after the gangs who are trafficking people, to stabilise the countries from which those people are coming and to continue to play our full part in the humanitarian rescue mission. Britain is playing its part in all of those things, with HMS Bulwark picking up another 2,500 people at the weekend.
We are also stepping up our efforts to support Nigeria. I met President Buhari during the summit and also discussed with President Obama how we can best help Nigeria to tackle corruption and to win the fight against Boko Haram. The National Security Council has agreed that that will be a specific priority. We are setting up a new cross-Government unit dedicated to that task and we will be offering significant help, including training the Nigerian army to help in its work to defeat Boko Haram.
Turning to global health, playing our part in fighting disease overseas is not just a moral obligation but the single most effective way of preventing diseases infecting people here in the UK. Following the Ebola outbreak, it was right that the G7 devoted significant time to finding out how best to try and prevent a future global pandemic. At the summit, I announced that we would create a new £20 million UK research and development fund, focused on breakthrough medicines. We are also leading by example in promoting greater transparency over clinical trials and forming our own crack team of medics that can deploy rapidly to tackle infection outbreaks anywhere in the world. We are learning the lesson of the slow response to Ebola, chiefly by the World Health Organisation.
Finally, this was the second year running that we met as a G7 rather than a G8. President Obama summed up the choice facing President Putin: he can either continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation or he can recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries. The G7 was clear and unambiguous about its position: diplomatic efforts must succeed in restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and existing sanctions must remain in place until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.
We expect Russia to stop trans-border support of separatist forces and use its influence on them to bring violence to an end. We were clear that we
“stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require.”
Fully implementing Minsk also means action from Ukraine. It is vital that President Poroshenko’s Government has the support needed to deliver the necessary political and economic reforms. The UK is already helping through our good governance fund and we will continue to look at what more we can do, but we should never forget that Ukrainians are the victims and not the aggressors.
Following the general election, with our economy growing, the deficit falling and unemployment tumbling, people can see that Britain is back. We are working for trade deals; fighting corruption; leading the battle against poverty, disease and climate change; fighting ISIL over the skies of Iraq; saving lives in the Mediterranean; and standing firm with sanctions against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. On every front, we are playing a leading role in advancing prosperity and security around the world, and in doing so, delivering both the economic and national security on which our own future depends. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I welcome the conclusions of the summit, including the reaffirmation of the G7’s aid commitment and the commitment to fighting corruption and to fighting disease overseas. I particularly welcome the support for Nigeria.
As the Prime Minister said, this is the second G7 summit from which Russia has been excluded. It is right that there should be consequences for what it is doing in Ukraine, and Russia should continue to be excluded until President Putin changes course. Sanctions against Russia should remain until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented. European Union sanctions will expire at the end of July, and the Prime Minister has said that they should be rolled over. He said in his statement that the G7 stands ready to take further restrictive measures, so will he argue at the next EU Council for sanctions to be strengthened?
At the summit, the Prime Minister acknowledged that sanctions are also having an impact on those who are imposing them, so it is right that G7 leaders agreed that more must be done to support those EU member states that are being particularly affected. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what that could mean in practice?
The Prime Minister mentioned the fight against ISIL, and we have seen the horrors of what they are doing in Mosul. It is extremely worrying to see their advances in recent weeks, particularly into Ramadi. A strong and united approach to tackling ISIL continues to be vital. We back the UK’s contribution to that effort and welcome the extra 125 military trainers being sent to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister.
As the Prime Minister said, the Iraqi Government must be supported in their efforts to push back ISIL’s advance and to restore stability and security across the country, so is there a need to further accelerate the recruitment, training and equipping of Iraqi forces? An inclusive and enduring political settlement is vital, so is Britain continuing to press the Iraqi Government to do more to reach out to Sunni tribes, who are key to that?
The summit also reached important conclusions on the global economy and climate change. Can the Prime Minister confirm whether, in discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he sought specific assurances from President Obama that our NHS will be protected? On climate change, will the Prime Minister clarify whether the G7’s commitment to a global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions will, like our Climate Change Act 2008, be legally binding?
Most of the press coverage of the G7 summit was not about the global economy, climate change or ISIL; it was once again about the Tories rowing about Europe, and it was entirely of the Prime Minister’s own doing. On Sunday, he spent the flight to Germany boasting to journalists that he would sack any Cabinet Minister who did not toe the line on the referendum. On Monday, a loyal Minister was dispatched to the “Today” programme to drive home the Prime Minister’s tough line.
Later that very day, however, the Prime Minister sounded the retreat: the travelling press had apparently misheard—it was a case not so much of collective responsibility for the Cabinet, but of collective mishearing by the travelling press pack. That sometimes happens on a flight: your ears get blocked. The Prime Minister graciously and kindly said to them:
“If you’re not certain about something I said…ask”.
May I say how grateful I am for that new approach? There are things that people are still uncertain about, so I ask the Prime Minister: what are his reform proposals and his red lines? Will he say clearly now whether, when he has finished negotiating and he comes back arguing for a yes vote, he will sack Ministers who do not agree with him, or does he agree with the Mayor of London, who says that Ministers can vote as they want? What about the Work and Pensions Secretary? Will the quiet man be here to stay, or will he be allowed to turn up the volume?
