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Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): May I begin by thanking the Prime Minister for giving me early sight of his statement? Kananaskis was the first G8 gathering since 11 September, and we welcome the practical steps agreed there to fight international terrorism, and to prevent the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. In particular, Kananaskis marked another step in Russia's re-emergence on the world stage, and I believe it right that the G8 should help to reduce her nuclear stockpiles, and very fitting that Russia will assume presidency of the G8 in 2006.
We also welcome the G8's renewed commitment to supporting universal primary education in developing countries, and to assisting those countries in tackling the scourge of diseases such as AIDS, TB, malaria and polio. The progress made on international debt relief is also welcome, although we note that the sums involved barely make up for the fall in world commodity prices that has recently so affected developing economies. The Prime Minister is right to herald the G8's meeting with African presidents and the UN Secretary-General to discuss the New Partnership for Africa's Development as a step in the right direction. However, only last October the Prime Minister told his party conference that a partnership for Africa meant
The G8 summit could have demanded fresh presidential elections in Zimbabwe; it could have co-ordinated sanctions between the EU and north America; and it could have shown that we mean what we say about good governance in the African continent. Did the Prime Minister argue for those things at the conference, and if so, does he not agree that it is deeply disappointing that Zimbabwe did not merit a mention in the communiqué or in his statement?
Today, we learn that the United States is threatening to veto the extension of UN peacekeeping operations in Bosnia unless American troops are granted immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Did the Prime Minister discuss that with President Bush and other G8 leaders during the summit? Ten days ago, the Defence Secretary told the House,
Was the Prime Minister not aware of grave misgivings, which we share, that the court could be used maliciously to put our soldiers in the dock merely for carrying out their duties[Interruption.] Labour Members may complain, but the French have been able to negotiate immunity for their troops for the next seven years as a condition of signing up to the ICC. When we sought in the course of debate to introduce similar protection, that was rejected, even though it was for British troops. Will the Prime Minister tell us once and for all what protection, if any, our troops will have, apart from the judgment of the ICC[Interruption.]
Mr. Duncan Smith: They hate it when they get difficult questions as they never hear the answer[Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister agree with the criticism of the United States launched by the Secretary of State for International Development yesterday in the media and the newspapers? If Kananaskis is to be remembered, it will be judged by what it achieves for southern Africa, especially the 13 million people starving in that region. This is an opportunity to strike up a genuine partnership with Africa that will endure beyond the following day's headlines. It is a two-way street, however, offering long-term assistance delivered to an agreed timetable from the developed world in return for a genuine commitment by developing countries to improve the governance of their people. But it takes action, not just words. If, with all the might at its disposal, and with the Prime Minister at the conference, the G8 cannot even bring itself to demand change in Zimbabwe, what hope is there for the rest of Africa?
The Prime Minister: If I may say so, I thought that that was an extraordinary demonstration of the right hon. Gentleman's priorities. I make no apology whatever for using the vast majority of the statement to deal with Africa. It was extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman had more to say about the International Criminal Court than the state of Africa. I shall deal with the issue of Zimbabwe, but first I shall deal with the International Criminal Court, which the Conservatives supported when it was debated in the House. At the time, a Conservative Front-Bench spokesman said:
On Zimbabwe, let me make it clear that it will not benefit in any way from the African plan, precisely because of the outrageous conduct of the Zimbabwean Government. That is why it is so important that the plan makes it clear that only the countries that engage in good governance will qualify for the extra aid and assistance. As for what we should do about Zimbabwe, at every levelin the European Union and elsewhere, in the negotiations with the United Statesof course we raise the matter.
I looked very carefully at the words of the shadow Foreign Secretary when he was lambasting the Government for our position on Zimbabwe. I could not find a single sensible, constructive suggestion from him to deal with the matter. This is a classic instance of the Conservatives seizing on an issue, running with it hard, and having nothing but sheer vacuous nonsense to say about it.
On HIPC, the right hon. Gentleman speaks about the sum barely making up the difference. Let us be clear. When the Government came to office, we had nothing like the help in place for Africa on debt relief or anything else. What we have done through the additional aid means that billions of dollars of debt relief will be saved for those countries, so that the money can be put into education. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome that. [Hon. Members: "We did."] Well, I suppose that it was a welcome of sorts. It is one of the features of the Conservatives that although in general they are against spending any money, in particular they are always in favour of spending more.
On the middle east, in relation to Chairman Arafat, let me repeat what I said last week. I believe that if the middle east is to have a chance of getting the peace process that it needs, we need serious people to negotiate with. I have said why I believe that Chairman Arafat has let down the Palestinian people, in particular by rejecting the deal that was offered by Prime Minister Barak: he did a huge disservice to the process of peace in the middle east.
It is for the Palestinians, of course, to decide whom they elect. We are not in a position to decide that for them, but the point that we must make and that the Americans are making is that if they end up electing leadership that is not serious about partnering the peace process, it will be difficult to make the changes that we want. That is the reality, and it is why we and the Americans have both been saying it. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the vast majority of countries agree.
In particular, leaving aside for a moment the issue of Chairman Arafat, the key thing that the Bush speech did, and the reason why I think that it should be strongly supported, is that it set out the following principles, which are vital for progress: security for the Palestinian people,
That is what is important. I believe that we have the basis of a forward plan for the middle east that can work. I believe that it will work, but only if we make sure that those principles are properly implemented. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that the attempt to make differences between ourselves and the Americans may suit the Opposition, but it does not suit the peace process at all.
Finally, let me deal with the point that the right hon. Gentleman made, in so far as he dealt with Africa at all. He said that this announcement is a deal. Yes, it is, and it gives us an important chance to make a way forward for Africa, but let us not believe that the whole of Africa is encapsulated in Zimbabwe. It is not. I am pleased to say that, increasingly, Zimbabwe is the exception in Africa, not the rule. At the same time as we take the possible actionnot the impossible actionagainst Zimbabwe, let us congratulate those African leaders on their boldness in coming forward with the initiative, let us support it, and let us make sure that the Africa plan, which initiates the process, is carried through with the determination and vigour that has given rise to it.