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2006 G8 Summit

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 12 July 2006

Our priority for the summit at the end of this week is to make sure that the G8 leaders continue to focus on delivering the commitments they made at Gleneagles last year on support to Africa. We have also worked hard to make sure that development priorities are included in the three Russian focus areas of energy, infectious diseases and education.

Will the Minister raise the issue of non-governmental organisations with President Putin at the G8 this year? Does the Minister agree that the crackdown on NGOs’ operations is very unwelcome, especially in connection with the monitoring of human rights in Russia itself?

The hon. Lady may know that considerable international concern was expressed about the proposed draft new law on the regulation of NGOs in Russia. We have been part of the process of lobbying for reform of that draft law, and substantial improvements have been made to the legislation that has gone through, as opposed to the original draft presented to NGOs and other authorities. The hon. Lady might also like to know that we fund a range of NGOs for work on human rights, democracy and good governance in Russia. Some of them work with Russian authorities, such as those reforming prisons, while others do not. Through that type of work, and through the engagement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, we will continue to raise concerns about how NGOs are restricted and about human rights more generally.

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the hard work done in churches such as Lindley Methodist church, which, last week, was one of the smallest churches to beat the drum for fair trade? Like Colne Valley, which is now a fair trade area, it recognises that fair trade is the best way forward to relieve poverty. Will he ensure that that is high on the agenda for the G8 summit?

I pay tribute to the work of the church to which my hon. Friend has alluded, and to other churches and NGO supporters up and down the country who played a crucial role in making the Gleneagles summit such a success last year. There is no doubt that we have more to do on the issue of fair trade. In particular, we need agreement on a fair outcome to the current round of World Trade Organisation talks. We will continue to work to that purpose, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will want to discuss that key issue with other G8 leaders.

The Minister will follow the progress, or lack of it, at the WTO as closely as anyone. He will therefore be aware that on the three critical issues—greater agricultural tariff cuts by the European Union, better access to developing country markets and lower agricultural subsidies in the US—there is a real possibility of a deal if everyone moves a little. The serious effects of failure are recognised. What steps are he and the Prime Minister taking, in the margins of the G8 and beyond, to help to generate the political will to unlock those talks?

The hon. Gentleman is right that a fair outcome to the current round of World Trade Organisation talks would have a potentially huge benefit for the poorest people of the world, as well as considerable potential benefit to UK and EU citizens. He is also right that there is a need for all sides in the talks to shift. Recently, there have been signals from several key players that they are willing to move. We are at a critical point in the current round of WTO discussions, and I have no doubt that there will be further discussions in the margins of the G8, as there have been in the run-up to the G8 summit, to finesse the progress needed so that we can sign the type of deal that we all want.

May I draw to my hon. Friend’s attention the statement to the G8 from the G8 plus 5 legislators forum on climate change, which I chaired at the weekend? Does he agree that if development is not to be undermined by the catastrophic effects of climate change, the international financial institutions must dramatically increase investment in low-carbon energy, and developing countries must be assisted to find measures of adaptation to climate change?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her work on this issue, and welcome the statement to which she has referred. There is no question but that the G8 summit provides us with an opportunity to continue the discussions on climate change that took place at Gleneagles last year. The G8 Finance Ministers have already committed themselves to work to improve access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supplies in Africa. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be aware of the clean energy investment framework pushed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. A range of international financial institutions are committed to that process, and we are now working with them on the detail of that proposal.