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 Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 4:39 pm, 10th June 2015

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.