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G7 Summit

Volume 809: debated on Thursday 21 January 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what outcomes they hope to achieve at the G7 Summit due to be held in the United Kingdom in 2021.

My Lords, the Government have developed an ambitious agenda for the UK’s G7 presidency, which focuses on building back better for all. The Prime Minister will welcome the leaders of the world’s leading democracies in June to address shared challenges, from beating coronavirus and tackling climate change to ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change and scientific discovery.

My Lords, I hope that today we are all celebrating President Biden’s decision to sign up again to the Paris Agreement on climate change. I hope that the Government recognise the critical importance of the G7 summit, building towards COP 26 in November and decisive action on climate change. Do the Government also recognise that the best global businesses are crying out for leadership on the sustainable development goals, the framework that provides us with the opportunity to genuinely build back better? Will the Government ensure that those goals are on the agenda for the G7?

My Lords, certainly, one of the key declared aims of the G7 presidency is tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity, as I stated. I can certainly tell the noble Lord that we very much welcome the prospect of bringing the COP 26 UN climate conference to Glasgow, to Scotland, in November and will be working on the important agenda that the noble Lord outlines.

Following the question of the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, I was going to ask about the climate emergency. However, following the Minister’s answer, it is also important to ask: will the Government also focus on the social elements of our sustainable development goals, such as ending poverty and hunger, and dealing with inequality?

My Lords, obviously those objectives are encompassed in the agenda set out by the Prime Minister. Promoting future prosperity for all is vital. Incidentally, I am certain that the noble Baroness will welcome the invitation to the Government of Australia to participate.

My Lords, on Tuesday, President Biden announced the formation of a White House gender policy council and committed to restoring America as a champion of women and girls, which is welcome news. I fully support the Prime Minister’s continued focus on girls’ education but can my noble friend the Minister tell me how the UK will work with the United States and other partners to ensure that the wider issue of gender inequality, which has of course been exacerbated by Covid-19, will be properly addressed at the G7 summit?

I thank my noble friend for her important question. The Prime Minister has agreed to convene a gender equality advisory council that will report to the G7 leaders and drive an ambitious agenda to ensure that the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women is recognised and the importance of gender equality is at the heart of an inclusive recovery. I thank my noble friend for her work and leadership in this area. The council will be part of her legacy.

My Lords, I declare my interests and very much endorse the Minister’s reply to his noble friend Lady Sugg and his comments about her. I also welcome his response to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, with which I totally agree. I welcome the emphasis that the Government are putting on beating the pandemic and future pandemic planning. However, does the Minister accept that we must recognise the importance of continuing support for ongoing global health programmes—such as that on malaria, where the UK has been a world leader—not only because they save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children every year but because they provide vital health infrastructure for the fight against future diseases?

I thank the noble Baroness with her great experience for her kind comments. I can assure her that the United Kingdom remains committed to the research and development needed to fight all pandemics worldwide. One of the highest moments of my lifetime was the eradication of smallpox, and I am certain that the eradication of these great diseases, one of which the noble Baroness referred to, will remain an objective for all of us.

My Lords, I wish the Government well in their participation in the summit. What new ideas do they intend to put forward in view of the increasing awareness of climate change? Will we suggest any positive steps that President Biden could now take, having overturned Trump’s policies?

My Lords, it would be slightly impertinent of me on President Biden’s first day in office to set out an agenda for him. I think we all look forward to hearing that. I say again that we look forward to the COP 26 conference in Scotland. Within the G7 period and leading up to it, we will keep tackling climate change and preserving biodiversity will be at the heart of our efforts.

Does the Minister believe that the Government’s decision to refuse full diplomatic status to the EU ambassador to the UK will help or hinder our ability to build the consensus needed for a successful G7 summit? While he is at it, will he explain why the UK, uniquely in the world, would take such a staggeringly petty, pointless and self-harming decision?

My Lords, we have slightly moved away from the rather positive and optimistic approach of this discussion so far. The G7 will embrace the presence of the EU, as always, and of major democracies in the European Union.

My Lords, the Prime Minister has set a priority for the G7 to develop manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines to prevent future pandemics, and that is very welcome. However, there is an existing pandemic other than Covid—tuberculosis—which still kills 1.5 million people a year and for which there is no effective adult vaccine. That is why research and development investment to develop new tools is so important. Will my noble friend commit to protecting that investment, particularly that made by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, despite the regrettable cut in the ODA budget?

My Lords, having not ventured to offer an agenda to President Biden, I am certainly not going to offer one to the Chancellor. As with the answer on malaria earlier, obviously, fighting a key disease is a vital common international task. The United Kingdom has been one of the biggest donors to the World Health Organization and one of the biggest supporters of vaccine development.

My Lords, earlier this week, Theresa May said that we must bring people together in common cause, but to lead we must live up to our values. She regretted the UK abandoning its 0.7% commitment. Will the Minister detail the Government’s strategy for engaging members in the coming months to ensure that the UK summit turns the tide and brings leaders behind a common message on the post-Covid recovery?

My Lords, I know the noble Lord’s personal commitment to some of the causes set out in the G7 agenda. I think there is a wide area of agreement here. I understand the points made about overseas aid, but we will still be allocating £10,000 million to overseas aid. Based on the latest OECD data, the UK will remain the second-highest donor in the G7.

My Lords, since the UK is a world leader in setting targets, will the Prime Minister urge the G7 countries, as part of their climate agenda, to set targets for developing countries to step up investment in clean energy and green technology, and to provide technical assistance in developing their non-oil private sector?

My Lords, of course, one hopes that all nations will assent to these high ideals, including, for example, China.

My Lords, this follows on from what my noble friend has just said. To build better societies and economies, we need to ensure that all have the opportunity to thrive, free from persecution. In light of the United States recognition of the persecution of Uighurs in China as genocide, will my noble friend confirm that the UK will raise this as an issue for discussion and ask for a co-ordinated response at the G7?

I strongly support what my noble friend said and pay tribute to her work in fighting international injustice. Anyone who read my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary’s Statement to the other place on 12 January in response to human rights violations in Xinjiang against the Uighur people will understand this country’s resolve. We call on other nations to show the same resolve on this deeply troubling question.