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G20: Turkish Presidency

Volume 760: debated on Monday 23 March 2015

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the main aims of the Turkish Presidency of the G20 in 2015.

My Lords, we support the Turkish presidency’s priorities of inclusiveness, implementation and investment, and particularly welcome the focus on the implementation of previous G20 commitments. We are liaising closely with the Turkish presidency, and are actively involved in all the G20 working groups, including co-chairing the Energy Sustainability Working Group. A UK official is seconded directly to support the Turkish G20 presidency team.

I thank the Minister for her reply. As she says, the Turkish presidency is founded on the three “i”s of inclusiveness, implementation and investment, and these aim to ensure that the benefits of growth and prosperity are shared. Indeed, it has been estimated that if all the plans already endorsed by the G8 were carried out, some 2% would be added to the world’s GDP. Can the Minister outline how the Government will work to help the Turkish presidency achieve these aims?

My Lords, we are at the forefront of implementing a series of commitments. For example, on anti-corruption the UK Anti-Corruption Plan published in December 2014 clearly sets out more than 60 actions for tackling corruption domestically and internationally. My second example is the automatic exchange of tax information, of which the UK is an early implementer, with the first exchange expected in 2017.

My Lords, my noble friend mentioned previous G20 communiqués so she will be familiar with the November communiqué, which said that tackling infrastructure shortfalls is,

“crucial to lifting growth, job creation and productivity”.

In that case, what conversations have taken place with the United States over the very welcome UK application to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which I understand has been less than enthusiastically received by the US?

My Lords, it is a matter of discussion with the United States. Our whole focus with regard to the G20 is the implementation of previous commitments. This is one and we will continue that discussion. I know, for example, that at Lough Erne 1,000 commitments were made. Since this is the forum which has a prime focus on achieving international consensus on economic matters, we have to work for that consensus.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, has just noted, inclusiveness is one of the main aims of the presidency of the G20. The document on presidency priorities states clearly:

“At the domestic level, we must ensure that the benefits of growth and prosperity are shared by all segments of the society”.

Can the Minister explain how the Government can comply with this aim when, according to the Social Market Foundation, the rich in Britain are,

“64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer”;

when, despite the so-called recovery, the economic chasm between London and the regions is widening; and when 3.5 million children are living in poverty in one of the richest countries on the planet?

My Lords, the Budget showed clearly last week that in the jobs-led recovery, which is the achievement of this coalition Government, we have shown the rest of Europe the way in which one can achieve success. It is hard work and takes a long time but that is what we are doing. It means that all parts of society are benefiting, and clearly the Budget set that out word for word.

My Lords, does my noble friend think that the Turkish presidency of the G20 will in any way affect its long-standing attempts to join the European Union? Does she not agree that Turkey seems to be getting a bit tired of its constant efforts to make progress negotiating with the European Union in its present form and is seeking a reformed European Union to join? Does she also agree that that could be a basis for our own efforts in this country to seek reforms in the European Union to bring it into the 21st century?

My Lords, it is a matter of fact that the Foreign Secretary has been meeting his counterparts throughout Europe to look at ways in which the European Union should be reformed. Reform is needed and he has met a lot of agreement on that. With regard specifically to Turkey, the block on it joining has been self-imposed as well as imposed by other countries. Turkey assures us that it is still very keen to join the European Union. We welcome that. It is the sixth largest economy in Europe. We want it to be a partner. One of the issues that must be resolved before Turkey can do that, and for chapters to be both opened and closed, is Cyprus.

My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness said in her Answer to the Question that a member of the Foreign Office would be seconded to the Turkish team. Can she tell us whether other countries are doing the same? Will there be a French member of the team—somebody there from the Quai d’Orsay and somebody from the German Foreign Ministry and perhaps one or two others as well? Can she also tell us exactly what status this individual will have—and, indeed, what work he will do?

My Lords, this is a practical way in which Governments can work before a presidency to ensure that work is done in the run-up, whether it is by the Sherpas or by the finance directors. This is a very practical step forward. Indeed, a Turkish member is seconded to the Foreign Office on other matters. I cannot answer the noble Lord’s question with regard to specific countries that may provide the same service, but clearly it is important that we have this kind of interplay between countries when we are working on consensus issues at G20 meetings, whether they are in Turkey this time or in China next time.

My Lords, why do the Government have double standards on Cyprus? Why does the Minister say that Cyprus is an obstacle to Turkey joining the European Union when Her Majesty’s Government supported Greece joining the European Union after it had organised a coup d’état in Cyprus?