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In Zimbabwe, we are already the second biggest bilateral donor, along with the US. The cholera epidemic has now precipitated a state of national emergency and we are stepping up our humanitarian response to help to alleviate the appalling suffering, but the long-term future depends on political change. There is unanimity across the House on the cause of Zimbabwe’s descent into ruin: the Government of Robert Mugabe. There was unanimity last July when the Government urged the UN Security Council to apply direct pressure on the
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regime. I hope there can be unanimity today in honest explanation to the British public of the following points: that there can be no solution in Zimbabwe without the engagement of neighbouring African countries; that we should remain committed to offering our support for a broad-based Government reflecting the March election results; and that the UN is an appropriate forum to discuss this issue, because there is no way Zimbabwe can be considered an “internal affair”. I also hope there will be unanimity that we must reiterate time and again our commitment to, and preparation to help, the people of Zimbabwe with thorough-going economic, social and political support when they have a Government who can credibly advance their interests rather than abuse them.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the only external non-violent action that would force non-violent change in Zimbabwe would be if the South African and Mozambique Governments agreed on an oil embargo and the prevention of electricity imports to Zimbabwe? Does he also agree that if South Africa refuses to take such action, the situation in Zimbabwe has now reached the stage where under the international community’s overwhelming responsibility—the responsibility to protect, which is now part of UN doctrine—it would be appropriate for consideration to be given on humanitarian grounds to deploying a military force if necessary, under UN approval and if possible with the approval of the AU, to ensure the end of the suffering? The situation of the Zimbabwean people is deteriorating, and without such action it could continue to deteriorate for many months to come.

David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises important and difficult issues that deserve a serious response. We have thought a lot about the fuel issue, but the sad truth is that the last people who would be affected by a fuel blockade would be Robert Mugabe and his cronies. Therefore, we have to think very carefully before recommending a course of action that would mean—I use the following word advisedly—death for people who are dependent even on the minuscule supplies that are reaching medical centres and other places in Zimbabwe. I say that while in no way denunciating the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s suggestion or implying any lack of humanity in it, because the current situation is completely inhumane, but I am very wary of our playing God by condemning some people who are dependent—literally for their lives—on fuel supplies by saying fuel should not be supplied.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right in his broader point about South Africa. South Africa is suffering the most grievous damage as a result of the descent into chaos in Zimbabwe. It is suffering from between 3 million and 4 million refugees and now six cases of cholera. It is in South Africa that the greatest power lies.

The precedents in respect of military action are not auspicious, and I think that that discussion should be left for the moment.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): Following on from what the Foreign Secretary has just said, does he accept that the situation in Zimbabwe has not arisen
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overnight, but that it has been developing over a long period? One of the reasons why there is such cynicism about the international community’s reaction to Zimbabwe is that there is always a lot of rhetoric but there is not any action. If we are to release the people of Zimbabwe from the oppressive tyranny under which they have suffered for so long, at some point the international community will have to take the sort of action my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) is talking about, and this Government should have the boldness to suggest it.

David Miliband: The commitment to action not just words was best exemplified when we went to the UN Security Council last July. It was tough enough to get a meeting. It may seem incredible in this House that it is hard to get a UNSC meeting to discuss Zimbabwe, but there was strong opposition to having a meeting on the grounds that this was the “internal affairs” of a sovereign country. We then proposed, and pushed to a vote, a tough global sanctions resolution on members of that regime. It was vetoed twice, by two countries. I do not say that in order in any way to suggest that we should not have gone to a vote; I think it is right that we went to a vote—I think it is right that countries had to stand up and be counted on the position they were willing to take. We were willing to do this, but the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) is talking about much graver measures than sanctions on individual members of the regime, and I say to him that two countries vetoed that resolution last July. It gives me no pleasure at all to say that we were right in our warnings that Mugabe would defy the mediation process that was created. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the credibility of the international community depends on taking action in cases such as this, but the action was not allowed by the rules of the international community, and we must all take that on board.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary for the work he has done on this issue over a long period. He seemed to disregard the views of the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) about a boycott and closing off the borders to petrol and diesel. Does he not agree with the President of Botswana, who said in this very place that he felt that would be an extremely good idea and it would bring about the end of the Mugabe regime within a week?

