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Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that one fact is crystal clearMugabe has lost? First, if he had won, he would triumphantly have proclaimed that fact, as he did on all previous occasions. Secondly, for the first time we have an aggregation by independent monitors of results posted up outside local polling stations, and they show that he has lost. That being the case, it is vital that the international community stand together with the UN, the European Union and the southern African countries to ensure that an orderly transition of power takes place, and that there is an end to the prevarication and, frankly, the complicity with Mugabes murderous rule, which there
has been from Beijing to southern Africa for far too long. Mugabe has shown consistently that he will not go unless he has no alternative but to go. Quiet diplomacy has never worked with him.
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend, I am sure, is right about the significance of international unity, and seeking that international unity across the EU and the southern African countries is important. I very much concur about the significance and stress that he placed on the role of the civil society organisation ZENSthe Zimbabwe Election Support Networkand the highly innovative mobile phone-based photography it has produced of results posted outside polling stations, under quite some threat to the individual security of its members. I choose my words carefully: like my right hon. Friend, I have seen the results that came out of the sample540 of 9,400that the civil society organisation chose.
There will be time for a post mortem on how we got here, and no doubt there will be different views on which countries played what role. At the moment, however, I would prefer to stick with the importance that my right hon. Friend placed on unity and the role of civil society organisations.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): I commend the Foreign Secretary for his restraint. Does he accept that although we here may feel a sense of responsibility, the harsh truth is that our influence is necessarily limited by the fact that we are the former colonial power? Is it not therefore the case that these events are a test for Zimbabwe and its people, but that, in a political sense, they are a real test for the countries of southern Africain particular, South Africa? Will he assure us that he has taken every opportunity to communicate our views to the Government of that country and, in particular, to Mr. Mbeki?
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises an important point. As I think the Leader of the House said at Prime Ministers questions today, our Prime Minister spoke to President Mbeki on Monday. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that that conversation is about not only communicating our views, which is the phrase he used, but trying to discuss with President Mbeki how both our countries can play an appropriate role in addressing this situation. I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees with that.
As I said in my statement, the people who have suffered most are those in Zimbabwe. Those who know best the need for change are in Zimbabwe, but of course the neighbours close to Zimbabwe are greatly affected by these events.
In respect of our own role, it is important that we do not in any wayI know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not do thisfall into the trap that was highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). We should not say things that play in the wrong way.
Equally, we should not be at all ashamed of the aid and other programmes that we have sent to Zimbabwe over the last 28 years, destined to help the people of that country. In fact, we should try to be proud and to stand up for the fundamental truths that we have tried
to express in the actions that we have taken. That is a difficult balance to strike, and I know that that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman was referring to. Certainly, it is the balance that we are trying to strike. We are concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe because of the wrongs that are being done to people who deserve better.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I welcome the statement. This is an opportunity for us to send a simple message of support to the people of Zimbabwe without getting into any of the details that might be awkward. I also welcome the fact that both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have spent a great deal of time over the past few days on the telephone doing the work necessary to keep the international community and the European Union together on the issue. Does he agreethis follows on a little from the previous questionthat the role of South Africa in the next couple of days will be crucial, and can he assure me and all those in this country who have supported South Africa and who have links with South Africa and President Mbeki that this is the opportunity for President Mbeki to show that he is a true world statesman?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), has played a valiant role in highlighting the situation in Zimbabwe and campaigning for effective international action on the issue. The international unity to which she refers was brought home to me at the meeting that I held in Paris on Monday. When I suggested to my six EU colleagues that we should interrupt a meeting about the French European presidency to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe, they wanted that to be the first item on the agenda because they saw the importance of it. I took heart from that that the matter is not seen just as a bilateral issue. Of course my hon. Friend is right that South Africa has the opportunity to be a powerhouse, economically and politically, for the whole of southern Africa, and the partnership with South Africa is extremely important. It is important to register the fact that many South Africans would say that the elections would not have happened at all without their intervention. Hopefully, those elections will allow the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people to be expressed.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I welcome the Foreign Secretarys statement. Although we must indeed be cautious about what we say today, those many of us in the House who have campaigned over the years for the democratic rights of the Zimbabwean people must hope and pray that this is the end of the long dark night of Zimbabwe and the breaking of a new democratic dawn. The lesson of history is that democracy can very quickly be undermined by chaos, and that the only way that can be avoided, as we have learned painfully in another area, is by having a comprehensive plan for reconstruction and aid in place, to be put into action immediately. While we wait for the result, can the Foreign Secretary, along with his international colleagues, begin to put that plan together so that once democracy is restored in Zimbabwe, as I hope it will be, there is no delay before that plan goes into action?
