|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Claire Ward (Watford) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend what specific measures the Commonwealth agreed to take to facilitate Pakistan's becoming a full member again? What action can the Government take to encourage a necessary and vital member of the Commonwealth to return once again to full membership?
The Prime Minister: The contrast with Zimbabwe could not have been greater. The Commonwealth Heads of Government accepted that Pakistan was making the right moves towards democracy and encouraged the country to carry on doing so. As soon as those criteria are met, Pakistan will be readmitted to the Councils of the Commonwealth. So far as we are concerned, it is important to keep up, through our strong bilateral relationship with Pakistan, the process of dialogue and partnership to ensure that the process towards democracy is properly fulfilled. I remain optimistic that it will be. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said a few moments ago on the basis of his conversations with him, President Musharraf recognises the need to fulfil the commitments to democracy that he has already laid out. I remain optimistic that he will do so.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Did the Prime Minister have the opportunity to explain to Commonwealth leaders why he was taking moneys from the aid budget for activities in Iraq; and were they impressed to find that some of those moneys were being used to pay for gender advisers?
The Prime Minister: I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman makes that point. It is inappropriate to do so, because we are actually trebling aid to Africa. In the next two years, we will roughly have trebled the amount of aid going to Africa, despite our commitments in Iraq,
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Is it not the case that when Labour Members campaigned continuously against the illegal regime of Smith, we were not told by Mugabe and his friends that we were anti-black. The accusation in those days of the settlers and their friendssome of whom were in the House of Commonswas that we were anti-white. If a Commonwealth country that has abolished the rule of law and replaced it with outright violence were allowed to remain in the Commonwealth without any suspension, what would be the point of the Commonwealth?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we decided that the suspension had to remain. It is worth pointing out two other things. First, in respect of land reform, which is often mentioned by the Government of Zimbabwe and others, it cannot be stressed too often that we provided millions of pounds of help to Zimbabwe for land reform back in the 1980s. We have maintained the position that money can be set aside for land reform in Zimbabwe provided that it is channelled through the UN development programme, so that we can be sure that it is spent on proper land reform and not secreted away by Mr. Mugabe, his henchmen and others. That is why the issue of land reform is, in the end, a diversion from the real problem of bad governance in Zimbabwe.
Secondly, regarding the allegations of colonialism, they are particularly absurd if directed against this Government not merely because of our commitment to people in Africa and the people of Zimbabwe, but because it was our party that, although not in government, wasand I am proud to say thisat the forefront of calling for sanctions against South Africa when apartheid was in place.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): I am sure that the Prime Minister would agree that many of Mr. Mugabe's acts, both past and present, are not just morally offensive, but probably constitute crimes under national and international law. That being so, will the Prime Minister tell the House what conversations he has had with Heads of the Government to ensure that Mr. Mugabe and his henchman are made personally accountable before a court for their past and present offences?
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend's confirmation that the millennium goals were discussed, even with all the other problems on the agenda. Given the mineral resources and wealth of some developing countries and the necessity that the goals should be based on transparency, accountability and fairness if the poorest people in the poorest countries are to have their needs addressed, does he think that we in Britain have a contribution to make to that growing debate?
The Prime Minister: I pay tribute to what my right hon. Friend has done in that area, which has been extremely important. The best contribution that we can make is through the New Partnership for Africa's Development, which is the concept of a partnership for Africa in which more development assistance is given, and poorer countries are increasingly relieved of their debt, in return for reaching clear benchmarks on governance. It is not simply aid and development assistance that those countries need, because many of them have fundamental problems of capacity within their Governments. Their judicial, commercial, and taxation systems need fundamental reform, and the best way to assist those countries to develop their enormous wealth and resources is through that partnership. The other thing that they need is private investment, but it will not be forthcoming without the proper systems of governance.
As I said earlier, it is vital to reach solutions to regional conflicts and then for the peace to be maintained. It is impossible to put many of those countries back on their feet, because of the conflict within their borders. Their wealth is plundered and their people constantly subjected to brutality and harassment by marauding gangs and factions fighting over the land. As we are trying to show in the Congo at present, the only way of making progress is to put in place a sufficiently robust peace that can be maintained and which allows development aid to be provided and systems of governance to be rebuilt. Otherwise, such countries will continue to be subject to the most appalling depredations which have gone on in Africa for decades; as a result, the people of a potentially rich continent remain poor.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): I recognise the complex situation in Africa and welcome the positive steps that have been taken by the Commonwealth conference. Does the Prime Minister agree with those who involved in development aid who say that unless the developed countries increase their contributions, it will be many years before we reach the targets that have been set? I also wish to underline the point that was made earlier about stability in Zimbabwe. The Prime Minister said that he wants a Government for that country which can deal with the problem under their own laws, but unless we indict Mugabe he will continue to use the laws of Zimbabwe to oppress his people rather than to release them.
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): The entire House welcomes the Prime Minister's statement that there was a collective commitment at the conference to the relaunching of the Doha round. As my right hon. Friend said, that would be of the greatest benefit to the world's poor. In relation to the practical steps that may be taken towards that end, does he agree that when the world's Trade Ministers meet in Geneva on 15 December, the statement from the Commonwealth conferencecomprising 50-odd nation stateswill give impetus to those talks and provide fresh enthusiasm? It may lead not only to the relaunch of the round, but to its successful conclusion.