HC Deb 25 June 2002 vol 387 cc803-49 7.14 pm
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

I beg to move, That this House deplores the deteriorating political, economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe; condemns the continuing violations of basic human rights committed by the Mugabe regime; reaffirms the view that following the rigged presidential election in March the current Zimbabwean government lacks legitimacy; regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government and the EU to implement sanctions and exert effective pressure on the Mugabe regime to hold new free and independently monitored presidential elections; recognises the growing politically-induced humanitarian suffering in Zimbabwe, and its effects on her neighbours; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to take effective action to build an international coalition to apply whatever pressure is necessary, in line with the Harare Declaration, to restore democracy in Zimbabwe through fresh Presidential elections.

This debate should have taken place a long time ago, and it should also have taken place in Government time. Zimbabwe is not a far-off land about which we know little; it is a land that we know all too well. Zimbabwe is in crisis. Her people are suffering—suffering from starvation, suffering from a breakdown in the rule of law, suffering from the loss of basic democratic freedoms, suffering from a systematic violation of human rights and suffering from a vote-rigging despot who uses intimidation and lawlessness to impose his will upon his people.

If we were talking about Kosovo or Bosnia, the Prime Minister would rightly insist on our moral duty to intervene to save the people from tyranny, dispersal and torture. If we were talking about the Indian sub-continent, the Foreign Secretary would be jetting in to exercise persuasion and economic muscle to restore normality. If we were talking about the middle east, prime ministerial envoys would be whistle-stopping around the region seeking support for political action to deal with the crisis. But we are talking about Zimbabwe, yet from the Government there has been silence and inaction.

Until Question Time this afternoon, there had been no recent statements in the House on Zimbabwe and there has been no evidence of the creation of the international coalition to bring pressure to bear on the Mugabe regime that was promised by the Foreign Secretary when he told the House that an international coalition was exactly what we have been seeking to put together and have, indeed, put together."—[Official Report, 21 March 2002; Vol. 382, c. 449.] He could have fooled me. He certainly fooled the people of Zimbabwe.

It is starkly indicative that it has taken the Opposition to bring this matter to the Floor of the House. I have accused the Government of dithering over Zimbabwe, but I confess that I am wrong. Since March, there has not been enough action to merit the description "dithering." There has only been silence, broken astonishingly last week on 20 June when the Foreign Secretary claimed, as he did earlier today, that sanctions were working and that Zimbabwe's Government were experiencing—I think these are the words he used—isolation from the rest of the world. Who does he think he is kidding? Certainly not the people of Gib—[Interruption]—Zimbabwe, or of Gibraltar; certainly not the people of Zimbabwe.

Let me say to the Foreign Secretary that the people of Zimbabwe feel a sense of betrayal that Britain has turned its back on them and that it is afraid to take on the Mugabe regime. They see the Government ensconced in their well-practised mode of supine inaction. Many Zimbabweans to whom I have spoken recently believe that we no longer care about what happens in Zimbabwe. I can only tell them that Conservative Members care passionately.

Hugh Bayley (City of York)


Mr. Ancram

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman cares passionately, so I shall be delighted to give way to him.

Hugh Bayley

I have taken an interest in Zimbabwe for a long time. When the right hon. Gentleman's party were in power, Mugabe wiped out the opposition party, ZAPU, and 10,000 Zimbabweans were butchered in Matabeleland. What protests did the right hon. Gentleman's Government lodge; what sanctions did they apply; and why did they later invite Mugabe to Britain on a state visit?

Mr. Ancram

I do not understand whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that that is any reason to ignore what is happening in Zimbabwe today. I count 10 Labour Members in the Chamber for this debate, and that is a sign of how much the Labour party cares about what is happening in Zimbabwe.

We know that the crisis in Zimbabwe is getting worse. It is important that not only the House but the country should know about what is horrifyingly growing unchecked in Zimbabwe. We cannot turn a blind eye to it and we cannot afford to be squeamish. Our motion refers to the deteriorating political, economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and to the continuing violations of basic human rights". The truth is stark. According to the report of the independent Physicians for Human Rights, between January and April this year, there were 961 documented cases of torture. There have been many more since then.

Some of the cases are horrifying. A Movement for Democratic Change supporter was attacked three times. Eight months pregnant, she was kicked so badly in the groin and lower abdomen that she suffered internal bleeding for which she was prevented from getting treatment. Subsequently, her eight-day-old baby was physically abused by Mugabe's thugs while she was gagged to silence her screams. She was told by them that her baby should die because it was "MDC property".

Documented cases of torture include severe beatings, mutilation by fire, whippings, permanent disfigurement and crippling, much of it taking place in the custody of the police or the military. One victim in May was abducted in front of the central police station in Bulawayo and taken to a militia camp. He was accused of being an MDC supporter. A flaming log was taken from a fire and forced against his feet. His mutilated feet were then beaten. A former policeman accused of being MDC was beaten about his head with a metal bar and then more generally with sjamboks by ZANU youth militia. When he complained to the police he was told: anyone suspected of being MDC will be beaten up".

The fact is that the police turn a blind eye to such torture and abuse, probably because more than 90 per cent. of such cases emanate from the actions of persons linked to the Government—the army, the police, the militia, the veterans groups. There is little fear of repercussions because the Government have let it be known that grants of clemency and amnesty will be forthcoming.

An apologist for Mugabe told me the other day that I should not be too censorious about what was happening in Zimbabwe because "This was Africa". Such comments are a slur on that great continent. The abuse is not African; it is the abuse of a fascist dictatorship. The international community can no longer stand by and let it happen.

After elections in March that were internationally judged to be rigged and stolen, the Foreign Secretary told the House: we do not recognise the result or its legitimacy."—[Official Report, 14 March 2002; Vol. 381, c. 1035.] I hope the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that that remains his position.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)


Mr. Ancram

I am grateful for that. Mugabe and his henchmen have ridden roughshod over democracy in Zimbabwe. It is worth recalling that the principles of the 1991 Harare declaration—this is ironic—state: We believe…in the individual's inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic processes in the society in which he or she lives". Yet two days after the elections, Mugabe laid formal charges of treason against the leaders of the MDC. Between January and August this year, the Parliament will have been closed for all but two days in May, when legislation was pushed through without consultation or debate.

In terms of the law, Mugabe has ignored any rulings that did not suit him. On 9 April, a senior Government official, George Charama, said that it was the intention of the Government to ignore rulings by the court which were not in the Government's favour. The contemptuous Government reaction to the Supreme Court ruling that the Public Order and Security Act did not apply to certain internal meetings of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions only helps to corroborate that.

Press freedom and freedom of expression are also under attack. The draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has already allowed the arrest of more than a dozen journalists on various charges. Poets, too, have been jailed under that legislation for poetry critical of Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's economic outlook is even bleaker. The violent land-grabs continue. Yesterday, 60 per cent. of Zimbabwe's remaining white farmers were told to close down. Many of them will not even be allowed to complete the essential grading of the tobacco that used to provide 30 per cent. of Zimbabwe's foreign currency. Agricultural output has fallen 67 per cent. from last year. Farmers are being dispossessed and their labourers are losing their jobs and watching helplessly as their families face hunger and homelessness.

Unemployment has soared to 70 per cent. Business closures are rife. Everyone is suffering except for those who are in Mugabe's pocket. Inflation has now reached 122 per cent. Skilled people are leaving Zimbabwe. Wildlife, so essential to the tourism industry, has been devastated, including the rare black rhino. The dire economic crisis is beginning seriously to damage neighbouring economies as well.

Then there is the Mugabe-created and fuelled humanitarian crisis. Some 6 million people face malnutrition in Zimbabwe. The United Nations estimates that Zimbabwe needs 1.5 million tonnes of food aid, including 1.3 million tonnes of corn. Mugabe cynically and dishonestly blames the white imperialists, but the blame lies firmly on his shoulders. He is even blocking grain imports from the port of Beira.

Home production has been devastated by the land-grabs. Andrew Meikle, chairman of Commercial Grain Producers, projects a harvest of only 498,000 tonnes this year compared with 1.47 million last year and 2.1 million in 2000. Wheat is expected to run out by the end of the month. The crisis is massive and it is politically induced. My hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) will have more to say on that in her winding-up speech.

The horrifying truth is that Mugabe is using starvation as a political tool. He is primarily responsible for his people's hunger. The PHR report vividly describes how the feeding plan in Midlands school has been altered to keep MDC children from obtaining food. A ZANU-PF councillor is chillingly reported as having said: even if stone was to melt, MDC children will not get the food because it is ZANU food". While our Government may say little, others have spoken out. USAID head, Andrew Natsios, describes Mugabe as tyrannical and predatory. Mary Robinson, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, has accused Mugabe of being primarily responsible for the hunger and deprivation afflicting Zimbabwe. Mugabe may blame drought, but the truth is that his people go hungry alongside full dams with the waters unexploited.

We must make no mistake about it: the crisis and the evil are real, and real international action is urgently needed. It simply does not wash for the Foreign Secretary to say, as he did at Question Time today, that action is being taken. The right hon. Gentleman has to answer some central questions. What has exclusion from the councils of the Commonwealth achieved? How many meetings has Zimbabwe been excluded from? Will it still attend the Commonwealth games at the end of next month? Will any Zimbabwean Ministers attend those games? What message will that give to Mr. Mugabe?

Then there are the EU targeted sanctions which the Foreign Secretary apparently believes are isolating the Zimbabwean Government. I thought that Mugabe and senior members of his regime were supposed to be banned from travelling. In the words of the Foreign Secretary in January, that policy was "clear, unanimous and unambiguous"—so clear, apparently, that Mugabe was able to attend the United Nations in New York; so unanimous that Grace Mugabe was recently able to go shopping in Spain; and so unambiguous that police chief Augustine Chihuri was able to attend a meeting of Interpol in Lille in May, and Mugabe, with offensive irony, was able to attend a UN conference on world hunger in Rome a few days ago. Dr. Olivia Muchena, Minister of State in the Vice-Presidents' office, a former Deputy Minister of Agriculture, is allowed to travel at will. Kumberai Kengai, ex-Minister of Agriculture, is receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom. Why is the travel ban list not comprehensive? The asset freeze includes Mugabe, individual members of the Government of Zimbabwe and any natural or legal persons, entities or bodies associated with them. But only 20 individuals are named in the travel ban.

It is time that the Government faced the facts. EU targeted sanctions are not working. The author of the recent International Crisis Group report described the sanctions as a joke. He went on to say: Britain and the EU talk tough and do nothing. They threatened Mugabe that if he stole the election they would come down hard on him. Mugabe must be laughing at them. What an indictment!

The sanctions regime needs to be strengthened both in scope and extent; it needs to encompass more targets; and it needs to be given more bite. I would like the sanctions regime to include the immediate families of those who are on the banned list. Why has the EU perversely postponed further consideration of such an urgently needed review of the sanctions until 22 July? Ministers met—what was it, a week and a half ago? Did they not consider at that time whether the sanctions were working? Last week's General Affairs Council conclusions contained one page about Zimbabwe and not a single action point.

The Government have lost the plot on Zimbabwe. The overriding objective must now be to secure new, fresh, independently monitored presidential elections. Any fudged and artificial compromise between ZANU-PF and the MDC that falls short of that would be a victory for Mugabe's dishonesty and his despotic behaviour, and the MDC are right to reject it.

Tony Baldry (Banbury)

My right hon. Friend has said a lot about the EU, but is this matter not also a test for Africa? Today, the G8 is discussing in earnest the New Partnership for Africa's Development. If NEPAD is to have any substance or meaning, surely the heads of Government of other African states should bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a test of whether NEPAD will work for Africa.

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which I intended to make a little later in my remarks. I fully agree with him. The coalition I mentioned could bring pressure to bear on NEPAD's African members to exert pressure through NEPAD. I think that that would have a substantial effect, so it is one of the things that we would like to see being done in the coming days.

We should no longer expect Mugabe to listen to reason. He mocks the British Government's rhetoric and the Prime Minister's high moral pronouncements. He now believes that he can literally get away with murder and that we will not react, but I tell the House that the time has come when we have to act. Of course we should not try to act alone: we have to build a powerful international coalition to meet the challenges of what is now an incipient rogue state. With ourselves, such a coalition should include the European Union, the United States, the Commonwealth and, most important of all, South Africa and its neighbours, along with Nigeria.

The coalition's objectives should be the re-running of the presidential elections, democratically conducted and independently monitored and refereed, if necessary involving further talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC to negotiate the means of setting such elections in process. The coalition must be strong and cohesive enough to exert on Mugabe the political, economic and, if necessary, military pressure needed to achieve its objectives. It must be bound together by an understanding that failure to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe threatens the whole region and will make international economic support for the region less practicable.

Mr. Straw

Just now the right hon. Gentleman mentioned military pressure, and in his preliminary remarks he made a reference to Kosovo. Is he suggesting that we should either unilaterally or multilaterally take military action against the Mugabe regime?

Mr. Ancram

No, I am not. At this stage I do not wish to rule anything in or anything out in judging what is necessary to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Mugabe to hold fresh elections. However, if the coalition is to be effective, it must have the means—whatever means are necessary—to achieve its objectives. For that reason, I mentioned the three areas of economic, political and military pressure very deliberately in that context.

