G7 — Statement

– in the House of Lords at 4:29 pm on 10th June 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 4:29 pm, 10th June 2015

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

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the G7 in Germany earlier this week. I went to this summit with two clear aims: to advance our economic security and to protect our national security. The two are, of course, interlinked, because you cannot have one without the other and, 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 G7 countries, which could together 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 in Lough Erne, and every day without a deal is costing the global economy £630 million. So we agreed to finalise the outline of an agreement by the end of this year.

We want all countries to grow, including the poorest, for their benefit and 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 the importance of setting ambitious goals at the UN in September that can eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and we also reaffirmed our previous commitments on aid. Britain is keeping its promises to the poorest in the world, and we encouraged others to do the same.

I turn to green growth, where there were important agreements about the global deal that we hope to reach in Paris at the end of the year. It needs sufficiently ambitious emission targets to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees within reach. It needs binding rules with real transparency and accountability so countries have to follow through on their commitments, and it needs a long-term goal for emission cuts at the upper end of the IPCC 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 is so essential for developing nations and making sure 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 that I made was that corruption is not just wrecking an institution that is vital for football; it is also 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. 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, and 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, and 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. The G7 will push for a targeted monitoring process to ensure its implementation. Over 90 countries have agreed to share their tax information automatically by the end of 2018, and the G7 urged others to follow suit so more people pay the tax that is due.

Britain has become the first major country to establish a public central registry of who really owns companies, and now other countries have to follow with the implementation of their own national action plans, a key step in countering money laundering and corruption. We also agreed that leaders would give special focus to corruption in the run-up to the UN in September and the G20 in Turkey, culminating with a major anti-corruption summit in London next year.

On national security, there were a number of issues discussed, beginning with ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We have a three-pronged strategy. First, we are helping to train Iraqi security forces so they can defeat ISIL on the ground. We have already trained over 1,200 Kurdish troops in Irbil, and at the summit I announced that we will now deploy an additional 125 military personnel to expand this training effort 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, and 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. So 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 a comprehensive approach going after the gangs that are trafficking people, stabilising the countries from which these people are coming and continuing to play our full part in the humanitarian rescue mission. Britain is playing its part in all of these 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 could best help Nigeria to tackle corruption and win the fight against Boko Haram. The National Security Council has agreed that this will be a specific priority. We are setting up a new cross-government unit dedicated to this task, and we will be offering significant help, including training the Nigerian army to help in its work to defeat Boko Haram.

I turn to global health. Playing our part in fighting disease overseas is not just a moral obligation; it is the single most effective way of preventing diseases infecting people here in the UK. So, following the Ebola outbreak, it was right that the G7 devoted significant time to how best to try to 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, learning the lessons of the slow response to the Ebola outbreak, chiefly by the World Health Organization.

Finally, this was, of course, the second year running that we have 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 transborder support of separatist forces and use its influence on them to bring the violence to an end. We were clear that we,

‘stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require’.

Fully implementing Minsk also requires action from Ukraine, so it is vital that President Poroshenko’s Government have 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 must not forget that the Ukrainians are the victims and not the aggressors.

Following the general election, with our economy growing, deficit falling and unemployment tumbling, people can see that Britain is back. We are working for trade deals, fighting corruption and leading the battle against poverty, disease and climate change. We are 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 security and the national security on which our future depends. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords 4:39 pm, 10th June 2015

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. We welcome the conclusions of the summit, including the reaffirmation of the G7’s aid commitment and the commitments to fighting corruption and to fighting disease overseas. As the noble Baroness made clear, this is the second G7 summit from which, rightly, Russia has been excluded. There should be consequences for what it is doing in Ukraine. Russia should continue to be excluded until President Putin changes course, and sanctions must remain. EU sanctions will expire at the end of July. The Statement says that they should be rolled over and that the G7 stand ready to take further restrictive measures. Is the noble Baroness able to tell the House whether the Prime Minister will be arguing at the next EU Council for those sanctions to be strengthened?

At this summit, the Prime Minister acknowledged that sanctions are also having an impact on those who are opposing them, so we welcome the fact that G7 leaders agree that more must be done to support EU member states that are being particularly affected. Can the noble Baroness provide any information on what that means in practice—the practical measures that might be taken?

