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Mr. Straw: With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point, leaving aside ZANU-PF's ideological baggageit is not the only party in the world to have ideological baggageas the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), who spoke so movingly about his experience witnessing his father's role as the last Governor-General of that country, said, for quite a long period ZANU-PF had some hope and expectation behind it. It is a huge pity that it has failed to meet that expectation. As to working with the United States, the answer is yes. We are, and will continue to be, in close touch with the United States Government.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): May I press the Foreign Secretary on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that I did not feel received a suitable answer? Will he assure the House that when he speaks to his colleagues in Barcelona and elsewhere, they will discuss as a priority how they can guarantee the immediate and long-term safety of all those men and women in Zimbabwe who have had the courage to stand up to Mugabe and his thugs during the past few months?
Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): Particularly in the light of the inability of South Africa, and President Mbeki in particular, to show greater leadership in the region, what future does the Foreign Secretary see for NEPAD and what role in particular should the G8 play in pushing that forward in the light of the election result?
Mr. Straw: NEPAD is about[Interruption.] With great respect, it is not a laughing matter. If the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) does not know what the initials stand for, it shows a lack of information about a strategy for Africa, which I greatly regret.
The new partnership for Africa's development initiative is designed to try to turn round Africa's economic prospects and to lift Africa out of poverty. Africa is a continent which, uniquely out of all the continents in the world, has a declining, not growing, economy, and that is why the new African partnership is so crucial. The people of Africa should not be punished by the misbehaviour of one man, Mugabe, nor of his party. It is my great hope that what has happened in Zimbabwe overnight does not undermine the prospects of NEPAD, and, because of the way in which Mugabe is helping to reduce still further the prosperity of Africa, the paradox is that it becomes all the more urgent.
Mr. Charles Hendry (Wealden): The Foreign Secretary will be aware that many hon. Members have constituents whose relatives have had farms seized in Zimbabwe or who have been threatened. Some of them have been killed and some of their innocent farm workers have been killed or brutally beaten. He will also be aware that those people are more worried than ever that Mugabe's thugs will believe that they can run rampant because they are unchallengeable and above the law. Does he therefore accept that this is no longer the time for lengthy discussion but for urgent action, as each passing day brings additional threats to people's livelihoods and safety? Will he therefore tell us the time scale for the troika to make its recommendations and for the Commonwealth to react to them? Will he ensure that the views of the House are relayed in terms not just of the unanimity of action that we believe needs to be taken, but also of its urgency?
Mr. Straw: On the hon. Gentleman's first point, our concern, like that of the House, is for everybody in Zimbabwe, regardless of the colour of their skin, citizenship or nationality. It speaks volumes for that concern that no one this afternoon has directly raised the issue of all the British citizens who are there, but I should make use of the opportunity of the hon. Gentleman's question to say that we have particular responsibilities to them and we shall ensure that those are carried out. I completely understand the anxieties of the white community in Zimbabwe, but in recent months the main violence has overwhelmingly been against the black community there. One should not have to make that point,
As to the time scale for the troika, my understanding is that it is intended that the troika should meet next week, and as soon as I have more detailed information I shall make it available to the House.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent): The Foreign Secretary is correct to say that the consequences of Mugabe's victory will not be confined to Zimbabwe but affect surrounding countries. What plans are the Government putting in place to deal with the poverty and famine that flow directly from Mugabe's policies?
Mr. Straw: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has already put in place humanitarian assistance programmes in Zimbabwe. It is extraordinary that here is a country that was exporting large quantities of agricultural produce across southern Africa which now has people starving, not because of any natural disaster but because of the man-made, Mugabe-made, disaster, by which he has taken power illegitimately and, in the course of his misuse of power, has managed to collapse the Zimbabwe economy and much of the economy of the rest of southern Africa. That is his appalling legacy. I know that I speak for my right hon. Friend when I say that, within the resources available to her, she will continue to do all that she can to provide humanitarian aid across southern Africa where it is needed and assistance in fighting HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): My e-mail inbox, like that of many of my hon. Friends, has been heavy with e-mails from constituents and direct from Zimbabwe, reflecting the concern about all communities in that country. But are we not all guilty of having looked for many years through rose-tinted spectacles at dictatorships in Africa? Were not the Government whom I supported responsible for turning their face away from the intimidation in Matabeleland in the early 1980s? Have we not all patronised the Africans as somehow being undeserving of the same quality of democracy as we would expect for our people? Should we not admit those things? Will the Foreign Secretary press for a ban on international travel for any of the adherents of the Mugabe dictatorship and ensure that it is made clear that any aid that goes to Zimbabweaid will be greatly needed in future weeks and monthscomes from those democracies that Mugabe so much reviles?
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman's opening remarks are very wise and we all have lessons to learn here. He is particularly wise to say that it is and has been patronising of the international community somehow to imply that other standards should operate in Africa. A universal principle is at stake and, in so far as it needs spelling out, the great paradox or irony of the situation is that it was spelled out for the Commonwealth at the Harare meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1991 chaired by none other than Robert Mugabe.
On the ban on travel, the European Union and United States sanctions impose travel bans on 20 or so leading members of ZANU-PF. We are of course open to representations and shall consider whether those bans should be extended.
On aid, we shall make it clear that aid comes from the democracies that Mugabe so despises. We need democracy because it applies a universal principle of freedom; one of the other truths about democracies is that they are almost always much more prosperous than dictatorships.
Tuesday 19 MarchOpposition Day [12th Allotted Day]. Until seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "Crisis in Education and Skills Training" followed by a debate entitled "The Chinook Helicopter Crash".
Tuesday 26 MarchHon. Members will wish to know that it is proposed that the House will meet from 11.30 am until 7 pm. The business of the day will be a motion to approve the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges on the registration of interest by Members who have not taken their seat.
The House will wish to know that on Monday 18 March 2002, there will be a debate in European Standing Committee A relating to aircraft noise. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.