The coalition must have strong and clear aims. In African terms, it should aim to isolate Zimbabwe diplomatically if the violence and intimidation do not cease, and it should persuade countries such as Libya to cease the material help that they currently give to Zimbabwe, which only serves to encourage Mugabe. In Commonwealth terms, the coalition should seek to secure the implementation of the Abuja agreement of last September in respect of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and the proper transfer of land. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State for International Development says, "We have tried," but I do not believe that we have tried hard enough. I want a coalition that can bring real pressure to bear. In EU and US terms, the coalition should extend targeted sanctions to directors and top officials in ZANU-PF affiliated businesses and strengthen the freezing of assets against them. The sanctions must be made effective in ways that they currently are not.

At the same time, the coalition should make the public in southern African aware of current levels of corruption in Zimbabwe. It should implement the recommendation of the UN panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Congo to make Mugabe face up to the realities of Zimbabwe's crisis. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), at the G8 summit, progress on the NEPAD initiative should be linked to stronger and more credible efforts by African Governments to resolve Zimbabwe's crisis.

The time for appeasement and empty rhetoric is over. Supine inaction must now be replaced by action—[Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary returns to his usual theme: in the past when I have called on the Government to stop talking and start doing, he has always responded by accusing me of offering no plan for action. If he had been listening for the past few minutes, he would have realised that I have laid out a clear pattern of action that a coalition can and should take.

Time is running short. If disaster is to be averted, the Government can no longer afford to look the other way—the problem will not resolve itself. Hiding behind the alibi of our colonial past to excuse our inaction will no longer wash. Yet again, I call on the Government to cease the hand-wringing and the empty rhetoric, and to stand up against dictatorship for democracy and the rule of law.

I remind the House of what the Prime Minister said at his party conference last October, when he told the country that he would heal the scars of Africa: if Rwanda happened again today…we would have a moral duty to act there". and added that he would not tolerate…the behaviour of Mugabe's henchmen". The Government must now demonstrate that the Prime Minister's words are more than mere rhetoric. Let us see action—and let us see it now, before it is too late.

7.37 pm
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: expresses its grave concern at the abuse of human rights and suppression of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, the increase in poverty arising from the policies of the ruling party, and the impending humanitarian crisis in the country; reaffirms the view that the outcome of the recent Presidential election does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people; recognises the need for Land Reform but also recognises that this needs to be done responsibly; welcomes the actions taken on Zimbabwe by Her Majesty's Government in co-operation with the EU, the Commonwealth, the US and others; further welcomes the efforts of the Governments of South Africa and Nigeria to facilitate dialogue between ZANU (PF) and MDC, and deplores ZANU (PF)'s withdrawal from these talks; further welcomes the Government's commitment of £32 million to humanitarian relief in Zimbabwe outside official channels; and calls on the Government to encourage other donors to stand by the people of Zimbabwe at this difficult time. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and the Opposition for organising this debate in Opposition time. The fact that it is the first Opposition debate devoted to a foreign affairs subject for two years illustrates the difficulty that the right hon. Gentleman had in persuading his right hon. and hon. Friends in the shadow Cabinet to agree to it. That is emphasised by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition takes almost no interest in Zimbabwe or, indeed, in Africa.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)

Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw

No, of course I will not.

The Leader of the Opposition has made only one foreign policy speech in the whole time that he has occupied that post—getting on for a year. In that speech, on foreign policy and the world, there is not a single reference to Zimbabwe, still less to the rest of Africa.

The speech that we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Devizes is long on indignation and almost wholly devoid of action. He says that his agenda for action beyond what we are already doing is to rule nothing in and to rule nothing out. I thought that he gave away his real interests when, in a slip of which Freud would have been proud, he said that not even the people of Gibraltar would be fooled by what we are doing. That illustrates only too well that he could as well have applied his speech to Gibraltar as to Zimbabwe, despite the entirely different circumstances.

Mr. Turner

How many people have been murdered in Gibraltar?

Mr. Straw

None as far as I know—or if they have, the Gibraltar police have investigated. I merely point out the fact that the right hon. Member for Devizes made an extraordinary but highly revealing Freudian slip.

What we heard today, and what we hear from the right hon. Member for Devizes each time the issue is raised, is the usual incantation in which he calls for the establishment of an international coalition, including members of the Commonwealth, the European Union, the United States and countries in southern Africa, to take effective action against the regime. When we have achieved exactly that—in the Commonwealth, with Zimbabwe's suspension, and in the EU, with targeted sanctions against the ruling party and the military—the right hon. Gentleman has scarcely been able to hide his disappointment.

This morning, as he has so often done, the right hon. Gentleman made similar remarks on the radio to those that he made this evening, describing what is unquestionably a profoundly dire situation, and implying that all that rests between peace and harmony in Zimbabwe and the current circumstances is what he describes as inaction by the British Government. Would that that were the situation. When put on the spot, as the right hon. Gentleman was this morning, and asked what Britain could realistically do, given its history with Zimbabwe, he said: I think we shouldn't try to do anything on our own…this is a situation which has wider implications than just within Zimbabwe. He went on to say: I would like to see now an international coalition put together which would put pressure on Mr. Mugabe's regime and make sure that a number of things are done.

What the right hon. Gentleman does, which is a deception of the good people of Zimbabwe, is to make the wish the deed. The wish is straightforward: that we move quickly to new elections, which are properly monitored at every stage and which Mugabe and his henchmen do not steal. The wish is that that regime have an agricultural policy which allows the farmers to do what they are dedicated to and skilled in—that is, planting and growing crops—rather than the current circumstance. The wish is that that regime sign up, in deed as well as in words, to the Harare principles and allow the judiciary to operate properly, observe human rights and ends the arbitrary arrest and detention of Opposition spokespersons and journalists.

We share those wishes. The question is how they can be achieved. That can he only by an international coalition and international co-operation. I wish we could have gone further in some respects. The constraint is not the desire or the wish of the United Kingdom, but the need to ensure that we get together an international coalition.

Let me remind the House of the steps that we are taking, both bilaterally and with our partners in the Commonwealth, the EU, the US and countries in the region to encourage reform and avert further disaster in Zimbabwe. Bilaterally, we have introduced a range of sanctions, including an arms embargo and a reduction in development assistance to the Government of Zimbabwe, to ensure that the regime cannot divert UK funds for its own ends.

However, in recognition of the scale of the economic disaster engulfing the country, we have increased our own humanitarian relief to Zimbabwe, but our aid moneys go direct to impartial groups such as non-governmental organisations and Churches, ensuring that those most in need, rather than ZANU-PF insiders, benefit. In the past 12 months we have committed £10 million in humanitarian assistance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, who will wind up the debate for the Government, announced last week £45 million of further assistance for the region, of which we expect almost half to go to Zimbabwe.

Over the past 12 months, we have promoted international action against Mr. Mugabe's regime. I noticed that when my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) asked the right hon. Member for Devizes about the cosy relationship that existed under the Thatcher Government and, I may say, the Major Government, the right hon. Gentleman's answer was devoid of content. The record of the previous Government, once the noble Lord Carrington had ceased to be Foreign Secretary, was not altogether a creditable one, to put it mildly.

That continued through the astonishing blindness that the previous Government showed in the mid-1980s when, as my hon. Friend said, 10,000 people in Matabeleland were slaughtered, and the reward that President Mugabe received for that was a state visit, which gave him the most astonishing endorsement of his actions. Much more recently, when the President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), was Foreign Secretary, throughout the period that: my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has held her post, and since I have held my present post, President Mugabe's principal complaint about the current Government was that we have not been easy to deal with—unlike the previous Government, we have been told repeatedly, who turned out to be remarkably easy to deal with. That is a charge to which I and my right hon. Friends are only too happy to plead guilty.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

The Foreign Secretary and I were both in the House in the mid-1980s. There is some merit in his criticism of the Government whom I served at that time, but I have a clear memory that there was next to no mention from those on the Opposition Benches of what was happening in Matabeleland. There was certainly no Supply day debate, and the only person who comes out of it with any credit is my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton). We do not need any lessons from the Government on the dreadful tragedy of Matabeleland.

Mr. Straw

As I have said before, the record of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) is one which stands starkly in the House. He has taken a consistent approach to the matter, and I give credit to him, as I have done before. I admire the frankness of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) about the record of the previous Government, which stands in stark contrast to the attitude of the right hon. Member for Devizes, who speaks from the Opposition Front Bench on Foreign Affairs.

As to our position, I am happy to go through the record, but I expect that it will transpire that we raised the issue at the time. It was the party of the right hon. Member for Bracknell who were in government, and they did nothing about it. Yes, we are in government now, and I shall run through the efforts that we have made in response to the flagrant breach by Mugabe and his people of the Harare principles, and the even worse humanitarian disaster into which the country is being plunged by that regime.

We have strongly supported regional efforts led by South Africa and Nigeria to establish a dialogue between ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC. One of the critical things that we had to do was to end the myth that Mugabe had so cleverly perpetrated, that he was involved in a bilateral dispute between him, President Robert Mugabe, the leader of the freedom fighters in the whole of Africa, and the former unpleasant colonial power, the United Kingdom. It has taken considerable effort, persuasion and diplomacy by the British Government—particularly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and by my predecessor—which I have been happy to follow, to build up the confidence of the other African nations about our good faith in respect of Africa as a whole, and to assure the Governments, particularly the leading Governments such as South Africa and Nigeria, that we are doing that not as some post-colonial exercise, but out of our commitment to the peoples of Africa, whatever their race, colour or creed.

In addition, the European Union has adopted a package of targeted sanctions against the leadership of ZANU-PF. The measures imposed in February this year include a travel ban, an assets freeze and a ban on arms sales. The EU applicant states, the United States, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand have since adopted similar measures, but in the case of the US, ones that do not go quite as far.

Mr. Ancram

The Foreign Secretary accused me earlier of not having put forward any suggestions. I made a suggestion specifically about extending the list of those against whom sanctions would be applied. Can he confirm that that is his intention when he meets his EU colleagues again at the end of July?

Mr. Straw

We will indeed review the operation of sanctions when we meet on 22 July. There is a strong case for an extension of the measures, but I will not give specific notice of what I have in mind, for the simple reason—[Interruption.] I am very happy to brief the right hon. Gentleman on the usual terms. The more specific notice that is given of what we have in mind, the easier it will be for the regime to take pre-emptive action. I would have thought that that was astonishingly obvious to everybody—apparently except him.

Of course we want the sanctions to operate in the most effective way. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the fact that Mugabe and some of his people had attended a number of international meetings. That was made clear in the terms of the common position that the EU adopted earlier this year. When such common positions are overridden by treaty obligations such as those arising from the United Nations charter, the treaty obligations will take precedent. That is no different from what has happened with regard to the fact that the United States has imposed the most powerful sanctions against Cuba ever since Fidel Castro took power, and banned Fidel Castro and his Government from travelling to the United States. I wonder whether any Opposition Members know how many times Fidel Castro has travelled to New York in apparent breach of that ban in order to attend the General Assembly of the UN. If anyone would like to tell me the number, I shall happily give way.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)


Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman mentions that number from a sedentary position. [HON. MEMBERS: "You sent him a note."] I will not tell hon. Members what the note said—[Interruption.] I am extremely happy, however, for the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) to see the note; indeed, it is being passed to him.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)


Mr. Straw

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman wants to give me the answer.

Mr. Jack

I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has reduced this debate to an auction of information. I speak as somebody who does not know a great deal about this matter, but I am desperately worried about what constituents of mine who work in Zimbabwe are telling me about the situation there. They convey to me a sense of impotence and a feeling that whatever is contained in the list of sanctions appears currently to have no effect on Mugabe. We are currently facing the final takeover of white-owned farms. What comes next? More importantly, what advice has he received, especially from African leaders who might understand Mugabe better than we do, about what will make this man come to terms?

Mr. Straw

That is the issue. Of course I understand the right hon. Gentleman's frustration; everybody shares a deep frustration. If only it were possible simply by wishing for an international coalition to end the damage that Mugabe is doing, it would be done. If it were possible to do "what happened in Kosovo", which the right hon. Member for Devizes airily cited as something that we should be doing in Zimbabwe, it would be done. However, it is irresponsible to cite that example as a criticism of the Government and the international community and neither to rule it out nor rule it in. Everybody knows that the suggestion that we embark on a bombing campaign, as we had to do in Kosovo for 78 days, comes from fantasy land, and it would be deceiving the people of Zimbabwe to pretend otherwise.

The right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) asked what would happen next; I will tell him. The situation is likely to go from a terrible situation to a worse one. That is the point that we are making powerfully to our partners, especially those elsewhere in Africa, so that they can increase the pressure that they are already exerting on the Mugabe regime and recognise that this is a disaster in which they have moral responsibility, just as we do, for the poor people of Zimbabwe and of the rest of southern Africa who are being so severely damaged by the regime.

On the other point made by the right hon. Member for Fylde, it is worth while to embed in the minds of Opposition Members the issue about Fidel Castro. Tough sanctions have been taken by the United States in respect of Cuba, and Cuba is the first to say that they are tough. There is a travel ban on its leaders, but on 41 occasions, Fidel Castro, in apparent breach of those sanctions, has gone to New York to speak to the General Assembly of the UN.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East)

At length.

Mr. Straw

I am sorry to tell the House that I will speak at slightly less length than Fidel Castro can usually be expected to do in a short speech.

