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London G20 Summit

Volume 506: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2010

4. What assessment he has made of the implications for his Department’s policies of the outcomes of the London G20 summit. (319385)

In essence, the G20 London summit showed that international economic crises require international remedies in the form of clear and co-ordinated action in all the major economies. It is noticeable that not a single major economy currently believes in making savage cuts now.

Will the Minister expand on that, and tell us whether any countries had been planning for that, and if they were, whether they thought that that was fiscally responsible and their patriotic duty?

My hon. Friend’s comments help to make the very good point that not a single major economy around the world is now proposing to make savage cuts. Indeed, all the major economies in the world, both within the European Union and elsewhere, are talking about how they can make sure that they maintain a level of fiscal stability by maintaining a fiscal stimulus. I would just quote the words of President Obama. He said last April:

“I think that this kind of co-ordination really is historic…I think that’s a testimony to the great work that Gordon Brown did…I’m very proud of what’s been done.”

We will have quite enough time for all these party political shenanigans, so will the Minister just focus on what needs to be done now? He knows that world trade dipped by 12 per cent. last year, which is an absolute disaster, and Pascal Lamy has already said that he believes high unemployment could lead to protectionism. The United States has got “buy American only” clauses in its stimulus package of $780 billion, which is regrettable. Will the Minister use his good offices to promote, and help ensure, world free trade?

The hon. Gentleman makes the very good point that it is important that nowhere in the world resorts to protectionism in this case. That is why the G20 summit last year was particularly successful. Some countries tried to advance significant protectionist measures across the EU, and we were wholeheartedly opposed to that. I should say, however, that this is not just about free trade; it is also about fair trade. That is why we want reform of the common agricultural policy as well.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for meeting members of the UK-India round table last Friday. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that the best way of recognising the rise of India and other new economies in the global economy would be to develop a strong permanent secretariat for the G20, and to locate it in New Delhi?

My right hon. Friend makes a good point about the need for a full-time secretariat for the G20, because although there are those who adopt a rather little Englander attitude towards economic problems, around the world there is generally a consensus that big economic problems require big economic solutions. That means much more action on an international basis. I would also say, however, that if Britain is to get the best out of our relationship with India, we need to make sure that the whole of the EU plays a far more co-ordinated role in relation to India, and that requires action that the Conservative party always seems reluctant to take.

The G20 discussed maintaining financial stability, which is an issue for Britain and many other EU countries, not least Greece. Does not their fate show how wise we in Britain were to retain the pound sterling? Why is it still Government policy to consider joining the euro when recent events only reinforce how mistaken that would be?

That question was very wide. I suggest that the Minister be extremely discriminating in the way in which he replies.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) on his ingenuity and imagination. In trying to stay within the realms of a discussion of the G20 meeting, I should say that he knows perfectly well that Greece is not a member of the G20, and at the moment I do not foresee any prospect of its joining the G20.