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Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield) (Lab): On 26 March last year, I made a statement on Zimbabwe. During the past year, the only thing that has gone down is support for the regime, while murder, corruption, violence, hunger and unemployment have gone up, as well as the numbers of refugees. We still see in the international community a failure to take sufficient action together in such a way that would lead to a recognition by Mugabe of the need for a transition through democratic means to a new form of democratic government. I am certain that in the end the people of Zimbabwe will win, despite the damage done to them in the immediate future. My right hon. Friend will be involved, privately and publicly, in very complex negotiations over this. I ask him to think about a group of people in Zimbabwe that nobody speaks of—the thousands of elderly and vulnerable
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people who will require our support immediately Mugabe goes because they may lose their lives within hours of his regime collapsing in whatever way it does.

David Miliband: Before I made my first statement on Zimbabwe, I read my right hon. Friend’s statement of last March. He raises a very important point. The whole country is vulnerable at a time of 8 million per cent. inflation, but those who are elderly and vulnerable are particularly at risk. I can assure him that they are very much in our thoughts on a consular and a more general humanitarian basis.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): The Foreign Secretary was absolutely right to remind the House that leading Ministers in Zambia, Tanzania and Angola have spoken out against Mugabe; I am sure that he would have wished to add Botswana. However, one neighbour has not—he had to omit South Africa. When he meets President Mbeki, will he point out that many friends of South Africa on both sides of the House are appalled at this inaction and that he can no longer be an honest broker between the Mugabe regime and the opposition but has to take a stance?

David Miliband: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier, he has been in touch with President Mbeki on a regular basis, including earlier today. President Mbeki’s role is very important. Of course, there are other South African voices as well. I completely understand what the right hon. Gentleman says about friends of South Africa wanting them to play a positive role in change in Zimbabwe that brings stability and prosperity right across the southern African continent.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Without underestimating the difficulties, will my right hon. Friend look at how far Britain can work with SADC and the African Union to ensure that we support the infrastructure in Zimbabwe, which will not only be necessary for delivering humanitarian aid but, in the long run, be the basis for the re-establishment of civil society? Without practical investment now, difficult though it is, and in the future, Zimbabwe will collapse even when Mugabe goes.

David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point. With every week and month that goes by, as Zimbabwe descends further into chaos, it is harder for it to drag itself out of that chaos or to be dragged out of it by the international community afterwards. It is a moving target, and that is making the job of planning by the international community increasingly difficult. At the World Bank and the UN, as well as in the British Government, serious thinking is going on about that country’s infrastructure, to use his word, in the widest possible sense of the term—the physical and human infrastructure. After all, as many right hon. and hon. Members have said, Zimbabwe should be a rich country, not a poor country—it has the resources to be such, both human and physical. I hope that is what is keeping the people of Zimbabwe going through this dark, dark hour.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): What happens in Zimbabwe will no doubt affect the long-term future of the whole of central southern Africa. While I
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express gratitude to the Minister of State, Lord Malloch-Brown, for the way in which he has co-operated with Members of this House who take a deep, long-standing interest in Zimbabwe, does he accept that the one person who could bring this catastrophe to an end is Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa? I support my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). Could we not bring greater pressure to bear on Mr. Mbeki? Even if switching off the electricity is an extreme act, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered long enough, and they would be prepared to put up with that action if it would bring down Mugabe.

David Miliband: I think that we are united throughout the House on the responsibility of regional leaders. The strong words from Angola, Botswana and Zambia, set out by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay), were conspicuous in the leadership role that they have played, and they have set an example for others to follow.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that there will be no shady deals when Mugabe goes, and that he will be brought to court wherever he may go?

I am struggling to know the answer to this question, but would it not be possible to start an exile Government—perhaps in South Africa, given that there are 2 million to 3 million Zimbabweans there—and would he raise that point with Mbeki when he sees him in two weeks’ time?

David Miliband: Certainly, the full force of international law should be felt. The important thing is that we take our lead from the people of Zimbabwe and their elected opposition representatives. It is Mr. Tsvangirai whose lead we should follow and it is premature for us to start proposing an exile Government—it must be for us to follow and support his lead. He is the man at the sharp end, and he is the one who, in the end, will have to provide leadership to find a way out of this morass.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Many people find it morally repugnant that the international community has fiddled so ineffectively as Zimbabwe has literally burned. Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House how many British subjects there are in Zimbabwe, and what sort of plans are in place in the event of civil war, which many correspondents are now suggesting might happen? What contingency plans are there to remove those British citizens to safety? I say to the Foreign Secretary that the Almighty is not the only person who could remove Mr. Mugabe; the Special Air Service could also do a pretty good job.