The position on the sanctions imposed by the United States on Mugabe and the rest of the 20 is the same. They have been put to very considerable inconvenience and also humiliated, as they are not treated as visiting dignitaries or heads of state. As I mentioned in Question Time earlier today, we know from the criticism of them inside ZANU-PF that they are desperate for the sanctions to be lifted because we have gone to the heart of part of their corruption. I am offended by seeing Mrs. Mugabe going to Madrid, no doubt to spend thousands of pounds shopping while the people of Zimbabwe are starving. [Interruption.] I hope that the people of Zimbabwe find out about exactly what she is doing. Yes, I understand the point about the extension of the sanctions, but if we are to be effective, we must also ensure, as the right hon. Member for Devizes said, that we get other members of the European Union on board.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Surely the moral of the tale about the United States and Castro is that the sanctions did not work, as the United States did not get what it wanted by imposing them. Will the Foreign Secretary give the House some indication of what pressures he would like to place on this evil regime to get rid of the starvation, murders and bestiality if he could get all the partners that he needed in the coalition to agree with us? Will he set out to the House what he would like them to do that would bring this man to account?

Mr. Straw

What I would like to happen is clear. I would like President Mugabe to recognise the error of his ways and the disaster into which he has plunged Zimbabwe. I would like him to leave office, allow elections to take place immediately, stop interfering with humanitarian relief, get the farmers, whether they are white, Indian or black, back on to the land, respect the rule of law and allow this wonderfully prosperous country—[Interruption.] I am asked how that would happen, but that is the point. I say to Opposition Members that the issue for the international community is how we do this. That is the truth of it. I have not sought at any stage to pretend that there is some magic wand waiting to be used.

Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we in this House need to have some recognition of what influence we can have in this situation and accept that Britain's role, however active and vigorous, will not solve the problems on its own? The key players in making changes in southern Africa are the neighbours of Zimbabwe, and the Republic of South Africa in particular. Without the Republic of South Africa moving, there is very little that he and his colleagues can do.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend's observation is accurate. To suggest that we could take action without an alliance and coalition from Africa, and South Africa in particular. would be a pretence, as such action would bilateralise the dispute, make us ineffective and make any international coalition almost impossible to achieve.

One of the many things that we have done is to secure a situation whereby the decision on the suspension of Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth was taken not by us, not by the Commonwealth ministerial action group, of which the United Kingdom is a member, but by a troika of the current chair of the Commonwealth, Prime Minister Howard of Australia, and two key members—President Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Mbeki of South Africa. It is hugely to their credit that they made the decision that they did once the Commonwealth observers found that the elections had been neither free nor fair.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

As the Foreign Secretary knows, the G8 and NEPAD have a close relationship and there is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to raise this matter. What will he say to the G8 about bringing direct influence to bear on NEPAD to build the coalition to take the process forward?

Mr. Straw

The Prime Minister will discuss Zimbabwe with his colleagues in the G8 and with African leaders. Last week, I had a long meeting with Foreign Minister Zuma of South Africa. All the African leaders understand the disaster into which Mugabe is plunging the continent, especially the sub-continent. If the leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and all the other countries in southern African thought that there was a magic wand for saving not only Zimbabwe, but southern Africa, they would have followed that through. One of the tragedies of the situation is not only what Mugabe has done to the Zimbabwean economy—gross domestic product declined by 10 per cent. last year, unemployment is running at 70 per cent., inflation stands at 122 per cent. and the industrial sector is collapsing—but the damage that is being done to the rest of southern Africa, including, in particular, South Africa. The decline of the rand—although it has recently improved, it went down by 31 per cent. in the past year—is almost wholly attributable to the damage done by the Mugabe regime.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

The situation facing the wonderful people of that once prosperous country in central southern Africa is catastrophic. I receive daily e-mails and faxes about their suffering. Is it not time to consider different ways of tackling the problem? Earlier today, during Question Time, I floated an idea that was responded to, but not positively enough. Would not someone like the modern father of central southern Africa, Nelson Mandela, be a figure around whom a group of countries could bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwe, and perhaps also on Libya, which continues to fund and to support Mugabe? If that were done, the international community, including Libya, could unite to bring about a change of Government in order to do something for the people of Zimbabwe, about whom I practically cry because of their suffering.

Mr. Straw

I am happy to discuss the hon. Gentleman's proposal regarding the involvement of President Mandela. My own sense, which is shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, is that if President Mandela felt that he had been able to act as a positive intermediary in the situation, he would have done so. It is a lamentable commentary on Mugabe and his isolation that none of the offers of intermediation has positively been taken up. President Mbeki and President Obasanjo said that they would help to broker a constructive dialogue between ZANU-PF and the MDC, but that offer has so far been refused. However, I am happy to pursue the idea and to have it drawn to President Mandela's attention.

Libya's route back into the international community partly depends on its showing a responsible attitude towards Zimbabwe and in respect of Sierra Leone. We are aware of that, and it is a point that has repeatedly been made to Libya in the dialogue that is taking place.

I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, and I shall therefore shortly draw my remarks to a close. One of the excuses that Mugabe has used in respect of Zimbabwe is to blame the current famine entirely on drought. It is true that drought has played a significant part in the failure of the maize harvest, but there is no doubt that policy failures—not least the mismanagement of the exchange rate and the chaotic land reform programme—have greatly exacerbated the situation. That is illustrated by the following figures. The United Nations estimates that Zambia and Malawi, which have suffered similar droughts, have lost one quarter of their food production capacity, but that figure rises to three quarters in respect of Zimbabwe. The UN declares that current government policies in Zimbabwe pose formidable constraints to a resolution of the crisis. The UN World Food Programme estimates that as a result almost half the population—up to 6 million people—will be unable to meet their minimum food requirements in the next 12 months.

The tragedy is that a year ago Zimbabwe still had a chance to return to the path of sustainable development. When I became Foreign Secretary a year ago, some of my first contacts were with my South African and Nigerian counterparts. At that time, we agreed there was still a prospect that Zimbabwe could rehabilitate itself. So last September at Abuja, Commonwealth Ministers, including myself, set out, with Mr. Mugabe's agreement, a clear road map for Zimbabwe—via the Harare principles—back to prosperity and international respect. Tragically, ZANU-PF did not grasp that opportunity. In the run-up to the presidential election, the regime pressed ahead with its land reform programme, intimidated and even killed members of the Opposition, and implemented further measures to curb freedom of speech. That culminated in a stolen presidential election, which compounded the country's isolation. Since then, the regime's actions—ranging from further restrictions on the media and harassment of the legal profession to further violence against the Opposition and intimidation of those who work in the farming sector—suggest that it has no plans to change course.

That is why we have to continue, with international agreement where appropriate, to strengthen the measures taken against Zimbabwe. I say to the right hon. Member for Devizes, who asks me to advertise a long list, in advance of international agreement, of the measures that could perhaps be taken, that the only people who would be comforted by such a pre-emptive list would be members of the Mugabe regime—especially if it transpired, for various reasons, that it was not possible to ensure that each of the measures was implemented in full. I promise the House that we are aware of the continuing need to ensure that the existing measures that have been taken are made as effective as possible and that they are strengthened where appropriate.

This debate takes place as world leaders in the G8 are gathering to agree, we hope and believe, a new partnership for African development—an area in which my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for International Development and the Prime Minister have been in the lead for some time.

As far as the rest of Africa is concerned, it is worth noting that on the whole the story has been one of much better news than in Zimbabwe. Africa has huge problems—poverty, lack of educational and employment opportunities, hunger and low life expectancy are still the fate of many in African countries—but there are signs that democracy is taking root. In 1975, Africa had only three elected leaders—today there are more than 30—and there are no military governments in sub-Saharan Africa. Ten years ago few people—least of all those in the Conservative party—believed that South Africa would emerge from the shadow of apartheid with a tolerant, multi-racial government. Thanks to British intervention, last month the people of Sierra Leone were able to vote in an election free from the threat of violence and intimidation. Had we turned a blind eye, as some suggested, to the plight of that country, its people would now be suffering a fate worse than that of Zimbabwe.

There has been a breakthrough in the world's largest conflict in the Great Lakes. The Democratic Republic of Congo ceasefire has held for nearly 18 months. There is further to go. and I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will visit the region between the end of July and the beginning of August. Prompt action by the Government prevented an outbreak of hostilities between Uganda and Rwanda last November. There are promising signs of economic growth throughout Africa. More than 20 African countries achieved a growth rate of 4 per cent. last year. Zimbabwe's decline stands in stark contrast to that better news.

Within the limits of our influence, we shall do all that we can to promote efforts by the international community, especially leaders of other Governments in the region, to return stability to Zimbabwe. That has been our goal since the beginning of the country's slide into chaos three years ago. Thanks to our diplomacy in the past 12 months, the involvement of the Commonwealth, the European Union and the United States, we have been able to show that the issue is of international concern.

Human rights abuses and violations of the rule of law have made Zimbabwe an outcast in the region and the wider world, thus belying Mr. Mugabe's claim that his country is a colonial victim. I am confident that the international community will continue to unite in condemning what has happened and working together to ensure that the true voice of the Zimbabwean people is heard and that there is a pathway back to peace and prosperity for that benighted land.

8.11 pm
Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)

The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy has been well documented in the debate. However, it is worth reminding ourselves briefly of its scale. As we have heard, inflation is 122 per cent., almost two thirds of the population are unemployed, foreign direct investment has decreased from $430 million in 1998 to $4 million in 2001, and gross domestic product in 2003 is predicted to be half that of 2001. The impact on the people of Zimbabwe is almost incalculable. The economic impact of Mr. Mugabe's policies extends beyond the borders of his country to affect the whole region. It has deeply damaged investment and the tourism on which so many of the surrounding countries' economies depend.

The ordinary people of Zimbabwe are the victims. A country that was once the granary of southern Africa is reduced to receiving food aid from Britain, the European Union and the United Nations. Today we see the absurdity of farmers being forbidden by law to work their land, while the spectre of famine hangs over the country. We also understand that the food aid that is admitted is used for political purposes. Baroness Amos told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that World Food Programme aid is subject to Government and party distribution networks.

That underlines many of the points that the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made, perhaps more dramatically, when he spoke about the extent to which mere membership, or even suspicion of membership, of the Movement for Democratic Change is sufficient to provoke the most terrible atrocities.

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

The World Food Programme would not allow food aid to be used for political purposes. Attempts are being made to do that, and we are all struggling to thwart them in the coming crisis. The World Food Programme is not colluding in those efforts. We are all doing what we can to resist the political manipulation of food aid.

Mr. Campbell

I am grateful for that assurance from the Secretary of State, who pays considerable and close attention to such matters.

The political environment in Zimbabwe is no better. Press freedom has been extinguished, intimidation is commonplace and the Government's opponents are vilified and persecuted. Journalists stand trial under repressive and self-serving legislation, and judges are intimidated and subsequently "persuaded" to leave office. The talks brokered by Nigeria and South Africa between the governing party, ZANU-PF, and the MDC have broken down because ZANU-PF insists that the MDC should abandon its legal challenge to the March election result. It sometimes appears that ZANU-PF is the only institution in the world that believes that that election could legitimately be described as free and fair.

The internal crisis has the capacity to spill over into the region if citizens of Zimbabwe, displaced by famine or fear, seek refuge in neighbouring countries where they will add to the existing economic and social burdens induced by what we might call the "Mugabe effect".

In the cloistered calm of the Chamber, we should not forget the countless instances of terror to which many citizens of Zimbabwe have been subject. For example, let us consider the episodes of personal pain as families are forced to shoot their dogs and then their cattle, made to pack their belongings into a couple of suitcases, run the gauntlet of Mr. Mugabe's thugs and so make their escape from land that has been in their family perhaps for generations. Not only the whites suffer the consequences of such actions. Black families who have worked on farms, sometimes for generations, are uprooted and sent on their way so that Mr. Mugabe's political objectives can be achieved.

I suspect that in 20 years' time, someone reading the two opening speeches would note a difference in flavour but not in substance. The analysis is relatively easy; providing solutions is infinitely more difficult. We have a duty to ourselves, and especially to the citizens of Zimbabwe, to be realistic. The range of action available to us is affected, even circumscribed, by numerous factors.

The right hon. Member for Devizes mentioned military intervention, although I am not sure about the extent to which he was prepared to pin his colours to that idea. My party has not been slow when we have believed it necessary to urge such intervention, sometimes against the prevailing views of the Labour party and the Conservative party.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Like Thorpe.

Mr. Campbell

Indeed. If Mr. Jeremy Thorpe's suggestions had been executed as swiftly as they might have been, some of the current problems, and especially some of the difficulties that the Labour Government experienced with Mr. Ian Smith, might have been avoided. In Kosovo and Bosnia, Lord Ashdown, as he now is, never displayed any slackness in urging military intervention.

Before we raise the possibility of military intervention in this case, however, we should ask ourselves several searching questions. The distance between here and Zimbabwe is considerable, and the size of the country is also considerable. We could not look for host nation support from surrounding countries, and I doubt whether we could expect regional political support in the current climate. Could we achieve UN endorsement? Which counties would offer to be allies in any attempt to intervene militarily? Those questions are fundamental, and we should at least ask them and ascertain whether we can provide adequate answers before we discuss military intervention.

Let us consider whether to broaden economic sanctions. Wholesale sanctions would undoubtedly damage the lives of ordinary people. Some will say that there were sanctions in the days of apartheid—the days of South Africa at its very worst—but there is an important distinction to be drawn there. Throughout that period, the African National Congress was saying to the outside world, "Please impose sanctions." So far, I have heard no suggestion from Mr. Tsvangirai's party, the MDC, that it would wish for a wholesale regime of sanctions to be imposed, because its members understand—current events make this issue all the more acute—that the need for the continuation of humanitarian assistance is fundamental.

The right hon. Member for Devizes referred to the Commonwealth games, in which I have a passing historical interest. It is worth remembering that when the Gleneagles agreement was implemented and sporting sanctions were applied, it was because those who were representing South Africa were being chosen along racial lines. I have a clear memory of going to compete at the White City stadium, and there were two teams from South Africa: a team of white faces wore green and gold; the team of black faces wore black and gold blazers as an alternative.