In the Statement, the noble Baroness referred to the fight against ISIL. We have all seen the absolute horrors of what is happening in Mosul. It is extremely worrying and indeed distressing to see ISIL’s advances in recent weeks, particularly into Ramadi. That strong and united approach to tackling ISIL therefore continues to be vital. We back the UK’s contribution to that effort, and we welcome the extra 125 military trainers being sent to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister. As the Statement says, the Iraqi Government must be supported in their efforts to push back ISIL’s advance and restore stability and security across the country. So is there now a further need to accelerate the recruitment, training and equipping of Iraqi forces? As the noble Baroness will recognise, an inclusive and enduring political settlement is vital. It would be helpful if she could tell the House if our Government are continuing to press the Iraqi Government to do more to reach out to Sunni tribes, and how this is being acted on. After all, those tribes are key to this.

Moving on to other issues, the summit also reached important conclusions on the global economy and on climate change. Regarding the discussions on TTIP, can the noble Baroness confirm whether the Prime Minister sought specific assurances from President Obama that our National Health Service will be protected and, if he did, what was the response?

On climate change, we welcome long-term goals but they are of value only if they are taken seriously and if they change short-term behaviour to ensure that they are actually achieved. In December, the UN climate change negotiations will take place in Paris. What is the UK doing to ensure that the EU negotiates on the more ambitious targets that we have already called for?

Obviously we welcome serious action to tackle fraud, whenever and wherever. In his Statement, the Prime Minister specifically referred to FIFA. Last week my noble friend Lord Bach, as shadow Attorney-General, raised in your Lordships’ House the question of whether there is any UK investigation into British involvement in the allegations regarding FIFA. In response, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said:

“The SFO has been aware of allegations relating to FIFA for some years. It is keeping the situation under review and is ready to assist”— not to get involved or take action—

“in any way it can. We do not think there is a lack of resources”.—[ Official Report , 4/6/15; col. 521.]

That was rather a strange response, but can the noble Baroness update the House on what has happened regarding that investigation—if there is one—since 4 June?

It is somewhat embarrassing, though, that yet again during important international negotiation discussions, so much of the press coverage around the G7 summit was not about the global economy, climate change or ISIL, but about the internal row in the Conservative Party over Europe. Even the Conservatives’ most loyal and supportive newspapers, and there are quite a few of them, described Mr Cameron’s attempts to have a clear line as “a shambles”. Many of us here remain unclear about the Prime Minister’s position. It would be genuinely helpful to your Lordships’ House if the noble Baroness could take the opportunity today to clarify the Government’s position. Can she tell us what the Government’s reform proposals are and what the red lines are? Can she say clearly now whether, when the Prime Minister has finished negotiating and comes back asking for a yes vote, he will insist that Ministers who do not agree with him will have to resign or be sacked?

I appreciate that the noble Baroness may personally prefer the approach of the Mayor of London, who is also the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and a renowned Daily Telegraph columnist—not a Minister, although he attends Cabinet. He said that Ministers should be able to vote whichever way they want. That will make for an interesting Cabinet meeting next week. If the noble Baroness could clarify the Government’s position I would be grateful, and it would be helpful.

A number of very important issues were discussed during the summit, and there were some useful and helpful responses, many of which we support. However, it is disappointing that another international summit which is vital to our national interest has ended, yet again, in the usual place, with a Conservative Prime Minister fighting his own party on Europe. In any such negotiations national interest must always come first. I look forward to the noble Baroness’s response.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement on the G7 summit. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, indicated, there is much in the summit and in the Statement which can be welcomed: the further steps to promote trade deals; the ambition to set goals at the United Nations in September to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030; the steps being taken to tackle corruption; specific support for Nigeria; initiatives to fight disease overseas; support for the efforts of Prime Minister al-Abadi in Iraq to build a more inclusive Government to bring his country together in challenging ISIL. However, I remember that when the House was recalled to debate Iraq last September, there was an expectation that the new Iraqi Government would reach out to include the Sunni community. It would therefore be useful to know what encouragement and support has been given to Prime Minister al-Abadi in these intervening months to achieve that goal.

