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Ms Harman: In fact, the Health Committee acknowledged that there has been a big increase in the number of dentists being trained, and the World Health Organisation says that child dental health in this country
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is the best in Europe. I know that that might seem a surprising statistic, but I offer it, for what it is worth. The fact that we intend to approach dental health by giving primary care trusts the power to commission dental services in their area was also welcomed. There has been a big investment in dental health in the last 10 years. More people than ever before have access to NHS dentistry, but we know that we have still not gone far enough. We intend to make further progress, and that will be part of the consultation under the NHS constitution.

Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Will the Leader of the House grant a debate in Government time on Iran? She will be aware of recent and worrying developments, including talk about the Israelis preparing to strike, yet there is also a real concern that not enough is being done to explore the peaceful alternatives to military action, including reports that the Iranians would be prepared for an international consortium to enrich uranium for civilian use on Iranian soil.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. The Foreign Secretary, who is here on the Front Bench with me because he is about to lead on the debate on Zimbabwe, tells me that there is 100 per cent. focus on diplomatic efforts in relation to Iran. No stone is being left unturned in that respect, and a package of measures to create a form of agreement to move forward has today been sent to the Iranians for their response.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): With the recent expansion of the European Union, there is a growing number of EU-registered vehicles in the UK. The law is quite specific, stating that as long as those cars are taxed in their country of origin, they can be used in the UK for six months in any 12-month period. However, there does not seem to be any effective enforcement mechanism to ensure that that rule is adhered to. May we have a joint statement by the Secretary of State for Transport and the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing about what Her Majesty’s Government intend to do about that worrying situation?

Ms Harman: I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s point to the attention of the relevant Ministers and ask them to write to him.

May I correct what I said in answer to the previous question? It was not today that the package was sent by the Government to Iran about what negotiations there could be and how we could move forward peacefully, purposefully and diplomatically; it was two weeks ago.

BILL PRESENTED

Criminal Evidence (witness Anonymity)

Mr. Secretary Straw, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary Jacqui Smith, Secretary Des Browne, Mr. Secretary Woodward, the Solicitor-General and Maria Eagle, presented a Bill to make provision for the making of orders for securing the anonymity of witnesses in criminal proceedings: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday 7 July, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 134].


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Topical Debate

Zimbabwe

12.20 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I beg to move,

I do not think that there could be a more appropriate topic for today’s debate than the situation in Zimbabwe. Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition expressed their complete agreement about the crisis in Zimbabwe and the British response, echoing the approach of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who speaks for the Opposition on foreign affairs, and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats. I hope that we can build on that consensus and send a united message not just about our repugnance at the actions of the regime in Zimbabwe but about our call for all those in the region to fulfil their responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe, and for the whole world to prepare for the rescue operation that will be necessary when there is a Government in Zimbabwe worthy of that name.

It is also important to say by way of introduction that I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House are in support of the President of Zambia, President Mwanawasa, who is currently ill in hospital. He is the chair of the Southern African Development Community and a man who has shown real tenacity in raising the Zimbabwe issue. We very much hope that he is able to make a recovery from his current illness.

It is well known that over the past decade, Robert Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe to its knees. Its economy lies in crisis and now, as a result of the failure to establish a proper second round of the election, it is in limbo politically. Zimbabwe’s people suffer from violence, intimidation and hunger, and the Mugabe Government have destroyed the basic infrastructure of the country—schools and hospitals are barely functioning.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

David Miliband: I am conscious that many hon. Members will want to intervene. I shall try to let the hon. Gentleman come in later, but I shall see how I get on and how much time I have.

In his determination to cling to power, Mugabe has turned on his own people. The opposition have been quelled, the judiciary corrupted and the press suppressed. At least 90 people have been killed in the violence in recent months and more than 3,000 injured. The prospects for Zimbabwe’s people are economically bleak. Mugabe has ordered non-governmental organisations to stop delivering humanitarian aid, on which 5 million people depend.

I spoke this morning to our ambassador in Harare, who confirmed that the economic situation remains dire and the political situation stuck in limbo. He explained that the regime wanted time to lick its wounds, but that the anger of the Zimbabwean people is being sustained by the waves of international condemnation that are being heard there. It is very important that they continue to be heard.


