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If, on the other hand, Mr Tsvangirai has indeed triumphed on the first round and has crossed the 50 per cent mark or if President Mugabe chooses not to contest the second round, then the need immediately to try to support a new Government with humanitarian assistance and longer-term reconstruction assistance is critical and urgent. I think that the United Kingdom is well placed to assist in that. We are already the second-largest humanitarian donor, and we helped the WFP to feed 3 million people last year—almost a quarter of the population of Zimbabwe. One can expect to see that programme expanded in the immediate short term after the devastating impact on the economy of these elections. We have just contributed to emergency drug purchases for the country and we have plans to step up and expand that emergency humanitarian operation.

Secondly, if, as I say, there is a transfer of power to a democratically elected Government who move quickly to stabilise and restructure the economy, we have every intention of being major development partners—both as a principal bilateral donor and through our role as the largest donor to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

This morning’s report to which the noble Baroness referred muddled dollars with pounds. The estimate is that the absorptive capacity of Zimbabwe in these early stages will probably rise to $1 billion next year and perhaps $1.3 billion in the year after that before levelling out and subsequently falling. It is expected that Britain will play a major part in providing the

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finance for that both bilaterally and through our multilateral efforts. I say “a” major, not “the” major, because this will be an internationally shared activity in which we would expect many others to play their role. I can certainly assure the noble Baroness that there is no intention of this being a short-term effort or of it taking second place to other priorities.

I think that everyone in this House and the other place is combined in our desire to see Zimbabwe—that formerly prosperous country—put back on its feet and able to enjoy the economic opportunity that it justly deserves after all that has happened. The omens look better than they have in quite a long time: finally, the long nightmare of the people of Zimbabwe is coming to an end.

2.18 pm

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I hear what the Minister said about there being an audience in Zimbabwe and, indeed, matters are moving very fast. However, does he agree with the view expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu that now is not the time for quiet diplomacy and that every possible and very strong representation should be made to President Thabo Mbeki at this time?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, all the leaders in southern Africa have been attempting to speak directly to President Mugabe to try and make him aware of the situation. In general, they have had a lot of difficulty reaching him, but Thabo Mbeki plays a particularly important role. Disappointment and frustration have been expressed in this House and the other place about the negotiations and mediation he facilitated between ZANU-PF and the MDC. However, let us remember that that negotiation created the moment of opportunity we have now. He always argued that it was a case of getting to elections and then there will finally be a change in Zimbabwe’s politics. The Prime Minister has spoken to Mr Mbeki and will speak to him again, to re-emphasise the need for consistency in finishing what he began. He can take credit for having begun the change in Zimbabwe. We will press him to be a prominent leader, both in public and private, and ensuring that he finishes that work.

Lord Kinnock: My Lords, as someone who, for many years, throughout the efforts of liberation, supported both ZANU and ZAPU, I say to this House—and in the hope that it is broadcast in Zimbabwe—that I rejoice in the coming end of the Mugabe regime. I welcome the very strong commitment given by Her Majesty’s Government to providing sustained, effective, usable support to democratic Zimbabwe, whenever that event really comes to pass, which I hope will be in the next few weeks.

Will Her Majesty’s Government strongly emphasise to President Mbeki that it is entirely consistent with the role given to him by the South African Development Community to maximise and intensify pressure on Mugabe to quit now, in order to minimise tension and crisis and provide the possibility of a commencement

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to recovery to a country whose economy he has utterly devastated but whose spirit, manifestly, he has never managed to kill?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I agree with all that my noble friend has said and congratulate him and Mrs Kinnock on their roles, over many years, in supporting the forces of freedom and human rights in Zimbabwe. Let me at once say that we will certainly encourage President Mbeki—as the SADC leader on this issue—to be as strong as he can be in his representations for the need for President Mugabe to go now. I certainly defer to President Mbeki to choose how he delivers that message.

The critical point now is for Zimbabwe’s neighbours to find a way to allow President Mugabe to step down and out of a contest whose continuation and prolongation can only bring him humiliation but possibly only after further violence against the people of Zimbabwe.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, does the Minister agree that we have left the decisions too long to SADC? Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth because Mugabe took it out, not because the people wanted to leave. We have said before, in this House, that the precedent of South Africa—when we recognised that we would still talk about South Africa at the Commonwealth meetings, although the South African Government had withdrawn—should be applied now. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State, who said that he would be approaching the new head of the Commonwealth at the appropriate time, will regard this as the appropriate time.

It is a time when the Commonwealth can do a great deal. Those African states are members of the Commonwealth. I do not think that it is right, and I do not think that anyone does, that one part of the Commonwealth should make decisions for all of it. If the Commonwealth, as a whole, observed the next round of elections, or the next situation, that would be a considerable reassurance to the people of Zimbabwe, who have recognised that local considerations—and African ones—have worked against them in many ways. There can be nothing to stop us bringing in the whole Commonwealth—after all, there are Zimbabweans in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Commonwealth is ready in all sorts of ways to help in terms of trade union activity and education. A lot is there and it would encourage the people of Zimbabwe to feel that they are part of that family again and have been recognised as such.

