Let me deal with the non-rhetorical points, of which there were few. The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, right to say that what is needed is action. That is precisely why the G8 Foreign Ministers discussed that in detail and why a series of international initiatives are proposed to address it. I do not know
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whether he wants to go back to the days of just sending troops out to Zimbabwe and dealing with it in that wayor, short of that, what form of action he proposesbut the only form of action that will succeed is internationally agreed action, with people working together to deal with the situation. That is what the Government and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary are trying to do.
The right hon. Gentleman asked a set of questions about relations between the Home Office and the Foreign Office. All I can say is that he and the reports are wrong. He asked whether the Foreign Office was involved in the decision last November, to which I referred. The answer is yes absolutely, and we were part of that decision in every respect. The Home Office works closely with the Foreign Office on all immigration and asylum matters. We have to do so; it would be ludicrous if we did not. That was the case from the outset.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether anybody from the Foreign OfficeMinisters or officialsmade representations, by whatever process, in recent weeks, days or months that that position should be changed. The answer is categorically no. There have been no such representations of the sort to which he referred.
In terms of the whole approach, the right hon. Gentleman was generous enough to acknowledge that the issue is difficult and problematic, but I urge him to think carefully about the compatibility between the different parts of his contribution. When we consider removals, it is important that we think about the position of the Opposition parties in Zimbabwe, that we relate to them and to civil society, and that we make a proper assessment in each individual case about the liability of individuals to be subject to any kind of pressure on their return. That is what we do. We have the most comprehensive system of going through such considerations in every respect.
Mr. Clarke: The right hon. Gentleman raises an individual case, involving newspaper reports of lost tapes and so on. I am not going to talk about individual cases, but I make the pledgeas I did in my statementthat if hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), raise individual cases, we will consider them properly. That is the right way to proceed.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): How can the public have confidence in the Home Office immigration section in the light of its decision to remove Crispen Kulinji, when all of us who have been involved in opposing Mugabe know that he is a political activist? I discussed Crispen Kulinji's case with Morgan Tsvangirai last week when I was in Zimbabwe. The Prime Minister said today that he talks to the MDC. It has clearly asked for the deportations to stop. Can the Home Secretary explain what the difference is between last November, when we had a policy of stopping removals, and now, when we do not, bearing in mind that Zimbabwe is in an even worse state, with more human rights abuses and the destruction of livelihoods?
I am afraid that my hon. Friend has got the general position wrong. The Government decided in
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Novemberit was announced in this House on 16 Novemberto start returns to Zimbabwe. There has been no change in the policy in the six months or so since then. On the individual case that she makes, as I said in my statementand I assure her on thiswe will discuss in detail the particulars of any observation she may make. I reassure her that, as I said in my statement, we take the position of the MDC very seriously, and we will of course take that factor into account in this case as in others.
It is clear that the situation in Zimbabwe has gone from bad to worse in recent months. The forced evictions of more than 200,000 people could reach 1 million if the process continues in the months ahead. Those evictions have been matched with a total disregard of political rights. In my view and that of the Liberal Democrats, that adds up to the need to suspend deportations. In his statement, the Home Secretary said that the situation in Zimbabwe had not materially changed recently, but does he at least acknowledge that it is now much worse than it was four months ago?
Back in January 2002, deportation was suspended owing to unrest in Zimbabwe. What is the difference between the situation then and that at the moment? The Home Secretary said that he would keep the matter under ongoing review, but what would need to change for him to change his policy? Does he acknowledge the problem that there are some failed asylum seekers in this country who, if returned, could face persecution, for the simple reason that they applied for asylum from a regime that would not consider their rights if returned?
Mr. Clarke: If I may, I will take those points in reverse order. I am certainly prepared to make a commitment that Ministers will meet a delegation of the sort that the hon. Gentleman described, in order to discuss the situation.
The fact that somebody may be at risk by definition of their having sought asylum in this country will certainly be taken into account when any case is considered. As I said, we will keep under very close review the overall situation in Zimbabweas we will in other countries, as Zimbabwe is not unique in the world in there being serious issues arising on a potential removal. To reinforce the point that I made to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), we do not do a Home Office foreign policy assessment that is independent of the Foreign Office or, indeed, of the Department for International Development. We discussprincipally with the Foreign Officethese questions on a regular basis at official and occasionally ministerial level, depending on how events move, and we will continue to watch the situation very closely from precisely the point of view that the hon. Gentleman raised.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab):
Will the Secretary of State explain to the House the normal procedure for following the fortunes of those who have
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made unsuccessful asylum applications and have been deported to Zimbabwe, or indeed anywhere else? It occurs to me as a constituency MP that many people are deported about whom I and others have serious misgivings, but the Home Office always tells me that it has no record of what happens to people afterwards. Surely there should be, at the very least, monitoring as far as is possible of the situation of those who have been deported to Zimbabwe so far.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend puts his question in the right way; monitoring as far as is possible is the right action. Our embassies or high commissions, working with non-governmental organisations and voluntary organisations in the field, assess these matters all the time. It is by such intelligence on the ground that, so far as is possible, we make our assessment about the individual circumstances that arise. That is what we will continue to do as it is the right way for us to proceed. It is why, by the way, the suggestion that the Home Office could be doing one thing and the Foreign Office something completely different is so misinformed.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): The Home Secretary has missed the pointthe hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) was absolutely right. The problem is twofold. We cannot be confident, given a system that has broken down so many times over the past few years, that those who have been deported under November's regime are certain to be all right on arrival in Zimbabwe. That gives us cause for concern. More particularly, does the Home Secretary understand that the decision goes further than individual cases? At stake is the necessity for Her Majesty's Government to send an incredibly powerful message to the world community that we are no longer going to send people back to Zimbabwe because we have no faith in Mr. Mugabe or his Government, and that it is time that everybody else did exactly the same.
Mr. Clarke: I noted that the language used by the right hon. Gentleman on the matter was different in important and substantial respects from that of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). The right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) raises a fair and legitimate point about the messages sent, which is certainly a matter of consideration for the Foreign Secretary, the Foreign Office and myself as we consider the issues in the round. However, I come back to my central point: in my opinion, our first responsibility in this country is to have a clear, transparent and fair system of dealing with asylum that works properly, that is properly monitored and in which proper decisions are taken about individuals' positions. That is my principal responsibility and it is the right way for us to proceed.