There is no evidence that teams in Zimbabwe are chosen on the basis of colour, and it would not be right to keep the Zimbabwean athletes who have been selected for the Commonwealth games in Manchester away from that opportunity. The opportunity to take part in a Commonwealth games in which the colours are as varied as the countries represented there will perhaps be a more illuminating experience for them than if their country were banned. I agree with the right hon. Member for Devizes, however, that there should be no question of any Minister in the Mugabe Government coming to Manchester and seeking to take advantage of the hospitality that the protocols of the Commonwealth games will undoubtedly permit.

The road to be taken has to be political. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) made an interesting point about the need to engage such dominant figures as Nelson Mandela, but there is quite a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Mr. Mandela and Mr. Mugabe have never seen eye to eye. There are also those who argue that it was not until Mr. Mandela had been replaced by Mr. Mbeki that Mr. Mugabe felt bold enough to embark on some of the conduct that we have seen recently, simply because he feared—and, if I may say so, was intimidated by—Mr. Mandela's robust embrace of a multilateral approach to the problems of South Africa that is a long way from what is currently on offer in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Tutu—another dominating figure—has been unrestrained in his criticism of Mr. Mugabe. The hon. Member for Macclesfield has made an interesting proposition, but we would have to be satisfied in advance that there was at least some hope that influence might be able to be exercised.

No, it has to be the political road, and that is not glamorous or dynamic; it is painstaking. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) was absolutely right to say that we must use every opportunity, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development offers an opportunity to say to the African states that surround Zimbabwe, "You have a duty in this. You have a responsibility not to us, but to your own citizens, who are directly suffering the consequences of Mr. Mugabe's behaviour."

It is right that we should target more members of ZANU-PF and its associates. There should be selected sanctions, perhaps at lower levels of that part of society over which Mr. Mugabe holds sway. We should be making efforts to seek a settlement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through the United Nations, and to get the Zimbabwean troops out. What is Zimbabwe using the conflict in the DRC for, if not as a much needed opportunity to obtain illegal foreign exchange? We should be encouraging Nigeria and South Africa to reconvene the talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC, and to get them back on track. We should also do everything that we can through the United Nations to ensure that aid and assistance are depoliticised; I acknowledge the undertakings made by the Secretary of State for International Development in her intervention a moment ago.

We should also underline—not only for the people of Zimbabwe but for those round about—the fact that land redistribution is a legitimate objective, but it must be carried out in a properly recognised legal framework, with proper compensation, in accordance with the terms of the Abuja agreement. We should also make it clear that the return to full participation in the Commonwealth will not be a formality. It will depend on credible and sustained evidence of a return to—and an intention to maintain, without equivocation-the principles of the Harare declaration.

We should also use Zimbabwe as an example to promote reform of the procedures of the Commonwealth, so that it will be possible to take much earlier action in future. There is an argument that if the Commonwealth had been able to take earlier action, it might perhaps have been able to stop Mr. Mugabe embarking on this course of action.

None of those proposals will grab the headlines, but I believe that, taken together and pursued with diligence, they will make a difference, and it is that course of action that Her Majesty's Government ought to be following.

8.26 pm
Tony Cunningham (Workington)

The 2002 presidential election was a symbol of everything that democracy is not. The campaigns leading up to it were marred by political violence. At least 30 members of the Opposition were killed in the first quarter of 2002, and there were many reported cases of members of the Opposition having been attacked and tortured. Fear and intimidation were very much the order of the day. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) that it is easy to stand here in the Chamber and describe what is happening in Zimbabwe, but that the reality is absolutely horrific and abhorrent to us.

The election was deemed neither free nor fair by a broad swath of international opinion, including the Southern African Development Community parliamentary forum and the Commonwealth. It is true that African countries reacted in various ways. Some, including Senegal and Ghana, were critical. Others, such as Tanzania and Namibia, judged the election to be free and fair. I have said before from these Benches that we need all the countries of Africa to join together to isolate this particularly abhorrent regime.

The poll was characterised by systematic torture, rape and violence, overwhelmingly against the Opposition by the ruling ZANU-PF party. There was manipulation of both the electoral administration and the count, and draconian restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, association and assembly. The Zimbabwe regime attacked the judiciary and harassed the independent media. The pursuit of such actions justified the imposition of sanctions by the European Union and the United States before the election. I think that we all welcomed the decisions made by New Zealand, Switzerland and Norway to follow suit after the election, and the Commonwealth's suspension of Zimbabwe from its councils on 19 March.

The Foreign Secretary told Parliament that we do not recognise the result or its legitimacy".—[Official Report, 14 March 2002; Vol. 381, c. 1035.] I believe that he was absolutely and unequivocally right to say that, as I am sure that many hon. Members and colleagues would agree. Indeed, recent developments reveal how the internal situation continues to deteriorate. ZANU-PF has withdrawn from the inter-party dialogue, which is now in limbo. Violence continues against the MDC, particularly in rural areas. Because of the manipulation of the media and the way in which the media is controlled, we can only imagine what is happening in some of those far-flung areas.

The Zimbabwe Government's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is being used to squeeze the independent press, and an American correspondent working for The Guardian is currently on trial for "publishing a falsehood". Is it not a huge irony that this regime, which has no legitimacy whatever, and has cheated its way to power, is in a position to arrest a journalist for publishing a falsehood?

The formal economy is the fastest contracting in the world, and Mugabe's land policy is contributing to worsening food shortages As has been said, 6 million people already require food aid. That number could increase to almost 9 million—three quarters of the population—by this autumn, yet the dams are full. Irrigated food production is possible, but Government policy will not allow commercial farmers to plant, and price controls make commercial production uneconomic.

The British Government are right to declare their commitment to work with the Zimbabwean civil society. Non-governmental organisations and Churches remain under great pressure, and there is evidence that Mugabe may be moving against them in the not too distant future. I therefore pay tribute to the immense courage of the many Churches, church men and women and NGOs who are trying to do what they can to protect innocent civilians in Zimbabwe. We must be alert to the likely politicisation of food aid by ZANU-PF. By avoiding Government channels, we can ensure that food goes to all those in need. We have to ensure that Zimbabwe's Government do not take responsibility for, or any credit whatsoever for, the food aid provided. We must also remind people that it is Mugabe's own policies that are damaging Zimbabwe.

The British Government's position on the Mugabe Government is well known: we recognise states, not Governments. However, like much of the international community—including the Commonwealth observers—we have made it clear that we do not recognise the outcome of the elections as a free expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. Having said that, the Government continue to have diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe. On 21 March, the Foreign Secretary told the House that he had received no representations to the effect that it would be helpful to reduce, or break off, diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe.

As I said during today's Foreign Affairs questions, the British high commissioner for Zimbabwe is a constituent of mine; indeed, he grew up in, and went to school in, Workington. Before becoming high commissioner, he was the British ambassador to the former Yugoslavia. He did a superb job there, and he and his staff are doing a fantastic job in Zimbabwe. All hon. Members will doubtless pay tribute to the work that they are doing.

Britain is far from alone in its opposition to the Zimbabwe regime, but it is a powerful voice within that multilateral foreign policy. The EU's policy echoes that of the UK Government. When the Barcelona European Council convened in March, EU heads of Government agreed that these elections cannot be judged as either free or fair. Furthermore, the EU decided to dispatch a high-level troika to confer with countries of the Southern African Development Community region on European concerns about Zimbabwe. On 15 April, the EU decided to impose a moratorium on bilateral ministerial contacts with Zimbabwe until further notice, excluding the conduct of political dialogue to promote democracy, human rights, the rule of law in Zimbabwe, regional security and—of course—humanitarian needs.

The EU has already imposed targeted sanctions on the Government of Zimbabwe, and at Barcelona it agreed to consider additional targeted measures. I hope that such sanctions are imposed on the Government of Zimbabwe, and do not hurt the Zimbabwean people, who are already suffering enough. Of course, sanctions have to be enforced multilaterally if they are to be effective. The idea that sanctions are not working is nonsense. If they were not hurting the Zimbabwean regime, why would Mugabe and his acolytes be trying so hard to give the impression that they are having no effect?

EU policy towards Zimbabwe is kept continually under review, and the Foreign Secretary tells me that it will be discussed again in the near future. As has been said, Britain sees a case for extending the list of targeted individuals, but the matter is one for the EU as a whole to decide.

Ministers agreed that these targeted sanctions are aimed solely at those whom the EU judges to be responsible for the violence, for the violations of human rights and for preventing the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe". We have already considered measures such as a travel ban on named members of the regime, freezing their assets, and banning the export of arms and equipment that could be used for repression. Claims that the travel ban is ineffective are unfounded; indeed, it is having a real impact. On three occasions since February, senior Zimbabweans, including Mugabe, have been refused permission to enter the EU.

Critics point to the presence of Mugabe and his officials in Rome between 10 and 13 June as a mockery of the travel ban. Permission was twice granted for individuals to attend meetings of international bodies in Europe. I shall not rehearse the argument that the Foreign Secretary has already made about Cuba. Fidel Castro banned is banned and subject to sanctions, but he still attends UN meetings in New York. In referring to some 40 visits by Fidel Castro to the USA, the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife was about right.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that the ability of people such as Olivia Muchena, who was at the heart of agricultural policy, to fly into this country—she was here a couple of weeks ago—flouts the spirit of the ban, if not the letter of it? That is what grates with people in Zimbabwe.

Tony Cunningham

I do not disagree, and it is clear that we must tighten up the regime. However, the policy forms part of an international ban on the travel of Zimbabwean citizens, and I hope that the ban will be extended further.

No one doubts that the presence of such individuals is extremely distasteful, but as I said, we must accept that EU partners—such as the US and Switzerland, in the case of the UN—are bound by their treaty obligations. We have made it clear that the terms of entry for these individuals should be as restrictive as possible.

The British Government welcome the decision of the Commonwealth troika to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for one year. and I pay tribute to South African President Thabo Mbeki, President Olusegun Obasanjo, of Nigeria, and the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, for taking this decision in consultation with Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon. Critics suggested that the group had insufficient powers, but they have been proved wrong. The suspension is evidence of the Commonwealth's ability and willingness to bite when its principles are at stake.

On the point raised by the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife, disputes over participation in the Commonwealth games are a matter not for the British Government, but for the Commonwealth Games Federation, which will take a decision in consultation with the Commonwealth secretariat. I agree wholeheartedly that the difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa is huge. I hope that the Zimbabwean team will indeed attend the Commonwealth games, but I also hope that the Government will raise the issue of Zimbabwe with Commonwealth leaders and Ministers when they are present in this country.

EU and Commonwealth measures against Zimbabwe have been clearly and deliberately targeted at those responsible for the policies of the Government of Zimbabwe. As I said, it is not our intention to penalise the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. In fact, the reverse is true, and in that regard I again pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. Our aim is to help the poor, who should not be hindered. Indeed, this year we expect to provide some £18 million-worth of assistance for Zimbabwe for HIV/A1DS and the rural poor.

Of course, we keep our aid programme to Zimbabwe under review. Britain has no desire to worsen the economic hardships of the people of Zimbabwe by cutting essential support for the rural poor and victims of AIDS. We sometimes read that AIDS is devastating the poor people of Africa. Well, that disease is not affecting only the poor of Africa. A third of all doctors in Africa are dying from AIDS. It cuts across the social spectrum and is the worst disease that we have seen in my lifetime. We have to look back to plagues in the past to find a comparison.

We remain committed to helping the poor of Zimbabwe who are suffering from the double impact of economic collapse and HIV/AIDS. Cutting all aid would hurt the very people who have suffered most through economic mismanagement, but would have little impact on the Government. I am proud to remind the House that the UK imposed a national arms embargo on Zimbabwe in May 2000, and the EU followed suit on 18 February 2002. We intend to enforce that embargo rigorously.

I have outlined some of the policies—which are all carefully devised and responsible—that we have adopted in response to the despicable actions of the Zimbabwean leadership. My notes contain criticisms of the previous Conservative Government for their relationship with the Zimbabwean regime stretching back to 1982–84, when 10,000 people were killed in Matabeleland, the revelations of the "Panorama" programme and details of the visits during the Major years. However, I would prefer it if we all joined together to find solutions to the problems of Zimbabwe, so I will not continue with that part of my speech.

Mugabe is a man for whom I—and, I am sure, everyone else—feel utter contempt. Our policy is driven not only by a need to stand up to that repressive dictator but by a vision for much-needed structural social change in Zimbabwe. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife mentioned land reform. The idea that is being pushed in Zimbabwe is that we oppose land reform or achieving a fair distribution of land. I remind the House that land reform in Zimbabwe is the bedrock for development. At the time of Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 the best agricultural land was owned mainly by large commercial farms, many of more than 1,000 hectares. Poor families were crowded into less productive communal areas, on land holdings of less than one hectare.

I support the British Government's belief that land reform is central to Zimbabwe's progress. Britain has been a strong advocate of effective and well managed land reform in Zimbabwe ever since independence. A more equitable distribution of land is essential to reduce poverty and to contribute to the country's long-term economic and social future. To be effective, such reform must be carried out within the rule of law. It must be transparent and fair, and within a well managed economic policy framework that contributes both to poverty reduction and to Zimbabwe's economic prosperity.