David Miliband: Whatever the degree of frustration that the hon. Gentleman feels, I do not think that he really wants me to pursue the latter part of his question.

The best thing to say about British nationals is to refer back to my earlier statement on the issue, which recorded that there are 12,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe, many of whom are elderly, and there is no evidence of them being subject to intimidation or attack thus far. They are supported by a well-developed wardens network, and by some very brave non-governmental organisations. The best thing to say is that they remain
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the subject of continued engagement, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to have a word with me afterwards, I could say a bit more to him about that.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): May I urge Her Majesty’s Government to stop being quite so nice to President Mbeki of South Africa? Anyone listening to his remarks last night would wonder whether he was on the same planet as many of us. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider withdrawing Mbeki’s invitation to the next G8 summit—he attended the Gleneagles summit on the understanding that he was going to be the person in Africa speaking up for good governance and human rights. He has not honoured his side of the bargain; should we not be looking at our side?

David Miliband: Of all right hon. and hon. Members in the House, my hon. Friend has played a long-term role in standing up for decent values in Zimbabwe. The extension of an invitation to the G8 is to South Africa, not an individual, and it is important that we expand the G8 to include countries such as South Africa. It is also important that we engage with such countries. We should speak plainly of our own views, but we should engage with those countries, and whatever the levels of frustration, the worst signal to send would be that the leading industrialised countries had lost interest in talking to, in this case, those countries’ democratically elected leaders. Although I totally understand my hon. Friend’s frustration, I hope that she agrees, on reflection, that engagement on a clear basis is the preferable way forward.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman said that the full force of international law should be felt. Does that mean to say that as a matter of principle he accepts that the International Criminal Court should have jurisdiction over what is going on in Zimbabwe? If that is his position, and it is mine, will he start taking action within the Security Council to mobilise support for a resolution that would subject Mr. Mugabe and his immediate supporters to the full rigour of the International Criminal Court?

David Miliband: When I said “the full force of international law” earlier, I did not say it lightly but because I believe it. However, we have been trying to mobilise support to get Zimbabwe on to the Security Council agenda. That has been the blockage, and I would fail in my duty if I pretended to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we were at a stage yet when we could start mobilising support for something greater than a standing item on the agenda. However, I assure him that, from my two conversations with our permanent representative at the UN yesterday and previous conversations, there is no lack of clarity on the part of all members of the Security Council about the importance of the issue. Its discussion last week and the fact that Burkina Faso became the ninth country to support its debate at the Security Council is significant. I hope that we can build on that—it is certainly our priority.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): May I press my right hon. Friend on the suggestion that the European Union should extend travel and financial sanctions to the families of those who are subject to them? During my time at the Foreign Office, we took the view that the sins of the fathers should not be visited
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on the children but, given the enormity of what is occurring, perhaps the time has come to revisit the issue.

David Miliband: The 131 people who are currently subject to a travel ban have been carefully chosen. It is right to consider all options for further travel bans or financial intervention. Although we recognise that there is a pull in both directions, it is right to examine all the options without fear or favour.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance notice of his statement. We are all appalled by the situation in Zimbabwe. Does not he agree that it would be the making of the African Union and SADC if they could sort out the situation so that democracy, the rule of law and human rights were secured in this new era for Africans by African diplomatic efforts?

David Miliband: Yes.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): What sort of reports is my right hon. Friend getting from Zimbabwe about the—I will not say ordinary lives—the lives of ordinary people there? Are there still schools and hospitals? Is any form of local government functioning? Were the Almighty to remove the leader, how long would it take, in my right hon. Friend’s opinion, for Zimbabwe to get back to normal life?

David Miliband: I ask and inquire about the position of ordinary Zimbabweans, not least because some of them work for us. I have spoken to some of our locally engaged staff, who are Zimbabwean citizens and do an outstanding job for the British Government. They are lucky enough to have a steady salary. I specifically asked our ambassador today about teachers and schools. Teachers, civil servants and the army are still being paid, but, with 8 million per cent. inflation, it is a struggle for pay to keep up with it. Although it is important not to become bewitched by the regime’s economics, they point to its demise rather than its good health. I do not want to make predictions about how fast things can be turned around, but it is amazing how fast a descent into chaos can be stopped, with decent leadership.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The prosecution of Charles Taylor by the United Nations special court has clearly created the precedent that not even a Head of State is immune from prosecution under international law for crimes against humanity. Following the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), is not it right to try to put the matter on the Security Council’s agenda and ascertain who has the temerity to vote down the principle that international law should apply everywhere? There is nothing to stop the ICC, if so mandated, interviewing Zimbabwean witnesses, who are now refugees in South Africa and, if the evidence supports it, bringing indictments against those who are most responsible for crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe. Giving possible failure as a reason for not doing that sounds rather weak.