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I think that we agree that the elections of 27 June were a sham. The United Nations Secretary-General has said that the outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people. The G8 expressed its disgust at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting that I attended in Japan last week. Many African voices are now speaking out against Mugabe, too—not just President Mandela but representatives of Botswana and Kenya. Many of us will believe that the recent AU summit did not meet the aspirations and hopes of the Zimbabwean people for a strong statement, but it is relevant to point out that the AU stated that the elections were not free and fair, and were scarred by violence. Sad as it is to say, that is an unprecedented judgment by the AU.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What discussion has the Foreign Secretary had with Botswana, specifically in relation to rumours of the build-up of Botswana defence force troops on the border of Zimbabwe?

David Miliband: Obviously our high commission is in close contact with the Government of Botswana. I have not had a read-out on the matter in the past 48 or 72 hours, and even if I had, I would probably not want to go into it in great detail in such a public forum. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have seen the call by the Tanzanian Foreign Minister for preparations for a peacekeeping force that might be needed in Zimbabwe at some point. I am not able to give him more information on the Botswana issue immediately.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Although it is indeed welcome that the AU, and to an extent SADC, have pronounced robustly on the situation, including the manner of the conduct of the election, would the Foreign Secretary accept that precisely because the will of the people was not allowed to be expressed, it is important that the AU and SADC speak up for the right of the people of Zimbabwe to have the genuine result respected? They should not be looking for ways to bypass or circumvent that result by talking about a Government of national unity. The people have spoken.

David Miliband: Yes, I agree with that, as I shall explain.

Mr. Hollobone rose—

David Miliband: I promise that I shall let the hon. Gentleman intervene before I conclude.

Our goal is simple: to ensure that the Government of Zimbabwe reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe. This is not about Britain versus Zimbabwe, still less about establishing a new British Government in Zimbabwe, but about having a Zimbabwean Government who deliver for their own people. The opposition have recognised the need for a broad-based Government and called for the formation of a transitional Government, recognising the unique political circumstances that now exist. For that Government to be credible, it must be based on the outcome of the 29 March election. To address directly the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), whatever the final composition of that transitional Government, Robert Mugabe cannot be in control of it.


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Our work, and that of the international community, must be focused on four matters. First, we must support and protect the people in Zimbabwe working for democratic change. Election observers and NGOs witnessed the appalling violence and abuses before the election, and we support the calls for the UN to send at least one human rights envoy to Zimbabwe to investigate those abuses. We also urge the AU and SADC to keep some observers on the ground to continue to monitor, and if possible prevent, further violence.

Secondly, we support further efforts by the AU, SADC and the UN to find a way forward. Whatever they feel obliged to say in public, most African leaders are now sick and tired of having to apologise for Robert Mugabe’s abuses. He is an embarrassment to them. Morgan Tsvangirai has said that he is looking to the AU to play a key role in any “mediation” effort—I put that in inverted commas because it is not mediation between two equivalent parties. Senior members of the AU, particularly South Africa, have a massive interest in, and responsibility for, bringing Mugabe and ZANU-PF to the negotiating table and securing a democratic resolution to the crisis. The Prime Minister will discuss that with President Mbeki at the G8 meeting later this week.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Hollobone rose—

David Miliband: I promised the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) that he could come in, so I do not think that the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) should jump the queue.

Mr. Hollobone: The Foreign Secretary rightly paints a grim economic picture of Zimbabwe. Is the country in a state of total economic collapse, with the world’s highest rate of inflation and one of the lowest life expectancies? If not, how close is it to complete economic collapse?

David Miliband: I think that any of us would say that 100 per cent. inflation was pretty close to economic collapse, 1,000 per cent. inflation was a pretty advanced state of collapse and 1 million per cent. inflation was an unimaginable level of collapse. Zimbabwe is a country with between 4 million and 8 million per cent. inflation. I know that the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), who is in his place, is a keen historian, and those figures make Weimar look like a prudent regime in its economic management. Zimbabwe is an advanced state of chaos, which is causing real hurt and harm to the people of Zimbabwe, who in many cases are surviving on the back of remittances that are being sent to them.

Thirdly, through the UN and the EU and bilaterally, we must step up the pressure on Mugabe and his cohorts, including through targeted sanctions. In our view, those sanctions must be focused on punishing those within, or associated with, the regime, and if at all possible not on hurting ordinary Zimbabweans. Building on the statement by the UN Security Council on 23 June, we will continue to push for a UN Security Council resolution calling for further sanctions, including an arms embargo, a travel ban and an assets freeze on key
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regime figures, as well as a strong role for the UN in a substantive political dialogue. A draft resolution is now circulating and I can confirm that it is strong and clear. I hope that there will be a vote on it early next week.

