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7. Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): If he will make a statement on Zimbabwe. [150693]

14. Mr Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): If he will make a statement on relations with the Government of Zimbabwe. [150700]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): The political, economic and humanitarian outlook in Zimbabwe remains bleak. There has been no recent progress in the dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. The treason trial of the opposition leader has resumed, and the independent press continues to be harassed. Approximately 6 million Zimbabweans will be dependent on international food aid before the next harvest in April.

Norman Lamb: I thank the Minister. Does he agree that given the dire and worsening humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, the total disregard of the rule of law and the denial of individual rights and liberties, it would be entirely inappropriate for the England and Wales Cricket Board to continue with its tour of Zimbabwe?

Mr. Mullin: The Government would prefer that the England cricket team did not go to Zimbabwe, but at the end of the day it is up to the cricket board. I understand that it is meeting later this week, and we await the outcome of its deliberations with interest.

Mr. Mackay: I hope the Minister will excuse me if I have no confidence whatever in Present Mbeki's latest proposals for talks between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Opposition, because he has singularly failed so far. Does that not mean that we have an even greater responsibility? May I just return to sanctions, and specifically the very sharp sanctions that

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so many people in Zimbabwe want introduced? They would penalise those who are funding the regime in Zimbabwe, but they are not being fully implemented at the moment by us, our European colleagues or our American allies.

Mr. Mullin: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the EU sanctions come up for renewal towards the end of next month. We are looking for ways to strengthen them, but of course we have to do that in line with the international community. We are discussing with our partners in Europe how we can make them more effective without inflicting greater suffering on the people of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): In view of the information made available last week, that during the past year thousands of people in Zimbabwe have died of malnutrition, does my hon. Friend agree that his Department should continue to work with the Department for International Development and the United Nations food programme to ensure that ordinary people do not suffer from the terrible nature of the regime?

Mr. Mullin: That has been our policy from the outset. We are one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe. As I said in my first answer, we estimate that about 6 million Zimbabweans will be dependent on international food aid before the next harvest and we shall be making, as we have done in the past, a major contribution.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Is not the decision to be made this week by the cricket board much the same as that made, for over a third of a century, about playing in apartheid South Africa? Are not the principles the same? If it was wrong, as Labour MPs argued at the time, for any such cricket tour to take place in apartheid South Africa, how could the proposed tour be justified when the rule of law has been totally destroyed by Mugabe and his fellow gangsters?

Mr. Mullin: As I made clear in my first answer, the Government would prefer the cricket team not to go, but at the end of the day it is a matter for the cricket board and it must make the decision. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to the ECB last week, making the Government's position very clear—that it is a decision for the board, at the end of the day.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): When the Minister speaks of the 6 million who may be in danger of malnutrition before the next harvest, is he aware of the pressure on some farmers, who have been told now to sack their workers, pay them redundancy and then re-engage them? When one went to the bank to try to obtain help for those workers, he found that the banks could not help him. Can the Minister give us an assurance that the Mugabe regime will not siphon off the international aid to their supporters and miss the people who really need it?

Mr. Mullin: The distribution of humanitarian aid is very strictly monitored, but we are well aware that the disastrous policies of the Mugabe Government have

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collapsed much of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. As the hon. Gentleman says, some who have suffered worst are the workers who were employed on the farms of some of the bigger landowners.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I have heard what the Minister has had to say about the cricket tour, but he knows that Mr. Des Wilson of the cricket board wrote to the Foreign Secretary on 15 January, asking a very simple question,

The board was looking for a clear answer. The Minister described the Foreign Secretary's answer as clear. I will tell the House what the Foreign Secretary said. He described the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and talked about the sanctions, which we all know are ineffectual. He ended with these words:

When will he realise that the ECB is looking not for weasel words, but for clear, unequivocal guidance? Will he now come off the fence and repeat after me these very simple words: not only would this tour be unwise, it would be morally wrong and should be called off?

Mr. Mullin: This gets increasingly pathetic, if I may say so. We receive rather a lot of letters from the right hon. and learned Gentleman about Zimbabwe, and some of them appear to be written in green ink. Does he write them himself, or is there some teenage scribbler in his office? However, the fact is that the Government have made—[Interruption.] He is quite right; it is a serious issue and I wish Opposition Members would treat it seriously, instead of playing these—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the Minister reply.