I will not follow the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and will resist the temptation to ask the Leader of the House what her immediate thoughts were when she heard the “Back Me Or Resign” headlines on Monday morning. However, if she chooses to share that with the House, I am sure that we will all be quite interested. However, does not the very fact that Downing Street had to spend time and energy throughout Monday to correct a so-called “misinterpretation” by the entire travelling media pack just illustrate the fault-line at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy? While the Government and government-led public debate at home obsess about a referendum on European Union membership, our voice is, inevitably, diminished on the profoundly serious global issues which are the focus of such summits: the Middle East, Ukraine, global climate change and the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean.

While the Prime Minister may have tried to make a robust rebuttal of claims by some US envoys that we are becoming “Great Shrinking Britain”, should it not concern all of us who believe that as a nation we can and should be a positive force in the world, punching above our weight, that the perception of some of our closest allies is that our contribution and influence are waning? It would therefore be very welcome if in answering some specific questions, the Leader of the House could give answers which, by their substance, show that we are not a shrinking Britain.

The Statement refers to Russia, Ukraine, and implementing Minsk, and to welcome commitments by the G7 which state that diplomatic efforts must succeed in restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In any future developments or negotiations, will the UK, as a signatory to the Budapest memorandum, play a full part, or, as in Minsk earlier in the year, will we leave it to France and Germany?

We welcome the long-term goals for climate change, but with regard to the bold but very welcome commitment by the G7 to decarbonise the global economy by the end of the century, how do the Government expect the UK’s commitment to be taken seriously if persistent rumours materialise that the Energy and Climate Change Secretary will announce restrictions of the renewables obligation for onshore wind developments currently in the planning stage? The Prime Minister’s Statement referred to businesses having the confidence to invest in low-carbon technology, but what signals will be sent to potential investors in new renewables projects such as wave or tidal power if the Government can change the support regime at such short notice?

Finally, it is right to pay tribute to those, including those on HMS “Bulwark”, who are engaged in humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean, and right to acknowledge the measures agreed at the G7 which address that issue, including the backing for UN-led efforts to put in place a national unity Government in Libya. However, surely a far more fundamental approach will be required to address the underlying causes of why people are fleeing their homes. Can we look to the United Kingdom Government to give leadership in the G7 and other forums to pursue initiatives which, in their magnitude, match the scale of the problem?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I start by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, on her election as Leader of the Opposition in this House. This is the first opportunity that I have had to do so from the Dispatch Box. Regarding both her comments and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, on Europe and their questions about the European referendum—to which my party has been committed for a long time and in which it is pleased that, following yesterday’s historic vote in the House of Commons, there will now be an opportunity for all the people of this country to participate—I say to them that it is ironic that they are now asking me questions about that when only about a month ago they did not wish to support that opportunity for everybody. They know very well that our manifesto commitment is that the Prime Minister will negotiate for reforms in Europe that are in the interests of the UK and, indeed, of Europe. All of us in government are signed up to that commitment, and when the Prime Minister has concluded his negotiations he will put a question to the United Kingdom for the people to decide in the in/out referendum. We very much support that process, which has now started.

I should correct the noble Baroness. Boris Johnson attends the political Cabinet; he does not attend the Cabinet in the normal sense of the word.

Moving on to the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, made about Europe distracting the Prime Minister in some way in his contribution to the discussions at the G7, I would say: far from it. In all the discussions over the two days in Germany, the Prime Minister was very much able to show that the UK is both setting the agenda and leading the way on some of these very important issues.

I am grateful for the support that I heard from both opposition Benches for what we are doing to ensure that sanctions against Russia are very much in place. The noble Baroness asked me about the European Council in June. We will most definitely be seeking the full rollover of those sanctions. The Minsk agreement is not fully implemented and the sanctions will remain in place until it is. If Russia were to extend its aggression, we would certainly consider the extension of sanctions, but the first aim is to make sure that we get them rolled over while Minsk is not being implemented.