The UK has a long tradition on both sides of the House of supporting land reform in Zimbabwe. I wish to put on record the fact that that support for land reform proposals goes back to the start of independence. Between 1980 and 1985, the UK provided £47 million for land reform, with £20 million as a specific land resettlement grant and £27 million in the form of budgetary support to help to meet the Zimbabwean Government's own contribution to the programme. The land resettlement grant was signed in 1981 and substantially spent by 1988. The UK land resettlement grant for Zimbabwe finally closed in 1996 with—unbelievably—£3 million still unspent.

The UK Government sought proposals from the Zimbabwean Government on spending the remaining balance. A further technical mission by the Overseas Development Administration in 1996 resulted in new proposals for UK support for land reform. The Zimbabwean Government responded towards the end of 1996, but no agreement was reached before the UK general election on May 1997.

In September 1998, with UK encouragement, the Zimbabwean Government hosted a land conference in Harare, involving, all major international donors and the multilateral institutions. Issues raised in the 1996 ODA report were considered at the conference. The UK participated constructively and endorsed the basic principles of land reform agreed at the conference, as did the Zimbabwean Government. Those principles included the need for transparency, respect for the rule of law, poverty reduction, affordability and consistency with Zimbabwe's wider economic interests. The 1998 conference agreed a two-year inception phase, during which Government resettlement schemes would be tried alongside ideas from the private sector and civil society.

In May 1999, consultants began work to identify ways in which the UK Government could provide further support for land reform in Zimbabwe. Terms of reference for a follow-up visit were agreed with the Zimbabwean Government in September 1999. Work on UK support for land reform in Zimbabwe was interrupted by the illegal farm occupations and the subsequent violence in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections.

The United Kingdom remains willing to support a land reform programme that is carried out in accordance with the principles agreed by donors and the Zimbabwe Government in 1998. That is also the position of the broad donor community. It should be pointed out that we are not imposing any new conditions. In the absence of a Government-led programme that we felt able to support, the Department for International Development established in March 2000 a £5 million land resettlement challenge fund to support the private sector and civil society-led resettlement initiatives. Unfortunately, the Zimbabwe Government have not allowed such private sector initiatives to proceed. They have instead pressed ahead with their fast-track resettlement programme, which is totally unacceptable.

When a group of the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers—including those of the UK and Zimbabwe—met in Abuja in September 2001 to discuss Zimbabwe, they agreed again that land reform must be implemented in a fair, just and sustainable manner, in the interests of all the people of Zimbabwe. They agreed that any reform programme should be on the basis of the United Nations development programme proposals of December 2000. The Government of Zimbabwe agreed to honour the principles enshrined in the Harare Commonwealth declaration: to prevent further occupation of farm lands; to restore the rule of law; to take firm action against violence and intimidation; and to honour the freedom of expression.

At that meeting, the UK reaffirmed its commitment to a significant financial contribution to such a land reform programme and gave an undertaking to encourage other international donors to do the same. In November 2001, the Government of Zimbabwe amended the Land Acquisition Act to allow them to allocate land without giving owners the right to contest the seizures. That contravenes not only the letter, but the spirit of the agreement at Abuja. How on earth can we believe anything that the Zimbabwe Government say when they signed up to an agreement at Abuja and immediately walked away from it? [Interruption.] I am coming towards the end of my speech.

Regrettably, the credibility of Abuja has been damaged by Zimbabwe's scant regard for its commitments. Since independence, the United Kingdom has provided more than £500 million in bilateral support for development in Zimbabwe, more than any other donor. We should be justifiably proud of that. In total. the wider donor community has provided more than $2 billion in assistance. The UK continues to provide annual support for emergency relief and to alleviate HIV-AIDS suffering. The UK has also contributed to development in Zimbabwe through the international financial institutions. It is interesting to note that the UK funds around 18 per cent. of EU spending.

In essence, the UK Government have always been open to discussion on the subject of land. They have honoured their Lancaster House commitments and remain willing to contribute to a land reform programme in Zimbabwe that would lead to a sustainable improvement in the lives of Zimbabwe's rural poor.

It is ultimately the lives of the impoverished citizens of Zimbabwe that are threatened by the tyrannical policies of Robert Mugabe, who has no legitimacy whatever. I am sure that we would all agree that the sooner he goes, the better, not just for Zimbabwe, but for the entire region.

8.48 pm
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

I will not attempt to emulate the length of the speech of the hon. Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham), every word of it read, and bearing all the hallmarks of a Government handout. However, we can completely associate ourselves with his remarks about his constituent, Mr. Donnelly, who has served with enormous distinction. What has been said about him recently is disgraceful, and on that subject the hon. Gentleman carries the House with him.

I feel extremely embarrassed when I stand to speak in this debate tonight in an almost empty Chamber. I think of those people who voted in the March election by a majority to rid themselves of a tyrant. What would they think if they were here tonight in this Parliament and saw the numbers of people in the Chamber debating their future? It behoves each one of us to reflect on that and to say something about it to those who are not here.

I am always delighted to see the Secretary of State for International Development on the Front Bench. She knows that I hold her in high regard and we have campaigned together in the past on issues such as Bosnia. I shall always be pleased and proud that we did so. However, I say to her that it is a pity that the Foreign Secretary made his speech and then left the Chamber. It is important that a degree of urgency and importance, currently not apparent, be attached to this grave crisis.

I have an apology to make on behalf of the other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is looking into the subject of Zimbabwe. Because of a meeting of the Commission of the House of Commons, I could not go with them on a visit to Copenhagen—but for which they would have been here. I will try, somewhat inadequately, to speak on their behalf. The Foreign Affairs Committee has maintained a degree of bipartisanship on all issues of foreign policy, which we should always seek to do. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) was right to say that although there was a difference in tone and rhetoric between the parties—and I understand why my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said what he did in his admirable speech—there is not much difference between the two parties on the Front Benches. We certainly share an abhorrence for this distasteful, tyrannical and appalling regime.

I have an interest to declare, as editor of The House Magazine. I commend to all right hon. and hon. Members a letter that we published this week from Dr. Alan Megahey. I published it because I know him well. He is an old friend of mine—we were schoolmasters together, nearly 40 years ago. Dr. Megahey was for 10 years the rector or headmaster of Peterhouse, which is one of the great schools of Zimbabwe—multi-racial, I hasten to add. He has an intimate knowledge of the country and since he came back—he is now a country parson as well as a scholar-he has maintained his contacts.

Dr. Megahey wrote a letter to the magazine which I was glad to publish and from which I would like to quote. He says that four years ago he wrote a biography of the great Humphrey Gibbs, the man who stood up against Ian Smith. In that biography was a foreword by one Robert Mugabe, extolling Humphrey Gibbs and describing him as a Christian, a farmer, a political leader and statesman", who stood for compassion, humanity, fairness and justice My friend Alan Megahey continues: Mr. Mugabe now presides over a country where racism, inhumanity, corruption and injustice reign. Yet Parliament seems to give scant attention to the scandal of what is happening in a country which has such close links with the United Kingdom.

I make no criticism of the Secretary of State but would simply say something, through her, to the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman has made much of his role as international statesman, and in many of the things that he has done and said he has had my total and unqualified support. The way in which he behaved after 11 September last year was exemplary; he behaved as a true Prime Minister of a country facing a crisis. His role in helping to bring about the international coalition will earn him a special place in the history books. However, a Prime Minister who subsequently made the speech that he made to his party conference last year—already quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes—should devote a higher priority to the people of Zimbabwe, and I hope that after tonight's debate he will. In a moment I will make some specific and, I hope, helpful suggestions. However, it behoves the Prime Minister and his Government to attach an importance to this issue that they have not hitherto.

In his letter, Alan Megahey talks about a report by the Commercial Farmers Union. He refers to the list that it has published of those who have "acquired" farms, which I referred to earlier today at Question Time. He says: These include ministers, MPs…the Commissioner of Police, Zimbabwe's permanent representative at the UN, and the President's two sisters and his brother-in-law, among others. I will not weary the House with it, but I have here a list of people, which runs to several pages. They are all people of eminence in Zimbabwe—not the downtrodden and deprived, who indeed deserve to be the beneficiaries of land reform—they are the fat cats of a society that is being absolutely crippled by the corruption of its leaders. It is important that we put that on record.

I do not want to talk for too long about the tactics of the people who go on to those farms, but I offer an example sent to me by Dr. Megahey. He told me of a farm built up over a lifetime's work; the people were forced out and the farmer said that, on the first day of the invasion, We took the following injured workers to hospital … Rushion who suffered chest and head wounds from being hit by an axe … Herbert who suffered back wounds from being beaten with a fan belt … James who had leg wounds from being beaten with a bicycle chain … Tawanda … bruised ribs from being hit with a fan belt … Phinias … bruises around his back and waist from a baton". The list goes on. Those were not white people being hit by those who were fighting back against the colonial oppressors—they were black farm workers who depended for their livelihood on someone whom one might describe as paternalistic; but that farmer was a good and concerned employer and they wanted to stay with him.

Such events have been occurring in place after place throughout that beautiful country. As has already been said, what used to be the granary of southern Africa is becoming a wasteland, despoiled by those who rule it.

It is not only farming that has been affected; my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes referred to the tourism industry. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country where most of us would love to take our holidays, but how many tourists are queueing up to visit the Victoria falls as I speak?

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston)

Like many Conservative speakers, including the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), the hon. Gentleman sheds great heat on the issue but very little light on any solutions they would make, if in government, which the Labour Government have not already proposed. Today, we saw a display from the right hon. Member for Devizes that showed no way forward whatever.

Sir Patrick Cormack

I am sorry that I gave way for that rather pointless intervention. I am not generating a lot of heat; I am reasonably calmly retailing some of the facts in the documents before me, because they should be on the record of the House. In a moment, I shall come to what we would do, but perhaps I could be allowed to say one or two more things.

The tourism industry has been almost destroyed. Wildlife is in danger. On another level, as my friend Dr. Megahey points out, cows, sheep and pigs are being killed (often hideously), sometimes simply for food, often as political warnings by the 'war veterans'".

The end of my friend's letter is an answer to the hon. Gentleman: But Parliament seems not to be fully informed, or if informed, not concerned. Partial suspension from the Commonwealth and selective sanctions against ministers and their families are mere pin-pricks. Meanwhile the murder and mayhem go on, and people are starving.

Certainly, it is right that Parliament should be informed and that we should address those things. What are we going to do about them? As I said, I hope that the Government will invest the situation with a new sense of urgency. Of course I accept that there cannot be crude military intervention. That is not practical.

The House will recall that the BBC is banned from Zimbabwe. When the notable reporter, Mr. Fergal Keane, came before the Foreign Affairs Committee recently, he made it plain that, in his view, we were not attaching a high enough priority to the situation. We should be stepping up broadcasts to people in Zimbabwe, to let them know just how appalling we think Mugabe is and what a terrible tyrant he is.

The Foreign Secretary should go to South Africa and hold urgent consultations before 22 July, which is a month away. We should not wait until then; the right hon. Gentleman should get on a plane this weekend and go to speak to President Mbeki. He should also go and see former President Mandela.

I understood why the Secretary of State for International Development had her reservations when my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) made his suggestion, but another name has not been brought into play. It is that of a man who did have a good rapport with Robert Mugabe, a man for whom I have enormous affection and respect—the former secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, who is now in very active retirement. He is president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and he is often in London. I believe that he is one person who might, just possibly, be able to talk some sense to Mugabe. It is worth trying.

What we need is a sense of mission and purpose, and the British Government, as well going to South Africa, should convene an urgent conference on Zimbabwe. We should try to act as the catalyst to bring world opinion together in a way that we perhaps have not done at the moment. I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the Foreign Secretary's expressions of repugnance. He believes every word that he says—I mean that—but we need urgency. A few initiatives must be taken quickly. We should not wait until 22 July—two days before the House rises for the summer recess—and we should have at least one report from the Foreign Secretary on what his initiatives have achieved before then. I urge the right hon. Lady to talk to him about that.

If the Foreign Secretary is so committed to other international travel—as the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall), who is a Parliamentary Private Secretary, seemed to indicate—another senior Minister should be deputed to deal with this issue. It is a crisis of monumental significance. By the end of this year, half the population of 13 million will be in danger of starvation. The right hon. Lady is nodding; she knows that to be true. We have seen the most callous and appalling manipulation of an election in recent years. Mr. Mugabe has put himself in the same league as Milosevic and Saddam Hussein by the way in which he has acted. That is the sort of man we are dealing with.

The Government have set great store by supporting the International Criminal Court. I happen to be one of those who has some sympathy with the reservations that the Americans have on that. Nevertheless, the Government and the House have approved it, so let the Government say that this is the sort of man who should be indicted before the court and let the people of Zimbabwe be told that. Let us give what moral support we can to those brave people who queued day after day to cast their votes; and a majority of them almost certainly voted against the tyrant.

It is sad that more hon. Members are not present in the House tonight, but I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes for proposing this subject for debate. I think that the debate should have taken place in Government time, but I shall let that pass—we are debating it—and let us draw comfort from the fact that there is very little difference between those on the two Front Benches and that not a single hon. Member could defend Mugabe's actions with any credibility.

So let us move forward with greater speed and a greater sense of urgency. Let us take some of these diplomatic initiatives immediately. Let us try to enlist the services of people such as Emeka Anyaoku. Let us do everything that we can to ensure that, before the House rises on 24 July, we have heard a positive report from the Foreign Secretary, standing at the Dispatch Box and reporting on progress achieved.

