Peter Bottomley: The Minister is making an important speech and the House is listening intently. Will he make it plain to the British mission in Harare that it should have contact with Anglican bishops throughout the country to hear their assessment, through their parishes, about what is going on locally? Will he make a report to the House? The hon. Member for Vauxhall pointed out how difficult it is for ordinary people to get information out of Zimbabwe and the Church could provide a route. We have heard about the Catholic Church and it is about time that we heard more from the Anglican Church.
The House is well aware of the Government's strong stance on Zimbabwe, and of the steps that we have taken bilaterally, in the EU and with the broader international community, to isolate Mugabe and increase pressure for reform. Since the crackdown began, we have redoubled our efforts on every front. We have protested directly to Zimbabwe in both Harare and London, when my noble Friend Lord Triesman summoned the acting high commissioner for Zimbabwe to express our grave concern. Our posts across Africa are raising our concern in Zimbabwe with their host Governments, including with President Mbeki. On 22 June, the Foreign Secretary made a public call for Africans to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe.
We secured a firm EU declaration and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised it with EU partners on 13 June at the General Affairs and External Relations Council. The EU followed that by registering
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our abhorrence of the crackdown with regional Governments at the European Union-Southern African Development Community troika meeting on 20 June.
Mr. Benyon : Does the Minister agree that the future of Robert Mugabe and his coterie of criminals who run Zimbabwe is entirely in the gift of the Government of South Africa? The British Government's efforts in the coming weeks must focus on trying to persuade President Mbeki to do the same to Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean Government as a previous Government in South Africaan apartheid Governmentdid to the Government of Rhodesia, by pulling the plug on them? The South Africans have that in their power and the Government must put pressure on President Mbeki.
Ian Pearson: The Government are putting pressure on President Mbeki. He is very much aware of our views and we will continue to have dialogue with the South African Government about the pressure they can bring to bear on the Zimbabwean regime. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that they have influence in those matters and we are making every effort to encourage them to use it.
We have also involved the UN, by raising the issue directly with the UN Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We very much welcome the comments from the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Envoy for Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, condemning the violation of human rights. We further welcome the UN Secretary-General's decision to nominate the UN habitat executive director, Anna Tibaijuka, as his special envoy to assess the situation on the ground. I gather that she is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe imminently.
We have enlisted the G8 at the Foreign Ministers' meeting on 23 June, at which those involved formally called on the Government of Zimbabwe to abide by the rule of law and to respect human rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall referred to the forthcoming G8 summit at Gleneagles. Zimbabwe is very much on the Government's agenda, but Africa should not be held to ransom by one country. Yes, we want to deal with Mugabe, but we want to deal with the problems of Africa as well. We should not allow Zimbabwe to get in the way of helping other countries, particularly those that have made great strides in terms of democracy and better governance and whose children and adults are still living in appalling poverty. I believe that that is very much the right policy.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I am sure that the Minister will accept that many hon. Members on both sides of the House completely agree with the calls for action so eloquently expressed by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), but while the Government are expressing shock, protesting and so on, the truth is that the people of Zimbabwe are getting weaker and weaker, and the denial of rights is continuing day after day, week after week and month after month. Surely, our Government must take greater action to stop that tyrant destroying the rights and livelihoods of the people of Zimbabwe.
I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Gentleman and I appreciate his comments. The issue for
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the Government is what more we can do to address the situation effectively. The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench on these matters, chunters away when I mention the fact that we must do something at the G8 summit to help the rest of Africa. He cannot seriously suggest that the Government should not do just that. Yes, we must tackle the problems that exist in Zimbabwe, but we also need to help the rest of Africa. We need to encourage and support the emerging democracies on that continent, and we need to help the millions of people who live in grinding poverty there.
Kate Hoey: I appreciate that my hon. Friend is not the Minister for Africa, and I hope that he sends a message to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that we need a Minister for Africa in the House. What exactly is President Mbeki doing at the G8? Was he not invited by one of the previous G8s only because he was going to be the person who championed the NEPAD good governance issue?
I now wish to make some progress. I want to assure the House that we shall continue strongly to support the people of Zimbabwe, as they face the brunt of oppression, poor governance and damaging economic policies. We will also continue to condemn the Zimbabwean Government's actions, which are clearly contrary to international law, and we will also condemn them where they are implementing policies that are harmful to the people of Zimbabwe.
I shall briefly refer to the comments made by the hon. Member for Worthing, West. He asked me to speculate on the number of Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK in six months' time. I do not think that it is the Home Office's policy to make such estimates, but I will draw the relevant Minister's attention to his request and to his request for advance notice.
I note that when we are talking about enforced returns of failed asylum seekers my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington says that he does not think that we require a blanket ban. However, he went on to say that we should follow a precautionary principle. That is exactly what we are doing.
This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made a statement on enforced returns of failed asylum seekers. I reiterate the key points. It is clear that there are Zimbabweans who are in need of international protection. These are in particular members of the Opposition in Zimbabwe, or others who have established that they have been engaged in activities that would cause them to be persecuted by the Zimbabwean Government. They will continue to be granted asylum. In the 15 months to March this year we granted asylum, or discretionary leave, at initial decision, to 270 Zimbabweans. The Home Office will consider each case on its merits and will examine with great care each individual case before removal. We will not remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return.
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As part of this process, we shall remain in close contact with civil society and Opposition parties in Zimbabwe. As the hon. Member for Worthing, West mentioned, church groups have a role to play in providing information to this Government about the situation in Zimbabwe. We shall continue to keep the overall situation under review.
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall sent the Home Office representations on a number of individual cases, and she referred to some of them this evening. It is not the Government's policy to comment on individual cases. My hon. Friend will have heard my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary say this afternoon that officials will examine these matters carefully. Ministers will consider other representations about individuals as well.
John McDonnell: I wish to be clear on the process of representations. There has been some shift in the Home Office about the attitude towards individual Members making representations on individual cases. For example, on visa and other arrangements, it has been made clear that the Minister will give preference and priority to representations coming from Members who are representing individuals who formerly lived in their constituencies before they were taken through the process and then, perhaps, detained. Let us be clear that the Home Office will listen to representation from all Members on individual cases, and will continue to do so. In my own case, if someone is detained at Harmsworth detention centre, I will consider him or her my constituent anyway.