Yet again, another international summit vital to our national interests has ended in the usual way: a Tory Prime Minister fighting with his own party on Europe.
I enjoyed the last bit of the right hon. and learned Lady’s speech; that was going back to the old Punch and Judy that she rather restrained herself from at Prime Minister’s questions. There was only one problem, which is the premise that all this happened with journalists on the plane and their not being able to hear. I can confirm that there were no journalists on the plane, so next time, she might want to get the details straight.
Let me go back to the beginning of her speech. On Russia, I am very grateful for her backing for the sanctions. She asked about the EU Council in June and the aim there will be a full rollover of the sanctions. More sanctions would be produced, I believe, if Russia took further aggressive action. We hope that that does not happen, but Russia needs to know that there would be costs if it did. We need to be cautious on the question of helping other EU states. Putting in place sanctions damages all European countries in different ways, and Britain itself faces some damage, but our argument should be not that we can individually compensate EU states but that it is in all our collective and individual interests that the rules-based system of our world continues to work and that Russia does not violate it. We should make that argument first before we consider whether there are separate measures we can take.
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her support of our campaign against ISIL in Iraq. She is absolutely right that that is being driven by the Iraqi Government and the long-term answer to the problems in Iraq and Syria is inclusive Governments that can represent all of their people. I am grateful for her support for the extra 125 personnel we have sent. She asked whether, in our view, Iraq needs to do more to reach out to the Sunni tribes and to train more of the security forces. She is right on both counts and that needs to happen.
On the question of TTIP, I would argue that the NHS is protected. There is no way that a TTIP agreement can lead to changes in our NHS. I suggest to the Labour party that instead of raising the profile of a threat that does not exist and trying to seek false reassurances, it would be better if the whole of the UK political system could come together and push the Americans to go further and put more on the table, so that this trade deal benefits working people in Britain. That is the argument we need to make.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked about the climate change agreement. Our view is that it should be legally binding and that is what we are pressing for. The language in the communiqué is progress and America is pitching into these arguments, but of course we would like them to go further.
I think that we dealt with all the European stuff during Prime Minister’s questions. We should lift our eyes to the horizon. She says that we are back to the usual service of the 1990s, but there is something very different about this Government compared with the Governments of the 1990s, either of a Labour persuasion or of a Conservative persuasion, in that we have made the historic decision to let the people decide when it comes to Europe.
I am pleased to hear from the Prime Minister that there was time at the G7 to consider the humanitarian tragedy in the Mediterranean, where huge numbers of people are drowning trying to flee conditions in their own countries. I agree with him that the long-term solution is development aid in the countries from which they come, but was there discussion of an international diplomatic effort and the giving of administrative and technical support to the Government of the failed state in Libya, which remains a lawless space through which huge numbers of people will continue to come unless and until some sort of stability is restored to the country?
My right hon. and learned Friend has identified the core part of the problem that needs to be solved urgently, which is the need for a Government of national unity in Libya. We can and do offer technical assistance, border security and the training of Libyans, but until there is a Government they do not join up and make a comprehensive strategy. At the G7, we talked about ensuring that our Foreign Ministers and others do everything they can to support Special Representative León and his work to form that Government. Once that is done, we can pour in the assistance to help them deal with the criminal gangs and secure their borders.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. There is much in the communiqué to be commended. For example, the first paragraph states:
“We are committed to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality, to the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to fostering peace and security.”
We on the Scottish National party Benches will support human rights by seeking to protect the Human Rights Act in the weeks and months ahead. The communiqué also contains paragraphs on the global economy and the need for growth and on women's entrepreneurship, two areas that are vital throughout the world.
On tax, tax evasion and anti-corruption measures, I am sure that the Prime Minister would like to confirm that every co-operation has been given to the Swiss and US legal authorities in relation to FIFA. On trade, the communiqué welcomes progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but the Prime Minister will also be aware of the concerns about the potential adverse impact on public service provision such as the national health service. What safeguards did the Prime Minister highlight as UK Government requirements to protect the NHS? We have heard him say from the Dispatch Box that there is no reason for concern. If there is no reason for concern, I see good prospects of those safeguards being included in any final TTIP deal, so why not secure that on the face of the treaty?
On foreign policy, I agree with the G7 conclusions about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the role of Russia and the need to maintain sanctions against the Russian state, but I warn of the risks of the situation in eastern Ukraine becoming a frozen conflict. Anybody who has witnessed what happened in eastern Europe since the fall of the iron curtain will be aware of what has happened from Transnistria to South Ossetia and from Abkhazia to Nagorno-Karabakh and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although the immediacy of the situation merits action, there must also be a medium and long-term perspective for normalisation.
I welcome the provisions on maritime order and maritime security. These are relevant to the Pacific and also in our northern European neighbourhood. I encourage the UK Government to take this seriously for a change. The high north and the Arctic did not even rate a mention in the last strategic defence and security review—I hope that they will be included in the forthcoming SDSR—and the UK has not a single maritime patrol aircraft.
