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I am sure that the whole House will join with me in echoing those words.

12.37 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): There will be much common ground on many of the matters that the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, not least the thoughts and good wishes that he extended to the President of Zambia. We are united in this House in our horror that over the last decade the world has witnessed the Mugabe regime’s relentless abuse of the Zimbabwean people and the systematic destruction of their country.

The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is probably the worst anywhere in the world outside a war zone. One in four Zimbabweans have become refugees, and those who remain are at the mercy of a regime that beats, kills and tortures with impunity. Allowing Mugabe to cling to power is to consign the people of Zimbabwe to years, possibly, of further depredation and hopelessness. That is why the international community’s response to the situation matters so much and why today’s all-too-short debate is so important.

There will be general agreement in the House about much of the response, although I wish to press the Foreign Secretary on some points. I expect that we all agree that the European Union should widen its sanctions, as he mentioned; that it was right to issue a presidential statement to the UN and to seek a strong Security Council resolution now; and that African countries should join in not recognising the legitimacy of the Mugabe Government, although regrettably some have.

The Minister with responsibility for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, has spoken of a knot tightening around the regime, and stated unequivocally that Mugabe cannot be a part of any Zimbabwean Government. We very much support such sentiments. The issue now is how that can be achieved. The Foreign Secretary spoke about the AU summit in terms with which I agree. It was very good that countries such as Botswana called for the suspension of Zimbabwe from African regional bodies, because its participation would

It is disappointing, however, that the summit resolution was less critical of Zimbabwe than we would have wished. It seems clear that a credible mediation—to use that word again—requires a new or additional mediator, such as Kofi Annan or the Nigerian President, as Morgan Tsvangirai has said.

The Foreign Secretary said that he would travel shortly to South Africa. I hope that he will take that opportunity to deliver a united message from this country that, following the violence and the sham elections, the regime of Mugabe cannot be recognised as legitimate. I hope that he will be able to go a little further and say that in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, we regard
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Morgan Tsvangirai as the democratically elected leader of Zimbabwe subject, of course, to the subsequent decisions of the Zimbabwean people when at long last they have the freedom to make their own choices in the future.

Mr. Bellingham: On the subject of a transitional Government, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is extremely important for that to be followed by a free, fair and properly monitored election very soon afterwards?

Mr. Hague: Of course, the whole House and the whole civilised world hopes that that will happen, and that the people of Zimbabwe will be able then to express their views in an election that meets international standards. We cannot lay down what will be agreed in the future, but in my view that certainly ought to be part of it.

The same message should be reflected in the conclusions of the G8 summit next week, at which South Africa, of course, will be present. That will be an opportunity not to bully South Africa but to challenge its Government to live up to their moral regional responsibilities. It will be an opportunity to leave South Africa and the South African Government in no doubt that there is huge disappointment in this country about the stance that they have taken.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the African National Congress, at this week’s conference of the Socialist International, sought to block the MDC from affiliating to the Socialist International? Sadly, the ANC is not seen internationally to be siding with the MDC and the G8 meeting is very important to maximise the pressure on South Africa.

Mr. Hague: That is a good point, and I agree with it very much. Of course, the ANC has separated itself from ZANU-PF to some extent in its statements. Many of us have had conversations with Mr. Zuma about all this and have urged a stronger line from South Africa in the future. I met him last month—

David Miliband: At the Socialist International meeting?

Mr. Hague: Not at the Socialist International, but we meet in other forums. We all have to use all the relationships that we have with South Africa to urge a stronger line. South Africa is a country under huge pressure from the number of Zimbabwean refugees who are entering, and that is having a destabilising effect. That must be placing a strain on the infrastructure of a country that is planning, among other things, to host the 2010 World cup.

I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary has raised today the supply of food in Zimbabwe, which he said would be needed by 5.1 million people by the end of the year. Given that aid agencies have been prevented from operating, it is vital that humanitarian assistance reaches those who most need it. We urge the Foreign Secretary to raise that matter with South African Ministers and his other African counterparts.

I was pleased, too, that he talked about the international assistance that would be provided after Mugabe, whenever the people of Zimbabwe have the freedom to choose their own Government. It ought to be possible to lay out that programme of assistance in greater detail than has so far been done by our Government and other Governments of the world. A clear programme of assistance
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should backed by a donor conference; a contact group should provide diplomatic support and engage with regional countries; and support should be provided for the reform of the police and security sector in Zimbabwe as well as for the orderly return of refugees. In the event of a major deterioration in security post-Mugabe, an international observer mission or over-the-horizon humanitarian force under the auspices of the African Union and backed by the major powers could be ready. All that could be set out in more detail and would give great hope to the people of Zimbabwe in this desperate situation.

