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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): As the Foreign Secretary and many hon. Members have made clear, the political situation in Zimbabwe is lamentable. Elections are stolen, journalists are arrested and there is widespread corruption among the governing elite. This issue will of course be debated today on a motion for the Adjournment[Hon. Members: "It's an Opposition day"]but I have confidence that the democratic spirit of the people of Zimbabwe will one day rise up, so that they can return their beautiful land to the commonwealth of free nations. I wonder whether, instead of personalising the issue in terms of Mr. Mugabe, we should work harder to show our support for, and solidarity with, those who want true democracy in that great country.
Tony Cunningham: Does the Minister agree that the pronouncements by the Zimbabwean Government attacking my constituent Brian Donnelly, who is the British high commissioner in Harare, are completely outrageous and totally unacceptable? Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the high commissioner and the staff in Harare, who are doing a superb job?
Mr. MacShane: I very much agree and I hope that those points will be made in the debate on the Opposition's motion later today. Our high commissioner has acted in accordance with the highest standards of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office service, and he has the complete support of the Government and, I am sure, the whole House.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): As the Foreign Secretary said earlier, the Government of Mr. Mugabe is destroying Zimbabwe and causing untold misery, starvation and poverty for its people. Many feel that the problems of Kashmir and the middle east are pushing the problems of Zimbabwe on to the back burner, but I have what I think is a unique question on this matter: what thought has been given to using the good offices of the father of modern central southern Africa, Nelson Mandela, in seeking a solution to the problems of Zimbabwe?
Mr. MacShane: We are in discussion with South Africa and neighbouring states on this issue. The House and the people of Zimbabwe would be delighted if Mr. Mandela took a direct personal interest. Whether Mugabe would listen to him is another matter.
Angus Robertson (Moray): I wish to associate myself with the suggestion about the involvement of former President Mandela as part of the carrot. The Government have rightly been working with European Union partners in a sanctions regime against Mr. Mugabe and his henchmen in ZANU-PF. May I ask what assessment the
Mr. MacShane: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier, a year ago Mr. Mugabe was receiving red-carpet treatment around the world. Recently he had to cool his heels for eight hours in the waiting room of an airport in Paris, reading back numbers of Le Monde, because the French Government would not let him into the country. His Foreign Minister was not allowed into Germany to attend his daughter's wedding. Mugabe's bank accountswhen we can find them, because most have been moved offshoreare being seized. A further tightening, or examination, of the sanctions will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of European Foreign Ministers.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): A programme for free and fair electionswhich was, of course, ignoredwas drawn up by the Southern African Development Community before the presidential elections in Zimbabwe. Does the Minister agree that the programme should apply throughout sub-Saharan Africa and that the terrible political situation in Zimbabwe should be an object lesson to others not to tamper with the democratic political process?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): The United Kingdom believes that the United States steel measures are economically unjustified and inconsistent with World Trade Organisation rules. We fully support the European Commission's response. The US measures will increase prices for US steel consumers and decrease trade.
Ms Munn: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. A recent report from the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, outlines how much the US tariff policy hurts both the poor in the US and the poor of developing countries. Does he agree with me and many who took part in the lobby of Parliament last week by the trade justice movement that the claim by the Indian Trade Minister that the rich countries want the developing countries to remain exporters of only primary products appears correct? Yet only international trade on fair and equitable terms will help the poor in both the developed and developing world to improve their lot.
Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend is right, and that is why the Government are strong advocates of progress in the Doha development round and of winding down steel but also agricultural protection on both sides of the
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Is not the crude protectionism of the United States steel tariffs compounded by the US Farm Act? Does not that make a nonsense of all the American rhetoric over the years supporting free trade and correctly criticising the common agricultural policy? Has it been brought home to the American Government that there is a real risk of their unilateral actions derailing the whole post-Doha development round? If so, how will the world put back together what should be a process towards free and fair trade?
Mr. MacShane: The United States has debated this and I have read commentaries and speeches by politicians and commentators who are highly critical of the measure, which, of course, was supported by Democrat Senators on the Hill. However, we should not forget that the huge trade deficit that the United States runs represents immense imports into America, each of which represents a job for someone around the world. We will keep arguing firmly and strongly for free trade. I invite the Liberal Democrats to ask their friendsparticularly those in the anti-globalisation movement who are hostile to tradeto support the Government on this crucial matter.
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth): I associate myself totally with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Ms Munn). Many UK companies are struggling in this area and have formally applied for product exclusions. What steps have been taken by the Government to assist those companies?
Mr. MacShane: I have a direct constituency interest myself, as much of the steel made in Rotherham is exported to the United States. Corus and my steelworker constituents warmly welcome the extraordinary energy shown by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment in their discussions with the US Administration to seek the necessary exemptions for as many British steel products as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his ministerial colleagues have frequent discussions with their SADC counterparts about Zimbabwe. The most recent was on 20 June, when the Foreign Secretary met the South African Foreign Minister, Dr. Zuma, in London.
Mr. Bellingham: Has the Minister seen the recent report by the distinguished journalist Neil Darbyshire on the disastrous situation in Malawi? To what extent is this tragedy partly the result of the dislocation and deliberate ruination of agriculture in Zimbabwe? Does he agree that
Mr. MacShane: I am happy to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to take all those points on board. I am not sure if the famine problem in Malawi is related directly to the situation in Zimbabwe. We must continue to talk with our friends in SADC to ensure that as much aid as possible gets through to the people who really need it.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Is it not a fact that the economic situation and the lack of stability in Zimbabwe is causing tremendous problems for the economy of the whole of southern Africa, and that SADC must be concerned about that? Might not the economics of the situation bring Mugabe and his henchmen to heel in Zimbabwe, forcing them to move forward and return to democracy?
Mr. MacShane: Zimbabwe is the most awful lesson for its neighbours. I hope that the whole of Africa, particularly southern Africa and SADC, understands that democracy and an open economy go hand in hand and that the Zimbabwe road is one that no other African country should contemplate taking.