Finally, I will welcome the inclusion of migration and refugees in the G7 conclusions. I asked the Prime Minister about that last week. Has he had any time to reflect on the appalling UK record of giving refuge to those fleeing the war in Syria and elsewhere? Does he now not agree that he should be working with his international colleagues, with those in the European Union foremost amongst them, so that we all take a fair share of those requiring refuge?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response. Let me take all his points in turn. On maritime security and the SDSR, he is right to make the point that the high north and the Arctic should be carefully considered in the SDSR and I will ensure that that happens. I do not agree with him on our record on refugees. We have an excellent record and we are the second largest bilateral donor to ensure that those people fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq are properly looked after. We have a programme for resettling particularly vulnerable families, but if he thinks that the answer to a refugee crisis of tens of millions of people is a resettlement programme, he is completely wrong. The answer must be stabilising those countries and allowing people to return.
I think the hon. Gentleman is right about frozen conflicts. One reason we should take the problems of Russian aggression into Ukraine so seriously is to be clear that we will not tolerate the situations that happened in Georgia and elsewhere, where frozen conflicts have been created. It is important that we take a strong stand through sanctions, unlike what happened with Georgia, where the international community moved on.
On TTIP, I will say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to Labour, that raising these false fears about potential privatisation of the NHS is a waste of an opportunity. In the English NHS, the commissioners of services will make the decisions and they invest over and over again in a national health service. In Scotland, as he knows, the only person who can privatise the NHS is the Scottish Government. Instead of raising false fears, we should be putting on the table bold proposals to open up American markets. For instance, the Scottish knitwear manufacturer that I visited recently, suffers from massive tariffs and wants to be able to sell into the US. He should spend his time looking after those businesses and those jobs and fighting for them.
On the question of tax evasion, tax avoidance and collaborating with the FIFA investigation, I am sure that we can give that reassurance but I will check carefully.
Finally, I say to the hon. Gentleman that I believe in human rights and I think that the best way to safeguard them is to have a British Bill of Rights. Why not have these decisions made in British courts rather than in Strasbourg courts? That is the position of the Government.
Further to discussions about Russia and ISIL, the Prime Minister will be aware that during Russia’s annexation of the Crimea the Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not have one in-house Crimea expert, and that at the height of the Arab spring the FCO was so thin on the ground that retired Arabists had to be recalled. Has not the time now come for greater investment in the FCO in order to help us navigate this increasingly uncertain world?
I can reassure my hon. Friend that the FCO is hiring more Russian speakers, but the advice I get from our excellent ambassador in Russia, Tim Barrow, is of a very high standard. His team works extremely hard and I want to take this opportunity to thank them publicly.
The hon. Lady makes an important point. I know from speaking to members of our armed forces that they benefit hugely from training in different countries and in different conditions. Training in Kenya and in Canada, as I understand it, is going to continue.
Whether or not one agrees with either side of the climate change argument, one thing is certain: we do not want to sign up to anything that damages our economy. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will not sign up to anything that does that?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. The argument that I would make to sceptics about the issue is that Britain has already taken some very significant steps to improve renewable energy and to improve the situation with regard to carbon emissions in transport, housing and elsewhere. It is now in our interest that other countries sign up to those things. That is why we can see from the discussions at the G7 that countries that have previously been at the back of the queue, such as China and America, are now coming forward with plans to make sure that they put such changes in place. Even if one is a sceptic about these matters, it is a time to get enthusiastic about a deal.
At the Enniskillen summit, many of my constituents were pleased that the Prime Minister took the lead on the issue of tax-dodging by major companies, which robs countries, especially developing countries, of major tax revenue. Two years on, companies are still thumbing their noses at national Governments on the issue of tax. When does the Prime Minister expect to see tangible results from the measures that were introduced and the promises made at the G7 summits?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I would be a bit more positive, in that two things have happened. One is that countries have signed up to the automatic exchange of tax information, which is vital. Secondly, the culture in business is changing.
Businesses now know that the old discussions about how they can minimise their tax bill will not stand up to public scrutiny. We see company after company now—we have seen it recently with some of those in the world of hot drinks—recognising that they need to engage in the debate and start paying taxes in the country where they make their money.
My hon. Friend is right. In looking at the components of a deal, we need Europe to come forward with an offer, which we have done, and we need America and China, the big countries, to be engaged in the debate, making offers about carbon emissions, but what will bring it all together is making sure that the advanced world brings forward climate finance funds, so that we can reassure poorer countries, island states and others that there will be assistance for them as they militate against climate change and make the necessary changes in their own economies. Britain has put a lot of money on the table. We now need others to do the same, and I think we will make progress in the coming months.
Further to the contributions of Mr Clarke and the leader of the Scottish National party, Prime Minister Renzi told the summit that 100,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The mechanism that we need is to have a partner with whom we can work. Frankly, until there is a Libyan Government and an ability to go after the criminal gangs and to turn people back as they get into boats, all the other steps we take—picking people up and all the rest of it—are vital for humanitarian reasons but will not add up to a policy that will reduce this migration flow. We have to recognise that the one place where that has worked in the past, the Spanish efforts to stop people going to the Canary islands, was where they were able to work with Governments, invest in those Governments and invest in the necessary security. That is the model we need to follow.
