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The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): The economic and political situation in Zimbabwe is deeply worrying. The rule of law is increasingly being disregarded. The economy is set to shrink by a further 6 per cent. this year and the poor of Zimbabwe in particular are suffering badly--jobs are being lost, prices are increasing and there is now a potential for food shortages.
I have kept the UK development programme under close review since 1997. We have made it clear since 1997 that we support land reform in Zimbabwe, that the United Kingdom has fulfilled its commitments under the Lancaster house agreement and that henceforth we will fund land reform only if it is transparent and provides land to poor farmers. No such proposals have come forward.
I have recently authorised a £20 million HIV/AIDS programme because one in four adult Zimbabweans are HIV positive, and the country has lost 20 years in average life expectancy. I hope that the House will agree that we should do what we can to lessen the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe as a result of the terrible behaviour of their Government.
Clare Short: If making a loud noise would change the world, the hon. Gentleman would have achieved a lot more than he has achieved in his political life. The situation in Zimbabwe is so serious, causes so much desperate suffering to all the people of Zimbabwe and is so threatening to the economy of the whole of southern Africa that we should all be deadly serious and try to do everything that we can to prevent that suffering and bring the situation to an end.
Making the kind of noises that President Mugabe wants to hear as he loses political support in his country means that he can go back to his heyday when the country became independent, it plays into his hands and does not help the situation in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Fabricant: Is the Secretary of State aware that a week ago Sunday a 72-year-old lady farmer--a sprightly lady--went for a walk with her three dogs? As she left the farm gates, she was shot down by 15 bullets from AK47s. She died instantly. The Secretary of State will know that the Government are giving £11 million to Zimbabwe in aid this year, in addition to the European Union contribution. She fought consistently against the South African regime after she entered Parliament in 1983 and consistently argued for sanctions against South Africa. Does she not think that now is the time for sanctions against--
Clare Short: I am well aware of the recent death of that old lady. I am aware also that during the election campaign many black Zimbabweans as well as white farmers were killed, often only because they dared to support the opposition. Teachers were raped because they were seen to be opinion formers in rural areas. The situation is outrageous and terrible.
I agree that all decent people should do everything in their power to try to bring about a major change in the governance of Zimbabwe. However, people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and receiving no support from their Government, in the absence of a prevention programmes, should not pay the price of President Mugabe's mis-government. Throughout the world, we should do what we can to support liberty and to support those who are suffering, and that is what we are doing in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether she or any of her officials have met the delegation of members from the Movement for Democratic Change, who are here from Zimbabwe? They are led by David Coltart MP, who was a justice shadow Minister. If not, would my right hon. Friend like to come to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Room at 4 o'clock, or send a representative, where the delegation will be briefing Members on the situation in Zimbabwe?
Clare Short: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have met the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change; indeed, I sat next to him at a TUC dinner. He is an impressive man with a long record of commitment to democratic trade unionism and democracy generally. I was not aware that there was a delegation in the country. I do not think that I am free at 4 o'clock, but if I can manage to meet any members of that delegation, I shall be delighted to do so.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us, including herself, who supported all the way the liberation movement in Zimbabwe now view with contempt what is happening? Does she also agree that, unfortunately, it is not the rule
Clare Short: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a tragedy for Zimbabwe. President Mugabe, who had a proud record of leading his country to independence has now despoiled that record. That is a tragedy for him and for the country. We must hope that there will be a change of Government as rapidly as possible.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): When I was in Zimbabwe just over a fortnight ago, the question on people's lips was, "What price the UK's ethical foreign policy now?" As the Secretary of State knows, four Select Committees, reporting on strategic export controls, have condemned the Government for a serious error of judgment in providing arms and military spares to Zimbabwe. The report published this morning concluded that the Government's response on licences was inaccurate.
Can we now know whether any of the responses from the right hon. Lady's Department were inaccurate? What objections did her Department raise to the licences being granted at the time? If she made any objections, what reasons were given to her for her colleagues ignoring those objections? On how many other occasions has her advice been sidelined? She cannot even get her legislation through the House; she has to give it to a Back-Bench Member to introduce in a ten-minute Bill. How can we help her to make the other members of the Cabinet listen to her voice and to bring an ethical and moral foreign policy into a reality?
Clare Short: There could be no better Opposition Member to second the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter); they are quite a team. The Government have massively strengthened controls on arms exports, way beyond the activities of the Conservative Government, of whom she was a member.
I had no part in the report that was published this morning. I have not read it and I did not give evidence to the Select Committees. [Interruption.] It is no good laughing. The hon. Lady knows about the way in which government works, or perhaps that has passed her by, as most other things do.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Chris Mullin): Our programme in Vietnam is currently worth just over £5 million a year and is scheduled to increase significantly over the next three years, in recognition of the Vietnamese Government's commitment to poverty reduction and social equity. Rural development is the Government's highest priority for donor support, and many of our
Mr. Wareing: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. During a recent visit that I made to Vietnam, people expressed appreciation of Britain's support for flood victims in the Mekong delta. The media in Vietnam highlighted the fact that Britain was top of the European Union league in giving assistance. The Department should be congratulated on that. However, much more needs to be done, especially to strengthen the infrastructure and to support policies that help to absorb a larger proportion of the rural population into the towns. Will the Minister assure us that that is uppermost in his mind?
Mr. Mullin: I thank my hon. Friend for the reported comments about our aid in the Mekong delta; I am glad that it was appreciated. Reducing migration from the countryside to the cities is a problem in all developing countries. The best way in which to achieve it is to help the rural poor to develop sustainable life styles and to raise their standard of living so that they do not feel the pressure to migrate to the cities. The Department for International Development and several non-governmental organisations are currently funding programmes that are designed to do that in poor, rural areas of Vietnam.
I have visited an Oxfam project in Ky An province in the centre of the country, which is regularly hit by typhoons. The project helps to strengthen dykes to protect rice paddies and enable people to derive a living from their land.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent): The Department has rightly set its heart on operating with partners and other countries, especially in Vietnam. Its sector-wide approach is interesting and means conducting a close relationship with the Government of Vietnam. Does the Minister believe that those objectives are best served by having DFID's regional office in Bangkok?
Mr. Mullin: That was reviewed some time ago. Several minor changes were made, but it was concluded that the advantages of having a regional office for our programme in south-east Asia, which covers about half a dozen countries, outweighed disadvantages in, for example, cost efficiency.