David Miliband: I pay tribute in return to my hon. Friend, who has done extraordinary work on this issue over a long period. I hope it was not felt that in my answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman there was any sense of disregarding or denunciating the suggestion, because it was made in good faith and it is a serious suggestion—and whether we should advocate it is, of course, discussed. What I tried to explain in my reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman was the genuine dilemma we face.

We see a situation of crushing inhumanity—of death and destruction on a completely needless scale—and we face an option that is put forward perfectly legitimately that would, by any estimate, add to that death and destruction in the name of a change in the regime. The reason why we have so far come out against that policy
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is that the death and destruction it would impose would impact last on the members of the regime and first on the most vulnerable members of Zimbabwean society. That is in no way to disregard this suggestion, and I hope it did not seem that my response was dismissive. As I have said, it deserves a serious response, but in seeking to tackle the cause of the current death and destruction we all have to weigh up whether or not we are ourselves willing to cause death and destruction to completely innocent people. That is something we have not been willing to do, both in respect of the fuel issue and the trade issue, which also raises difficult questions.

I wish to make one other point on this topic. I think we all believe that Morgan Tsvangirai won a presidential and parliamentary victory in the elections, and at no stage has he advocated this policy. That is an important point to remember when we think about what is the right thing to do in these circumstances. At no stage has he advocated that, either publicly or privately.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind: I am very grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way again. It is undoubtedly the case that some innocent people would die if there were an oil and electricity embargo, but that argument would have much more force if there were not already tens of thousands of people dying, and that number is likely to multiply if this policy of inaction by the international community—I am not criticising the British Government; I am talking about the international community—were to continue.

I would be the last person to argue for what is in effect regime change for a political objective, but we are dealing with an overwhelming humanitarian objective. I recall the extraordinary paradox that it was the Vietnamese who got rid of Pol Pot when they intervened in Cambodia and ended that ghastly regime. I suggest that, with the authority of the UN and the AU, a similar objective could be achieved in Zimbabwe, with minimum loss of life and to the enormous relief of the people of Zimbabwe as a whole.

David Miliband: I take seriously the experience with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks. What I say to him is that we could not get a majority for sanctions on individual members of the regime —[Interruption.] I assure hon. Members that it remains pretty difficult to do so. We could not go beyond that. He raises a point about death and destruction, saying that some people would die if there was a fuel blockade and that the process would be short. I do not think that one can guarantee that. We are talking about life and death decisions involving potentially tens of thousands of people. He is right to say that mass slaughter—mass death—is going on at the moment, but a blockade would certainly hasten that. I repeat that the regime would be the last to bear the burden of any such blockade.

I have tried the House’s patience for a long time and I have tried to be generous in answering questions, so I think I should finish my speech and then allow others to speak. I want to cover the root causes of conflict. Our work on tackling those must be backed up by counter-proliferation treaties and restrictions to curb the fatal
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flow of weapons. That is why I was in Oslo last week to sign the convention on cluster munitions—over the course of 2009, we will encourage other countries to sign it too. We will also endeavour to accelerate work towards an arms trade treaty.

The most lethal and immediate proliferation challenge is the nuclear one. This Government have made it clear that they are committed to a world without nuclear weapons, as per our non-proliferation treaty responsibilities. US President-elect Obama has done the same, so we will work with the US and other allies to bring the comprehensive test ban treaty into force, thereby banning all nuclear weapons test explosions. Early US ratification would do much to encourage the few states remaining outside to follow suit. We will also work together to push forward multilateral negotiations on a treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, thus helping to make reductions irreversible, and to secure renewed agreement among all NPT states that tougher prevention measures are needed to tackle proliferation in the future.