The Prime Minister has spoken about the conversations that he is having about stopping companies, particularly large companies, artificially shifting profits abroad. That made the British people very angry recently. Can my right hon. Friend give us a little more detail about the content of the discussions?
We are doing two things. One is working internationally to get that done; the OECD has been leading a piece of work on base erosion and profit shifting, trying to stop companies shifting their profits artificially around the world. The 90 countries that have signed up to automatic tax information exchange will give that work real teeth, but we have not waited for that. In this country in the last Budget the Chancellor introduced what was called the diverted profits tax, so that if we see a company that is making lots of money in the UK but not paying taxes in the UK, we can present it with a tax bill. So we are taking international action but we are not waiting for it here domestically. This is changing the culture of the companies concerned.
I hope the hon. Lady agrees that President Buhari’s election is a very important moment for Nigeria, because he won the election even though he was facing some pretty overwhelming odds in relation to what his opposing candidate’s party was doing, if I may put it that way in the most gentle form. President Buhari has a track record of fighting corruption and has put it at the top of his agenda. His speech at his inauguration was a model of doing that. He needs to sort out corruption in the army and in the oil department and industry. What Britain is trying to say is, “We are there as your partner and want to help you, so the more we can do to help you clean up this corruption, the better for people not only in Nigeria, but throughout the region and here too.”
May I commend the Prime Minister on his statement on ISIL? It is a national security threat. President Obama spoke about a developing plan for ISIL. Prime Minister Abadi is clearly trying to cope with bringing the Shi’a militias under the Iraqi army command. The Sunni Speaker of Parliament is talking about a Sunni national guard, and the Kurds are struggling to cope with 1.6 million internally displaced persons and a 1,000 km border with ISIL. Did my right hon. Friend discuss with President Obama that plan for redoubling the efforts, both in Iraq and in Syria, in respect of ISIL?
We had a pretty lengthy discussion about ISIL, because in my view Islamist extremists, violence and terrorism are the greatest threat that we face on the national security front. It is a threat that very directly affects us here and it is worrying how many people from Britain have gone to fight for ISIL, so we have to cope with this right across the piece. My hon. Friend is right: we need to invest in the Iraqi Government and their capacity to bring the country together by being a Government for all—Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd—and having security forces that represent all Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd. We need to encourage President Abadi to take bold steps in that direction, while helping him to train his forces, which is what our effort and above all the American effort is all about.
Order. As Members who were present during the previous Parliament will know, and as the Prime Minister can certainly testify, I am not averse to running exchanges on statements very fully because I think that is what democratic scrutiny requires. I simply point out that there are two heavily subscribed Opposition day debates today, and therefore there is a premium upon brevity.
The G7 leaders’ declaration refers to the appalling suffering of the Rohingya people in the bay of Bengal. This is a humanitarian crisis and there is rising public concern in this country about it. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is time for the UN Secretary-General to take personal charge of dealing with this crisis?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue. Again, we need to trace it back to the country from which the problem is coming, and we need greater action by the Burmese Government to represent all the people in Burma.
I welcome the consideration being given to tackling pandemics. Will my right hon. Friend set out more details on how the UK research and development fund will help to prevent pandemics and prevent infection of people here in the United Kingdom?
The discussion was around a couple of things. One is that when a pandemic breaks out, we need faster action. That is why we need a crack team of epidemiologists—medics; I will say it the simple way—to get out there and measure the situation, which is what Britain stands ready to do. The second thing is to put money into development of medicines and vaccines so that we have better ways of coping with these things when they happen.
I suspect that it will be a combination of both those things. We should not shy away from that, because the opportunity for the two largest economies in the world—the EU and America—in writing some of these rules together will make sure that we have good and decent standards rather than a race to the bottom. It is important to see that as a potential advantage of the TTIP deal.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. There has been a mixed picture since the Minsk agreements were signed. Overall, there has been some sign of lower levels of violence and aggression, so we should recognise that. I think the decision to roll over the sanctions automatically in June is right, with the very clear warning that if things were to get much worse—if there were to be, for instance, a Russian-backed push for more territory—that could lead to higher sanctions.
May I point the Prime Minister to the part of his statement on economic security, which was quite short? What does he say to those who criticise the G7 and say that we have never learned the lessons of the world economic meltdown in 2008 by putting together a policy, a set of regulations and a set of organisations that could prevent it from happening again?
The G20 has in many ways been the key organising body for driving changes to rules on bank regulation and capital requirements, for instance, and reform of global institutions. I think that helps, because of course banking problems and meltdowns can happen in developing countries as well as advanced countries. The strength of the G7 is that yes, of course, we discuss economic and trade issues, but we have very like-minded conversations about the big security challenges such as ISIL and Russia. Frankly, it was helpful that the conversation was at the G7, because it was that much more candid and frank.