John Bercow: Does my right hon. Friend agree that providing carrots of the kind that he has just rightly described needs to be accompanied by the threat of the use of the stick? To put it bluntly, the longer this nonsense goes on and the more fatalities under the mass-murderer Mugabe there are, the greater the likelihood that he and others will be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend brings me right on to the point that I was about to make. The carrots can be made somewhat clearer, but of course the stick needs to be made bigger. We all welcome the initiative to introduce a draft resolution in the Security Council that places an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on regime officials. We certainly support the call for a UN human rights commission and a special envoy to Zimbabwe. Those are steps that the Security Council ought to be able to agree.

If that criminal Government manage to cling to power and the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, millions of people across the world will wonder why the UN did not do more. In our view, if the UN was living up to its responsibilities—particularly the responsibility to protect, which all nations signed up to in recent years—it would agree all the measures that I have outlined and the referral of the Mugabe regime to the ICC. Clearly, it is difficult to achieve that in the UN Security Council, given the balance of opinion. However, the Minister responsible for Africa has said that he anticipates human rights action against the regime that, in his words,

We would welcome clarification from the Government about what the Minister responsible for Africa was referring to. We strongly support such action, but it is not clear how it will be put into effect.

The Foreign Secretary said that he expected European sanctions on Zimbabwe to be enhanced at the next meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. Of course, we support that too. Perhaps the Government will be able to tell us, if they have the chance to respond to the debate or in the future, how many family members or relatives of regime members reside in Britain or attend British universities.

We hope that it will be made clear that the EU should not invite Mugabe to any further summits of any kind. I asked the Foreign Secretary about that a couple of weeks ago and he said that no such summit was in prospect, which is in itself welcome. It should be possible to make a stronger statement than that if the EU means business on those matters.

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There is wide agreement that businesses should be responsible in their approach to investment in Zimbabwe. Some people have called for a trade embargo, and I do not believe that that or anything else should be ruled out for the future. In the absence of any prospect of Security Council agreement, that proposal would obviously have some severe deficiencies. However, there might be a need for greater clarity in the guidance to businesses on how to approach matters.

We welcome the announcements by Tesco and the German company that has printed banknotes for the regime that they have withdrawn their business from Zimbabwe. There appears to be some confusion, however. One businessman was quoted in the newspapers this week as having said:

We ought to be able to set out that those not engaged in the country should not seek to become engaged there and that those countries with assets and employees in Zimbabwe should make no new investments and do nothing that provides hard currency to members of the regime, feeds its corruption or prolongs the tenure of a Government who have lost all legitimacy.

I must ask the Government about a point that might seem detailed but is symbolically important. It is about Northern Rock, now a state-owned bank in the UK. Its Guernsey subsidiary is specifically asking for deposits from three African countries, of which Zimbabwe is one. Treasury Ministers who have been asked about it have not yet been able definitively to state that Northern Rock complies with the EU financial sanctions regime. Given that the bank is owned by the British taxpayer, Ministers should be able to state that. An explanation of why that subsidiary is asking for deposits from Zimbabwe would be welcome.

It is a tragedy that, after all the high hopes of the 1980s and the introduction of democracy, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered such appalling misrule. There is now a choice, which, as the Foreign Secretary has said, is largely before the African nations, about the way in which the regime will come to an end. It will either be a slow, agonising end with inflation reaching infinity, life expectancy falling even lower and food becoming even scarcer as Mugabe and those around him try to eke out their power, or it can be a quicker end that allows the country and its people to recover more quickly in a democratic and open society. Now is the time for all nations to send the unequivocal message to the regime in Harare and the people of Zimbabwe that there is a future for the country after Mugabe, and to send the message to the African continent that its Governments cannot sit on their hands and avoid taking sides in a crisis that blights the lives of millions.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind all right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

12.49 pm

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): I begin by reminding myself and the House that Morgan Tsvangirai clearly won the March election. The so-called run-off election
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on Friday was a sham and a betrayal of the Zimbabwean people. Marwick Khumalo, the leader of the Pan-African Parliament’s election observer mission, said that it was

He went on to say that it was

The mission concluded that the elections were not free, fair or credible, and called for new elections.

