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between the EU and Africa. The joint declaration promised co-operation on investment, development, human rights and peacekeeping, and came with an ambitious action plan running to 2010. The plan includes moves towards an Africa-EU energy partnership to promote access to efficient energy services and renewable sources, and a package intended to help the African Union to intervene and prevent likely future conflicts—and Lord knows, there are many conflicts going on there at the moment. Having visited the African Union in Addis Ababa last year to discuss the chaos in Somalia, and with so many conflicts taking place at this time, we know how difficult that will be.

Africa and Europe failed to reach agreement on the comprehensive trade deals known as economic partnership agreements. Interim agreements were signed instead, covering trade and goods and leaving out sensitive areas such as opening up developing countries’ services and investment markets. I applaud the Foreign Secretary’s statement today and welcome his indication that there will be further efforts to get agreement on trade by rejuvenating the Doha round. The EPAs are good for African development because they offer African countries full access to the European market while allowing them
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to keep up to 20 per cent. of their own markets closed to protect domestic industries, but clearly there is further work to be done to ensure that the interests and concerns of African states are met.

There is, however, a new international context. Many of us have looked at Africa from almost—dare I say it?—a neo-colonial viewpoint, but there are many new players in Africa, not just the traditional western nations that have a history of colonisation. The role of China has forced the EU to re-assess its relationship with Africa. Since 2002, African-Chinese trade has increased fivefold to more than $50 billion in 2006. In October 2007, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China paid $5.6 billion for a 20 per cent. stake in Standard bank of Africa—the biggest single investment ever made on the continent. India has also been buying up oil and mineral concessions in such countries as Sudan and Nigeria. In addition, the US wants to take 25 per cent. of its oil supply from Africa to reduce American dependence on middle east resources.

As I said, China is set to become Africa’s biggest trade partner, overtaking the US in 2010.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My hon. Friend has made an interesting point, but does it not worry him that China could now become the new colonial master because of all the investment and total dependence on the Chinese market? Does he share my concern about future over-dependence on China? Would Africa not do better to ensure that the basket is not filled entirely with China?

Mr. Hendrick: I entirely agree, but that is very difficult to achieve. I was interested in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey). The west comes along with aid and investment to which strings are attached—quite rightly—in regard to issues such as human rights, while China has no such concerns. It is very difficult to square that circle.

China poses a particular challenge. We need to engage in a fair bit more dialogue, and try to persuade the Chinese that it is in their longer-term interests—about which I shall say more shortly—to take account of issues such as human rights, not just in their own country but in Africa. In the longer term, a stable Africa is much more important to China than an unstable Africa.

Funds from aid are rapidly being overtaken by the amount of investment flowing into the continent from China. Chinese investment in infrastructure, for instance, has already matched that of all the OECD countries combined. As I have said, Chinese money is particularly attractive to African nations because unlike European funds, which are linked to issues such as human rights and good governance, it comes without strings. However, there is an accompanying danger that, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out,

I am sure that China recognises that, and it is to be hoped that in the future it will do what it can to ensure that its investment is positive. A more stable Africa is as much in its long-term interests as it is in the immediate interests of the African people themselves.

The European Union cannot be replicated everywhere, but it has been shown that prosperity and security can
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be achieved through the sharing of resources and political power. In that respect, the development of the African Union is exciting and positive. The AU has a long way to go; it operates in a fragmented environment, and at present lacks the same levels of organisational structure, supranational power and political commitment of members as the European Union. However, it has already played a major role in restoring peace to Burundi, and has deployed peacekeeping missions in both Sudan and Somalia—although, as has been said, there is still a great deal to be done.

There are three key areas in which the EU and the AU should work closely together. Obviously, as has also been said today, one is conflict. In 2003, the EU deployment in north-east Congo helped to prevent bloodshed, and allowed the United Nations time to reinforce and reconfigure its peacekeeping mission. Today, 3,000 EU troops are trying to stabilise eastern Chad. Obviously there is much more scope for that elsewhere in Africa, for example in Sudan, and we hope to see more and more of it. It is highly desirable for the EU and the AU to act together in a UN context.