The hard work of the British people, including my constituents in Charnwood, combined with our long-term economic plan have ensured that our economy in the UK is growing, but external economic risks remain. Will my right hon. Friend enlarge on what discussions he had on those wider external risks and how to mitigate them?
There are a number of risks, including the potential slow-down of the Chinese economy, which was obviously discussed. There were a number of discussions at the margins of the G7, and some round the table as well, about the threat to the stability of the eurozone of the very unstable situation in Greece, which is of interest to all the members of the G7. We are approaching some pretty crucial days where agreement needs to be reached in order to maintain the stability of a bunch of economies that are very big trading partners for Britain.
One of the most important things is to come back regularly to this House and discuss and debate what we are doing. This latest deployment is in response to a request from the Iraqi Government. These individuals, who are mostly involved in training the Iraqi troops on how to counter IED—improvised explosive device—threats, will save lives, and that is a sensible approach for Britain to take. More broadly, we are the second largest contributor in terms of the airstrikes over Iraq. That has been essential in shrinking the amount of territory that ISIL controls and making sure that the Kurds have been able to maintain their situation in the Kurdish regional authority.
There are regular reports back and a clear statement from this Dispatch Box: this is not about trying to re-invade a country; it is about helping the legitimate Government of that country, as recognised by the UN, to do the work that they know is vital.
I went with John Major, when he was Prime Minister, to meet Boris Yeltsin, and I am not at all sure that it is in the British national interest that we are now at loggerheads with Russia given all this trouble in Arabia and with ISIL. Has my right hon. Friend seen the recent remarks by Lord Carrington, Mrs Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, that Ukraine “was always part of” Russia, that the US
“was crazy to suggest Ukraine could join Nato one day”, and that
“Henry Kissinger…agrees with him”?
We have not picked the fight with Russia; Russia has brought this on herself by destabilising and encouraging separatists to take Ukrainian territory. As for whether Ukraine is a country, we should recognise that the Ukrainian people themselves have decided that it is a country; it is recognised by the United Nations. The whole point we have to learn is that redrawing the lines and maps of Europe by force can end in disaster for everyone in Europe, including the people here in this country.
The G7 pledge on climate action is very welcome, but a new report from Oxfam warns:
“Coal plants in G7 countries are on track to cost the world $450 billion a year by the end of the century”.
We all want to see an end to unabated coal, but the key is in the term unabated. We need to make sure that we invest in carbon capture and storage so that we can accelerate the decarbonisation of electricity, but in a way that does not damage our economic interests.
I welcome the new focus on corruption and the plan for an anti-corruption summit in London.
On Syria and the call for a UN-led political transition, will the Prime Minister share with us a little more about what that would look like—for example, whether Bosnia-Herzegovina is a useful precedent—and how we would arrive at it?
I am not sure that it is easy to identify an exact precedent. The point is simply this: President Assad himself, as I said in my statement, has become a recruiting sergeant for ISIL because of the way that he has treated his people, but everybody knows that what Syria needs, long term, is a Government who can represent everyone in Syria, including the Alawites. Therefore, clearly it would be acceptable to have a Government who were able to represent those people as well as the Sunni majority. That is the sort of transition that we should be aiming for.
When the Defence Committee went to Iraq at the end of last year, it was clear that one of the biggest obstacles to defeating ISIL was the lack of involvement of the Sunni tribes and Sunni people, and that is obviously down to the Iraqi Government. I welcome the support we are giving to the Iraqi Government, but what is the strategy of the Prime Minister and the other leaders of the G7 to bring on board the Sunnis and get the Iraqi Government to change their position, because that is essential in order for us to defeat ISIL?
The hon. Gentleman’s analysis of the situation is absolutely spot on. We will not succeed in Iraq unless the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security forces have representation from both Sunni and Shi’a, so our strategy is not to try to do things for the Iraqi Government but to encourage the Iraqi Government to do them and say, “We’ll work alongside you.” In everything we do, we should be encouraging them to reach out to the Sunni tribes, because in the end their Government will succeed only if they represent all the people.
I call Mr Richard Graham. [Interruption.] Have I already called Mr Graham? Yes, I have. How could I have forgotten the pearls of wisdom with which he just favoured the House? It was very remiss of me and I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I call Mr Crispin Blunt.
Islamic State is an enemy of civilisation, which is why it finds a coalition of 60 countries ranged against it. It requires military defeat, and the sooner that task is undertaken, the easier it will be. However, it is not going to happen if the regional powers are not co-ordinating their policies. What discussion was there at the G7 about getting Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, at the very least, to co-ordinate their policies towards Islamic State?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that that sort of co-ordination is required. Some important steps have been taken, not least President Obama’s meeting at Camp David with all the Gulf countries. I have had conversations in recent days with the Turkish President and have visited Turkey to discuss this issue. I am not sure we will be able to achieve the perfection that my hon. Friend requires of getting everyone round the table at the same time in the same way, but certainly working with regional partners to make sure everyone has a co-ordinated approach is the right thing to do.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I would pick up two points that he raised—corruption and FIFA. Sadly, they seem to have become synonymous. Does he think it appropriate that Sepp Blatter attends the FIFA women’s world cup, which is taking place at the moment, given his promise to resign and given his sadly inappropriate comment that women footballers should wear tighter shorts to make women’s football more popular?
