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29 Apr 2008 : Column 13WH—continued

10.19 am

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The debate has demonstrated that while such a discussion in Westminster Hall is valuable, the subject should be debated as soon as possible on the Floor of the House. It is astounding that the usual channels and the business managers have not made such a debate possible, and I hope that that will happen in the not-too-distant future.

Since the horrors in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, there has been an emerging doctrine of responsibility to protect, but I am becoming increasingly depressed and pessimistic about the international community’s ability to deliver consistently on that concept. If one thinks about it, there are four possible mechanisms by which one can deliver that.

The first is by way of military intervention but, as we have seen in Darfur, with the considerable difficulties of getting together even a UN and African Union military force, unless there is a fairly serious military lift capability, mobilising an effective peacekeeping maintenance or intervention force is extremely difficult. I am fairly pessimistic about what the combined UN and AU force
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will be able to do in Darfur, where the situation continues to disintegrate, with an increasing number of warlords seemingly having a stake, as we have seen with the deterioration in Somalia. One consequence of NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan is that very few NATO countries have spare troops for peacekeeping responsibilities elsewhere in the world. The civilised international community’s capacity to enforce civilised norms by military intervention seems to be pretty thin.

The second mechanism is sanctions. This debate, which the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) introduced, demonstrates a number of difficulties with sanctions regimes. The hon. Member for Barnsley, East and Mexborough (Jeff Ennis) made it clear—I think we all support his point—that sanctions must be targeted to be effective, otherwise they may end up simply hurting the weakest and most vulnerable in the community that we seek to protect. If there are to be targeted sanctions, who in the EU or the UN will police them, and what are the penalties for people who breach them, either in the letter or in the spirit? For example, who in the EU will report back to the European Parliament and who will report back to this House on sanctions regimes, or will there just be a declaratory statement with no follow-through?

Sanctions against South Africa were probably effective over a period, but what effect have EU sanctions against Zimbabwe had and who has monitored their effect? I am fairly pessimistic, but I hope that the Foreign Office is considering how to assess sanctions regimes and their implementation. It will be interesting to see in the Security Council today whether China signs up to an arms sanctions regime, not just against Zimbabwe, but against Africa as a whole. It is increasingly disturbing and distressing that arms shipments from China are increasing and enhancing African instability.

The third mechanism is the International Criminal Court, but we saw with Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia that it is perilously and tortuously slow. Two individuals from the Sudanese Government were indicted by the ICC, but absolutely no progress has been made on arresting them or sending them to The Hague following the indictments on Sudan. That is depressing.

The final mechanism is regional pressure. Since 2000 and the millennium declaration and summit, there has increasingly been a concept of a covenant between Africa and the rest of the world. It was best demonstrated perhaps in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, which was a trade-off under which the developed world would increase the amount of its development aid and assistance to Africa, and Africa would introduce peer review and seek to exert mutual pressure on other African states to bear down on corruption, to promote good governance, and to ensure that donor funds were used wisely. It is with some distress that I say that Africa has failed that test in relation to Zimbabwe.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a meeting at the South African high commission where I heard President Mbeki speak. He was at Sussex university at about the same time as me. Indeed, I think there are more graduates of Sussex university in the South African Parliament—quite a number of African National Congress members were there—than in the UK Parliament. However, some distinguished Members of Parliament—for example, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain)—were at Sussex.

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What I found really depressing when listening to President Mbeki, who is a very nice and civilised man, is that he just did not get it. We were not on the same page. He told the audience honestly that he had almost not come to London for the meeting with the Prime Minister and others—Tony Blair arranged for a collection of Heads of Government from the new left to come together—because he knew that he would be lobbied about Zimbabwe. He then gave a long explanation about the electoral process in Zimbabwe, but there was not a scintilla of a shadow or a suspicion of a suggestion of any criticism of Robert Mugabe. There was not even a semiquaver. I found that deeply depressing because President Mbeki is not distanced from what is happening in the world or incapable of understanding what people are saying, and the fact that there was no resonance makes me deeply depressed about the capacity of peer and regional pressure to work on trying to ensure that the norms of responsibility to protect prevail.

The difficulty in Africa—this is an African problem that one does not find in other continents—is a covenant that states and Heads of Governments do not interfere in other Governments’ countries. There has been a mutual tontine about that, but the world has moved on and Africa as a whole must recognise that many countries, particularly the United States and elsewhere, see Africa as one entity. Zimbabwe at the moment is a disgrace to Africa as a whole. What is happening in Zimbabwe not only hurts Zimbabwe, it hurts the whole of Africa and people’s willingness to invest in Africa, to do business with Africa and to provide continuing donor support for Africa.