The noble Baroness asked about the effect on some of the countries that are imposing sanctions and what actions might be taken to support them. We need to be quite careful about singling out individual countries in that way, because the whole purpose of imposing these sanctions is to show that the rest of us want to abide by the collective rules that apply across the world. If we impose sanctions on somebody who has broken those rules, we do so knowing that there is a cost to us but it is one that we are willing to bear. The principle of maintaining the fundamental international rules is so important that when somebody breaks them we are willing to take some cost. However, the bigger cost is on Russia with the sanctions that it is now having to cope with.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for the support that they offered today for what the UK is doing in our campaign regarding ISIL in Iraq. In that context, there were certainly questions from both about what more we are doing to encourage and ensure that Prime Minister al-Abadi moves his Government towards becoming more inclusive. That is something that we pursue at all levels, and the signs are clearly that he is seeking to achieve that himself. We are giving support to Iraq so that the Iraq armed forces are in a strong position to be deployed against ISIL. We are training them up to do the necessary work in their own sovereign territory.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked about TTIP, the EU and US trade deal, and specifically whether the National Health Service would be protected. I can give her an absolute guarantee on that. Over the last few months, there have been commitments, guarantees and clarifications from both the current relevant European Commissioner and his predecessor. Given that this trade deal is so important to the prosperity of this country and so many others, I would urge that, rather than focusing on the potential risks associated with TTIP, which do not exist, a better approach would be for us to unite in support of applying some pressure to America to sign up to the deal.

There were questions on climate change. Our view is that the terms of the climate change agreement that we are seeking to achieve in Paris will be legally binding and we will continue to press for that. We very much believe that there are real benefits to the economy from making sure that we take a leading role in this area and that there are real threats from climate change that need to be properly dealt with.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked me specifically about an Oral Question and Answer between the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and my noble friend Lord Faulks. I do not have the specific detail to hand, so, if I may, I will have to come back to her on that. However, the point I was making by referring to FIFA in repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement is that FIFA is an illustration of how corruption needs to be tackled. It was the Prime Minister who put this on the agenda in Germany and the House might like to know that in the light of the discussions at the G7 at the start of the week, the Japanese Prime Minister has agreed to take that forward into his presidency next year.

As I say, this is something on which we are setting the agenda and leading the way. We are making good progress in all these important areas.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, as this is the first ministerial Statement in this Parliament, I thought it might be useful if I remind the House of what the rules for the 20 minutes of Back-Bench questions are and what the Companion says. It says:

Ministerial statements are made for the information of the House, and although brief questions from all quarters of the House are allowed, statements should not be made the occasion for an immediate debate”.

Lastly, it says:

“As a matter of courtesy, members who wish to ask questions on an oral statement should be present to hear the whole of the statement read out”.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 4:58 pm, 10th June 2015

My Lords, there were reports from the margins of the talks at Garmisch-Partenkirchen that Moscow and Tehran might now be more willing to assist with the removal and replacement of President Assad. If that is so, that is extremely significant. I wonder whether the Minister has any more information on those reports and the related issues.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

On that matter, as I said, as far as Russia is concerned we are completely firm in our position on Ukraine. But it is right that the Prime Minister has had a conversation recently with President Putin, and in the course of that conversation President Putin and the Prime Minister agreed that our national security advisers should restart talks on the Syrian conflict. But the Prime Minister was clear with Putin, as ever, that Assad could not be part of the solution in Syria because, as I said in the Statement, he is a recruiting sergeant for ISIL and not part of the answer to it.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

I have two questions about Russia and Ukraine. We are told in the Statement that the G7 was clear and unambiguous about the position. It states:

“Diplomatic efforts must succeed in restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Does that extend to Crimea, or have we written off Crimea effectively as a fait accompli?

Secondly, the Statement states that we stand ready to impose further sanctions if necessary. Clearly, that is important, and it is particularly important that Japan is now part of that consensus. But are the Government really confident that the EU sanctions will even be maintained, given the very strong pressures of President Putin and his inducements for a number of EU countries?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

The Prime Minister and the other European leaders were absolutely united in their view on sanctions on Russia, certainly in the course of discussions at the G7 over the last few days. From the preliminary discussions leading into the next

European Council meeting, I gather that there is no question of any doubt on that, but it is something that we have to keep pressing. We have talked about this before. We all have to hold together on this, because it is so vital. Russia must not see any weakness in our agreement in the West and in Europe on sanctions remaining in place.