David Miliband: I have not heard anyone say that because we might fail, we should not do that. What I have heard people say is that the short-term priorities
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are to stop the violence, get the humanitarian aid in and create a negotiated process that recognises the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people. There is also a short-term need for the UN to play its proper role. However, the point that I made earlier was that Zimbabwe is not yet a standing item on the UN Security Council agenda, because that is being blocked. The first focus of our activities must therefore be to get it discussed, to get a strong presidential statement and to ensure that the envoy continues to play his role, currently in Pretoria, but with the potential to return to Harare and elsewhere in Zimbabwe. There is a longer-term game, but the short-term game really matters.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I take my right hon. Friend’s point about the issue not even being before the UN Security Council and the difficulties that can be created by calling for legal action to be taken against people before an agreement is reached. However, there is a precedent for taking individual action. For instance, the British Government took action on Bosnia before there was international agreement. I heard what Lord Malloch-Brown said about taking action against individuals who support the regime around Robert Mugabe to prevent them from moving and about freezing their assets. Is there any possibility of the Government taking action of that kind, to send those people around Robert Mugabe the strong message that after the situation is over, they will still face action?

David Miliband: The issue of EU sanctions on travel or finance, which I think is what Lord Malloch-Brown was talking about, is rightly on the agenda and is part of the drive. As I said earlier, 131 individuals are currently subject to those sanctions. We should seek to have that extended. What has happened in Zimbabwe has brought home to many people in the European Union the severity of the situation, and that is certainly something that we will be pursuing.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): The Foreign Secretary said a moment ago that Zimbabwe needed broad-based Government. Could he elaborate on that? As the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), said earlier, the MDC won the parliamentary elections, in spite of the vote rigging and the violence. Morgan Tsvangirai would obviously have won an overwhelming victory in the presidential election, had it been free and fair. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it would be a disgrace if Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party was rewarded for its role in the violence with any position in a future Government?

David Miliband: The issue at hand is the leadership of a new Government. Some of the descriptions of a Government of national unity—one who would perpetuate Mugabe’s rule—do not meet my test or any other hon. Member’s test of what constitutes a broad-based Government. However, Morgan Tsvangirai himself has made it clear that he does not seek to replace one one-party rule with another one-party rule, but is seeking support from across parties. ZANU-PF splintered, in a way that led to Mr. Makoni running in the first round of the presidential election and securing 8 per cent. of the vote. There is room for a wide range of possibilities, but not one that starts from the presumption that the current Head of State remains as the leader of the Government there, because that is the red line.

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Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): I understand that it has just been announced that Morgan Tsvangirai has had to seek sanctuary in the Dutch embassy in Harare. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that development? The Australian Government, among others, are also calling for greater sanctions against Zimbabwe, but does he agree that such a measure would simply penalise ordinary Zimbabwean citizens even further?

David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point, but one so important that it is better if I do not comment in detail on the reports that are circulating about the whereabouts of Mr. Tsvangirai. The important thing that I can confirm is that he is safe and believes himself to be secure, but that is as far as I should go. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that sanctions that ended up hitting ordinary Zimbabweans would be a perverse reward for what they have been through.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): In this Olympic year, is there more that can be done to embarrass the Chinese Government, who are the financial prop that is keeping the Mugabe regime going?

David Miliband: In my experience, setting out to embarrass the Chinese Government is not the most effective way of getting them to do things that we want. I have, however, discussed Zimbabwe on previous occasions with the Chinese Foreign Minister. The weight of world opinion will register and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier, Chinese support for the actions in the UN today is one indication of how world opinion is shifting.

Mr. Ellwood: Will the Foreign Secretary elaborate on the Prime Minister’s comment that there would be substantial support from the UK in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, bearing in mind the pressures that are already being placed on our helicopter fleet? Does he also agree that it is time to call for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the African Union? May I encourage him to go for his Adlai Stevenson moment, and to go to the UN, with some evidence, to say that the talking should stop and we need to see some action, with the rest of the world coming up behind us?

David Miliband: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman thinks that Adlai Stevenson is the way forward, rather than Mr. Khrushchev and his shoe. In respect of post-Mugabe reconstruction, the issue is less about military reconstruction and more about development reconstruction of the kind that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), who is no longer in his place, mentioned earlier. Economic and social reconstruction, rather than military reconstruction, is what is needed. The issue of Zimbabwe is discussed at the UN, and was discussed in the debate on post-conflict reconstruction that I chaired in New York last month. We are determined to play our part, but recognise that this is a multilateral issue, not just a bilateral one. The more that it is recognised as such, the better.

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sale of student loans bill (programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

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