In the context of this debate, we must collectively do a lot more work on how to deliver the concept of responsibility to protect. How do we ensure that the international architecture is better capable of delivering on the responsibility to protect? Otherwise, we may have wonderful declaratory statements about EU sanctions or about AU/UN peacekeeping troops in relation to Darfur, but if those statements are not effective, they are just ashes in the mouth. As part of their work, I hope that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Government collectively are considering how to ensure that the international civilised community can better deliver on what is now the accepted norm of the responsibility to protect.

10.30 am

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): First, I would like to comment on the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), particularly the fact that he brought the notion of responsibility to protect into the debate. I agree with him: we need to have that philosophy behind the way in which we approach these situations. The problem is that that concept has not been taken up and international law is still way behind in the development of it. I welcome the recent speech made by the Pope at the United Nations in which he pushed for the concept to be taken more seriously. If that were to happen, we would be far more effective and diligent in considering how to make sanctions work. Clearly, sanctions are very much a part of that whole notion, but I do not think that either at a UK level, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk
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(Norman Lamb) has shown, or at an EU or UN level have we learned the lessons on how to make sanction regimes work, how to implement them, how to monitor them and so on.

The Canadian commission that began to develop the notion of responsibility to protect in 2001 subdivided it into responsibility to prevent, to react, and to rebuild. The notion of responsibility to prevent is also something that those dealing with foreign policy need to get to grips with, whether in the FCO, the Department for International Development or elsewhere in the Government. Doing so would change the way in which we gather intelligence, focus our foreign policy and decide our budgets. If we are to take the notion of responsibility to protect seriously—and it is right that the concept is brought into the debate—we must think more deeply about it.

I agreed with the comments of the hon. Member for Banbury about President Mbeki, and similar remarks have also been made by other hon. Members. However—and I hope that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) will confirm this—at the all-party group on Zimbabwe, Members from the other place said that we should be careful about how we talk about the recent record of President Mbeki. I am not saying that I share this analysis, but the defence that is made of President Mbeki is that in the background he has skilfully pushed for the free and fair elections that have occurred. I do not know enough about what has happened to say whether that is true, but the results seem to show that the people of Zimbabwe have gone against Mugabe in a huge way, despite the intimidation of ZANU-PF. Therefore, history may show that there was a contribution by Mr. Mbeki. I totally agree with what other hon. Members have said: South Africa should go further and has been too dilatory in using its muscle to bring the denouement to this sorry affair.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and on the dogged determination with which he has questioned the Government. Although we are right to say that China must do this and South Africa must do that, we are elected to this place to hold the Government to account, to question their actions on ensuring that measures—sanctions and regimes—are in place, and to ask how those provisions are monitored. The Government are saying that we, in Britain, will have a sanctions regime. However, the sanctions regime that has been designed is not effective because it allows a bank, such as Barclays, to bankroll Robert Mugabe and his Cabinet. That really is not good enough and my hon. Friend is right to bring that issue to the House and to ask questions. I congratulate him on the detail that he has given.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): I apologise for not being present at the beginning of the debate. I understand that Barclays was mentioned. As well as making the accusation inside the House, has the hon. Gentleman made the accusation outside it, without parliamentary privilege, that Barclays has bankrolled ZANU-PF and the Cabinet? He might want to be a little more cautious.

Mr. Davey: When the hon. Gentleman reads the record, I think he will regret making that intervention because my hon. Friend quoted from newspaper articles in this country which have made similar allegations. He
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has also asked detailed parliamentary questions and obtained detailed answers from Ministers. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read the record and apologise to my hon. Friend. He should have been present at the start of the debate when those allegations were made.

When the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon) talked about the involvement of Barclays, he seemed to go soft pedal a little. I am afraid that that is not good enough. My hon. Friend has produced detailed evidence and it is incumbent on the Minister and her colleagues to answer the questions that he has pursued through parliamentary questions and letters.

Mr. Benyon: I am sorry if I gave that impression; that was not at all what I was saying. I said very clearly that if Barclays has questions to answer it must do so, but in the context of all the organisations and Governments who are complicit in the situation in Zimbabwe, many other villains also need to be held to account.

Mr. Davey: I am glad that I gave the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to make his position clear.

Hon. Members from all parties would certainly condemn Mugabe’s regime and its history, going back to the appalling atrocities that verged on the genocide in Matabeleland between 1983 and 1987. They would also condemn the way in which thugs have intimidated people before and since the election. When we talk about sanctions, the question is whether we can improve the sanction regime that currently exists. There may be questions about whether travel bans can be tightened up, and I am certainly in favour of considering whether the families of those on travel bans should be included in them.

There is also an issue about what signals we should send to people under the ZANU-PF regime about how they should think about the future. It is interesting that my information shows that Simba Makoni is still on the travel ban list. Will the Minister confirm whether that is the case? That is an example of someone who has been brave enough to stand up against Mugabe, yet he is still on the list when there is clearly a case for him to be removed.