The second is energy. Africa has the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, and with it comes huge solar power potential. If we had peace and stability in the DRC, the proposed Grand Inga hydroelectric project on the Congo river could bring power to 500 million Africans for the first time. Through the EU’s emissions trading scheme and the clean development mechanism, the EU could help to provide the finance needed to make that a reality. Generating energy in that way could eventually enable Africa to export energy rather than importing it, and rising prices for that energy could lift millions of Africans out of poverty. For the EU, it would mean a new, green energy supply on its doorstep.

Thirdly, in terms of development, rising food prices are forcing Africans to cut back on education and health care, and to sell off livestock in order to be able to eat. The EU, as the world’s largest aid donor and largest single market, can play a big role. For larger-scale agriculture, we need more progress on reducing agricultural tariffs and subsidies, so that in addition to Africa one day being able to feed itself, it could export food to Europe.

Surveys show that nine out of 10 Africans want to live in a democracy, and events this year in Kenya and Zimbabwe demonstrate this sentiment. Not only is it our duty to support people in this fight for moral reasons at the very least, but democracies are more likely to respect human rights and support open trade, and are less likely to go to war. Rather than just focusing on whether we should support democracy, the EU should concentrate on how to support the institutions and constitutions of African states, and try to work out what forms of democracy could work in weak states and in countries with ethnic and religious divisions or fragile economies. Ideally, democracy should, of course, be home grown, but there are practical ways in which the EU could support democracy in Africa. First, we could use our aid budgets to support accountability and help to support state institutions and civil society, as we are doing. Secondly, trade can be used not just to drive economic growth, but to nurture social and political modernisation. That is why the “Everything but Arms” system and the economic partnership agreements are so important. Offering duty-free, quota-free access to EU
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markets is also important, which is why aid for trade and a new global trade deal to give all developing countries better access to global markets are crucial.

We could call for more robust diplomacy to be applied. Where the international community through the United Nations is united in its condemnation of a regime, and where it is prepared to support that with targeted sanctions and to play an active role in mediation, the legitimacy and viability of authoritarian regimes can be undermined.

In countries suffering from conflict, troops may be needed to provide the security that is the platform for re-establishing democratic governance. The readiness of British forces to provide such security is already well established, as we have seen in different parts of the world.

Zimbabwe poses a massive threat to the region, as its neighbours will continue to bear the brunt of Mugabe’s actions. The UK has made it clear that a continuation of the status quo is not an option. The Foreign Secretary has said a great deal in the debate about what the Government have done and can do. I will not add to that, except to say that in my view we might not be able to remove Mugabe in the foreseeable future without the use of force. I believe it is not enough to will the ends, and that it is likely that we will need to will the means in order to see change in Zimbabwe.

In 2006, the EU helped the Democratic Republic of the Congo stage its first presidential and legislative elections in 40 years. This involved transporting 1,000 tonnes of ballot papers, and 2,000 EU troops supported the UN in maintaining a peaceful environment for those elections. It is a tragedy that this conflict has broken out and is continuing, and I believe that the EU will play an important role in bringing it to an end.

My natural father was from Somaliland. I say “Somaliland” deliberately because the picture there is very different from that in the rest of Somalia. Somaliland has been stable and democratic, and it constitutes what used to be the British colony of British Somaliland. There is a system of governance and democracy that has made it very stable. It should be used as a beacon and example for the rest of Somalia, but at present it is not even recognised as a state by the UN, although there are moves to try to change that. If we are going to stop the piracy off the Gulf of Aden, Somalia must become a stable state, rather than the failed state that it is at the moment. Until there is a stable Somalia alongside a UN-recognised Somaliland, that piracy will continue, no matter how many warships we send to the area.

