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Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): The Foreign Secretary and I were both in the House in the mid-1980s. There is some merit in his criticism of the Government whom I served at that time, but I have a clear memory that there was next to no mention from those on the Opposition Benches of what was happening in Matabeleland. There was certainly no Supply day debate, and the only person who comes out of it with any credit is my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton). We do not need any lessons from the Government on the dreadful tragedy of Matabeleland.
Mr. Straw: As I have said before, the record of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) is one which stands starkly in the House. He has taken a consistent approach to the matter, and I give credit to him, as I have done before. I admire the frankness of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) about the record of the previous Government, which stands in stark
As to our position, I am happy to go through the record, but I expect that it will transpire that we raised the issue at the time. It was the party of the right hon. Member for Bracknell who were in government, and they did nothing about it. Yes, we are in government now, and I shall run through the efforts that we have made in response to the flagrant breach by Mugabe and his people of the Harare principles, and the even worse humanitarian disaster into which the country is being plunged by that regime.
We have strongly supported regional efforts led by South Africa and Nigeria to establish a dialogue between ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC. One of the critical things that we had to do was to end the myth that Mugabe had so cleverly perpetrated, that he was involved in a bilateral dispute between him, President Robert Mugabe, the leader of the freedom fighters in the whole of Africa, and the former unpleasant colonial power, the United Kingdom. It has taken considerable effort, persuasion and diplomacy by the British Governmentparticularly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and by my predecessorwhich I have been happy to follow, to build up the confidence of the other African nations about our good faith in respect of Africa as a whole, and to assure the Governments, particularly the leading Governments such as South Africa and Nigeria, that we are doing that not as some post-colonial exercise, but out of our commitment to the peoples of Africa, whatever their race, colour or creed.
In addition, the European Union has adopted a package of targeted sanctions against the leadership of ZANU-PF. The measures imposed in February this year include a travel ban, an assets freeze and a ban on arms sales. The EU applicant states, the United States, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand have since adopted similar measures, but in the case of the US, ones that do not go quite as far.
Mr. Ancram: The Foreign Secretary accused me earlier of not having put forward any suggestions. I made a suggestion specifically about extending the list of those against whom sanctions would be applied. Can he confirm that that is his intention when he meets his EU colleagues again at the end of July?
Mr. Straw: We will indeed review the operation of sanctions when we meet on 22 July. There is a strong case for an extension of the measures, but I will not give specific notice of what I have in mind, for the simple reason[Interruption.] I am very happy to brief the right hon. Gentleman on the usual terms. The more specific notice that is given of what we have in mind, the easier it will be for the regime to take pre-emptive action. I would have thought that that was astonishingly obvious to everybodyapparently except him.
Of course we want the sanctions to operate in the most effective way. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the fact that Mugabe and some of his people had attended a number of international meetings. That was made clear in the terms of the common position that the EU adopted earlier this year. When such common positions are overridden by treaty obligations such as those arising from the United Nations charter, the treaty obligations
Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Forty.
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman mentions that number from a sedentary position. [Hon. Members: "You sent him a note."] I will not tell hon. Members what the note said[Interruption.] I am extremely happy, however, for the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) to see the note; indeed, it is being passed to him.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) rose
Mr. Straw: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman wants to give me the answer.
Mr. Jack: I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has reduced this debate to an auction of information. I speak as somebody who does not know a great deal about this matter, but I am desperately worried about what constituents of mine who work in Zimbabwe are telling me about the situation there. They convey to me a sense of impotence and a feeling that whatever is contained in the list of sanctions appears currently to have no effect on Mugabe. We are currently facing the final takeover of white-owned farms. What comes next? More importantly, what advice has he received, especially from African leaders who might understand Mugabe better than we do, about what will make this man come to terms?
Mr. Straw: That is the issue. Of course I understand the right hon. Gentleman's frustration; everybody shares a deep frustration. If only it were possible simply by wishing for an international coalition to end the damage that Mugabe is doing, it would be done. If it were possible to do "what happened in Kosovo", which the right hon. Member for Devizes airily cited as something that we should be doing in Zimbabwe, it would be done. However, it is irresponsible to cite that example as a criticism of the Government and the international community and neither to rule it out nor rule it in. Everybody knows that the suggestion that we embark on a bombing campaign, as we had to do in Kosovo for 78 days, comes from fantasy land, and it would be deceiving the people of Zimbabwe to pretend otherwise.
The right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) asked what would happen next; I will tell him. The situation is likely to go from a terrible situation to a worse one. That is the point that we are making powerfully to our partners, especially those elsewhere in Africa, so that they can increase the pressure that they are already exerting on the Mugabe regime and recognise that this is a disaster in which they have moral responsibility, just as we do, for the poor people of Zimbabwe and of the rest of southern Africa who are being so severely damaged by the regime.
On the other point made by the right hon. Member for Fylde, it is worth while to embed in the minds of Opposition Members the issue about Fidel Castro. Tough
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): At length.
Mr. Straw: I am sorry to tell the House that I will speak at slightly less length than Fidel Castro can usually be expected to do in a short speech.
The position on the sanctions imposed by the United States on Mugabe and the rest of the 20 is the same. They have been put to very considerable inconvenience and also humiliated, as they are not treated as visiting dignitaries or heads of state. As I mentioned in Question Time earlier today, we know from the criticism of them inside ZANU-PF that they are desperate for the sanctions to be lifted because we have gone to the heart of part of their corruption. I am offended by seeing Mrs. Mugabe going to Madrid, no doubt to spend thousands of pounds shopping while the people of Zimbabwe are starving. [Interruption.] I hope that the people of Zimbabwe find out about exactly what she is doing. Yes, I understand the point about the extension of the sanctions, but if we are to be effective, we must also ensure, as the right hon. Member for Devizes said, that we get other members of the European Union on board.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Surely the moral of the tale about the United States and Castro is that the sanctions did not work, as the United States did not get what it wanted by imposing them. Will the Foreign Secretary give the House some indication of what pressures he would like to place on this evil regime to get rid of the starvation, murders and bestiality if he could get all the partners that he needed in the coalition to agree with us? Will he set out to the House what he would like them to do that would bring this man to account?