Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Clearly the Prime Minister was right to say that maximum pressure must be put on the Mugabe regime. We must also take careful account of the views of the Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC tells us that there should be further sharp sanctions, especially against the crooked businessmen who are keeping the regime going, so it is disappointing to hear the Prime Minister respond to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition by saying that he would bear the need for such sanctions in mind. We should press now for sharper sanctions, because that is the way to bring the regime down.

The Prime Minister: We have pressed for tougher sanctions the entire time, and next February, when the EU reconsiders its position, we will do so again. We have targeted the assets of the 79 leading members of the regime, but we have managed to freeze only £500,000 worth of assets. That is because those involved ship their assets out to other countries when they are targeted. It is therefore not only a problem for the EU, but for those other countries as well. We need to ensure that the sanctions we have in place are more effective, because they are not fully effective at present.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I refer my right hon. Friend to paragraphs 17 to 19 of the Abuja communiqué, on Belize. Some of the poorest people in the Americas, if not in the world, live on the troubled border between Belize and Guatemala. As chairman of the all-party Latin America group, I urge the British

9 Dec 2003 : Column 926

Government to do as much as they can for the development fund that has been suggested by the Commonwealth.

The Prime Minister: The issue of Belize is included in the declaration by the Heads of Government, which notes at paragraph 18 that the proposals for a final settlement of the continuing dispute


I know that the Secretary-General will be back in contact with the members of the Commonwealth to see what contributions can be made. We want to ensure that we solve the issue in a way that protects the territorial integrity of Belize, but it is important to recognise that certain development issues have to be tackled for both countries.

Mr. Dalyell: Not a great deal of money.

The Prime Minister: No, it is not a great deal of money, so we should be able to do it.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): The Prime Minister rightly emphasises the importance of the NEPAD initiative in improving governance, which will in turn lead to improved inward investment and increased prospects for development. What real progress is being made on NEPAD? The first big test for the initiative is Zimbabwe. Is there any evidence that African countries are getting to grips with the importance of demonstrating that they are making progress?

The Prime Minister: NEPAD includes a peer review group mechanism, which has now been established. Obviously, Zimbabwe will not qualify, but other African countries accept that their only route to greater development aid and assistance is through proper governance. Zimbabwe is the worst aspect of what is happening in Africa, but several countries—including Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya—have been through that democratic process and changed their governance. They are now sitting around the table, and that is all to the good. Other countries, such as the Gambia, have returned to full, proper democracy.

Much work remains to be done, but NEPAD is having an impact. The peer review group mechanism is making people face up to the problems that they have and is addressing the important issue of regional conflict, because it builds on the UN proposals to establish regional forces. Within the next year, we should have the beginnings of the first of those forces that can keep peace in those conflicts and allow countries to address the other measures in NEPAD, to their benefit. There is a long way to go, but the basic framework is right.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that the already significant influence of the Commonwealth would be greatly increased if it developed a more coherent and wide-ranging policy to deal with failed and failing states? If the Commonwealth were able to do that, it

9 Dec 2003 : Column 927

would be easier not only to deal with the case of Zimbabwe with less opposition from within the Commonwealth, but also to set a model for others.

The Prime Minister: That is absolutely right, and I hope that the Commonwealth does so. I am afraid that there is a dispute between some people, especially in the region, who fear that Zimbabwe will move into greater chaos, which will have a spill-over effect on their countries and damage them and the region. Although I think that it is misguided, there is a strong feeling to that effect. My view and, I believe, the majority view of the Commonwealth—not just the so-called white countries but the Commonwealth as a whole—is that unless a strong stand is taken on Zimbabwe it will be very difficult to convince people that Africa as a whole is making the right progress towards development. That is why I have always said that Zimbabwe and what is happening there drags the reputation of Africa down, unfairly in many respects, so it is important that the problem be dealt with from within Africa itself.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): The Prime Minister said that there was growing awareness of the problem of HIV/AIDS, so was he able to share with the other Commonwealth Heads of Government the reasons why his Department of Health announced a few weeks ago that we had seen the largest recorded increase of that disease in this country?

The Prime Minister: We are dealing with HIV/AIDS in this country and abroad. Obviously, as I pointed out a moment or two ago, we are dealing with the very serious situation in the continent of Africa. We are the second largest bilateral donor after the United States of America. Of course, there is more to do in this country and we are doing it, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to compare the state of HIV/AIDS in this country with what is happening in Africa, where there is a pandemic of the most grotesque and appalling proportions.

Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): In consideration of terrorism-related issues, was there any discussion with Commonwealth partners, either formally or informally, of the need for strong support for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, especially among those countries that might be able to increase such efforts, to ensure that the needs of Afghanistan are not too overshadowed by the understandable focus on Iraq?

The Prime Minister: I was able to raise that matter bilaterally with several countries, and there is a clear understanding that Afghanistan needs to be helped. It is important to point out that, whatever the problems of Afghanistan today, it is an infinitely better country than it was three years ago when it was ruled by the Taliban. We are taking measures—not so much through the Commonwealth—in the United Nations and, indeed, with our NATO partners so that we spread the security force out from Kabul and so that provincial reconstruction teams help to ensure that the Government in Kabul has the right remit not just in the

9 Dec 2003 : Column 928

surrounds of Kabul but also out in the provinces. There is a general recognition that an Afghanistan that is back on its feet, or on its feet for the first time in decades, will be of huge importance to the stability of that region.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Given the dependence of Zimbabwe on South Africa, will the Prime Minister expand on the reasons, at which he hinted a few moments ago, for South Africa's reluctance to take action against the atrocious Mugabe regime? In that connection, what representations are the Government making to South Africa, and have they thought of trying to involve former President Mandela in the process?

The Prime Minister: Obviously there has been a disagreement about how to deal with Zimbabwe and it is important to work primarily through the South African Government. There was a view—at least in parts of southern Africa—that if Zimbabwe were suspended from the Commonwealth we would somehow be unable to engage with Zimbabwe itself. That is just a disagreement, however, and we have to carry on trying to work through it in a reasonably diplomatic way, as we need to reach a consensus in the Commonwealth. It is fair to say that in the end, despite the reservations that South Africa had, it did not oppose the statement about continuing the suspension. The debate is continuing, but it is best continued on the basis that we are two strong allies who have a difference of view but that we will try to reach agreement.

I only hope that people understand that the state of things in Zimbabwe is so bad that in the end the impact will be felt in the entire region, and that the best way of dealing with things is to realise that until that regime is changed the situation will continue. If the regime is changed, it would be as well that the people who then come to office understand that the Commonwealth and other parts of the world actually stood by them.


Next Section

IndexHome Page