G7 — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:39 pm on 10th June 2015.

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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.