The hon. Lady makes a very important point. Sepp Blatter’s track record on these things is very disappointing. Sepp Blatter has said he is going to resign, and in my view he should get on and resign. The organisation needs new leadership and needs to be cleaned up, and the sooner that starts the better.
Did my right hon. Friend receive any indication from the other leaders about when they will meet their clear commitments to overseas development assistance at 0.7% of gross national income?
For the first time in a number of G7s and G8s, we actually got the 0.7% commitment back into the text, so it is clear and there for all to see. I would argue that it is not just right for Britain from a moral standpoint, but that it actually increases our standing in the world that we can point out that we have kept our promises and were able to use that money to enhance not only the economic standing of those countries, but our own security as well.
I am pleased that the G7 discussed global poverty and action to address it, but given that the IMF, the OECD and Nobel economists have all agreed that inequalities have a negative influence on growth and on societies, why are he and his Government exacerbating inequalities across the UK, including having a negative impact on addressing health inequalities?
First, the figures show that inequality actually fell during the last Parliament. I would slightly take issue with the hon. Lady about the priorities for development in terms of the UN goals that we will agree in September. Of course we all want to see reductions in inequality, but when we have to determine the absolute priority for the world in tackling poverty and in trying to inspire a new generation of people to take action, as the Live Aid generation did, I would argue that eradicating extreme poverty—people living every day on almost nothing—is where we should really put the emphasis.
We did have discussions about that. There is obviously very good information sharing between Britain and America, and there is increasingly better sharing of information among European countries, with the progress on the passenger name record. Where we need even more co-operation is clearly between countries such as Britain and Turkey, which can sometimes act as a gateway for people joining ISIL. That is where we need to focus our efforts.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement on investment to tackle pandemics, but does he agree that vaccines and drugs will be effective only if countries have domestic healthcare systems that can distribute them through their populations? Was that discussed at the G7, and what conclusions were drawn?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Making sure that teams visit countries where a pandemic starts and making vaccines available is only a sticking plaster on top of a very large problem. What we need is stronger health systems in such countries, which is one of the things that our aid programme is designed to deliver.
Yes, I can. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this matter. In these gatherings, there is sometimes a danger that everyone looks at the next problem, rather than at trying to examine how well the work has been done on the last problem to secure the future. It is very important that we keep our eyes on supporting the Afghan Government and the Afghan security forces, because they are now carrying out the role that our soldiers helped to carry out, which is to stop that country being a haven for terror.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. A number of those who were abducted have returned, but Boko Haram still holds a very large number of them. This brings together the things about which I have been talking: first, one reason why these things happen is that the endemic corruption in such countries means that the military and security services are not effective, and people sometimes turn to extremist organisations because their Governments are not working; and, secondly, we should not try to take over the organisation of such things, but be there to help to train the military and assist in dealing with the corruption in such countries so that they are better able to protect their people.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the first things that President Buhari has done—he told me this in our bilateral—is to visit all the neighbouring countries to work very closely with them.
Was there any discussion at the G7 of the importance of freedom of expression as a human right, particularly in view of the very severe clampdown in Saudi Arabia on freedom of expression and the fact that the blogger Raif Badawi is due to be brutally flogged again on Friday? Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary made very encouraging sounds. Will the Prime Minister take this up personally, and does he have some further news on the issue?
There was not a specific discussion of that, but the great thing about the G7 is that all its countries sign up to certain norms for human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of law and democracy, so we can have like-minded conversations in which we deal with issues very frankly. We have set out very clearly our views on what has happened in this case in Saudi Arabia, and we will continue to do so.
The New York Times reported recently that Iran is increasing its nuclear stockpiles, notwithstanding the fact that the issue was due to be discussed at the G7 summit. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that there remains a determination among G7 countries to ensure that Iran is never able to obtain a nuclear weapon of its own?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. There was a good conversation about Iran, when President Obama reported back on his view of the state of the negotiations that are taking place. The aim is very clear: to make sure Iran is a good distance away from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. Crucially, the agreement has to include a lot of inspection and verification so that we know that to be true. On that basis, a deal is absolutely worth pursuing.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development have probably done more than any of their predecessors to tackle poverty in the developing world and Africa through the 0.7% target and by ensuring that our aid is well spent. Perhaps the biggest bar to economic development in Africa and the developing world is the issue of corruption. Will the Prime Minister consider discussing with the Foreign Secretary whether we can open an international convention for signature at next year’s summit, which was announced today, so that we can put in place common standards across the entire world?
My hon. and learned Friend makes a very good suggestion. We have already set up the Open Government Partnership, which is an international organisation encouraging transparency from its members, and we are going to hold the anti-corruption summit. Because we have met our 0.7% pledge, we are able to make the running and make the arguments on this issue. People know that we have kept our pledges about the money, so we can now talk about the corruption. His suggestion is a very good one.