Finally, the European Union has done much, but it still has much more to do to support Africa. As Africa is the only continent on earth that is going backwards and not developing, we have a duty to provide support through the European Union for the sake of humanity as a whole.

5.35 pm

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I welcome you to your place?

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick). I hope that I shall not detain the House for long, and I am sure the House does too. I wish to
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talk a little about the details of the recent attack in Mumbai and its implications for our foreign affairs and, consequently, for how we are going to deal with a similar attack in the future—such an attack is not inevitable, but it is highly likely.

First, it is worth mentioning that the attack was thought to have been carried out by about 10 or 12 terrorists, but I believe that is wrong—I believe that we will find that many more terrorists were involved. It might be worth dwelling for a moment on the British experience of this sort of thing. For what they were worth, my comments immediately afterwards were that we are not necessarily terribly well prepared to deal with this sort of attack. They were immediately shot down by a number of different individuals—I shall return to that in a moment—but we are not strangers to this form of attack inside this country.

It will have been forgotten, but in December 1989, 16 gunmen in an improvised armoured vehicle used automatic weapons, flame-throwers and rocket-propelled grenades to attack a Regular British Army post on the Fermanagh border. They drove off that Regular Army garrison—they were not from my regiment, I hasten to add—killing two of them and capturing a Regular British Army base. When I have said to police sources that it is possible that such an attack could take place, they have replied, “No, it won’t, because they can’t get the weaponry to operate inside this country.” It is worth bearing in mind the fact that No. 10 Downing street was attacked with weapons that were much more powerful than their commercial equivalents.

How have we dealt with evolving terrorist tactics in the past? After the Mumbai attacks, a number of voices have been raised up in lamentation saying, “Actually, things are just fine.” But are they? We must bear it in mind that not much more than 25 years ago, when the terrorist threat to our oil and gas fields in the North sea developed, we were pretty quick to develop the Comacchio group. I do not need to tell the Ministers sitting opposite of the excellence of that organisation, which is still in existence. It is based in Arbroath and, to the best of my knowledge, it has never had to fire a shot in anger. It is difficult to say what has stopped those targets being attacked, but I suggest that a powerful, capable, properly resourced and armed organisation such as the Comacchio group has probably deterred—deterrence being the important point—attacks on those sorts of targets.

I turn to the question of whether British terrorists or British-groomed terrorists have been involved in the Mumbai attack. I have no doubt that such an involvement will emerge, but two important questions need to be addressed. If these gunmen have recently been resident in this country or if the plot was partially or wholly hatched in this country, we need to be terribly alarmed. I do not believe that that necessarily was the case, but I am sure that there were British connections and that many of the individuals will prove to have been British residents, to have been born in this country or to have been British passport holders. If they are found to have been resident abroad for five or 10 years living, let us say, in Pakistan, it will be slightly less alarming, but it will none the less be very concerning.

This incident is highly likely to lead to further friction between India and Pakistan. Despite the fact that Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for this attack, I have no doubt that the core planning of it was carried out by
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al-Qaeda. That is why rather than the targets just being Kashmiri, Indian or Pakistan-focused friction targets, British and American passport holders were targeted, as were Israelis and Jews, as has been mentioned. If that is not the hallmark of a core al-Qaeda operation, I do not know what is. Therefore, when we hark back to events such as the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the subsequent arrests in Pakistan and the arrests there in the past few days, it is crucial to ensure that the tension between those two nuclear-armed countries is defused as far as possible. Those arrests must be seen to be proper arrests, and the individuals must continue to be kept under lock and key and, eventually, brought to justice.

I ask Ministers to think carefully about the prominence of LET inside this country and the implications of the enemy operations in India. We must consider just how significant and sinister this organisation is, and how far it has penetrated inside this country. For example, I bring the case of Mr. Rashid Rauf into focus. He was a citizen of Birmingham and a British passport holder, and he was heavily involved in LET in its initial stage. Later, he was a very highly placed al-Qaeda operative. I will not dwell on the rights or wrongs of his death. If terrorists are to be killed, well and good, but we should ensure that they have been tried in front of proper court of law and condemned by the appropriate authority.

