Lord Brennan debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office during the 2019 Parliament

Latin America

Lord Brennan Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Brennan Portrait Lord Brennan (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, on introducing this debate, which is so important. I remind the House of my interests in Latin America, which are set out in the register, including advising companies and investors on how get into Latin America and once they are there to make a success of it, and vice versa, from there to here. My wife is patron of the Anglo Latin American Foundation, which supports poor and needy children on that continent.

Our country’s relationship with the countries of Latin America has been of historic duration. A key figure was George Canning. As Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister in the 1820s, he chose to persuade our Government to recognise the new countries and states that were setting themselves up on the Latin American continent. He shared wisdom and foresight, hence his statue in Parliament Square, put up within a few years of his death, and hence the blue plaque on his house in Berkeley Square. It says simply but nobly “George Canning”, his birth and death years below, and, in the middle, one word: “statesman”. He recognised the creation of a group of nations that had a long-term future with which we should be associated.

Let us remember that it is not just the rich and famous companies or people who went to Latin America. Cornish tin miners mined in Mexico when tin stopped being mined in Cornwall. Welsh farmers set up farms in Patagonia, and the Welsh community there is still extant a couple of hundred years later. In London now, we count ourselves lucky to have top-class diplomats from these countries, working hard in their interests and ours, two of whom are in the Gallery today, from Peru and Costa Rica.

What about the future? Latin America is approaching 700 million people. They are educated people, with a high literacy rate in most countries. They know what they are doing. It is the largest net food exporter territory in the world. The beef exports are world famous. The next time you buy a tin of Fray Bentos, have a look. Fray Bentos was the port in Uruguay through which the beef in the tin came from there to here—hence Fray Bentos, started by the Vestey family here in England.

Argentina has a huge shale field for oil and gas. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are three very important countries for oil and gas. As for renewable energy, solar intensity is very high in some areas of Latin America. The winds are long and strong in some areas. They are ready for renewable energy and for us to help them.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, mentioned Guyana, which is a member of the British Commonwealth. It was colonised as a new country by us in the 18th and 19th centuries. Last Friday, 1 December, the International Court of Justice, in front of which there is a case about the territorial claim by Venezuela, made a statement requiring Venezuela not to take any action involving Guyana until the court had made a judgment. I trust that our Government will stand by that attitude of the ICJ. On Sunday in Venezuela, a “referendum vote”—in inverted commas—is supposed to have asked the people of the country to help invade the disputed territory, which has plenty of oil and gas. We must help as and when required—certainly, diplomatically.

There is plenty of mining of the strategic minerals of lithium and nickel in the southern Andes. We have listed on our stock exchange the largest precious metals company in Mexico, Fresnillo, and the largest mining company in Peru, Hochschild, because we value the benefit of their business internationally.

I turn to the climate change of the future. Of all the global places about which we have heard, the Amazon rainforest is probably the last place where the world is breathing safely. Let us help Brazil in particular to look after that important sector.

Let us be careful, because China is in Latin America—big time. The trade between China and Argentina is measured in billions of US dollars. China is helping to build a new railway system in Argentina, and—hear this—it wants to open a Chinese subsidiary port in a place called Ushuaia in the deep south of Argentina, opposite the Falklands and next to Antarctica. It is on the Atlantic coast, not the Chinese-facing Pacific. This is serious stuff.

Therefore, let us look for a balanced relationship. This is an important part of the world. Its countries will look to us in the future as they have done in the past. As we start the third century of our long-term relationships, let us go to it.

Climate Change in Developing Countries

Lord Brennan Excerpts
Thursday 30th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Brennan Portrait Lord Brennan (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I agree with all the speakers thus far. I want to concentrate my remarks on the Commonwealth in particular and how we should be helping it. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, specifically asked the Government what the plans are for new economic policies—not a rehearsal of what we have done in the past but what we can do in the future.

Some 2 billion to 2.5 billion people live in Commonwealth countries. They have a special rapport with our country. We have undertaken, in general terms, to deepen co-operation with them on climate change, nature loss and environmental depletion.

I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, about Sri Lanka, with which I am also very familiar. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, remarked, we have lands in the Commonwealth, and islands, but Sri Lanka is a noble combination of the two: a massive block of land that is an island similar to ours. We must not underestimate a country of 20 million people that has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. They are capable of doing well and are now receiving IMF special funds, subject to restrictions and conditions, following Covid.

I turn to the current situation in the Commonwealth from our point of view. We were the head of the Commonwealth Heads of Government unit from the time of the 2018 CHOGM. We produced a Foreign Office communiqué last year, updating three things we have undertaken to do. The Climate Finance Access Hub is still going, but to what extent or how is not known. There is the Commonwealth Blue Charter—co-operation on ocean-related issues—and the funding of dedicated climate advisers to island countries, particularly in the Caribbean: £38 million for 23 programmes. Finally, there is a strategy for funding international development. What else is on the books? What are we prepared to spend, and when and how do we propose to implement it? These are questions properly to be asked by our citizens, not just the citizens of Commonwealth countries who are suffering more than us.

On 13 March—two weeks ago—the integrated review concerning the environment was dealt with in the other House. The summary of the matters that were discussed was dealt with by the Foreign Secretary. The Opposition particularly criticised him for a lack of emphasis on co-operation with the Commonwealth. He replied with these remarkable words:

“I reassure the House that even if not written down explicitly, it"—


Commonwealth co-operation—

“is absolutely interwoven throughout this document.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/3/23; col. 555.]

If anybody can understand that, please come and explain it to me afterwards. “Absolutely interwoven”: do we now have a new species of documentary telepathy that we are supposed to use to interpret public policy? Surely, we can have some frank talking: what are the plans, how much, and when?

Action is required now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to which the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred, took eight years to compile its report. It is probably one of the most profound examinations of these issues that has ever been undertaken, anywhere in the world. A critic of our Government says in the report that the window for rescue is shrinking, especially the limiting of global warming to 1.5 degrees, thereby avoiding risk to us and our descendants. United Nations Secretary-General Guterres said that the climate time bomb is ticking. This report is our survival guide to living, for all of us.

I have here, to show noble Lords and noble Baronesses, a copy of the Environment and Climate Change Committee report produced by this House; it is one of the thickest I have ever seen and one of the most comprehensive I have ever read. It called for action six months ago. The Climate Change Committee in the Commons said the need for a plan was critical. Action now—but when, how much and how far?