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. I think he agrees with me that it is possible to be diplomatic in what one says without obscuring the fundamental truths that need to be expressed. He has expressed them in his own way. I have expressed the same sentiment. The shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), referred earlier to Kenya. We want to try to avoid a Kenya situation. We are in a pre-Kenya situation in one way, which could easily become a Kenya situation, with the violence to which the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was referring. That is a huge challenge. Every time we describe the chaos that has taken place in Zimbabwe over the past few years, we dramatise the difficulties of precisely the sort of operation that he mentioned, but he can be assured that although we are trying to engage on the immediate issue, we have an eye on tomorrow as well as on today. We will do our best in that respect.
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his sensitive approach to the matter. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) that had President Mugabe won, we would have known about it by now. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary may not be able to answer this question exactly, but I hope he will understand what I am trying to say. Mugabe has had five days to move his money, resources, diamonds and the oil that he owns outside the country. Can my right hon. Friend reassure us that all the international banks will have a letter from us if not today, then tomorrow, asking them to search the electronic records to make sure that no money is moved in any of the hundreds of accounts that Mugabe owns, especially those in Cairo?
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Can the Foreign Secretary outline further what the Government will do to help the development of proper democracy in Zimbabwe and a move away from the corruption that has been endemic in that nation? Will he indicate what steps we can take to try to ensure that the 4 million refugees who had to leave Zimbabwe are allowed to return to help democracy flourish in that benighted land?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. It is worth remarking just how deep the democratic spirit is in Zimbabwe. Despite everything that has been thrown at them, far from forgetting how to vote or dispensing with their democratic rights, millions of people were determined to vote.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) is right. The Zimbabwean peoples faith in the ballot box has, remarkably, been undimmed by the traumas and travails that they have been through. In some ways, the nurturing of the democratic spirit is far ahead of the nurturing of democratic institutions in that country. In
respect of democratic institutions, I know that the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) is committed to the work of the Westminster Foundation and other party-to-party links, which are important in building a decent civil society. That will be very important in the difficult task of reconstruction.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I warmly welcome the statement made by the Foreign Secretary today and the fact that he and the Prime Minister have telephoned so many African leaders. May I press the point made by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee? Will the Foreign Secretary speak to the Home Secretary about the Zimbabwean citizens in this country, many of whom do not wish to go back until the situation is secure? Will he ensure that there is no change in Government policy and there will be no removals until the situation is secure?
David Miliband: I am happy to speak to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the matter in due course. It has been a pervading aspect of all our discussions that no one should do anything precipitate. That is the approach that we will take.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): There will be a great welcome when Zimbabwe again becomes a full member of the Commonwealth. When the election results come, may I commend to the Foreign Secretary two quick words? The first is from Kenneth Kaunda, who said when he stopped being President of Zambia, You win some, you lose some, and secondly, the words of the Lord Privy Seal 26 years ago who, when criticised for the result of the elections after Lancaster house, said, With free and fair elections, you cant always predict the result.
David Miliband: Those are good points. An hon. Member referred earlier to the result that we had produced in the first elections of Zimbabwe. The result was produced by the Zimbabwean people, but the democratic spirit has lived on. Although I have been lucky enough in my political lifetime only to win some, I take the hon. Gentlemans point that one wins some and loses some. Hopefully, we will not be able to enjoy that experience in the near future.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): During 2004 the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was somewhat surprised, during a visit to South Africa, at the level of support for President Mugabe and the criticism of the United Kingdom for the comments that we were making at the time in criticising his regime. African leaders have acquiesced in Mugabes tenure of office over the past few years. It is crucialI echo calls from other Members around the Housethat my right hon. Friend does all he can to engage those leaders and, if there is a result that represents the return of democracy to Zimbabwe, to ensure that it is implemented. That is the key. At present, democracy no longer exists in Zimbabwe.
My hon. Friend leads me towards an important point. The temptations of the megaphone are very large indeed, especially where terrible things are being done, but sometimes the megaphone is not the best tool of diplomacy. Equally, to be timid is not right.
To be silent is therefore to become complicit. The challenge for us all is to find a way to be effective without resorting to the megaphone, which, in the end, becomes ineffective. We all need to recognise my hon. Friends point about the striking support that continues or previously continued to exist for Robert Mugabe. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), there will come a time for analysis. One of the things that will come out of that is that the megaphone that plays well here does not necessarily play well in the place that really matters. The challenge for us all is to make sure that we find the right implement.
Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): In his discussions, has the Foreign Secretary had time to speak to President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was sworn in as President of Botswana only yesterday? I know that the President is a close personal friend of the Secretary of State for International Development. Will the Foreign Secretary be specific about the Commonwealth? If and when Zimbabwe returns to the road of democracy, as the Foreign Secretary describes it, will it be welcomed back into the Commonwealth immediately? That is one organisation to which the front-line states do belong and it could really participate in the rebuilding of civil society in Zimbabwe.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. In answering the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley), I did not give due attention to that issue. This is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to show its real worth in the modern age. I will certainly be in touch with the new Commonwealth secretary-general, who started yesterday, at the appropriate time.