During the long discussions that the Prime Minister was able to have with other leaders of the G7—apparently they were walking around a very nice park while they were doing it—did they manage to discuss seriously two things? First, did they discuss why ISIL is so powerful, so successful, so well funded and, crucially, so well armed with efficient, modern high-calibre weapons? Secondly, was there an opportunity for a longer discussion about the past 15 years of western foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other places, which appears to have created the circumstances under which an organisation such as ISIL can grow, and indeed is still growing? Was there an opportunity for reflection on that?
Of course there was a long discussion about ISIL, and I will take the hon. Gentleman’s question in two parts. First, the reason why ISIL is so well armed and well funded is that it is a death cult that has effectively taken over a country, oilfields, money and weaponry. Where I part company with him completely is on the idea that ISIL has been caused by the Iraq war, western aggression or whatever. I think it is nonsense. We can see the growth in extremist Islamism dating back to well before the attack on the twin towers, which of course itself happened before the Iraq war. We have to confront the real problem, which is the rise of this poisonous extremist narrative and death cult, which long predated the Iraq war. If we get that the wrong way round, we will get ourselves in a total mess.
I saw a press report, which was not well covered, saying that in the private meetings the world leaders wanted to know from the Prime Minister, given that he had inherited an economic mess and had to cut public expenditure, how on earth he got re-elected with a huge majority, the three main Opposition leaders resigned and he had a united party. Was that press report right?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend refers to my majority as huge. I take that as an indication that he will be part of it at all times throughout this Parliament.
I am pleased to report that I did have a number of pleasant discussions with Prime Ministers and Presidents inquiring after the general election, and some of them who are coming up for re-election themselves were seeking some tips and ideas.
We are well aware of the Prime Minister’s wish to have control over decisions taken in this House and the courts of this country. Will he and his Government therefore fight the investor-state dispute settlement that is hidden within TTIP, which could undermine public health decisions taken in this House and by our devolved Government?
The hon. Lady, like some others, is chasing after a false demon. There have been such clauses in all the trade agreements that we have signed, and my understanding is that we have not lost a single case. My view is that instead of asking for things that are not necessary, we should ask for things that will benefit Britain, such as opening up the United States. Let me give one example. Because of the Jones Act, if we want to ship goods from one port to another in America, we have to use US vessels. In a world of free trade and openness, we should be pushing for changes to that sort of thing. Let us put our efforts into that, rather than into raising false demons over trade deals.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. The more that we can set out a consistent framework and a pathway to reducing carbon emissions, the more we can encourage businesses to invest. That sort of framework has helped; in the last Parliament we saw a massive increase in offshore wind and other green technologies. I know that people in south Wales are particularly interested in what could happen with the Swansea lagoon. Having a plan makes it more likely that these schemes can go ahead.
Order. Extreme brevity is now required, to be exemplified, I think, by a distinguished philosopher, Dr John Pugh.
I warmly welcome the progress that is being made on tax avoidance and evasion and multinational transparency, but are there any clear timelines, deadlines or penalties for non-compliance by individual countries?
The timeline that I have mentioned is the fact that 90 countries have promised automatic tax exchange by the end of 2018. That is not as fast as I would like, or probably as the hon. Gentleman would like, but it is something that has not happened before and will now happen.
The answer to my hon. Friend is that every effort is being made and every encouragement given to all sides that they need to get around a table and start talking. Specifically, those who have been backing the Houthi rebels should pay attention to the resolution that he mentions.
Does the Prime Minister appreciate that many people in this country, many of them of Nigerian heritage but many more of them not, will appreciate the special attention that is being paid to Nigeria? The abduction of the Chibok girls shocked the world, the failure to bring them all back is a stain on the conscience of the world, and they should never be forgotten.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. All too often, appalling events happen on the other side of the world and there is an outpouring of grief, then the world shrugs and moves on. I am determined that we should not do that in this case. I want Britain to have a long-term partnership with Nigeria. About a quarter of a million Nigerians live in Britain and well over 20,000 Britons live in Nigeria, we have common links of history, heritage and language, and I think there is a real willingness to work together.
As President Obama said before the election, given that Britain and America are two of the fastest-growing countries in the west, we must be doing something right.
If we are to play our part in meeting the G7’s commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in this century, we will need binding targets such as the 2030 decarbonisation target, which could bring huge investment to areas such as Hull. Will the Prime Minister commit to bringing in such a binding target in the next two years?
I would draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the difference between the 2030 date and the end of the century date. I am all for decarbonising electricity as fast as we can, but we need to know that the means is there to do it. I want to know that carbon capture and storage really works before we make that commitment, otherwise we will not be able to have gas or coal plants and we will be left with only nuclear and renewables, which I do not think is a balanced energy mix.
My right hon. Friend deserves great credit for how he first put tax transparency at the top of the G7 agenda and then kept it there. Can he assure the House that to underpin public services around the world and to be fair to companies and individuals who pay their taxes, we will reach out more widely than just the G7 and use all our networks, including the Commonwealth, to promote fair and transparent taxation?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. One thing we did as part of the Lough Erne process was to make sure that the Crown dependencies and overseas territories of the United Kingdom played their part. We can also push this agenda through the Commonwealth. Things like the register of beneficial ownership of companies are hugely helpful to the poorest countries in the world, which are often the victims of being ripped off by unscrupulous businesses. Having these registers, starting with Britain’s, will help enormously.