My other point is that, as I am optimistic enough to think that things are going to change, it is extremely important that we have the right people involved in the UN. Unless the present head of the UNDP is withdrawn, there will not be very much confidence in the UN’s role in the future of Zimbabwe. Two successive UNDP leaders have been far too close to Mugabe and indeed, in one case, have taken land from him.

It will be extremely important to create confidence among the people of Zimbabwe by telling them that the international community is going to come to help them, but it will be the right people. I propose having

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Anna Tibaijuka as the UN commissioner. She would have their total trust—she reported honestly on the Murambatsvina. Her role in the UN is to do building and that is what is going to be necessary. She understands the situation, she is respected and she understands women’s issues. She would make an excellent UN representative.

I hope that we will look ahead and not just sit down and wait. We will move into the Commonwealth and we will bring the UN up to scratch.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I take the point of the noble Baroness about Zimbabwe returning by its own choice to the Commonwealth and to be welcomed back. However, I doubt whether that is likely to occur within the 21 days before a second round in a presidential election and therefore whether it is practical to have Commonwealth observers in Zimbabwe for a second round cannot be resolved today. In the longer term, I very much hope that the Commonwealth can be part of the international healing of Zimbabwe’s relations with the rest of the international community.

Regarding the United Nations, the World Food Programme is feeding 3 million people, and UNICEF has a major programme dealing with the horrendous problem of HIV/AIDS orphans in the country. Because of the restrictions on international NGOs operating in the country, those two parts of the UN and, I suspect, others, will be critical parts of the first humanitarian response.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, when democracies announce election results, particularly in multiple elections, they are usually announced with a certain hierarchy of power. If it happens in this country, the general election is announced before the council results and the parish council results would be the last to be announced . We have had the results for the lower House of Parliament; I saw on a website an hour ago that we are now going to have those for the Senate. Does the noble Lord expect the local government results will then follow, before we even get the presidential results? This seems a very strange way of announcing these results.

Secondly, we have heard about 100,000 per cent inflation. Shifting this and changing that economy seems to be totally uncharted ground. If we are talking about the demise of Mugabe and a fresh start, with Morgan Tsvangirai coming in with new people who have never had political power, what assistance can be given? Is it possible to scour the world for people who can give assistance with that 100,000 per cent inflation rate?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me immediately say that the noble Lord is correct; we probably will get even the local election results before we get the presidential count. But that is only one of many extraordinary factors about this whole election. One can only hope that good sense and some integrity from the system will prevail, not least that provided by the extraordinary electoral breakthrough of having had the individual tallies placed on polling station doors and having had civil society photograph them and write down the numbers; all of that is impeding the scale of actual,

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possible electoral theft. However, delay is becoming a substitute for owning up to the truth of what the real results are. We continue to press for announcements now—we imagine that the numbers have been known since the beginning of the week—to the Electoral Commission and its supporters in government.

On ending hyperinflation, a new Government are obviously likely to need expertise from around the world. There are an extraordinary number of distinguished Zimbabwean economists living in exile in countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States whom one hopes would be a lead part of such an effort. They can certainly be supplemented by expertise from organisations such as the Commonwealth. This is a time when help will be needed, not least because ending 100,000 per cert hyperinflation is a very difficult business. It involves a freeze on prices, which is immediately followed by empty shelves; Zimbabweans will feel that they have had quite enough of that. To manage this by using humanitarian interventions to prevent too much hardship for people as the economy is stabilised and the money supply brought down will be a challenge not just of economic management but of political will and of the stability of the new Government.

Lord Morris of Handsworth: My Lords, I commend the people of Zimbabwe for their calm and distinguished response to recent events. They have been dignified and they deserve the support of the entire international community.

The people have shown themselves to be democrats and worthy of the real fruits of democracy. I am sure that this House will welcome the Statement, although it can only be work in progress. I recognise, as the Statement suggests, that the Government are working extremely hard at all levels with the international community to seek to build a progressive coalition for real and lasting change in Zimbabwe. As I listened to the Statement, I transported myself to a citizen living in Zimbabwe, who would like to put one or two very simple questions to the Minister. They would say, “We have tried soft diplomacy but it has not delivered for us. Have you got a plan B?”. I feel sure that that is what they would demand. If the answer is yes, what is it? Archbishop Tutu said publicly that he believed that soft diplomacy is no longer an option; we will not mobilise the international community to the point of action—real, tangible engagement—unless we are seen to be committed and giving leadership.

The people would say, “We have suffered enough. We cannot suffer much more from sanctions or sporting or cultural boycotts”. Above all, the people of Zimbabwe are looking to the international community to build the capacity for leadership. I sense, and I am confident that this House senses, that we have now passed the tipping point, and we must not let this opportunity pass without ensuring that we have the leadership capacity to take the responsibility of government and rebuild that great country.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me, let me say a word in praise of soft power. President Mbeki has been criticised in this

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House—we have all expressed frustration about the slow progress of the mediation—but it is that mediation that has got us to where we are today: a moment at which, after 28 years of absolute power, President Mugabe is on the edge; his days are over; the regime is finished. We are now debating the manner of its ending, not its continuation.