I ask Ministers to think very carefully about British involvement in that style of operation. I understand the sensitivities involved, and how difficult it is to draw the boundaries correctly on such operations. However, if terrorism is to be defeated, it must be defeated within the letter of the law.

If we are reflecting on organisations such as LET, I ask the Secretary of State also to think carefully about Tablighi Jamaat. Although it has denied any involvement in terrorism, a leaked FBI memo, obtained by US media in 2005, raised fears that al-Qaeda was using membership of that organisation

and in the UK. I accept the word of Tablighi Jamaat that it is not involved in terrorism, but—with the Olympic games in the not too distant future and its plans to develop a mosque alongside a maritime access route to the Olympic site—I would like Ministers’ assurance that it is being examined, watched and scrutinised to ensure that its wholly legitimate aims are not in some way being suborned.

I wonder how well prepared we are for a similar attack. Why was it different? The answer is that it was not; it is just that more enemy gunmen were involved than we have seen for many years. Do we have the forces to deal with a similar incident? When I asked that question in the media 10 days ago, the Home Secretary and others immediately reassured me that we did. I was extremely interested to see an interview with the Mayor of London in which he said that a combination of the maritime support unit of the Metropolitan police and the Special Boat Service is poised and sufficiently numerous to deal with such an attack on the Thames. What about the Humber or the Severn? What about our other great rivers and maritime targets? Can Ministers honestly tell me that Milford Haven, for instance, which has been right at the top of the terrorist attack list for the past five years to the best of my knowledge—that comes straight from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—is properly defended against that style of attack?

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We must clearly not become mesmerised merely by the maritime threat that our enemies pose.

Mr. Hendrick: As I have spoken already, I shall not say a great deal, but during the summer I was in China. Although I did not go to Beijing and see the Olympics, I was in Shanghai and in every underground station in every part of Shanghai that I visited bags were checked. Perhaps we need the same level of security as I saw in China to be applied throughout the UK in order for it to be successful.

Patrick Mercer: The hon. Gentleman has no doubt heard me dilate on that point in the past. We must concentrate on not only London as being vulnerable to terrorism but on our provincial capitals. I ask Ministers to think very carefully, although I do not expect an answer today. We must provide cover not just from the maritime threat but from the airborne threat, too.

Interestingly, despite what we have heard about the preparation to counter the maritime threat, Lord West of Spithead, the Home Office Minister responsible for security, told Members of Parliament on the Select Committee on Defence recently that he was concerned that no overall body was responsible for monitoring maritime traffic around the country. He said that the Royal Navy is charged with keeping watch on larger vessels but that other organisations, such as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, local authorities and the police have varying degrees of responsibility over smaller boats. Whatever we like to think, if the Government’s own Security Minister is pointing that out as a yawning gap in our security, I would seek reassurances from Ministers that we have addressed the subject as seriously as we can.

Lastly—I promise that this is my last point—we need a root-and-branch review of the special forces that we have available to deal with such a style of attack. There is no doubt that our SBS, our Special Air Service and the police specialist armed response units are first class. They have done sterling service not just in dealing with such style of attacks when they develop but, more importantly, in deterring them before they occur. However, by the time that the groups of two, three or four in which we have seen our enemies operating most recently start to operate in dozens, with two operational theatres being manned by our special forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the crippling manpower problems faced by the Army at the moment, we will not have enough specialist forces developed, trained and easily deployed. The facilities are not available to get the forces that already exist quickly from one part of the country to another.

The bombings on the tube in 2005 caught us with our pants down. We were lucky that the numbers of dead and injured were not hideously worse. I implore Ministers to look carefully at the new style of attack and the new volume they come in before we are caught as badly in the future.

5.48 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I was pleased to see the reference made in the Gracious Speech to the Government’s commitment to securing a lasting settlement in the middle east peace process and it is on that subject that I shall concentrate.

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