The Prime Minister has sounded some strong notes against corruption. Will that sound carry through to his Government’s engagements with all the Gulf states and their regimes’ myriad interests? In that context, will he also amplify the message on human rights?
The answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes. We believe that we should encourage all countries to become more transparent and open in their dealings. Whether by signing up to transparency in the extractive industries or through the register of beneficial ownership, we have been leading by example.
I note my hon. Friend’s long-standing interests in the links between Britain and Bangladesh, and in the strength and prosperity of Bangladesh. There was not a specific discussion on the matter she raises, but we talked about inclusive Governments representing all their people and governing on behalf of all their people, which is relevant in this case.
The German Chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, in her statement at the end of the G7, wanted to emphasise the agreement of the G7 to phase out all fossil fuels as a means of electricity generation by the end of the century. Did the Prime Minister have a hand in securing that agreement? If so, what target was in his mind for the UK?
We worked very hard to get the strongest possible language on climate change. As I said to my hon. Friend Richard Drax, having set Britain on a path of low-carbon electricity and having reduced our carbon emissions, we want other countries to do this as well. We did not achieve all we wanted in the communiqué, but it was pretty strong stuff.
In terms of decarbonising electricity, I repeat what I said. What is happening in Germany at the moment is that because it has reduced its nuclear programme it is actually burning more, rather than less, coal. Our strategy is to reinvest in the nuclear industry and go on investing in renewables, and have gas plants constructed too. Over time, that will require carbon capture and storage. The pragmatic thing to do is to promote that technology and commit to full decarbonisation only when we know we can bring it about.
One way to deliver on our climate change target and boost our economy is through the development of new technologies. Will my right hon. Friend therefore commit to supporting our UK science community, fight for an increase in funding around the Cabinet table and pledge to aim towards spending the same percentage of GDP on research and development as our European partners?
My hon. Friend has made a very good bid for the public spending round. We have looked very carefully at this in the past and recognise that science is an important part of enhancing the growth, production, productivity and potential of the United Kingdom.
Progress on climate change targets and agreements is notoriously difficult, but the diplomatic mountain to climb from now to the end of the year is still quite daunting and quite massive. Much of this will rely on UK leadership and the Prime Minister’s personal involvement. Will he commit to that? Will he tell us what role he is going to play, not least to satisfy the growth argument that has been talked about and the 200 companies that are today calling for that stronger action?
We are going to bring the whole of the team to bear on this. I have an excellent new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who will be leading the charge. The fact that we meet the 0.7% commitment means that the Secretary of State for International Development can play a huge role in helping to bring the smaller, poorer and often island states along, but it will be an effort of the whole Government. The EU has already put its offer out there. When we look down to see what the EU, the US, Canada and Japan are doing, we are in the leadership role. We should now ensure that our diplomacy is working to bring everyone else along to the party.
The Culture Secretary rightly raised this with me yesterday. We are looking at what we can do on this front. We have, in organisations such as the British Museum, the expertise to know how to help to preserve some of these monuments. We also have advisers in countries that are able to help, so we are looking urgently at this issue to see whether we can resolve it.
As the Prime Minister may be aware, the European Commission issued a report last year on the level of corruption within member states. The report claimed corruption cost the European economy about €120 billion a year, and was apparently to have included a chapter on corruption within the EU institutions themselves. The fact it did not clearly suggests it thinks there may be something to hide. I urge my right hon. Friend to press for an independent investigation into the extent of corruption within the institutions of the EU.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Perhaps we should start by looking again at the European Court of Auditors and what it does to demonstrate the problems sometimes of corruption and sometimes of wasted or inappropriate use of money in nation states, as well as in the organisation of the EU itself.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. First, when new member states join the European Union, that is the moment to put the maximum pressure on them to clean up their justice and policing systems and combat corruption. Secondly, we should make sure that the National Crime Agency, which was established under this Government and is now up and running and working well, continues to focus on organised crime from these countries.
The Prime Minister has been widely praised for his crackdown on corruption. Will he therefore explain why his Government provide so much overseas aid to some of the most corrupt countries in the world, leading many of them to spend more than 2% of their GDP on their military, which is particularly galling when we are now at risk of falling below that threshold ourselves?
My hon. Friend and I agree on so many things and have so many fruitful discussions, but this is one area where I know we are not going to agree. He passionately believes that the 0.7% is a commitment too far. I think it is important not only for Britain’s moral conscience but for our security. So many of the problems we are dealing with, whether the instability coming out of Libya, terrorism coming out of Somalia or drugs coming out of west Africa, are problems of failing states and failing Governments. That is where our aid budget can make a real difference to our national security. If we take a country such as Somalia, it has a problem with drugs, a problem with terrorism and a problem with migration. At the heart of this is making sure there can be a Somali Government that represent all the people and can make that country safer and more prosperous. I would argue that that is in our national interest. It is not an alternative to our defence budget. It is part of the whole approach to keeping this country and our people safe.