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Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Government's position on the matter is quite clear and known by all Commonwealth countries. We firmly uphold the Harare principles. I agree that the human rights and humanitarian situation is worse this year than last year, and that Zimbabwe does not live up to the Harare principles. However, the matter is for the troika. I understand that the Commonwealth Secretary-General will review the situation in Zimbabwe and make a report to the troika. Even if the members of the troika do not meet, they will have to make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government, who mandated them in that regard.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, will my noble friend clarify that latter point? If the troika does not meet or make a recommendation, will the suspension
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have not yet had a view on the matter from the Commonwealth Secretary-General, although my understanding from the Marlborough House declaration of last year is that the lifting of a suspension would not be automatic. Indeed, my view is that the status quo would prevail until the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nigeria in December. We will have to wait and see what the Commonwealth Secretary-General recommends to the troika and the outcome of that discussion.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, did the Prime Minister raise with President Mbeki the possibility of improving the flow of information to Commonwealth member states, in view of the fact that there seems to be a widespread lack of understanding of the worsening situation referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker? That is particularly important in a week during which five opposition MPs and a judge were arrested for no reason at all. Will the Government discuss with the Commonwealth Secretary-General how all the information about the human rights violations can be collected and disseminated, possibly using the Secretary-General's website?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am not aware whether that specific point was raised in the discussion between the Prime Minister and President Mbeki. However, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that we regularly pass to our Commonwealth colleagues information that we have at our disposal not only about the deteriorating humanitarian situation but also about abuses of human rights. The noble Lord has raised on previous occasions the question of the Commonwealth Secretariat playing a more central role. As I have said previously, the Commonwealth Secretary-General will carry out a review of the Marlborough House declaration to put to the troika, and I shall raise with him again the possibility of the Secretariat acting in a more central role in respect of the flow of information.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I believe the Minister will remember that last November she told the House that the UN report on the pillage of the Congo by Zimbabwe would be sent to the Commonwealth. She also told us that the Government were already producing short information papers. Can she clarify whether the Government are sending those papers directly to the individual countries or whether they are being sent through the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is not quite the same thing?
As Zimbabwe is unable to speak for itself, can the Minister also say whether anything is being done to ensure that the whole Commonwealth sees, for example, Mr Fergal Keane's film about what is happening inside the country? Will the film shown last week, bravely filmed within the country by
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that the papers that we have produced are being sent directly to individual countries. I am unable to answer the noble Baroness's question about the UN report and the films that she mentioned. If she will allow me, I shall write to her and place a copy of the letter in the Library.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, was the question of extending and toughening the travel ban on Zimbabwe's leaders discussed at the Prime Minister's meeting? In that context, does the noble Baroness agree that it is a pity that the legitimacy of Mr Mugabe, who came to power on a massive voting fraud, is being greatly enhanced today by his welcome at the Elysee Palace?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I believe the whole House is aware that it was our strong view that Mugabe should not travel to Paris. Last week, the continuation of the travel ban, the assets freeze and the arms embargo was agreed by the European Union. That remains the position.
Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the future of services on the Isle of Wight is currently under discussion in the local process called "Healthfit", which embraces the development and shape of services in the whole of Hampshire. No firm decisions have yet been taken.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of the enormous anxiety on the Isle of Wight that accident and emergency services at St Mary's Hospital may be withdrawn? The strategic health authority has not felt able to give any kind of guarantee about the future of emergency surgery facilities there. Is the Minister aware that, without emergency surgery, a full A&E service could not be delivered and that that would have serious implications for the population of the island, which numbered some 300,000 people during the summer?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am aware of the anxieties being expressed. However, I hasten to add that this is the first stage of a process which will take some time. Consultation will take place over the next few weeks and months, and these matters will have to be considered by the people who make the decisions at the local level. However, on 28th January the chairman of the strategic health authority wrote to the local media saying:
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I was aware of the sea; I was not aware that the noble Lord had taken advantage of the excellent services provided by St Mary's Hospital. Of course, I take the point that the noble Lord makes. At present, in many serious cases where patients need to be moved to highly specialist servicesprobably in Hampshiremany would be seen and stabilised first within the local hospital. All those factors will need to be taken into account when the strategic health authority comes to make decisions. However, the time for decision-making is some way off.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, does the Minister accept that we are not talking about specialised cases being moved on later? Does he accept, and will he tell the chairman of the strategic health authority, that the mainland is simply not an option if a person has an accident or a heart attack on the Isle of Wight?
As my noble friend pointed out, if an ambulance is called to Freshwater or Ventnor, it takes half an hour to reach the ferry. Storms in the Solent often mean that helicopters cannot fly. Only the car ferry is available, and that takes 45 minutes. There is an hour between sailings in the winter and two hours between sailings during the night in the summer. Therefore, it can easily take more than three hours to reach a hospital in Portsmouth or Southampton.
Can the Minister give an assurance not that the bulk of cover will be maintaineda matter causing great concern on the Isle of Wightbut that accident and
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am learning more than ever about the Isle of Wight and its geography. I understand the point that the noble Lord makes. But, ultimately, such decisions need to be made at the local level. The process being followed by the strategic health authority is, first, to gather together a group of professionals in order to map out an outline philosophy which will guide the process and, then, to consult informally many organisations and people within the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. All those factors will need to be considered. Of course, I understand the geographical constraints. That is why the chair of the strategic health authority wrote in the terms that he did. As I said, under current practice, many patients will go first to St Mary's Hospital for stabilisation and care and will then be transferred to more specialist centres on the mainland where appropriate. I believe that that will always be a factor in terms of the services provided within the Isle of Wight.
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