I add, in praise of soft power, that, for the first time since 1980, President Mugabe faced the people of Zimbabwe without his usual alibi; for the first time, he was not able to campaign against a British Prime Minister. In every other campaign, his opponent has not been someone in Zimbabwe. When Morgan Tsvangirai ran against Mugabe before, you would have thought, if you had looked at the campaign speeches and posters, that his opponent was not Morgan Tsvangirai but the Prime Minister of Great Britain. We have managed, on this occasion, to remain out of the firing line of President Mugabe’s campaign rallies, leaving him with no excuse but to be confronted by a people whose lives have been reduced to utter penury by his mismanagement and misgovernment. That has brought us to this point. There is a good answer to people on the first of my noble friend’s questions.

On my noble friend’s second question, there is, at this point, also a need for firmness. Soft power should not be malleable power. At this point, privately and publicly, President Mugabe needs to understand that his choices have narrowed to two impossible options if he chooses to go forward: a second round in an election that he would surely lose, now that his political mortality and autocratic rule have been pierced by an inevitable second-place finish in the first round; or the option of trying to steal the election. The position of the SADC leaders, the position of the international community more generally and the position of the people of Zimbabwe, in view of the overwhelming sentiment that they currently feel, rule that out. He faces departure from office. We must ensure that we say and do nothing that gives him any wriggle room. He must now confront the consequences of the electoral situation of this week.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the Minister rightly mentioned Zimbabweans in this country. We should pay tribute to the thousands who sought asylum here; they have made a real contribution. Unfortunately, a group of asylum seekers is due to be removed from this country. Will he confirm that the Government are considering this quite seriously at the moment, pending a court case? Will he urge his colleagues in the Home Office and the Foreign Office, who have made mistakes before—at considerable human cost—not to remove Zimbabweans forcibly at this time?

Lord Malloch-Brown: As the noble Earl knows, the UK has believed that many Zimbabweans completely deserve and need asylum but that a small group perhaps did not meet those conditions. The enforced removal of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers was suspended, pending the outcome of the so-called AIT litigation. That position will be maintained until any and all applications for permission to appeal the

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determination are dealt with. In light of those current circumstances, we are of course looking at this whole issue with great care.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: My Lords, I echo the comments of my noble friend Lord Morris and other noble Lords in offering congratulations to the people of Zimbabwe on their bravery and dignity in voting for change decisively—I use that word because I believe that they have voted decisively, given all the obstacles placed in their way, not least the fact that some 4 million Zimbabweans abroad have been denied the right to return to vote. However, I have some difficulty in echoing the views of my noble friend Lord Morris about the tipping point. I fear the scenario alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—that if, as seems inevitable, the presidential election goes to a run-off, ZANU-PF will invoke the military, as it did in the 2002 elections, intimidating the MDC, preventing it from campaigning and seeking to return Robert Mugabe to power.

I welcome the Minister’s confirmation that a $1 billion package is being discussed. I hope that it will be further discussed at the IMF spring meeting in Washington later this month. My question inevitably must be this. If somehow Mugabe manages to hang on, I do not believe any longer that we can leave the people of Zimbabwe on their own in light of the bravery that they have shown, so what plans will the Government make as a contingency—a so-called plan B—if the people are not given the outcome of the election that they have claimed?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we are determined to make sure that, if the election goes to a second round, President Mugabe will not with military or any other help be able to steal it. Were he to do so, he would confront an international community more united and determined to end this farce than ever before. Let me say for I suspect the first time in this House in 28 years that this has been a terrible week for President Mugabe and a wonderful one for the people of Zimbabwe.

Environment: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

2.41 pm

Lord Renton of Mount Harry rose to call attention to the environmental importance of areas of outstanding natural beauty; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this seems a sudden step away from the drama and tragedy that is Zimbabwe to the relative tranquillity of the British countryside, but I am pleased to have this opportunity. The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty asked me not long ago whether I could make a little noise about AONBs at Westminster. I am glad to have the opportunity to do so this afternoon.

I must first declare an interest. I was for seven years chairman of the Sussex Downs Conservation Board and I have for the past three years been chairman of

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the South Downs Joint Committee, for which I am paid a modest salary. The South Downs Joint Committee is a coming together of the Sussex Downs and the East Hampshire AONBs and it therefore covers the Downs for nearly 100 miles from Winchester to East Sussex.

I should also declare a second interest in that I have the good fortune to live in the Sussex Downs AONB. Every morning when I am there I can stare at our,

to quote Kipling, and at the Mount Harry hill behind which Henry III was famously defeated by Simon de Montfort in the Battle of Lewes in 1264. We have natural beauty and a good deal of history, too, around us. I thank Elizabeth Shepherd for the extremely good note that she wrote for the House of Lords Library on the origin and history of AONBs. Because of that note, I do not intend to spend any time on past history. I also thank the NFU for its press release, which I received yesterday. I am delighted to read the following sentences in it:

Good words coming from the NFU.

It is interesting that today the word “environment” is on everyone’s lips. Yesterday I listened to the Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, on the radio. He was talking about the number of new homes that were going to be built and the importance of their not causing “environmental damage”—his words—through carbon emissions.

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