|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West) (LD): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement on the summit and also join in the proper tributes that have been paid to Her Majesty the Queen on the remarkable number of decades during which she has presided over one of the most remarkable global organisations for doing good.
Like the Government, we think that, obviously, it would be infinitely preferable to see a democratic, stable and sane Zimbabwe remaining part of the Commonwealth family of nations, but, given the circumstances, the obviously worsening conditions on the ground and the fact that there are no signs of the Zimbabwean regime seeking to improve their deplorable human rights record, the Commonwealth had no choice but to continue the suspension. That is a sad but inevitable fact.
Over time, we on the Liberal Democrat Benches urged the Government to take a harder line with Zimbabwe and Mugabe at an earlier stage, but the sad fact of the matter is that Mugabe's crass, chaotic and, indeed, despotic administration of his regime and the ruinous effect that that is having on that country have led to this sad and inevitable outcome. However, I would encourage the Prime Minister, given what he said a moment ago, to take every opportunity to remind people that diplomatically on the international stage Britain very much wants to keep the United Nations resolution route open and to encourage others to see the wisdom of that approach.
I want to refer specifically to one or two issues, the first of which is HIV/AIDS. The emphasis given in the communiqué is obviously welcome and I think the Prime Minister would agreewe have seen this in respect of people such as President Mbeki in days gone bythat the issue here is one of both action and political leadership attitudes. Did the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister rightly emphasised the need for practical programmes in that respect. Will he indicate whether our country or, indeed, the Commonwealth plans financially to support the global fund that is coming on stream and which works against the spread of the incidence of AIDS?
On trade matters, the communiqué says, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, that "all of us agreed on the need to relaunch the Doha development round". That is indeed welcome, but can he give a further indication of what practical steps at Commonwealth level we will follow towards that end?
On debt relief, again the issue is one of practical steps. Obviously, with Zimbabwe dominating so much of those discussions, perhaps less attention could be devoted to the matter than might otherwise have been the case. The communiqué, however, called for
On the issue of armssmall arms in particularand given this country's track record as one of the world's main arms exporters, the Prime Minister could take two steps to honour the commitment in the communiqué and to improve the lives of millions of people. First, we as a country and his Government could sign up to the international campaign for an international arms trade treaty. Secondly, the Government could extend extra-territorial control of British arms brokers abroad.
Britain's commitment to peace and security would be all the more credible internationally to those that doubt it or cast aspersions against it if we took such simple and, we would argue, long overdue steps. Was there any further discussion of those matters at the summit, and has the Prime Minister any positive news to report?
The Prime Minister: First, in respect of the human rights record, it may be worth reporting to the House the information given by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which consists of 16 local Zimbabwean human rights groups that come together and collate information on what is happening in Zimbabwe. In the first nine months of this year, there was politically motivated violencenine murders, six attempted murders, 20 death threats, over 300 assaults, almost 400 acts of political intimidation, almost 400 acts of torture and almost 700 unlawful arrests or detentions. Those are the things that the forum can collate as directly politically motivated acts of violence. The truth of the matter is that things have got worse. As for how hard a line we take, as I say, we try to march in step with the MDC and with other organisations there, with which we remain in contact. Those are the best people to give us advice.
In respect of the Doha round, the best that the Commonwealth can do, as I said, is to give a strong statement of support in principle. It will be through other mediums that we manage the process of negotiation for ourselves through the EU. However, there is now a common willingness to get the Doha round restarted, and it is necessary to do so.
On debt relief, we took certain steps forward. It is worth pointing out that we have seen something in the region of $60 billion worth of debt relief for the developing world since we began the process, which was very much driven from this country. I have to say that I am not convinced that the concept of an international solvency tribunal has sufficient support in creditor countries, but we are looking into how we can make the criteria for the sustainability of debt more rational in order to provide more help to the countries that really need it.
In respect of small arms, we already prevent their sale into Africa, which is the single most important thing that we can do. We mentioned that in part of the communiqué, and countries agreed to look into further measures to prevent the sale and export of small arms to countries where there is going to be conflict. The other important thingit is part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development processis to develop a regional set of forces within Africa that could intervene in some of the conflicts. The truth is that many of the conflicts are driven by the desire to acquire natural resources. They often involve people who operate in small gangs, and, as we showed in Sierra Leone, they can be reasonably easily dealt with by a small number of people, but we need a capability based in Africa in order to deal with the problem.
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I welcome what was said today by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, about the progress being made in Pakistan, but is the Prime Minister aware that when I recently visited President Musharraf in Islamabad, he assured me of his determination to progress towards full democracy in Pakistan and also emphasised the importance of a negotiation between India and Pakistan that could bring about justice for all the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Will my right hon. Friend dedicate the Government's efforts to bringing about that result?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is quite right about the movement towards democracy within Pakistan, which is extremely important. The signs are basically positive there. In respect of Kashmir, I was able to have a bilateral meeting with the Indian Prime Minister at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and I believe that there is strong desire on all
Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): The Prime Minister referred to $100 million worth of food aid to Zimbabwe over the last two years, but aid agencies are not confident that it is getting into the right hands. Will the Government support our call for UN monitors to be installed to ensure that the food aid reaches those who it should reach?
The Prime Minister: We are making every effort to do so. There are concerns about whether the food aid is reaching the people it should. Monitors are there now, and the important thing is to make sure that we take their reports back and act on them. We are doing that, but it is a constant struggle because of the attitude of the Zimbabwean Government; but I can assure the hon. Lady that the issue of independent monitoring has already been taken up. The difficulty is that it is sometimes hard to make it work on the ground.