Members of Parliament in Africa have found their voice, and we in this Parliament should congratulate and stand by them. There is a lot of anger and frustration, but anger and frustration will not change things. We need to ask what the UK can do to change the situation in Zimbabwe. First, we need to increase humanitarian aid. As the Foreign Secretary said, we are the second largest bilateral donor, and provided £45 million in aid last year. There are 300,000 people receiving food aid, but the Department for International Development expects that figure to rise to more than 4 million come the hungry season in January. We and other donors must step up to the mark and increase our aid.

Mr. MacShane: The shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), complained about hard currency going into Zimbabwe. Is it not a dilemma that our hard currency, from DFID and other aid donors, is propping things up there? I do not ask my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) to condemn that aid, but we are in a dilemma that we are not facing honestly.

Hugh Bayley: It is necessary for us to channel our aid money through UN agencies, and to circumvent the Zimbabwean Government, but what my right hon. Friend says is right. When foreign currency is exchanged in Zimbabwe, their Government take a cut, and some 20 or 25 per cent. ends up in Government coffers. We need to face that dilemma in relation to economic sanctions, but I will say more about that later.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 1.5 million people in Zimbabwe have been directly affected by the Zimbabwean Government’s suspension of the activities of non-governmental organisations. That activity was suspended because the Government falsely claimed that the NGOs were taking sides in the election. The election has passed, and there can be no possible argument for the continued suspension of the activities of NGOs. We should be pressing the Government of Zimbabwe, and pressing our friends in Africa to press that Government, to enable those humanitarian organisations to get back to doing their work.

Our Government are the biggest donor to the replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association, so we should take a lead in the construction of an international economic rescue package for Zimbabwe. That package should be conditional on the re-establishment of an accountable Government in Zimbabwe. That would give the Zimbabwean players real encouragement to re-establish legitimate Government, so that the disastrous economic situation in Zimbabwe can be addressed.

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Members of this House need to take account of our own history. Mugabe is a tyrant, but where did he learn his tactics? He spent the first 50 years of his life growing up under white minority rule. When Cecil Rhodes’s pioneers moved into Mashonaland in 1890, they simply seized the land. The Matabele lands were taken by the British South Africa Company because their leader, Lobengula, was double-crossed.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I find this history lesson fascinating, but before the hon. Gentleman gets too carried away in an anti-colonialist reverie, or even rant, may I remind him that Robert Mugabe was a Marxist dictator, and that it is no coincidence that a communist country, China, is his biggest supporter to this day?

Hugh Bayley: The hon. Gentleman is right that during the liberation struggle, ZANU, as it was then, received a lot of aid and support from China. I certainly would not make the case that Britain’s colonial history is solely responsible for the situation. I make these points because we in the House need to be aware of why people in Africa sometimes regard our statements on Zimbabwe as prejudiced, and as being based on double standards. That is why it is so important for Africa to rise to the challenge of solving the problem itself.

If we are looking for leadership, we and others in Africa should look first to the Zimbabwean Parliament. Parliaments are meant to hold the Executive to account, and a majority of the Members of Parliament elected on 29 March were Opposition MPs. There were 99 from the Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, nine from Mutambara’s MDC, and 97 from ZANU-PF. We should clearly say that the Zimbabwean Parliament should be convened, and that the contesting of the election results, which ZANU-PF is still pursuing, should not prevent the Parliament from being convened. We should provide finance and support for the Parliament, perhaps through the Pan-African Parliament, to enable it to meet and to develop its capacity to hold the Government to account.

The UK’s smart sanctions have not been smart enough. It is time for Europe to look seriously at wider economic sanctions. We certainly need to consult those whom we can consult in Zimbabwe—the MDC, NGOs and Members of Parliament—about how the sanctions packet should be fashioned, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) said, whenever there is any business transaction in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime takes its cut. If the UK denounces the ZANU-PF junta but permits Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Shell or Tesco to invest or trade in Zimbabwe, and to take profit out, many will again accuse us of double standards.

During the 1970s and ’80s, I was a member of the executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and I stood outside Rhodesia House demanding political change. The illegal Smith regime had no legitimacy, and the Mugabe junta has no legitimacy. Thirty years ago, I demanded the right of the Zimbabwean people to be freed from tyranny and to control their own political destiny through free and fair elections, and I do the same today. Our Government, and Governments in Africa who care about the future of Zimbabwe, must not recognise the elections, and must insist that new, free and fair elections be held.

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