The really pressing case for improving the sanctions regime is with respect to the arms embargo. The UK, US and EU have had an arms embargo in place, but the fact that there was a huge shipment of arms from China shows that there is the potential for leaks through that embargo. If it were not for the spotlight of the world being on southern Africa, those arms would have ended up in Zimbabwe, make no mistake about it. It was only because of the courageous actions of those trade unionists—the South African dock workers—that that did not happen. They should be celebrated.

Having been to Lord Malloch-Brown’s briefing, I know that the Government are trying to get the different countries in the region—Zambia and Botswana in particular—to sign up to an arms moratorium. I celebrate that and think it is a good approach. However, it is time to take this matter to the UN and to have a UN arms embargo. There are arguments against that, and two of the five permanent members, presumably Russia and China, might vote against it. However, with good diplomacy, Russia, for whom southern Africa has never been a real sphere of influence, would not vote against the proposal. China is the real issue, but it is under severe pressure in
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the run-up to the Olympics. We know China’s position on Tibet, Darfur and elsewhere, so the last thing it wants is more bad publicity. We have a real chance to use good diplomatic skills to force China to sign up to a UN arms embargo. If we could achieve that, it would be the strongest signal that the British Government and their allies—the UN Security Council—could send.

We could talk about many other issues in relation to an arms embargo and sanctions. There are many lessons for us to learn from the experience that we have had in Zimbabwe and from other embargoes. It is particularly difficult to have embargoes on African countries because they have the poorest borders, and a lack of capacity to implement them in terms of resources and political will. I hope that the FCO, for the reasons that the hon. Member for Banbury gave, is studying those problems.

However, there is a flipside to sanctions, and we are beginning to get to that point—the holding out of incentives. As my hon. Friend said, there are encouraging signs. We need to do all that we can to promote those, because with the right incentives—the promise of aid, more development, investment and the opening of trade—people from across the political spectrum in Zimbabwe will realise that it is time that they respected the democratic will of the people, which is in the long-term interests of Zimbabwe, and, hopefully, they will help to give the final push to Mugabe and his cronies.

10.40 am

Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Humble. I congratulate the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), my parliamentary neighbour, on initiating this debate at a very apposite time.

I agree with other hon. Members that Zimbabwe should be debated on the Floor of the House in Government time. It is no good the Leader of the House saying, “Well, it is up to the Opposition parties.” As I recall, the last time that we had a proper debate on the subject was on a Thursday afternoon last July on a one-line Whip. The Minister probably has an unhappy memory of that debate. Perhaps it was unfair to her, but she was well and truly scragged by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is very good that certain situations in Zimbabwe have moved on and that the Government policy has moved on and firmed up, not only because of a debate within Government perhaps, but because of the pressure brought to bear by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I shall not repeat the points made by the hon. Member for North Norfolk. Quite rightly, he asked a number of questions for the Minister to answer. On the wider issues relating to sanctions, I recall that the other place produced a vast report last year on the whole business of sanctions, which concluded that, on the whole, sanctions often did not work, not only because of the blunderbuss approach, but because of the business of implementation.

Mr. Davey: Just for the record, I point out that the report was on economic sanctions, so it was not the case that the report castigated all forms of sanctions.

Mr. Simpson: I accept that, but many interesting questions were raised.

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I shall concentrate on several points relating to sanctions in the few minutes that I have in which to speak. To begin with, I am continually astounded by the bravery and resilience of the people of Zimbabwe. In spite of what they have suffered—not only economic disruption and starvation, but massive brutality aimed at them—the regime has failed to get them to do what it hoped they would do, which was start some degree of insurrection so that they could be brutally put down. Their stamina is outstanding.

All those of us who have recently been involved in discussions with members of the MDC and people from other African countries have been impressed by the fact that they keep saying to us, “What you say and do is of absolute importance because it is reported in Zimbabwe.” As much as anything else, what is important is the fact that the international community will not let this issue go away.

I have always been aware, as I know the Minister and other hon. Members are, of how far we can go as British people, with our colonial legacy, in being seen to criticise the Mugabe regime. The idea is that we are playing into Mugabe’s hands and that he will be able to use us, as he did recently at a rally. There is a sort of guilt complex. However, it has been put forcefully to me by members of the MDC and people from other countries that we should not have that kind of colonial guilt at all. Indeed, not only do we have an important role to play, but the fact that Britain is seen to speak up on this issue is very important, and Mugabe monitors that.

The real question before us at the moment is what happens next. The situation seems to be so fluid that Mugabe has a number of options. First, he could allow the state of limbo to continue and rule under some form of emergency powers. Secondly, he could announce that he won the election—I think that that is almost impossible now—and somehow nominate a hand-picked successor. Third, he might have to come up with some form of exit strategy, one part of which, as members of the MDC have recognised, given the harsh world of political realities, would undoubtedly be that Mugabe is allowed to leave Zimbabwe and go into retirement somewhere else—Malaysia seems to be high on his list—with some of the moneys that he has acquired. Most of us would react to that idea with disgust, but it may well be the political reality; it has happened before.

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