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Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement on Zimbabwe and for, as usual, doing me the courtesy of giving me advance sight of it.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that last Thursday, on a similar occasion when he made a statement to the House, he told us:
I also pay tribute to the outstanding leadership of Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. I suspect that many people feared that the Commonwealth would not be able to be decisive. Prime Minister Howard has succeeded where many thought that he would fail. The Opposition warmly congratulate him and his two colleagues on the troika.
The Commonwealth has taken action. The House wants to know what action the Government will now take. Once again there is little sign of any new or real initiative in the right hon. Gentleman's statement. May I press him? What discussions has he had in the past two days with President Mbeki of South Africa? I ask that question as South Africa has just announced that it recognises Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe. That mixed signal is damaging not only to the Commonwealth and its democratic principles, but to the people of Zimbabwe, who are looking to the international community for assistance. How can it be that the troika accepted the Commonwealth observers' report but at the same time South Africa accepted its own observer report that the election process was acceptable?
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the outlook seems bleak. I am not as sure as he is that what has been done has been persuasive for Mr. Mugabe. Has the Foreign Secretary called in the Zimbabwe high commissioner about the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai was charged with treason yesterday? Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity today to make it clear that any action taken against Morgan Tsvangirai will be unacceptable and an affront to democracy?
We have been calling for some time for an international coalition to confront Robert Mugabe. Is it not time to act on that? The Commonwealth and members of the South African Development Community and the New Partnership for Africa's Development, as well as the United States and the European Union, must all now put down a marker. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a clear marker is available: that any action against Morgan Tsvangirai that goes beyond the bounds of acceptable democratic behaviour will be seen as a hostile action against all those who believe in democracy and action will be taken accordingly?
Will the Foreign Secretary now start working towards bringing together that international coalition to work with the countries of southern Africa to bring about a rerun of this month's presidential election, but this time on an independently monitored and clearly free and fair basis and within months rather than years? Will he also agree that if the democratic void in Zimbabwe is not overcome, it will destroy all prospects of success for the region's most promising recent initiative, NEPAD? As one of Zimbabwe's foremost economists, John Robertson, has concluded:
I also seek clarification of the Government's stance on Zimbabwe's participation at the Commonwealth games. The Foreign Office has briefed the press that that is a matter for the Commonwealth Games Federation. The Foreign Secretary cannot duck this one; the United Kingdom has to make it clear that Zimbabwe is not welcome at the games. To allow its attendance would make a mockery of the decision to suspend to Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth, and he must make his position clear today.
I have asked many questions, and the House expects answers to them, but I remind the House that, for several years now, we have been calling on the Government to act. They failed to act over the illegal farm occupations; they failed to act over the dubious elections in 2000; they failed to act after Abuja, despite the Foreign Secretary's protestations at that time; and Robert Mugabe had the last laugh at Abuja. All that time we called for the assets of Mugabe and his henchmen to be frozen; we called for travel bans; we called for suspension from the Commonwealth; and the Government told us that we were irresponsible.
We were told that all was well because the Government had an ethical foreign policy. Well, let me tell the House that history will record that this Government got it wrong, and it is about time that they admitted it. They now have time, belatedly, to get it right by following the suggestions that I have outlined. I repeat the call that I made in the House last Thursday: the time has come for the Government to stop talking and to start doing.
Mr. Straw: Let me run through the right hon. Gentleman's specific questions. First, he asked whether we recognise the legitimacy of the resultwe do notand what action we would take. Well, the action that we have taken is to call for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth and to achieve that. He also asked what other action the Government will take now. I shall underline the point that I made to him last week: this is not an issue on which there is serious division between either side of the House. That became evident during the course of those exchanges given the very constructive contributions made by virtually all the Conservative Back Benchers who spoke, some of whom were more willing than others to recognise that the previous Conservative Government's record was not one that was covered in glory. For example, the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) spoke, rather eloquently, about the preceding Government's failure to take any effective action in the 1980s.
The right hon. Gentleman asks what action will be taken. We have taken the action that it has been necessary to take because of the illegitimacy of the Mugabe regime. That includes the sanctions to which I was able to get the EU to agree on 18 February.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about an international coalition. I have to say that that is exactly what we have been seeking to put together and have, indeed, put together. Again, I say gently to him that it would have been much more difficult for him to have achieved that action in the Commonwealth and almost impossible for him to have achieved that result in the EU, given the other approach that he and his Front-Bench colleagues take to international relations.
The right hon. Gentleman asks me about diplomatic and other action, and he came close to asking whether we should break off diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. Let me make the position clear. In 1979, the Government whom he supported decidedLord Carrington announced this at the time in the other place and the announcement was repeated herethat in future Her Majesty's Government would recognise states, not particular Governments. We have followed that policy since then; it seemed sensible at the time, and it still is.
We have diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe because of our concerns about the citizens of Zimbabwe and those of other countries andI say this very specificallywell over 40,000 British citizens and dependants. I have received no representations whatever from the opposition, representatives of British citizens or from anybody else who cares about the future of Zimbabwe that we should either break off or reduce diplomatic relations. I judge that it would not be helpful to the people whom we care about or to democracy, were we to do so. If I receive representations from those quarters, of course I shall consider them and make their position known to the House.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the Commonwealth games. The decision formally is for the Commonwealth Games Federation. That is my view and the Government's view. Throughout we have sought to impose sanctions with adverse consequences on the people responsible for bringing Zimbabwe to this sorry pass. I have received no representations which suggest that the young people who are involved in sport in Zimbabwe are responsible for stuffing ballot boxes and murdering opposition opponents. If I receive such representations, of course we shall take full notice of them. Meanwhile, it is entirely right that the Commonwealth Games Federation should follow the examples of countries that have been suspended from the Commonwealth, previously or currently, namely Pakistan and Fiji. It should draw a clear distinction between the sanctions that we are taking against the undemocratic and, in the case of Zimbabwe, violent forces and target those people and their actions, while making it crystal clear that we are on the side of people of democracy who want to celebrate the best in their country, which in this case includes sport.