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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. All along, President Mugabe set a trap into which he wanted the United Kingdom to fallnamely, that we would target black Zimbabweans on a blunderbuss basis so that he would be able credibly to claim that it was a case of white versus black. So far, we have avoided that trap, and we must continue to do so.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take on board the deep concern of member states throughout the Commonwealth and hon. Members on both sides of House about the safety of Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, and other opponents of President Mugabe, against whom he is taking brutal action in complete disregard of the views of the world?
Bearing in mind that on 6 March the Prime Minister expressed concern and said that he would consider the entry of Zimbabwe into the Commonwealth games in light of the outcome of the elections, does the Foreign Secretary accept that if Zimbabwe competes in the Commonwealth games, the impact of the decision on the people of Zimbabwe will be lessened? I am visiting all the sites of the Commonwealth games tomorrow.
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support, and the House needs to be grateful to him for the consistent position that he has adopted on Zimbabwe and for his interest in the country over many years.
I will put more details before the House as soon as I receive them, but I do not think that more should be read into the South African Government's decision on recognition than could be read into the fact that, for reasons that I have explained, we recognise states that still have diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. We cannot take away from President Mbeki the fact that as a member of the troika that met on Tuesday, he, with the other two members, decided on behalf of the 54 members of the Commonwealth to take the action, which is unprecedented in the circumstances, to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. For that, President Mbeki, President Obasanjo and Prime Minister Howard ought to be applauded.
On the Commonwealth games, the hon. Gentleman put his point rather gently, but I say to him that that is a matter for the Commonwealth Games Federation, not for me. I have given my opinion to the House. Earlier examples in which people have sought to make Government decisions and impose them on games federations have not been particularly successful because such decisions appear to be punitive to innocent people, namely sports people, rather than to the Government concerned.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): The Foreign Secretary must be right to state that the welcome suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth is not the end of the matter. May I urge him to give us an undertaking that he will regularly return to the Dispatch Box in the next few months to make statements and initiate debates? The House can then show, first, that it is totally united against the Mugabe regime; secondly, that we will not stand idly by if opposition leaders are persecuted by a flawed judiciary; and thirdly, that we in no way recognise the corrupt election that has just taken place.
John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the responsible decision by Nigeria and South Africa will give a welcome boost to the New Partnership for Africa's Development? Will he, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister be championing NEPAD at the G8 and in other forums?
Mr. Straw: I agree that the decision is a welcome boost to NEPAD, and it would have been have really serious for NEPAD if the decision had gone the other way. No two people are more committed to NEPAD's success than my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. The Prime Minister has been in the lead on the matter throughout all the discussions in the G8, and I know that he is utterly determined to pursue NEPAD to the benefit of the whole of Africa when the G8 meets later this year.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the tactics employed by Mr. Mugabe before, during and after the election campaign resemble nothing so closely as the tactics employed by fascists in the 1920s in Italy, and by the Nazis in the 1930s in Germany? Given that some Opposition Members have been consistent supporters of the International Criminal Court, will he give an undertaking that the fate that befalls Mr. Mugabe when that court is up and running will be analogous to the fate that befell the Nazis in 1945 at Nuremberg? Will he give a specific undertaking that the Government will initiate the appropriate proceedings?
Finally, may I gently and without rancour say to the right hon. Gentleman that it ill-behoves a Labour Foreign Secretary and a Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman to lecture the Conservatives on the importance of keeping sport and politics separate when
Mr. Charles Hendry (Wealden): Will the Foreign Secretary be more specific about his objectives regarding Mugabe himself? Is it an objective that he be removed from office, that he resign, or that there be new, free and fair elections in which Mugabe would either be free to take part, or not be allowed to take part? Will he give us some idea of the time scale of his policy? He has made it clear that we are in for a long haul, but he will understand the House's desire to be able to judge the effectiveness of his policy. Does he believe that that will be possible in six months, 12 months, two yearsor when?
Mr. Straw: I think that I speak for the whole House when I say that if I had the means, I would want to ensure that President Mugabe resigns and accepts that he stole the election, and that free and fair, non-violent elections, properly monitored and observed, take place. However, as long as Mugabe is where he is, that will not happen, which is why we have to resort to the measures I have announced, which are necessary in the circumstances, but unwelcome given the context.
As for the time scale, it is important that the House neither underestimates nor overestimates what we as a country and a Government can do. I cannot say with any certainty how long it will take to remove Mugabe and his ZANU-PF henchmen from power. That is ultimately in the hands, not of us or the international community, but of the people of Zimbabwe, influenced by the circumstances there.
Of one thing I am certain, knowing about all the other awful regimes around the world. Regimes that are undemocratic, violent and based on stolen elections are inherently unstable, and therefore only temporary. Although a difficult and dark period lies immediately ahead, I believe that ultimately the future of the people of Zimbabwe will be far better.
We will then enable Parliament to reach a conclusion on this issue."
We want to respect all views, but that must start with respect for the strength with which the Commons made its views clear on Monday. I promise to engage with everyone who has an interest in this issue to make the legislation practical and robust. I promise to bring to the House of Commons a Bill that will deal with this issue effectively once and for all, and that will make good law. I earnestly hope that we can achieve that by finding as much common ground as possible. I propose a process of consultation on the practical issues of detail with a wide variety of interested parties. That consultation period will last no more than six months, including work on drafting a new Bill.
We promised in our manifesto that this issue would be resolved. Should there be no way through, and should the new Bill be frustrated in its passage rather than scrutinised and improved, the Government could not properly stand in the way of the application of the Parliament Act, which of course would be a matter for this House. [Interruption.]