9.4 pm

Hugh Bayley (City of York)

I had not originally intended to speak in this debate, but I am prompted to do so by a number of hon. Members' contributions and, indeed, by the response to my intervention from the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). I am pleased to see that he is still in his place. I congratulate the Opposition on initiating this debate, and I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the horror of the human rights abuses. No hon. Member would disagree about condemning the catalogue of atrocities that was described by the right hon. Gentleman, by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) and by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). Nor would I disagree about the need to increase pressure, in any way we can, on President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF co-leaders.

The right hon. Member for Devizes was correct in telling me that the Conservative Government's failure to respond to Mugabe's repression in Matabeleland in the early 1980s would be no excuse for a failure to respond now, and he was right to raise the issue in the House. While all cases of torture or political killing are equally horrific, however, it is important to recognise the scale of a problem.

The Human Rights Forum, a Zimbabwean non-governmental organisation, estimates that between January 2001 and 14 May this year 146 people have been killed in political violence. That is a shocking, terrible figure, but it is not the 10,000 who were slaughtered in Matabeleland when Mugabe was trying to make the Zimbabwe leadership a Shona-only leadership rather than the partnership that existed, during the Patriotic Front's struggle for independence, between the Shona ZANU and the Ndebele ZAPU liberation movements.

What all of us, on both sides of the House, must resolve to do is to work with our friends in Africa in every way we can to stop the death toll from rising into the thousands this time—to stop it from rising, heaven forbid, as high as it did in the early 1980s. The fact remains, nevertheless, that more people will die from hunger in Malawi than will die from political violence in Zimbabwe, more will die from hunger in Zambia than from political violence in Zimbabwe, and more will die from hunger in Zimbabwe itself than from political violence there. A child who dies of hunger, whether south or north of the Zambezi, dies in the same way. We as a Government must respond to a crisis that exists in many southern African countries.

There is no doubt that Mugabe's land reform programme has made the food shortage crisis in Zimbabwe much worse, but let us not forget that other factors are involved. It would be wrong to blame solely the land reform for the problems of hunger. Poor economic policies are also to blame. The official Government exchange rate—the rate that Ministers pay to obtain foreign exchange with which to buy bottles of whisky—is 50 Zimbabwean dollars to the pound. The street value—the market rate—is 750 Zimbabwean dollars to the pound. That is what others must pay. Those economic policies destroy local production. Who will buy Zimbabwean produce when people have to sell for 10, maybe even 15, times its real price?

There are bad economic policies, bad agricultural policies, and drought. I returned from Zambia a few years ago with photographs of the Victoria falls. The Shona call them "mosi of tunya", which means "the mist that thunders". But when I was there, there was no mist, no thunder, and no water. One of my photographs was exhibited in the Upper Waiting Hall a couple of years ago–a photograph of the Victoria falls as a dry cliff. Drought is certainly a problem: we are not talking just about economic policies.

Clare Short

My hon. Friend is right—there is drought—but drought does not become famine without misgovernment. That was the great finding of Professor Sen. A drought crisis that could be handled otherwise may become a famine owing to misgovernment. In that sense, if people die it is political.

Hugh Bayley

I agree. I have said myself that the policies of Mugabe's Government make the drought much worse. It is not just a Zimbabwean drought, however; it is causing hunger in a number of countries in southern Africa.

Hunger is also a consequence of the slow progress on land reform since Mugabe came to power. Land reform needs to happen, but it must be based on the rule of law, and not be achieved through violence. Above all, it must distribute land to poor, rural, landless people, and not to the cronies, supporters and leaders of ZANU-PF. It must be backed up by good policies on agriculture and rural development, so that smaller farms will be productive and support people in Zimbabwe.

Recently, I attended the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's conference here. I was quizzed in a debate with association members largely from African states about the UK's policy on land reform. We have made a commitment to use development assistance to support land reform if the basic conditions that I set out earlier are met—that is, that land reform benefits poor, landless people rather than Government elites, and that it is provided in a transparent and legally based way.

Hon. Members of all parties have asked what can be done to change what is happening in Zimbabwe. They want to know how we can ensure free and fair elections. respect for human rights and just land redistribution, and how we can address hunger. I share the Opposition's view that we should toughen sanctions. The right hon. Member for Devizes proposed extending targeted sanctions to the families of top Zimbabwean leaders, and said that they should not be confined to top leaders only. He also suggested that the targeted sanctions be extended to other leaders, especially business leaders who are ZANU-PF supporters.

I do not think that Government Front-Bench Members would disagree. On 13 June, The Daily Telegraph reported that those proposals were precisely the ones that the Government intended to take to next month's EU meeting. However, we must accept that the proposed changes to the sanctions regime—important but modest as they are—will not change things overnight. We must learn the lessons of history. After Ian Smith made his unilateral declaration of independence, we the British imposed tough sanctions. So why did Smith's illegal regime last so many years? It was able to import what it needed for survival—most importantly, oil—through Mozambique and South Africa. Those neighbouring countries did not impose sanctions.

The lesson is clear. If the EU is alone in imposing sanctions, they will not be effective. To coin a phrase, we will be waiting years, not months, before the sanctions bite. We need to impose sanctions that are supported by the Southern African Development Community and the neighbouring southern African countries.

The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) was right to say that political action was not particularly glamorous, but that it was necessary. A sanctions policy that is not supported by neighbouring African leaders will not have the effect that we seek. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) is also right, and I shall end soon so that he can tell the House more about why the New Partnership for Africa's Development is an important part of the answer.

The Government must bring more pressure to bear on the Mugabe Government. We need to get famine aid flowing throughout the region, and to get good development assistance working in neighbouring states—in part to show people in Zimbabwe that good development assistance working constructively with other Governments can bring benefits. People in Zimbabwe would then be able to appreciate that a country under a Mugabe-type regime is unable to make the progress possible for other countries.

In addition, we must seek the resumption of party-to-party talks with the Opposition in Zimbabwe. We must restate our commitment to land reform, according to conditions that are transparent and fair, and which help the poor. We need to investigate where the assets of ZANU-PF are held abroad, and to use our aid to support trade unions, non-governmental organisations and other opposition bodies in Zimbabwe. Those are the things that we need to do to build a coalition that forces the change that Members on both sides of the House want.

9.15 pm
Tony Baldry

As is often the case, I am largely in agreement with the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), my colleague on the International Development Committee, although I want to share a few points with the House to put the issue into a slightly broader context.

Jim Morris, the executive director of the World Food Programme, came to brief the International Development Committee last Monday. I want to read to the House the note of the informal meeting: James Morris gave a brief overview of the situation in Southern Africa. There were 12/13 million people at risk of loss of life in six countries (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland). Half of those at risk were in Zimbabwe and a quarter in Malawi. The six countries would need 1.6 million tonnes of grain, which WFP would bring in through Tanzania and Mozambique. A rather stark sentence follows: The work was set to become the WFP's largest undertaking.

I suspect that what we are about to see in southern Africa will dwarf the humanitarian aid effort that has been required in Afghanistan. The Secretary of State for International Development shakes her head, but she can tell us whether that is so when she winds up. With 12 million to 13 million people at risk of loss of life, however, I do not think that the executive director of the World Food Programme would use those words lightly. He went on to tell us: In Zimbabwe the operating environment complicated the problem. Zimbabwe had suffered the worst drought in twenty years. Land reform had seen a weakening of commercial farming and growth in small holdings … yields had dropped, mainly because less irrigation was being used. There were 850,000 displaced people within Zimbabwe. Interestingly, he added that 33,000 tonnes of grain were shipped from the US of which 18,000 was intended for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe failed to complete the paperwork and it had to be redirected.

In southern Africa, we are about to face a famine of horrific proportions. Whereas Zimbabwe used to export food to neighbouring countries, the whole of that area now suffers from the prospect of substantial loss of life. That is also against a background of the scourge of AIDS. Let us consider this horrific figure: a quarter of the education budget in Malawi goes to pay for the funerals of teachers who have died from AIDS.

This is a test not just for us but for the whole of Africa. We have heard a lot about the New Partnership for Africa's Development. When President Mbeki introduced, with President Obasanjo and others, the NEPAD concept in October 2001, he said: We are agreed that we must strengthen democracy on the continent; we must entrench a human rights culture; we must end existing conflicts and prevent new conflicts. We have to deal with corruption and be accountable for all our actions. In an article in The Washington Post the other day, President Museveni of Uganda wrote that we Africans must do more to put our own houses in order. Here again, there is a growing consensus between the donor countries and the developing world. President Bush has pledged substantial amounts of new development assistance for countries that are opening their markets, improving governance, and encouraging economic and political freedoms. He continued: African leaders agree. In the New Economic Partnership for African Development, a plan endorsed by the Organization of African Unity, African leaders have committed to many of the same principles described by President Bush and have embraced full responsibility for eradicating poverty and placing their countries on a path of sustainable growth".

As part of NEPAD, African leaders have agreed on a peer review system whereby African countries will judge other African countries—but more than peer review is required.

NEPAD is being discussed in Canada, and African countries are asking us and other G8 countries for substantially more investment in Africa for infrastructure and other projects. I hope that that will be forthcoming, but there is a quid pro quo. There must be a partnership, and part of that partnership means that African countries collectively will have to exert pressure on those who are failing. I suspect that there is substantially more that those countries could do to bring pressure to bear on Mugabe and on the regime in Zimbabwe. We must make it clear to our colleagues in Africa whom we wish to support that this is a test. We and those who want to support them will watch closely to see how they face up to that test.

9.20 pm
Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

I am aware of the pressure of time, so I will try to curtail my remarks.

This is a timely debate and I join those who congratulated my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) on calling for it. This week, the Zimbabwean Government are trying to shut down 3,000 family farms and, one week ago, further attempts were made to curtail freedom of speech in that country. The debate also comes at a time when there is growing and worrying evidence of sanctions failing.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), I was disappointed by the content and the style of the Foreign Secretary's speech. I hope and am sure that the Secretary of State for International Development will be able to be more comprehensive and thorough.

The House will be familiar with the fact that the sanctions that are being imposed at present are supposedly smart. Although they may be smart in theory, the way in which they have been implemented has proved to be remarkably dumb. For example, the much-vaunted travel ban is already in tatters.

Members have already heard how Mr. Mugabe, accompanied by several other Ministers, flew into Rome on 9 June under the guise of attending a United Nations conference. It is ironic that it was a conference on food production. That was not an isolated incident. In late May, Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner, travelled to Paris for an Interpol conference. Joselyn Chiwenga, the wife of the army chief, has been reported as visiting Britain earlier this month along with three Zimbabwean Ministers. As we have heard, Grace Mugabe has applied for and been granted a tourist visa by the Spanish Government. Worst of all, Olivia Muchena flew into Gatwick recently. She is a member of the ZANU-PF cabinet and the very woman who, as a deputy Minister, was responsible for the fast-track land-grabbing policy that is at the heart of the problem.

Each incident represents a deliberate flouting of the letter or the spirit of the ban. For those reasons, I hope that the Secretary of State for International Development will answer these questions in her winding-up speech. Why are the Government not implementing sanctions against people such as Mrs. Chiwenga? Have Ministers complained to the Spanish Government about the visa for Mrs. Mugabe—and if not, why not? Why has the United Kingdom not included people such as Mrs. Muchena on the list of responsible people, given that she had direct responsibility for the policy that is at the heart of the problem?

At the beginning of Question Time this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary said that the travel ban policy would be humiliating. In one sense, he is right. It is humiliating for this Government, for the European Union and for the people who are still in Zimbabwe to watch the ban being flouted.

The Government have made requests for us to come up with a policy for them. Although that is a generous offer, I can only bring some early thoughts to it. I shall briefly summarise them. First, the Government need to implement the sanctions and travel ban effectively. That means stopping existing abuses and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes rightly said, widening the net.

Secondly, we need to show not just people here but people in Zimbabwe how corrupt the Zimbabwean Government have become. There is a wonderful opportunity for the British, American and European authorities to expose the assets held by ZANU-PF officials abroad. It is vital that we show the Zimbabwean public and the people in neighbouring states how the regime is bleeding Zimbabwe dry.

Thirdly, we need to encourage both South Africa and Nigeria to become more assertive in their demands. I hope that the Secretary of State will respond to that specific point. Finally, Colonel Gaddafi has been mentioned, and he is the principal provider of oil to Zimbabwe. The Government need to persuade Libya to use its considerable leverage to good effect. Clearly I do not expect the Secretary of State to give an open response to that; I simply ask the Government not merely to note the points raised but to act on them.

9.26 pm
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

This is an important debate. I was disappointed that the Foreign Secretary started his speech with one or two cheap points about why the Leader of the Opposition has not spent more time discussing this subject. There is one simple reason for that: we have an extremely competent shadow Foreign Secretary who has been at the forefront of these issues for the past year. Hardly a day has gone by when he has not mentioned something related to Zimbabwe, and it has been raised a number of times in every Foreign Office Question Time and International Development Question Time. I think I am right in saying that we have had no fewer than three Adjournment debates on the subject, all initiated by Opposition Members. We have not been sitting idly by. The Leader of the Opposition has given us a great deal of encouragement to keep Zimbabwe at the top of the agenda. The Foreign Secretary's comments were cheap indeed.

We have heard some excellent speeches. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) listed a catalogue of truly wicked incidents. One of the most moving speeches, however, was by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). I am sure he moved all of us when he went right to the heart of the tragedy in that beautiful land.

We all know that the elections were a farce. Every independent observer condemned them as a sham. They have brought utter shame on the ruling party and are an insult to democracy. Robin and Jennifer Plunkett, a couple who own a farm in Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border, sent me an interesting video, which I passed on to my right hon. Friend, which documents numerous examples of outright intimidation, fraud and ballot rigging. Lest anyone should have any doubts about the reports of those elections in the world media—and there may have been some exaggerations—the video made it clear to me beyond peradventure that they were a total sham.

