My Lords, the Government are developing an ambitious agenda for the UK’s G7 presidency, focusing on our people, prosperity and planet. We will seek to build off the G7’s shared values as democratic and open societies to address the key health, economic and climate challenges of the day and build back better for all.
My Lords, I am certain that I speak for noble Lords on all sides of your Lordships’ House when I express my disappointment at the resignation of the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg. She has been an excellent Minister who has done an incredible power of work, particularly for women and girls around the world, and enhanced Britain’s reputation as she did so. We are disappointed that she has left the Government.
In 2005, I felt an enormous sense of pride at Gleneagles in Scotland as the UK used our leadership of the G8 summit to bring the world together, to unite the world and ensure that there were increased and accelerated commitments from G8 leaders and others to help those living in extreme poverty. Is it not shameful that in 2021, the Government will use the months ahead of the G7 summit in the UK to do the exact opposite and, like the worst kind of playground bully, after a year in which a pandemic has reminded us of the interdependence of our world, to pick on the most vulnerable and break a promise to the poor?
My Lords, I share the noble Lord’s tribute to my good friend and noble friend Lady Sugg. The Government are committed to supporting international development and helping the world’s poorest people, as we have shown already in 2020, hosting the world’s biggest ever summit to raise funding for vaccinations in the poorest countries, and we continue to commit to supporting developing nations against the coronavirus problems.
My Lords, I draw attention to the Register of Members’ Interests, which states that I am an unpaid adviser to Tax Justice Network. We all know now that tax revenues are vital for economic recovery. A report by Tax Justice Network has estimated that, globally, more than $427 billion is lost each year due to corporate tax abuses and private tax evasion. The UK’s Crown dependencies and overseas territories are responsible for more than one-third of global tax losses. Will the Government ensure that curbing tax abuse is on the G7 agenda?
Is the noble Lord, Lord Walney, with us? I do not see him, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Fall.
My Lords, the G7 started life as a fireside chat between the most powerful people in the world, a chance to resolve some of the most critical issues of the day—at the moment they will be spoiled for choice. If we want to see global action on climate change, Covid, mass migration, combating terrorism, eradicating poverty and dealing with China’s growing influence in the world, the provision of 0.7% is a very good way to start. Will the Minister explain how the cutting of ODA at this particular time, when we are about to take over the leadership of the G7, will prepare for those huge challenges?
My Lords, in his initial Answer the Minister talked about “our people”. Can he reassure the House and, indeed, any current recipient of overseas development aid, that “our people” means everyone, and that the United Kingdom, with the presidency of the G7, will be outward looking and supportive, not introspective, inward looking and narrow minded?
My Lords, today it is increasingly the Indo-Pacific that holds the keys to global stability and prosperity. An international commission established by Policy Exchange has put forward the idea of an Indo-Pacific charter, modelled on the Atlantic Charter. Does the Minister agree that Britain should seek G7 backing for an Indo-Pacific charter, as already endorsed by Stephen Harper, Shinzō Abe and Scott Morrison? Does he also agree that our playing a leading role in that would fit well with our intended accession to CPTPP, signalling our repositioning as “global Britain”?
Again, my noble friend touches on very important aspects of international relations for this country and within the G7. But, as I must repeat to the House, the detailed policy agenda is being discussed with G7 partners and will be announced by the Prime Minister in due course.
My Lords, I declare an interest as an adviser to the British College in Kathmandu. The UK-led global education summit next year proves how much this Government value international development. So how can HMG maintain their G7 leadership role in aid giving if, against the advice of senior colleagues, they are determined to sacrifice soft power and legislate against the 0.7% target which has brought so much relief to the poor throughout the world?
My Lords, I repeat that, despite the budgetary decision announced by the Chancellor yesterday, the UK will remain the second-highest aid donor in the G7—more than France, Italy, Japan, Canada or the United States—with next year’s figure estimated at around £10,000 million.
My Lords, this crisis is global as much as it is domestic. In 2008 Gordon Brown persuaded fellow leaders to act as one, agreeing a synchronised stimulus alongside aid for developing countries. What is shocking this time is that the world’s leaders have done so little work together in response. On the progressive agenda for the G7, can the Minister tell us whether the work already started with the Finance Ministers in relation to debt relief will continue? Will he give us an update on this and will it be a priority for the G7 presidency ahead?
My Lords, as I have said, the Prime Minister will be announcing details in due course. I understand that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will make a Statement in another place later; I cannot anticipate that. But I agree with the noble Lord opposite that the G7 does have a track record of delivering meaningful outcomes under successive leaderships. Indeed, it has taken action to save 27 million lives from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Does the Minister recognise that a key priority for the G7 must be how it supports developing economies, which have suffered the severest economic impacts from Covid? Is it not therefore disgraceful that the Government have chosen this exact moment to betray our commitment to the poorest in the world in order, shamefully, to spend the money on weapons instead?
My Lords, the noble Lord’s intervention was strong on adverbs and adjectives. I will give your Lordships a fact: 0.5%, or £10,000 million, whatever noble Lords say, is more than all 29 members of the OECD development committee contribute. Their average is 0.38%. I repeat that we are the second-highest donor in the G7 and will remain so.
Several countries have announced contributions to help replenish the Green Climate Fund to reach a total of £5.5 billion. The Minister has made it clear that climate change will play a big part in the G7. Presumably, a lot of agreements will get made around this table which can then be presented in Glasgow next year. How far has this particular fund got, taking into account that Covid has caused a lot of financial problems? Is it going to meet that target?
My Lords, unfortunately, I was not able to catch every word of the noble Baroness’s question but certainly, as I have said, the commitment to helping the fight against Covid, such as through the COVAX initiative, will continue, and I can confirm that climate change will be one of the priorities, as I said in my opening Answer.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the G7 also has a responsibility to look at how it will respond to women and girls, post Covid, because the biggest impact has been on them? Will he please ensure that, as we hold the presidency, they will be at the forefront of access to finance for enterprise and education?
My Lords, my noble friend makes a profoundly important point. Again, within the constraints of not being able to anticipate announcements, I say that further details will come. What I can say to her is that, as she and I are both aware, girls’ education and training have always been a priority for the Prime Minister, and I am certain that he will drive that forward through the G7 discussions.
My Lords, all supplementary questions have been asked and answered and we now move to the next Question.