With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the G8 and NATO Summits which I attended in America last weekend.
The common theme across both summits was economic stability and international security.
At the G8 we reached important conclusions on dealing with our debts, growing our economies and dealing with the risks in the Eurozone.
Let me take each in turn.
Mr Speaker, deficit reduction and growth are not alternatives.
You need the first to deliver the second.
There was absolutely no debate about this.
It was my view.
It was Chancellor Merkel’s view.
It was President Obama’s view.
And it was President Hollande’s view. Indeed, France will balance its budget at a faster rate than Britain.
In Britain, in two years, we have cut the deficit we inherited from the last government by more than a quarter.
And our approach has been endorsed again by the IMF this week - and by the OECD.
Growing our economies
At a time of tight budgets, a proper growth plan requires - not just a credible fiscal policy which secures low interest rates but also structural reforms to make our economies more competitive with an active monetary policy and innovative use of our hard won credibility to ensure investment in long term infrastructure.
We are taking all these steps in the UK and promoting them in Europe as well and in every area we need to do more.
Prime Minister Monti and I have gathered 10 other EU leaders to call for the completion of the single market in digital and services.
President Hollande is coming forward with creative proposals such as project bonds.
And, as the House knows, in recent months the ECB has helped supply liquidity to European banks.
I will be pursuing all of these elements at the Informal European Council tonight - and at the formal council in June, after which I will of course be making a statement.
Growing our economies also means doing everything we can to get trade moving.
At the end of the G8 meeting there was a serious and substantive discussion about the potential for an EU-US trade deal.
The EU and US together make up over half of the world’s GDP.
There is a huge amount of work to be done - and a further effort will be made around the G20 next month - but this could have a positive impact on both sides of the Atlantic.
Risks in the Eurozone
Mr Speaker, the greatest risk facing the Eurozone is the situation in Greece.
The future of Greece is for the Greek people to determine.
It is for them to decide what is best for their country.
But we can’t afford to allow this issue to be endlessly fudged and put off.
The Greek election should in effect be a straightforward choice between staying in the Eurozone - with the responsibilities that entails or taking a different path.
The Eurozone - and Europe as a whole - needs to have contingency plans in place for both eventualities.
This should involve strengthening banks, protecting financial systems and ensuring decisive action by European institutions to prevent contagion.
Mr Speaker, I can tell the House that whatever the outcome, this government will do whatever is necessary to protect this country and secure our economy and financial system.
Other G8 issues
Alongside the discussion on the economy, I had two further priorities for this G8 to continue the good work of the G8 on development and to support the Arab Spring and the promotion of democracy and freedom.
On development, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is an important initiative that aims to help 50 million people lift themselves out of poverty over ten years.
For countries to receive help they need to show a real commitment to transparency and good governance.
And in return they get substantial support to generate private sector investment in food production.
This is a great combination of promoting good governance and helping Africa to feed its people.
And I’ll be building on this with a major event on food security during the Olympics.
Encouraging the private sector to create jobs is one of the best routes to sustainable, equitable growth in poorer countries.
But aid still has a vital role to play.
Mr Speaker, for the first time in a decade the amount of aid given by the world’s richest countries to the world’s poorest countries has fallen back.
Promises are being broken.
This is wrong.
Britain continues to honour its commitments. Other nations should do likewise - and in our G8 next year we will once again produce the report which shows who has and who hasn’t.
The G8 also reached important conclusions on Libya, Iran and Syria.
Specifically on Syria, there was backing for the Annan Plan - and for further UN measures if Assad doesn’t change course.
And it was significant that the Russians agreed to this.
I raised Burma and the need to support the foundations of a lasting and irreversible transition to democracy.
I’ll be making this a feature of our G8 next year.
And I’m sure the whole House will look forward to welcoming Aung San Suu Kyi when she addresses Parliament next month.
Mr Speaker, let me turn to the NATO Summit.
Some people write off NATO as a relic of the past.
I believe it is vital to our future security.
The threats NATO countries face largely come from beyond our borders.
Failed states. Terrorism. Nuclear proliferation.
Because of this, it makes sense for NATO to be prepared to link up with partners around the world to act out of area and to spend less on the weapons of past conflicts like battle tanks and more on the technology needed for tomorrow.
All of these things were agreed at the Summit.
That’s not to say NATO shouldn’t take steps to defend Europe and North America.
It should. And we declared that the interim Ballistic Missile Defence capability that will protect Europe is operational.
It was particularly good to have a special session with the partners who work with NATO around the world and in particular the 50 countries who make up the NATO-led alliance in Afghanistan.
NATO’s military commanders set out the progress in the campaign.
Attacks by insurgents are down.
Transition to Afghan control is on track.
Over the next few weeks, we will reach the point where 75 per cent of the population will be living in areas where Afghan forces are in the lead for security.
The vital next steps are to deliver the final stages of transition continue to build up the Afghan National Security Forces and to ensure they are funded properly.
Britain is pledging £70 million a year.
But it is right that other countries should step up and contribute to the future of Afghanistan, irrespective of the role they have played so far.
This Summit marked a turning point in these contributions - with almost $1 billion being pledged to support the Afghan National Security Forces.
Mr Speaker, Britain has played a leading role in this Alliance for reasons of our own security.
Three years ago some three quarters of the most serious terrorist plots against Britain had links to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now I am advised that figure has fallen to about half.
Our aim is an Afghanistan that is able to take care of its own security without the need for foreign troops.
An Afghanistan that can prevent Al Qaeda returning and posing a threat to us and to our allies around the world.
The tremendous hard work of our courageous service men and women is making this possible.
And after ten long years, our service men and women will finally be coming home.
I pay tribute to them.
Their service and sacrifice is beyond measure.
And we remember in particular all those who have given their lives in this vital task to keep our country safe.
And I commend this Statement to the House.