Mr. Mullin: Instead of playing these foolish and pathetic word games.

My right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] Opposition Members' indignation is entirely synthetic. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to the cricket board last week. He answered its questions about the situation in Zimbabwe very clearly. We are in close contact with the cricket board, but at the end of the day it is for it to make a decision.

Incidentally, we are a free country. The Government do not have the power to ban people from going to Zimbabwe, as the Government with whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman was once associated found out when they tried to ban people from going to the Moscow Olympics. His former hon. Friend, Sebastian Coe, went there and won a gold medal.


8. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): What advice he has given to the governing council of Iraq on the setting up and operation of the Iraqi special tribunal for crimes against humanity. [150694]

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The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The statute of the special tribunal was promulgated on 10 December. The United Kingdom provided comments on the draft through the office of the UK special representative for Iraq and the coalition provisional authority's Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice. Our comments were focused mainly on the application of international law and the scope of the tribunal, but we also raised concerns about the application of the death penalty. We are actively discussing what further assistance we can give to ensure that the tribunal operates to internationally accepted standards.

Mr. Barnes : Before the Iraqi people can build their own future, they may need to come to terms with the horrors of their past under Saddam Hussein. Is not the special tribunal one of the means by which this can be done within Iraq? How do the occupying forces facilitate such developments in Iraq without being seen to dictate the outcome?

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend is entirely right in the first part of his question. As for the second, this must in the end be a decision made initially by the Iraqi governing council, but then, following the transfer of power on, we hope, 30 June, by a sovereign Iraqi transitional authority. It is the role of the coalition provisional authority and, separately, of the United Kingdom to give advice to the Iraqis, but the decision must be theirs. I have every confidence that they will ensure that this tribunal operates to high and internationally recognised standards.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): The Foreign Secretary will know that it is not just the terms of the statute that matter but the way in which it is implemented. Will he undertake that Her Majesty's Government will advise those responsible that there should be no hint of revenge in the proceedings of this tribunal; that if it is to enjoy international confidence, it certainly needs a substantial international component in the form of judges or even prosecutors; and that all are entitled to a fair trial irrespective of the heinous nature of the accusations made against them? In particular, will he maintain the Government's opposition to any question of the imposition of the death penalty?

Mr. Straw: On the final point, yes we will, and that is the agreed policy of this Parliament. However, I also have to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in the end that is a matter for decision by the Iraqi sovereign Government and there are a great many countries around the world, including the United States and the People's Republic of China, with whom we have good relations but who operate, against our opinion, the death penalty.

Of course, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right about the need for high standards to be maintained and operated by this tribunal. Together with the advice we have already given about the drafting of the statute, we are, as I said in my first answer, actively considering what further operational assistance we can give to the running of the tribunal.

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Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): What will my right hon. Friend say first, to allay the fears of those who say that the Iraqi judiciary is corrupt; and secondly, to allay the fears of those who say that the Iraqis have no experience of dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide?

Mr. Straw: The adjective that comes to my mind about many people in the Iraqi judiciary is how brave they are. Quite a number of Iraqi judges and jurists have already been assassinated for seeking to uphold the rule of law in Iraq. One striking thing about Iraq, which my hon. Friend knows better than I, is that notwithstanding the terror of Saddam there are some basic principles of human rights and the application of the rule of law that are deeper than the memory of Saddam, and I have every confidence that the judiciary will uphold those.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): The Foreign Secretary referred to the dangers and risks to judges. Has he, or will he discuss with the governing council the security requirements that will be necessary for a tribunal of the sort that we are discussing to operate effectively? Given the briefings from Downing street over the weekend that the Prime Minister still believes that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is he comfortable with the prospect of a tribunal being held to try Saddam Hussein with such weapons possibly in the sort of hands that led the Prime Minister on 18 March last year even to describe them as a real and present danger to Britain and its national security? Does he agree with the Prime Minister on that, or does he take the view of the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that it is now an open question whether Iraq had any stocks of WMD? They cannot both be right, so who does the right hon. Gentleman back?

Mr. Straw: On this occasion, I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his ingenuity in working into a question about the Iraqi special tribunal a question about other, if related, matters. As to the protection and security of Iraqi courts, it will form part of the wider questions that the new transitional national assembly and the Government formed under it will have to address when, as we hope, they take sovereignty after 30 June.

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