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Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for repeating this important Statement. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I should like to associate these Benches with what was said about help to Africa, the statement on Hong Kong, Bosnia and Cyprus, and to welcome the increased participation of Russia.
There are three issues on which I should like to ask questions. Two of them were dealt with by the noble Viscount. The first is the question of unemployment. Fortunately, unemployment is diminishing in this country, although it is still at a very high level in some other EU countries. The Government were quite right to emphasise that greater market flexibility has to be associated with skills training and employability. Those
The second issue is financial stability, which is obviously of crucial importance but was dealt with very briefly in the Statement. It merely said that the Finance Ministers had already discussed this and that there would be further discussions between what are described as financial supervisors. That makes it sound rather technical. Is it more substantial than that or is it merely a question of supervisors getting together to see how they would supervise financial flows or the movement of money which has originated from doubtful sources? I should be grateful if this could be expanded on a little because it is an important issue.
Finally, there is the environmental question. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister should have put so much emphasis on this not only in the G8 Conference but also in his remarks yesterday to the United Nations in New York. I am glad that the United Kingdom intends to take a lead in this matter and that in addition to the proposal from the EU for a 15 per cent. emission reduction by the year 2010, we have put forward the proposal for a 20 per cent. reduction. What we should like to know is how this will be achieved. Here again I hope that before this is debated further with the heads of state at the G8 Conference in Birmingham next year we shall have a full opportunity of hearing the Government's views on the two major issues which the Prime Minister identified as leading to this desirable result; namely, a more efficient, integrated transport system and improvements in the efficient use of energy and encouragement for the use of renewables.
These are three issues which have been under consideration for many years and on which a good deal of progress has already been made. But in order to achieve this challenging objective which the Government have rightly set, we have to recognise that although the year 2010 may sound a long way off, it is only another 13 years away. If the structural changes to the environmental scene have to be put in place by then we have to start very soon indeed. If we are going to do that, then we need to know how we are going to set about it.
Therefore, generally speaking, we welcome the Statement. We are very pleased that these issues will be taken up again in Birmingham. However, in view of the importance of the environmental issues, I am not clear why the Prime Minister should have left that subject off the agenda for Birmingham. He stated that the agenda would deal with employment and organised crime. There is a very strong case for the environmental problems to be taken further at that meeting to which the Prime Minister so effectively referred recently.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I am grateful for at least some of what the noble Viscount and the noble Lord said. I thought that the noble Viscount was doing rather well in making the first eight or 10 points that I noted,
I was asked a number of detailed questions by the noble Viscount and perhaps I may give some detailed and authorised answers. As regards tradeable credits, we have to look at this matter as part of the Kyoto negotiations. They may well have a part to play, but they cannot be used as an excuse for countries not taking domestic action. I was asked about financial stability. It is a technical subject, which has been discussed in depth by G8 experts. The aim is simple. It is to create co-ordinating supervisors who will monitor financial transactions and prevent irregularities which can remain hidden in increasingly complex international transactions.
I was asked whether the proposed follow up discussions by my right honourable friend the Chancellor will be only with supervisors. No, it is about supervisors and making sure that supervision is better co-ordinated. The schema, if I can put it that way, is that that should take place at the beginning of next year and then obviously the matter will come back to the summit in Birmingham.
The noble Viscount seemed a little afraid that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister did not give the previous government any credit. He asked me whether I would give the previous government some credit for what they had done about the gas emissions target. My right honourable friend said to the UN General Assembly:
Any matter concerning taxation is for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am learning quite quickly what a delight that sentence is when standing at the Government Dispatch Box. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Chancellor will read with great interest what has been said in the House today and will take such account of it as he believes appropriate and sensible.
There was considerable discussion at the summit about the ageing population, particularly the idea of active ageing. When I read the communique, it seemed to me that in some ways your Lordships' House is a very good example of what was being talked about. The communique states:
To be a little more serious for a moment, we believe that the summit was a success. As the noble Viscount said, we believe it important that Russia was involved. We believe it will be increasingly important that Russia becomes more involved. It is true that environmental targets were not reached at Denver. The important time for targets to be reached and accepted by other countries is at Kyoto. There is a commitment in the communique that those targets will have to be expressed in time for the Kyoto summit.
Lord Harmar-Nicholls: My Lords, the speeches that followed the Statement were the kind of speeches that could have emanated from any mutual admiration society. For my part, I detect only one positive sentence in the Statement. It is a sentence with which I wholeheartedly agree and it is one that I hope will come to fruition and give satisfaction. But for that sentence, which I will enlarge upon in a moment, the Statement is a series of generalisations tacked together which add up to almost nothing. The positive sentence that is good and should be watched indicates that the Prime Minister has recognised the generality of the remainder of the Statement. He says that at future summits he will try hard to see that the discussions concentrate upon definite points that can be debated in detail and amount to something. That is important, and I approve of it. I hope that he will be successful in bringing that about. Often one is faced with anodyne Statements such as that before us today. It could be nothing else. I do not criticise the Prime Minister for presenting nothing; he did rather well. Too often particularly on matters that emanate from European summits one hears general speeches that tell one nothing, only to find months later that the country has been committed to one detail or another that is antagonistic to the good of the UK. Therefore, if there is one positive sentence saying that there will be detailed discussion, that makes the Statement worth listening to because it means something. That is good. It is a sentence of which I heartily approve.
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