That brings me to the issue of Iran, which will be one of the most difficult issues in 2009. Iran continues to increase its enrichment programme in the face of repeated International Atomic Energy Agency requests for more access and information, and in defiance of five UN Security Council resolutions. The threat is real—we are talking about a matter of years, not decades—and in 2009 it will continue to grow with every day that passes, as Iran continues to enrich and to increase its capacity to enrich, so we need urgently to make diplomacy work. That means a more vigorous pursuit of our dual-track approach: the pressure of sanctions coupled with the promise of engagement and reintegration if Tehran co-operates with the UN Security Council and the IAEA. If Iran continues to ignore the UN Security Council and disregards the requests of the IAEA, it will face increasingly tough sanctions and worsening diplomatic isolation. The alternative is for it to accept the E3 plus 3’s generous offer of June this year, which would give Iran financial and technological assistance to develop its civilian nuclear capacity—that is what it claims to want—and a range of other benefits. We will lead the effort to make its choice clear, through national measures and with our partners in the EU and UN.

As our June offer made clear, we are not opposed to Iran or other countries having access to civilian nuclear capacity, as long as there is absolute confidence that there is no leakage into a nuclear weapons programme. Far from being opposed, we see civilian nuclear technology as a crucial part of the answer to climate change and energy insecurity, but we need to manage the risks that this technology might be diverted for more malign purposes.

In the past three years, climate change has become a foreign policy issue discussed annually in these debates. Today, I have time to say only that although a high-growth global economy is essential, it is only half the story. The Government’s goal is a high-growth, low-carbon global economy. We cannot afford to defer energy efficiency and the drive for low-carbon fuels, because the short-term and long-term case for acting now is compelling.

Equally, amid the financial crisis we must not lose sight of the millennium development goals. Some $17.5 billion was committed at the high-level event at the UN General Assembly this September. The UK
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remains on track to meet our Gleneagles commitments, but too many of our partners are not. In addition, there is a growing risk that donations will fall away, despite the fact that the poorest countries, whether resource rich or resource poor, are often hit hardest by global shocks. We need to keep leading by example.

In order to deliver on this broad and ambitious agenda, we will need to work with partners and allies, and to mobilise collective action through international and multilateral institutions; I have already mentioned the new US administration. But if we want the multilateral architecture to continue to be the basis for international engagement and co-operation in the 21st century, we need to build support for reform. The economic crisis has highlighted the failings of the international financial architecture and should help to galvanise support for our efforts to reform the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

We now need to update the world’s political architecture to ensure that its contours map the new distribution of power, and regional structures are important in that. Massive progress towards peace and prosperity has been spurred by the creation of, first, the European Economic Community and the subsequent development of the European Union. Nation states have learned to come together to share power, not to dilute their national identity but to reconcile it with the reality of economic, social, political and environmental interdependence. The EU has an important role to play in each and every one of the priorities that I have identified today: nation building in Afghanistan and Africa; European security and defence policy missions in countries ranging from Congo, Chad and Somalia to Bosnia, Kosovo and Georgia; the provision of humanitarian aid, which totals €750 million and helps 20 million people across 50 countries; and leadership on climate change.

A global Europe that capitalises on its soft power by keeping the door open to further enlargement keeps countries in the western Balkans and eastern Europe moving in the right direction and engages, rather than isolates, Russia. But we also need a global Europe that builds its hard power, not as a threat to NATO, which, in its 60th anniversary year remains the cornerstone of European defence, but as a complement to it. France is on the verge of the historic decision of fully rejoining NATO, because it recognises its indispensable role. The US welcomes stronger EU efforts, both military and civilian, in the security sphere—

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con) rose—

David Miliband: I am sorry, but I have given way more than enough.

The US welcomes those stronger efforts because it agrees that such efforts strengthen our collective security, as Europe is doing in Georgia and the Balkans, and off the horn of Africa. We need to see this regional drive replicated elsewhere, notably in Africa, through the development of the African Union, but global problems require global solutions, and in that regard we need fundamental reform of our institutions, notably at the UN. The deal is simple: with power should come responsibility. For emerging, or re-emerging powers, there is a two-way street of recognition and respect, and obligations. For the previously dominant powers, such
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as the UK, the obligation is to continue to earn a place at the top table. That is what this Government are committed to doing.