I believe in the Commonwealth. An organisation that covers a quarter of the worlds populationnorth, east, south and west, and all races and religionshas the opportunity to show what it means for different countries to work together and make the phrase the international community mean something. This situation is a good example.
I think that I am right in saying that it was Zimbabwe that pulled out of the Commonwealth, rather than the Commonwealth that kicked out Zimbabwe in the beginning. But I very much hope that, first, a new Government in Zimbabwe would want to rejoin the Commonwealth, and, secondly, that the Commonwealth would give the country a very warm embrace.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friends statement. Although I recognise the need for caution, does he not agree that the international community has a key role to play in standing absolutely firm and sending a clear message to the authorities in Zimbabwe that we recognise that this is a defining moment in the countrys history, and it is inconceivable that there cannot be change of some sort? There is also a role for us to step up to the plate with the funds and the support for development. I am sure that, with those, the many extremely able and talented Zimbabweans will more than succeed in rebuilding their country.
I agree with my hon. Friend, who knows a lot about these issues. She is absolutely right about the potential of the country. It is a tragedy for
any country to do as badly as Zimbabwe; it is a double tragedy when it has the natural resources and people to make a great success of itself.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that there is enormous good will between the ordinary people of the United Kingdom and the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, no matter how they voted? Will he also agree that the front-line Southern African Development Community states have an important role to play, in particular in reversing the brain drainto encourage ordinary hard-working people to go back to Zimbabwe and build the country back to its former success?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes good points. As I said, we do not want to do anything precipitate. However, the outflux of refugees to the neighbouring countries has certainly been a huge drain on Zimbabwe and a huge burden for South Africa and other neighbouring countries. It is important that Zimbabwe returns to the equilibrium that it deserves.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): What direct contacts has the Foreign Secretary had with his opposite numbers in the front-line states at this critical time before the election results are formally announced, so that they may encourage recognition of the wish of the Zimbabwean people for the rule of law and democracy?
David Miliband: I am happy to give one of a number of examples. The first call that I had was with the Foreign Minister of Tanzania. Our conversation was precisely about the respective responsibilities of the states closest to Zimbabwe. The Ministers President was deeply engaged on the issue. I shared with the Minister our hopes for the resolution of the situation, and we had a strong measure of agreement about the respective responsibilities of the different countries concerned.
Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): In the past few days, constituents of mine with strong connections to the rural areas of Zimbabwe have brought me accounts of orphanages and elderly peoples homes in dire distress. In some cases, staff have already left and elderly people, often with serious geriatric conditions, are left wandering around to try to feed themselves. The children in the orphanages are left untended and, in many cases, unfed.
May I echo the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) to the Government? When the will of the people of Zimbabwe is known and, as we all hope, Mugabe is removed, a programme of emergency relief must be immediately available from this country and we must not forget the elderly peoples homes and orphanages, particularly in the often forgotten rural areas.
My earlier comment to the shadow Foreign Secretary about the particular needs of Britishas it happensnationals in far-flung areas was a reference precisely to the issue of children and, especially, elderly people. I would prefer not to wait in respect of elderly or young people who are in the situation that the hon.
and learned Gentleman describes; if he gets the details of those cases to my office, I will forward them to the embassy in Harare straight away. There is already a food aid programme with significant British taxpayers money behind it. It is administered through the UN. We need to know who the people whom the hon. and learned Gentleman mentions are, and find out why they are not part of the humanitarian support network.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Some of us warned many years ago that Mr. Mugabe was not a fit person to be entrusted with the governance of Zimbabwe. We have looked on with increasing dismay and horror as he has systematically gone about destroying his countryalmost with the connivance of the South African Government, as the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) said.
May I ask the Foreign Secretary a specific question about what he said about aid? Will he ensure that the British taxpayer, having already contributed a substantial amount of money to Zimbabwe, does not contribute more aid unless it is specifically linked to good governance in Zimbabwe in future?
David Miliband: The position that my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary and I have taken consistently is that the amount of aid should be governed by the situation of the people of Zimbabwe and our ability to make a difference with that aid. As the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) suggested in the previous question, we would not want to stand aside if pressing needs could be met through available aid.
As I keep on referring to the UN, I should say that we are not paying money through the Zimbabwean Government. If the concern of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) is that our money is being used for illegal or corrupt purposes, I should tell him that significant measures are taken to avoid that.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Although nothing that we say or do today in the House should in any way endanger attempts to persuade Mugabe to retire peacefully, will the Foreign Secretary reassure the House that the Government will not condone any deal that would eventually put Mugabe beyond the reach of The Hague?
David Miliband: Our position on that issue is well known; we are very committed to the role of the authorities at The Hague. I do not want to get into the issue of individual negotiations and discussions, but I can certainly say that they are not something in which I am involved.
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