No one can accept the result. Mugabe has no legitimacy whatsoever. He is a political pariah who has completely demeaned himself and brought misery to his people who were denied the right to vote him out of office. The man is a wicked tyrant. My right hon. Friend was right when he said that our key priority must be to have a rerun of those elections as soon as possible.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the appalling famine in southern Africa. The once great country of Zimbabwe was the bread basket of that region and it boasted proudly of its food exports to other countries. However, its food production is now a quarter of what it was 10 years ago, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) explained, and that is mostly attributable to Mugabe's confiscation of productive farms. The pretence of handing the land over to landless peasants has long since disappeared. As several hon. Members have made clear, those farms have been handed to Mugabe's cronies.

The latest ludicrous order preventing farmers from farming stems from an amendment made last month to the Land Acquisition Act. Those who carry on farming after the 45-day period will either be fined or imprisoned for two years. I gather that an appeal is to go to Zimbabwe's High Court. We must all hope and pray that it is successful.

In Mugabe's actions we see the politics of a madman. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, the Chairman of the International Development Committee, told the House that there is famine in southern Africa—for example, in Malawi. In an excellent article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph two days ago, the journalist Neil Darbyshire made it crystal clear that the dislocation and ruination of farming in Zimbabwe is part of the cause of the appalling famine in Malawi.

Action is needed. Last week, the Brussels think tank International Crisis Group forecast increasing unrest and an impending clampdown by Mugabe. The report's author, John Prendergast, said: Britain and the EU talk tough and do nothing: it is a joke. It is an extremely unfortunate joke, because the sanctions are not working. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) emphasised, the travel ban is not working. It must be extended across the board to every single ZANU-PF politician and their families.

My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary made it clear that freezing bank accounts has yielded only a pitiful sum—£76,000 to date. We know that there are millions of pounds in bank accounts around Europe, and I hope that the Secretary of State for International Development will explain why more has not been frozen. Why is more not being done in that respect?

There are strong arguments in favour of other types of action, and I have a suggestion. What about imposing a ban on Air Zimbabwe? The airline is obviously still flying and its aircraft are not being impounded. A ban would not hit the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, but would hit the politicians and Mugabe's cronies. Yes, it would also hit various business men who are doing their level best in difficult circumstances to run their businesses, but surely, when push came to shove, they could make alternative arrangements, probably via South Africa. The symbolism of banning Air Zimbabwe would be extremely powerful. That very suggestion was made by a couple of leading American politicians only two weeks ago.

There is need for other action, because we are talking about a brazen bully. Mugabe is laughing at the west. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes that there is a crucial role for South Africa and Nigeria to play, especially in putting pressure on Libya and giving Thabo Mbeki more stomach for getting involved. He has to take a position and start taking risks. Politicians have to take risks.

There is no question of Britain acting alone, but we should in no way be ashamed of our former colonial involvement in Zimbabwe. We should be proud of what was done under British rule. We bequeathed a sense of fair play and justice to that country, and sooner or later its people will say, "Enough is enough." They will rise up and depose the monster. Then, Zimbabwe will again be on the path to peace, prosperity, justice, observance of human rights and, above all, freedom.

9.34 pm
Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)

The debate did not start off on a good footing. I must register disappointment at the tone adopted by the Foreign Secretary at the beginning. However, the debate has improved as we have gone along and it entirely vindicates the Opposition's choice of the subject for one of our precious Supply days.

From all parts of the House, we have offered the Government a number of suggestions for measures that might be taken. The most recent suggestion, from my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham), is not such a bad one.[Interruption.] When the Foreign Secretary is listening, I hope that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will convey to him the large number of suggestions that were made during the debate about what else he might do. The tone adopted by the Foreign Secretary was that of an apologia for inaction. As we heard subsequently, there is a good deal more action that could be taken.

As many hon. Members said, the situation prevailing under President Mugabe is a tragedy, not just for the people of Zimbabwe, but for the whole region. That fact alone makes the Government's failure to engage more proactively even more lamentable. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), the Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, that 13 million people in southern Africa are on the brink of starvation. Zimbabwe, which should be able to export food to feed them, is itself dependent on food aid. If the international community had acted sooner and more decisively, they might not be facing the prospect of hunger and starvation this summer—a situation that will get worse as stocks expire.

Let us not shy away from the fact that accounts of the unfolding horrors in Zimbabwe, more than any other country in Africa, are turning up in our postbags. Only this morning I received one from a Zimbabwean farmer, begging me to pass on this message to the Government: The situation in Zimbabwe has not been solved and it should not be swept under the carpet. The Zimbabwean people must not he let down by the International Community again". I am sure that all hon. Members have received e-mails and letters in similar vein.

President Mugabe is culpable. His mismanagement of the economy, his violent and illegal theft of people's land, his blatant and sometimes brutal manipulation of the recent elections, and the continued violent oppression of ordinary Zimbabweans have all led a once prosperous country to the brink of ruin. As for Robert Mugabe's stewardship of the economy, we heard various measures of the state of the economy. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit report, it has shrunk by 25 per cent. since 1998, and unemployment is approaching 75 per cent. That is an indictment of any Government's role.

Scarce food supplies are so expensive that many Zimbabweans cannot afford to buy enough to eat. The UN has estimated that 1.5 million tonnes of food aid will be needed. We welcome the fact that the Government have said that 32 million tonnes of humanitarian relief will be made available to Zimbabwe outside the official channels, but I would like to hear from the Secretary of State for International Development how the safety and security of those official channels can be guaranteed, in the light of the actions of Mugabe and his henchmen.

The people are not so much living as enduring what their appalling Government have inflicted on them. The country's ability to square up to the drought has been severely affected by President Mugabe's governance. Crops have not been planted, and the yields of those that have been is pitiful. The maize crop is only 20 per cent. of normal, and wheat yields are down 40 or 50 per cent. There has been no maize meal in the shops for six to nine months. People have been getting by on stocks of wheat, but those are about to run out. There is a bread shortage looming, and in a muzzled country, people are afraid to protest.

Most hon. Members will agree that land reform was needed in Zimbabwe. We had a long history lesson from the hon. Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) on how the land reforms came about—so long that our second Back-Bench speaker got in only at 9.15 this evening. The important point is that Britain had a key role in bringing forward those land reforms, and we have a responsibility to see that they are implemented as originally conceived. Yesterday, nearly 3,000 farmers were made to surrender their farms. Any farmer who continues to farm his land faces the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, and 60 per cent. of the white farmers who were working the land two years ago will have to stop. Zimbabwe was once the bread basket of southern Africa, but it now presents us with a begging bowl.

Mugabe's response to the crisis has disgraced him even further in the eyes of world. The approach of the Government of Zimbabwe to food assistance has ranged from absolute negligence to outright obstruction. For Mugabe, food is power and a vehicle for political control. At the moment, behind the scenes, a power battle is taking place between Harare and the UN over who controls food distribution in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe are using food to reward their allies and punish their enemies. As usual, it is the weakest and most vulnerable who suffer. A fortnight ago, a food distribution agency run by local churches and supported by the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development was closed down by war veterans loyal to Robert Mugabe. Some 40,000 people, many of them children, were denied the food on which they had depended. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) referred to one school in Zimbabwe whose feeding plan has been altered to keep MDC children from obtaining food.

When the Government of Zimbabwe are not being obstructive, they are being negligent. According to a written answer I received from the Secretary of State for International Development, there is "no credible national plan" to address food shortages in Zimbabwe. NGOs and agencies that wish to distribute food are hampered by the lack of any coherent plan from a Government who do not care about the plight of their own people. Robert Mugabe is intent on fighting a war not simply against the white minority, but against the whole country, and the world watches him as he does so.

The Prime Minister is at a meeting of the G8 in Canada in which a topic for discussion will be the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The partnership represents a new model for working in Africa. It is a vehicle to promote just and democratically accountable government in Africa, but one of its first tests is Zimbabwe. I think that I speak for many hon. Members in saying that, at the moment, it is simply not working. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury reminded us of the contribution made by President Museveni to The Washington Post, in which he said that Africa must do its part. As my hon. Friend said, Africa tries, but must do more, to exert pressure.

Presidents Mbeki of South Africa and Obasanjo of Nigeria are the main architects of NEPAD, but they were too slow to condemn Mugabe and have been ineffective in restraining his political excesses. However, we should at least be grateful that they condemned Mugabe, as other African commentators were considerably more reluctant to do so. That has serious implications for NEPAD. South African election observers initially declared the election result valid. A South African police Minister allegedly tried to persuade observers of the elections in Zimbabwe that they were credible and legitimate. Before the close of voting, the head of the Nigerian observer team said: It will be very difficult for anyone to come and tell us that it was not free and fair". The President of Kenya was one of the first to congratulate Robert Mugabe. The poll result was also quickly welcomed by the Presidents of Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania, and the Organisation of African Unity said that the results of the election were transparent, credible, free and fair".

That is in stark contrast with the way in which the Foreign Secretary described the conduct of the elections to this House on 12 March, when he said: there has been every sign of ZANU-PF-hacked violence and intimidation, right up to the close of polling, as well as many reports of irregularities, including a shortage of polling booths in urban areas, and harassment of opposition election agents in rural areas."—[Official Report, 12 March 2002; Vol. 381, c. 740.] Two days later, he told us: we do not recognise the result or its legitimacy."—[official Report, 14 March 2002; Vol. 381, c. 1035.] How could the Foreign Secretary argue in his speech that Mugabe should legitimately be able to attend meetings of the UN if he does not recognise the legitimacy of that Government?

Since the election, land-grabs have continued and reports of human rights abuses and torture persist. The freedom of the press remains curtailed and the independence of the judiciary suppressed, and the humanitarian situation continues to decline. If NEPAD is a new model of working partnership with Africa, the situation in Zimbabwe leaves me very concerned indeed. If NEPAD is to be seen to be effective, peer pressure must be made to work. At present, there is little evidence of that.

Many hon. Members share the belief that more concerted action by the Government and the EU could have prevented the situation from getting this far. The EU's travel ban has proved to be humiliating for us, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) pointed out. Politics is about perception, and the perception is that that ban is not working.

The powerful message that the Government should take from the debate is our strong sense that they have failed to act and have allowed a festering situation to go from bad to worse. On 2 October, in his speech to the Labour party conference, the Prime Minister warned that there would be no tolerance of…the activities of Mr. Mugabe's henchmen in Zimbabwe". How does the Government's failure to restrain the theft, corruption and intimidation by Robert Mugabe and his associates square with that pledge of zero tolerance?

I receive countless letters and e-mails from people in Zimbabwe who feel let down and abandoned by Britain. Why, they ask, did Britain allow the situation to get this bad when it was clearly deteriorating under our noses? The Prime Minister wears his passion for Africa on his sleeve, but, when it comes to Zimbabwe, what has that passion achieved? The Government made a great song and dance about having an ethical foreign policy, but their handling of Zimbabwe has destroyed the trust in them to deliver it.

9.46 pm
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

The whole House has agreed that the situation in Zimbabwe is a terrible tragedy. The Mugabe regime is systematically wrecking its economy, brutalising its people, stealing elections and causing enormous suffering to its people. The situation is likely to get much worse in the next few months, and I fear that there will be a very serious famine.

There is agreement across the House, as the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) said, but the difference between us and Her Majesty's official Opposition is that they seem to have forgotten about power so quickly that they think that there is a magic wand that can put the situation right. They believe that Her Majesty's Government have the power to go in anywhere in the world to stop the disgraceful wreckage of an economy such as that carried out by the Mugabe regime, which gets ever worse as time goes by. The UK does not have that power—if only—and we never did.

The Opposition motion calls on Her Majesty's Government to…build an international coalition to apply whatever pressure is necessary…to restore democracy in Zimbabwe". In fact, we have been doing just that since 1997. I say to the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) that I have attended to the situation in Zimbabwe weekly—maybe fortnightly—ever since 1997. It has gone from bad to worse. I knew how bad it was in 1997—there was not a genuine programme of land reform—but no one could have predicted this wreckage or that anyone would do that to their country. We tried to take step after step, but it has got worse. There has not been a failure of attention or a failure to take action.

The truth is that we cannot fix everything across the world in every tragic situation. We have to do all that we can, whenever we can. To pretend that we can fix it when we cannot is dishonest, and is no help to the people of Zimbabwe or anyone else. We have led in building the international coalition that has left Zimbabwe increasingly isolated. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are no longer disbursing funds in Zimbabwe. Denmark and the Netherlands are withdrawing from it, and most other EU states are providing limited assistance through non-government channels. The European Commission is not disbursing the ninth European development fund programme. Zimbabwe is suspended from the Commonwealth and the elite face sanctions from the EU and the US.

All that is equivalent to an international coalition putting pressure on the Government of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, it has not halted the Mugabe regime's determination to wreck its economy. Even today, when the country faces famine, further action is being taken to prevent farmers from farming. It is unbelievable that any Government, whatever their motivation or lack of decency, would go on wrecking and wrecking like that. The international community is doing all that it can to stop that. We share the Opposition's frustration. We have given Zimbabwe a high priority and we shall continue to do that.

Remember the Balkans and how long it took to deal with Milosevic. Remember the unilateral declaration of independence. A Labour Government under Harold Wilson were in power then. They were determined to prevent UDI and bring Zimbabwe to democracy, and they were not always fully supported by Conservative Members. In the end, Zimbabwe came to democracy and it will return to it. I fear that that will happen through famine; the rage that it causes in the country will ultimately tear down the regime. There will be horrendous suffering in the process, and we must do everything in our power to relieve it as much as we can.

