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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords. Such decisions are always difficult and no Minister would ever make them lightly. The plight of individuals and families affected by new variant CJD was the result of a unique set of circumstances. The Government considered that society as a whole should bear a moral responsibility. New variant CJD is a particularly distressing condition. Even though we were advised that we were unlikely to be legally liable, we considered it right to make payment to the victims and their families.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the situation in this country is different from that in France where I understand that the Government knowingly allowed HIV-transmissible injections to be used for haemophiliac patients? I believe that one of their Ministers admitted to that. Are we sure that that was never knowingly done in this country? Can the Minister tell the House the number of relative cases of hepatitis C as opposed to the number of HIV/AIDS cases that have been transmitted to haemophiliacs through blood products?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, clearly, circumstances have differed in every country which has had to face up to this problem. In the early 1970s,

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clinicians knew that there was a risk of hepatitis. However, there was great demand and, indeed, enthusiasm, for the new treatment from haemophiliacs and doctors. The impact of hepatitis C was not fully understood at that time and its effects were unclear. It was not until the mid-1980s and the attempt to prevent HIV that heat treatment was first used. It was not until then that there was a process which could have prevented the hepatitis C infection.

Zimbabwe: Restoration of Rule of Law

3.33 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, at the request of my noble friend Lord Blaker who is indisposed, and on his behalf, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

    What steps are being taken by the Commonwealth and other international bodies to aid in restoring the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, perhaps I may first wish the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, a speedy recovery.

We are working with Commonwealth colleagues to encourage Zimbabwe to abide by the commitments it made to the Commonwealth in Abuja. With the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), EU partners and other concerned members of the international community, we are continuing to urge the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. First, is it the position that the Abuja agreement is working or has it not broken down and been abrogated by the Zimbabwe Government? Secondly, what action will be taken to ensure that the forthcoming presidential elections are free and fair? All the signs indicate that they may not be. Finally, is it correct that Libyan troops are now placed in Zimbabwe?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, it would not be true to say that the Abuja agreement has broken down. Zimbabwe gave a number of assurances at the Abuja meeting, including a commitment to the democratic and human principles contained in the Harare Declaration, a commitment to no further occupation of farmland and a commitment to the restoration of the rule of law. With the partners to the Abuja process we have been monitoring the Government of Zimbabwe against such assurances. We are concerned that they are not meeting the commitments they made. Commonwealth partners, led by Nigeria, are planning an early visit to Zimbabwe to look at the processes and talk to the different stakeholders who are concerned with those issues.

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As regards the presidential elections, together with our EU partners, SADC colleagues and others, we are working extremely hard to ensure that election observers are in Zimbabwe for the elections. President Obasanjo, who played a key role in the Commonwealth process, has undertaken personally to intervene with President Mugabe as regards election observers.

I have no information to give the noble Lord as regards Libyan troops. I shall certainly seek further information, but I am not aware that Libyan troops are in Zimbabwe.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of a report that the leader of Libya visited President Mugabe in order to encourage him in energetic election campaigning. Given that the campaigning has already begun, with allegations of substantial intimidation, can the Minister tell the House whether or when election observers might be in place? Can she also tell the House whether any resettlements have taken place under the Commonwealth scheme?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I cannot give a date when election observers might be in place. Together with our EU partners, the United States and our African partners we are concerned to ensure that election observers go into Zimbabwe as soon as possible. As everyone in this House will be aware, the process in the run-up to the elections is critical. That is why we consider the process now to be so important. We shall continue to push hard on that issue.

As regards resettlement under the Abuja agreement, the Zimbabwe Government committed themselves to no further occupation of farmland and to take firm action against violence and intimidation. As the Government of the United Kingdom, we undertook that if the Zimbabwe Government adhered to their commitments, we would again consider putting resources into a transparent land reform programme. We made clear that it would be important for the UNDP mission to go into Zimbabwe to conduct an initial assessment.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, first, can the Minister tell us what truth there is, if any, in the statement that the International Red Cross has been prevented setting up camps and places of refuge for the many Africans who are suffering grievously from expulsion from the farms? Secondly, can she comment on the press report at the weekend that large numbers of Zimbabwe passports are to be issued to Libyans, a matter which, in the present circumstances, must be of interest?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are concerned to ensure that NGOs operating in Zimbabwe are able to do so in a way which will assist them in their work. Perhaps I may seek further information from the noble Baroness with respect to the International Red Cross. That is an internationally recognised organisation and

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I am not aware of it having been prevented setting up camps to assist Zimbabweans. We would be extremely concerned if that were the case.

As regards passports being issued to a large number of Libyans, that has not been verified. I have heard those reports but I do not know whether or not they are true.

Lord Elton: My Lords first, does the Minister agree that the grievousness of what is happening in Zimbabwe is as great today as it was before 11th September, and that this House maintains its interest at the same level as was the case before 11th September? Secondly, will she tell us to whom the international observers of the elections will report and what action will be taken, and by whom, if they report that the elections have not been free and fair but the result of intimidation?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, this House will continue to take a great interest in what is happening in Zimbabwe, as will the Government. We have worked long and hard--and it has not been an easy process--to build an international consensus around what is taking place in Zimbabwe. The noble Lord will know that we, our Commonwealth colleagues, the European Union, the United States, as well as African partners through SADC and through their bilateral contact with Zimbabwe, have expressed concern about this matter.

With regard to international observers, a number of different organisations have expressed interest in sending international observers to Zimbabwe--the Commonwealth, the European Union and the United States, to name but three. The election observers would report through the processes that operate in each of those areas. The Commonwealth observers, for example, would report to the Commonwealth Secretariat, and each organisation would then take the action that it thought fit, depending on what election monitors said about the outcome of those elections. If there were concerns about the outcome, I believe that the kind of international consensus that we have seen would be maintained and there would continue to be a push on the government of Zimbabwe to change their ways.

Farming and Food

3.42 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have not stated that ensuring the ability of the British farming industry to feed the British public will be their prime objective in considering the future of farming in Britain.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the establishment of the Policy Commission on Food and Farming was

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announced in August. It is due to report to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State by the end of this year. It has a wide remit. That will allow it to consider issues of food security and self-sufficiency in the context of the wider objectives of economic, environmental and social sustainability within the international and EU framework, together with issues of rural development, food safety and consumer requirements.

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