Within the EU, at our meeting later this month, Foreign Ministers will decide how to widen and deepen existing EU-targeted measures. We will push for an extension of the EU assets freeze to cover further individuals whose actions are contrary to a political settlement. We will also push for an extension of targeted measures to include farms and businesses owned by those individuals already the subject of targeted sanctions. We will support measures that prevent regime members from attending international events within the EU.

It is important to be honest about the fact that we need to strike a delicate balance. We have no evidence of breaches of the current sanctions regime by British or other businesses. I reckon that it is a relatively easy choice to try to prevent direct succour and support from being given to members of the regime. It is an easy choice to try to keep employment and sustenance being provided to the people of Zimbabwe. But where both the regime and the people are benefiting from economic engagement, difficult choices must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Will the Foreign Secretary bear in mind the serious attacks on church buildings, leaders and elders? A friend of mine who was a pastor there was murdered during this time. Can any influence be brought to bear to safeguard those people who are being attacked because of their religious principles under a cloak of other reasons?

David Miliband: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If he has any particular cases to raise, I would be keen to ensure that my office follows them up and deals with them as best we can. He makes a general point about abuse that is sometimes targeted and sometimes anarchic and random. We want to try to do everything that we can in all such cases.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend mentioned the work being done at European level. Can he say a bit more about our efforts to ensure that all our European partners put as much pressure as possible on Zimbabwe and assist our work with the AU and other organisations?

David Miliband: I can confirm that our renewed friendship with the French Government is leading to an entente formidable on this issue. The French Government are driving the issue forward as part of their presidency of the EU, and we are feeding in all our ideas, as are other Governments. I hope that the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on 22 July will be able to take the issue forward.

The third set of elements that is important includes sanctions and other measures against the regime. In respect of bilateral action, Robert Mugabe no longer holds a knighthood in this country and the bilateral cricket tour scheduled for 2009 has rightly been cancelled because of the clear links between the Zimbabwean cricket authorities and the Mugabe regime. With regard to the Twenty20 world cup due to be held in this country next year, we have asked the England and
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Wales Cricket Board to request the International Cricket Council to annul Zimbabwe’s inclusion. The meeting taking place in Dubai has not yet concluded, but I very much hope that it will reach the clear conclusion that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to participate in the event, given the circumstances.

We will also consider whether action can be taken to exclude regime members or their associates from the UK and to freeze their assets.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): What discussions are ongoing with overseas Governments, especially Switzerland and the like, about the sequestration of assets belonging to Mugabe and his regime?

David Miliband: This is critically dependent on the UN resolution and its strength. If we can get a strong UN resolution, we will be in a good position to try to clamp down on the assets of the regime, whether in Switzerland or elsewhere.

Mr. Bellingham: We do need a powerful UN resolution, because the Foreign Secretary will recall that the Smith regime was subject to such a resolution and the only countries to which members of that regime could travel were Paraguay, Taiwan and South Africa. Most people find it utterly galling that Mugabe and his henchmen are still allowed to travel around the world under UN auspices, especially to the recent AU conference in Egypt.

David Miliband: I think that we have covered the importance of isolating the regime as far as possible.

The fourth point is the vital need to ensure that despite the focus on the politics we do not lose sight of the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. We expect 5.1 million Zimbabwean people to be dependent on aid by the end of the year. Unless Mugabe lifts his ban on NGOs delivering aid and removes all obstacles to co-operation so that people can access food and basic medicines again, the situation will obviously get much worse. The UK remains committed to the people of Zimbabwe, as we are the second largest bilateral donor, giving some £45 million in 2001 and more than £200 million since 2000.

The Prime Minister has already publicly declared our willingness to play a major role in supporting the international rescue and recovery package for Zimbabwe when the time is right. That will cost at least $1 billion a year for the next five years—more than three times current aid levels. That is the bill for Mugabe’s inhumanity.

Around the world, Governments and people are asking themselves how they can shift the position of a Zimbabwean Government who have proved deaf to the views of their people and to the international community. We owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to support and protect the forces of democracy inside the country, to step up our mediation efforts to ensure a peaceful and democratic resolution to this crisis, and to back this with targeted pressure and sanctions on the regime. This is a responsibility for the whole of the international community, but the greatest responsibility will be borne—certainly for political isolation—by African countries, especially Zimbabwe’s neighbours.


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The Movement for Democratic Change yesterday warned that


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