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 Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 4:39 pm, 10th June 2015

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?