2.26 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): The combination of circumstances in world affairs presents some of the greatest dangers for decades: nuclear proliferation; widespread conflict in Africa; immense tensions in the middle east; and widespread terrorist outrages. It also presents a major opportunity in 2009, because a new Administration in Washington have the best opportunity in a long time to win new friends for the United States, our greatest ally. I believe that this House should welcome the experienced team that President-elect Obama has put together in foreign affairs and defence, and hope—I believe the Foreign Secretary was expressing this hope—that the middle east peace process will, indeed, be one of their highest priorities, because unless a two-state solution is agreed soon, it may never be agreed. I hope that they will truly bring all the power and momentum that comes from being an American Administration who have four or eight years in office ahead of them.

The sombre nature of the background to our debate has been underlined by the scale and severity of the terrorist atrocities in Mumbai. In the face of those despicable outrages, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, we have all affirmed this country’s strong support for the Indian authorities in their efforts to identify the orchestrators. It is encouraging that the Government of Pakistan have offered high-level co-operation and have made several arrests, because the whole world looks to them to do everything possible to work with India on this vital matter, including making further arrests, as appropriate, although we are mindful of course that Pakistan has itself been the victim of a massive terrorist attack within the past few months.

This House is also united in wishing to see the entrenchment of democratic government in Pakistan, which is much the best hope for its fragile economic position and for the defeat of terrorism. That message was strongly conveyed in Pakistan by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I when we visited in September, and it has also been conveyed by the Foreign Secretary on his visits. Indeed, he has made many international visits over the past few weeks, and we welcome the initiatives that he has taken on Bosnia, which we discussed yesterday, his visits to the Gulf and to Damascus, and the emphasis he has placed on the middle east peace process.

As an aside, I must say that in the summer the Foreign Secretary was meant to be going on a tour of Britain, but he has ended up going on a tour of the world instead. Evidently, when the Prime Minister gets a more secure position within the Labour party, the Foreign Secretary thinks that leaving the country regularly is more attractive to him than stirring up trouble in the country. We must recall that in the summer he was insisting, in that famous press conference with a bemused Italian Foreign Minister—the tour did at least get as a far as Carlton gardens—that he

He could not actually say that he had succeeded in supporting that leadership at that time. But since then he has been all over the world and has avoided what he
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calls “Heseltine moments”, although in case he drifts away from that practice, we are keeping a careful eye on the Mace.

Although, as the Foreign Secretary says, there is a lot of bipartisanship in foreign policy—as I will illustrate—he regretted that foreign policy was not mentioned in the amendment tabled by the Opposition. That is the amendment to be voted on at the end of tomorrow’s debate, which is about public services. Not surprisingly therefore the amendment is about public services. When he was saying that, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) muttered “Astonishing”, but the Liberal Democrats have not tabled any amendment at all, which the House might think is even more astonishing. It has never been our practice as the Opposition to divide the House on foreign policy during the Queen’s Speech, and if the Foreign Secretary thinks that the Opposition should behave differently, he may soon have the opportunity to make such decisions for himself.

It is a powerful feature of British foreign policy that outside the area of European institutions, which we debated yesterday, so much of it enjoys broad bipartisan support, whoever is in office. That is certainly true of several tragic situations in Africa.

Mr. Ancram: My right hon. Friend mentioned Pakistan. Does he agree that it would be helpful to the Government of Pakistan if we could persuade our US allies to stop using unmanned aerial vehicles to attack civilian targets in that country?

Mr. Hague: The most helpful thing would be for Pakistan itself to take on the full responsibility of ensuring order in the tribal areas, and to continue to improve and enhance the efforts that the Pakistani authorities have made in recent months to try to tackle the Taliban and other groups in the tribal areas. If the Pakistani Government exercised their full responsibility to do that, some of the situations to which my right hon. and learned Friend refers would be less likely to arise.

In a question to the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend asked about Zimbabwe, which we also discussed yesterday, and I do not want to go over the same ground again—

Harry Cohen: Before we leave the point about bipartisanship in foreign policy, how does that square with the fact that 68 per cent. of the British population do not want British troops in Afghanistan? Should not the Opposition reflect that?

Mr. Hague: The Opposition should say what they think is the right thing to do, and not necessarily be governed by opinion poll. I will, of course, come to Afghanistan in the course of my remarks—the hon. Gentleman would be astonished if I did not—but I wish first to address some of the situations in Africa.

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