On the noble Lord’s question about Crimea and whether it has been written off, I would answer, “Absolutely nothing of the kind”. We remain very clear that what Russia did in that area was illegal and there is no question that this would in any way be ignored or forgotten.

Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative

Looking at this Statement and the seriousness of some of the global issues that it mentions such as global health and climate change, is there any movement at all to suggest in discussions involving the major countries of the world that China might have a contribution to make? There are international global interests in so many of these very serious issues.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I do not think that my noble friend is suggesting that we are at the point where we might extend the G7 to include China. But he is right about China being so important to the future prosperity and security of the world at large. Again, this is an area where we have been very much in the forefront in recognising the growing importance of China. Before the general election, the UK was the first G7 country to join the AIIB, which is the new Chinese version of the World Bank. Because of our leadership there, other G7 countries have joined that bank.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I am sure the noble Baroness will be pleased to be reminded that the current EU Trade Commissioner is a woman, Cecilia Malmström, so she should therefore have said “her predecessor” when referring to the EU Trade Commissioner.

On TTIP, the transatlantic trade association, I hope the Government are well aware that there is an active campaign on social media and in the NGO community against this whole transatlantic free trade agreement as a capitalist ramp that will give multinational companies access to our markets at all sorts of cost. That is as irrational as much of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. Are the Government planning any major information campaign to combat that underlying distrust of the entire transatlantic trade agreement?

On the EU, are the Government also proposing to use the balance of competences exercise of the last coalition Government to inform the public, given that I read in the newspapers every day of major claims being made by members of the Conservative Party for the repatriation of substantial powers from the European Community, for which the balance of competences exercise produced no evidence?

Lastly, we all welcome the Government’s views on corruption, and we all see again from the FIFA example that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies under British sovereignty form part of a network of transnational corruption. Are the Government planning to take powers to tighten controls over overseas financial centres under British sovereignty?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, there is quite a lot there, but first I must thank the noble Lord for correcting me on the current EU Trade Commissioner. He follows these issues far more closely than I do myself and, unfortunately, I had not spotted from the name in my brief that I had got the gender incorrect, so I am pleased to be told that the Trade Commissioner is a woman.

On TTIP, the noble Lord is absolutely right to say that there are a huge number of benefits in the agreement for small businesses because it will help them to export, as well as for consumers generally in terms of cheaper goods and increased trade. I will reflect on his comment about the promotion of the benefits of TTIP, but that leads me back to the point I made earlier, which is that because there is so much to be gained from this trade deal, I think there are some misplaced concerns about issues which are not relevant. They are not ones that we need to be concerned about because we have got the necessary assurances. I know that the noble Lord was very much involved in the balance of competences exercise. I will look at it again.

On corruption and the overseas territories, although I may not be able to find the specifics, I can make the general point that one of the things that we as a Government have done in terms of increasing transparency is to ensure that the Crown dependencies are part of the first wave of the new arrangements for ensuring that transactions are properly recorded as part of one of our new measures to increase transparency, so they are very much part of the effort to make progress in this area.

Photo of Lord Craig of Radley Lord Craig of Radley Crossbench

My Lords, in the discussions which the Prime Minister had with President Obama, did the President raise concerns about the reductions which have taken place in the Armed Forces in recent years, and about the lack of clarity on the future defence budget? If so, how did the Prime Minister reply?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

Unfortunately, I do not get to be a fly on the wall in these meetings, but the point that I am sure the Prime Minister would have made on defence is the one that he makes continually: this year we are spending 2% of our GDP on defence, and future defence spending will be decided in the review. We must not forget that it is clear in the Government’s manifesto, and we are clear, that there will be no reduction in the regular forces, we will replace Trident, and we are committed and able to spend some £160 billion on defence equipment over the next 10 years.

Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour

The Prime Minister has been claiming that Britain is going forwards, but in fact a number of US commentators have been saying that we are going backwards. What we want to know, and I think what has just been asked, is whether a clear commitment was given to President Obama that Britain would retain or increase its defence expenditure to 2% of GDP, and maintain that forthwith. That is what we need to know.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

I have nothing to add to what I have just said except to say two things to the noble Lord. The first is that we have the biggest defence budget in the EU and the second largest in NATO, and we are the US’s largest partner in terms of coalition air strikes against ISIL. I would also make the point that we are very much in play in ensuring that the defence of this country is secured, and we are playing our part in security and defence issues around the world.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, the Statement says that there is a central register here of beneficial owners and companies. Will the Government do the same for valuable properties, and would that not be a very good way of reducing money laundering? Secondly, if it is right to fight ISIS in Iraq, surely the same must be true for Syria. Is there not something that needs reconsidering on that point?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

On the noble Lord’s first point, I am not in a position to extend what we have already done in this area, but we are very much at the forefront of this agenda, which the Prime Minister started back in Lough Erne. However, I note the noble Lord’s proposal.

The situation in Syria is very concerning and continues to worsen. We are doing a great deal in terms of supporting the action by ensuring that we are providing reconnoitre-type services and supporting the humanitarian situation on the ground. However, we are not involved in military action.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, many of the issues covered by the Statement seem soluble, at least in principle. What worries some of us is that the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is not in the same category—it looks insoluble. Is the difficulty about finding a more credible process involving north Africa and the Middle East with Europe to reduce the number of refugees that no one has thought intellectually, as it were, of what is needed, or is it that some of the countries where people are coming from do not want to co-operate? I find what is going on very shocking, as do people all around the country. It is absolutely dreadful. Is it for Europe or is it for our own Foreign Office to give a really big push to think of ways in which we can find a credible process?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

The noble Lord gives a stark illustration of the seriousness of the desperate state of some countries, whether they are in north Africa or the Middle East. I will try to be brief while at the same time doing justice to this serious issue. We are doing everything we can to save lives, as one would expect from a moral and upstanding nation. I refer to what HMS “Bulwark” has been doing as part of the rescue operation. The misery of the people who are being rescued from the Mediterranean does not start there; they need security and stability in the countries they are fleeing from. We have to tackle the cause of this problem, and whether it is through our aid programmes or the political agenda, we must make sure that there is no reason for people to flee in this way in the first place.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

I strongly agree that corruption is endemic in FIFA. Can my noble friend the Leader of the House suggest to her ministerial colleagues that we should closely scrutinise the proposed legislation being introduced into the Swiss Parliament to address corruption in sport and increase accountability and transparency to see whether there are lessons to be learned from co-operating with the Swiss authorities, while stepping up our work with sponsors and reporting in due course to this House on the important work of the Serious Fraud Office—the issue rightly raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith—as well as co-operating with US judicial authorities to address corruption in international sports administration?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

My noble friend covers a range of different recommendations for us to consider. I will certainly make sure that I report them back to the relevant departments which are responsible for this matter.

Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour

My Lords, I will ask two questions. First, on overseas aid, I think it was the Defence Secretary who suggested that part of the overseas aid budget should be used to arm third-world countries and to provide other military assistance. Does the Minister agree that, if that were so, overseas aid, which is supported by most people, would lose some support?

Secondly, on Russia, I am part of the generation who lived through World War II and saw the contribution that the Russians made—26 million people dead—to the fighting and winning of that war. As far as Ukraine is concerned, there are two sides to the question. The EU, the United States and Russia have made mistakes relating to Ukraine. Instead of having discussions through foghorn diplomacy through the press and other media, would it really not be better, in the interests of peace and co-operation, for the Russians to be invited back into the G8 forthwith?

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal

On the noble Lord’s last point, the G7 leaders are clear that that will not happen until Putin wants to adopt the values that he has decided no longer apply to him, which is the point that I tried to make when responding to the questions about sanctions. This is not just a group of people trying to ensure prosperity in the world; it is also an organisation that represents values that are important and that underpin how we achieve that prosperity. If somebody such as President Putin does not subscribe to those values, as he clearly does not, there is not a place for him at the G7, or for it to be extended.

On the noble Lord’s point about overseas aid and defence spending, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary was making an important point: clearly, a lot of overseas aid contributes to our security and to stability in other countries, whether that is by tackling something such as Ebola or by supporting people with humanitarian needs. In doing that, we hope to return a country to some sort of stability so that it can prosper. That is another way of protecting ourselves and our defences.