As many hon. Members said, the case for land reform in Zimbabwe is overwhelming. I was surprised by the assertion of the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) that he was proud of everything that Britain had done in Zimbabwe. The land was stolen from people and UDI was a shame. Land reform must be principled and done according to law; it must prioritise the people who live in communal areas. We have made it clear that we would support that, as would the international community.

President Mugabe turned against such reform. I believe that he saw power and support for him slipping away in his country. He lost a referendum, and that gave him a shock. He therefore returned to the rhetoric of his heyday, when he was at his most popular and took over the country. What were the two main principles then? Land and beating the UK. He went back to beating that drum, believing that the people of Zimbabwe would support him. There has been complete loss of contact with reality, and all the ensuing consequences.

The UK has supported the overwhelming case for land reform since independence. We have fulfilled our commitments under the Lancaster House agreement. For most of period since independence, the Conservative party was in government. The UK has disbursed £500 million in bilateral aid and a considerable further sum through the multilateral system.

However, when President Mugabe started on the wrecking track, he set out to persuade neighbouring African Governments that the UK was resisting justified land reform. He went back to the rhetoric of independence and he fooled neighbouring countries for a time. I believe that that time is coming to an end, but he banged the drum of the independence fight. He was a hero in. Africa in those years, and he confused the current debate there by using some of the rhetoric of that struggle to portray the UK as the monster, and suggest that we were committed to the white farmers, not the people of Zimbabwe. The confusion may arise partly because the record shows that that was sometimes true.

Attitudes are changing. As the Governments of Africa witness what is happening to Zimbabwe, they are no longer confused and they are increasingly moving against Mugabe. However, the approaching tragedy will cause enormous harm to many people.

I do not have time to respond properly to all the speeches. I understand and share the rage of the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who said that he would rule nothing in and nothing out. We are doing everything in our power; all suggestions are welcome. There is no magic wand.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) that we should pay tribute to the brave Zimbabweans who stood for hours, indeed days, to vote in an election when they were being brutalised. We should express our respect for their courage in the circumstances that they faced.

I emphasise to the hon. Member for South Staffordshire that we have given Zimbabwe a high priority. Perhaps we should have debated it in the House more often, but it is difficult to express everything in debates. For example, many organisations are trying to deliver food and they face resistance, but I will not name them in answer to hon. Members' questions because if they appear in Hansard, they will experience even more difficulties in Zimbabwe. However, I shall always write to hon. Members or discuss such questions with them.

I saw Chief Anyaoku recently. We can contact him again to find whether he believes that he can do anything. Let us be clear: we have tried and tried and tried. Persuading President Mugabe to be rational and care for his people seems impossible. We shall go on trying, but it is difficult. The powers of the International Criminal Court are not retrospective, and therefore not relevant to the subject that we are discussing.

I stress to the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) that I shook my head about Afghanistan because the extent of the crisis there is similar. Before 11 September, 5 million people in that country had to be fed daily. The number increased to 6 million, then 7 million. It is now up to 12 million as we turn the country round and get it resettled. I am not, therefore, saying that there is not a monstrous crisis emerging in southern Africa because of the situation in Zimbabwe; it is on a comparable scale.

As for NEPAD, Zimbabwe must, of course, be discussed in the context of that partnership, but we cannot hold a whole continent—the poorest continent in the world—hostage to the misbehaviour of President Mugabe. We must engage with African Governments who are reformers in driving forward the reform agenda, and try to get them to join in the effort to improve, to put pressure on the Mugabe regime and to take Zimbabwe forward.

I agree with the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk on money freezing. and if the figures are as low as he says, let us look into it. I undertake that I, or another Minister, will write to him on that and on his other suggestion—I know that the USA was considering taking action on Air Zimbabwe. All these actions should be considered, and we will do that.

I would say to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) that I have an office of enormously brave staff in Zimbabwe who are making sure that the food supplied by the UK is not tainted or touched by ZANU-PF thugs who might prevent it from being properly distributed. I want to pay tribute to my staff there, who are working in very difficult circumstances to that end. We are working with the World Food Programme and the UN to ensure that, in trying to face the coming crisis, there will be no political manipulation.

Let me say, however, that we cannot feed those who will be hungry unless the Mugabe regime permits the private sector to import food. As yet, it will not, and the situation looks appalling. There will be considerable food aid, but trucks will be needed to distribute it. and the trucks are all controlled by the regime. The commercial suppliers are not allowed to import, while the Zimbabwean currency has such a high exchange rate that the costs are prohibitive. The country is facing a drought that will cause a crisis that could easily be managed, but it is potentially a disaster because of the mis-government, the mismanagement of the economy and the grossly mismanaged land reform that has handed farms to fat cats, as the hon. Member for South Staffordshire stated.

If the regime in Zimbabwe cannot be persuaded to allow us to do our work to get food to the hungry, there will be famine conditions, and the population will stream out into the neighbouring countries. I am afraid that that is how the political crisis will be resolved: in an utter tragedy. I am sure that that will bring down the regime, but it will do so in a way that will cause even further suffering to the people of Zimbabwe. This is not a matter of dispute across the House; there is no difference between the Government and the Opposition on this analysis or on our sense of the forthcoming tragedy.

On top of all that, Zimbabwe has the highest HIV infection rate in Africa. The lives of the poor people of Zimbabwe have been wrecked by the Government who have brought untold harm to them. I give those people an undertaking that we will do all in our power to keep them fed through the coming crisis. We stand ready, when they can find a way of bringing round this regime, to support them in a democratic election and in rebuilding their economy and their country. That beautiful country, which is naturally very fertile, should be the bread basket of this region of Africa, instead of facing this crisis. It will rebuild again—

Mrs. Spelman

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Clare Short

Very quickly. There is only one minute left.

Mrs. Spelman

My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) asked the Foreign Secretary whether, given the significance of the region, he would consider a visit to the region. May I extend that question to the Secretary of State?

Clare Short

I have been to the region repeatedly, and I shall go again. For obvious reasons, I am not planning to go to Zimbabwe, or to meet representatives of its Government.

The population of Zimbabwe is highly educated. They will rebuild; they will come to democracy again. We will be there to try to help people to survive the coming crisis, and to help them to rebuild the country. The way in which President Mugabe has wrecked this prosperous country is truly unforgivable. Zimbabwe should be an engine for development in Africa and should be supplying food to help the region through the drought that it now faces. But there are no magic wands. We cannot fix it just because we hate it. We have to work together to do everything in our power to mobilise international support for action that will bring the crisis to an end, but we have not been successful. No one has been successful as yet, and no one could have envisaged how far President Mugabe would go in wrecking his country. As he brings down his regime, he brings down the whole economy with it.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 361.

Division No. 283] [10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Gale, Roger
Amess, David Garnier, Edward
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Gibb, Nick
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Goodman, Paul
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Gray, James
Bacon, Richard Grayling, Chris
Baldry, Tony Green, Damian (Ashford)
Barker, Gregory Greenway, John
Baron, John Grieve, Dominic
Beggs, Roy Hague, Rt Hon William
Bellingham, Henry Hawkins, Nick
Beresford, Sir Paul Hayes, John
Blunt, Crispin Heald, Oliver
Boswell, Tim Hendry, Charles
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Hermon, Lady
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Hoban, Mark
Brazier, Julian Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Burns, Simon Horam, John
Burt, Alistair Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Butterfill, John Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Cameron, David Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Cash, William Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Chope, Christopher Jenkin, Bernard
Clappison, James Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Key, Robert
Conway, Derek Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Cormack, Sir Patrick Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Djanogly, Jonathan Lansley, Andrew
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Leigh, Edward
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton) Liddell—Grainger, Ian
Duncan, Peter (Galloway) Lidington, David
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Evans, Nigel Loughton, Tim
Fabricant, Michael Luff, Peter
Fallon, Michael McIntosh, Miss Anne
Field, Mark (Cities of London) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Flook, Adrian Maclean, Rt Hon David
Forth, Rt Hon Eric McLoughlin, Patrick
Francois, Mark Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John Spink, Bob
Mates, Michael Spring, Richard
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Steen, Anthony
May, Mrs Theresa Swayne, Desmond
Mercer, Patrick Swire, Hugo
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield) Syms, Robert
Moss, Malcolm Tapsell, Sir Peter
Murrison, Dr Andrew Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Norman, Archie Taylor, John (Solihull)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Osborne, George (Tatton) Tredinnick, David
Ottaway, Richard Trend, Michael
Page, Richard Trimble, Rt Hon David
Paice, James Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Paterson, Owen Tyrie, Andrew
Pickles, Eric Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Waterson, Nigel
Prisk, Mark Watkinson, Angela
Redwood, Rt Hon John Whittingdale, John
Robathan, Andrew Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham) Wiggin, Bill
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry) Wilkinson, John
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Wilshire, David
Roe, Mrs Marion Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Rosindell, Andrew Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Ruffley, David Yeo, Tim
Sayeed, Jonathan Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Selous, Andrew
Simmonds, Mark Tellers for the Ayes:
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Dr. Julian Lewis and
Spicer, Sir Michael Mrs. Cheryl Gillan.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cairns, David
Ainger, Nick Calton, Mrs Patsy
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE) Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Armstrong, At Hon Ms Hilary Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Austin, John Caplin, Ivor
Baird, Vera Carmichael, Alistair
Barrett, John Casale, Roger
Barron, Rt Hon Kevin Caton, Martin
Battle, John Cawsey, Ian
Bayley, Hugh Challen, Colin
Beard, Nigel Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Chaytor, David
Begg, Miss Anne Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Benton, Joe Clarke, Rt Hon Charles (Norwich S)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Betts, Clive Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Blackman, Liz Clelland, David
Blears, Ms Hazel Coaker, Vernon
Blizzard, Bob Coffey, Ms Ann
Borrow, David Cohen, Harry
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Coleman, Iain
Brake, Tom Colman, Tony
Breed, Colin Connarty, Michael
Brennan, Kevin Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L Corston, Jean
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas (Newcastle E & Wallsend) Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Cranston, Ross
Bryant, Chris Crausby, David
Buck, Ms Karen Cruddas, Jon
Burden, Richard Cummings, John
Burnett, John Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cable, Dr Vincent Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Humble, Mrs Joan
David, Wayne Hume, John
Davidson, Ian Hurst, Alan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Iddon, Dr Brian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Dawson, Hilton Irranca-Davies, Huw
Denham, Rt Hon John Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Dhanda, Parmjit Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dobbin, Jim Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Donohoe, Brian H Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Doran, Frank Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Doughty, Sue Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Dowd, Jim Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Joyce, Eric
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Edwards, Huw Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Efford, Clive Keetch, Paul
Ellman, Mrs Louise Kemp, Fraser
Ennis, Jeff Khabra, Piara S
Ewing, Annabelle Kilfoyle, Peter
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead) King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Fisher, Mark Kirkwood, Archy
Fitzpatrick, Jim Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Kumar, Dr Ashok
Flint, Caroline Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Follett, Barbara Lamb, Norman
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lammy, David
Foster, Don (Bath) Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Foster, Michael (Worcester) Laws, David
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Laxton, Bob
Francis, Dr Hywel Lazarowicz, Mark
Gapes, Mike Lepper, David
George, Andrew (St Ives) Leslie, Christopher
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S) Levitt, Tom
Gerrard, Neil Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gibson, Dr Ian Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Gidley, Sandra Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Gilroy, Linda Linton, Martin
Godsiff, Roger Llwyd, Elfyn
Goggins, Paul Love, Andrew
Green, Matthew (Ludlow) Lucas, Ian
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Luke, Iain
Grogan, John Lyons, John
Hain, Rt Hon Peter McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) McDonagh, Siobhain
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) MacDonald, Calum
Hanson, David McDonnell, John
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart) MacDougall, John
Harvey, Nick McFall, John
Havard, Dai McGuire, Mrs Anne
Healey, John McIsaac, Shona
Heath, David McKechin, Ann
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) McNulty, Tony
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Mactaggart, Fiona
Hendrick, Mark McWalter, Tony
Hepburn, Stephen McWilliam, John
Hesford, Stephen Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hewitt, Rt Hon Ms Patricia Mallaber, Judy
Heyes, David Mann, John
Hill, Keith Marris, Rob
Hinchliffe, David Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Hodge, Margaret Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hoey, Kate Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Holmes, Paul Martlew, Eric
Hood, Jimmy Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Merron, Gillian
Hope, Phil Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hopkins, Kelvin Miller, Andrew
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E) Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Moffatt, Laura
Howells, Dr Kim Mole, Chris
Hoyle, Lindsay Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford) Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Morgan, Julie Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Morley, Elliot Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Morris, Rt Hon Estelle Soley, Clive
Mountford, Kali Southworth, Helen
Mudie, George Speller, Rt Hon John
Mullin, Chris Squire, Rachel
Munn, Ms Meg Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Steinberg, Gerry
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Stinchcombe, Paul
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Stoate, Dr Howard
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
O'Neill, Martin Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Öpik, Lembit Stunell, Andrew
Organ, Diana Tami, Mark
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr) Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Owen, Albert Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pearson, Ian Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Perham, Linda Taylor, Dr Richard (Wyre F)
Picking, Anne Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pickthall, Colin Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Pike, Peter Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Plaskitt, James Thurso, John
Pollard, Kerry Timms, Stephen
Pond, Chris Tipping, Paddy
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Todd, Mark
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Price, Adam Touhig, Don
Primarolo, Dawn Trickett, Jon
Prosser, Gwyn Truswell, Paul
Pugh, Dr John Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Purchase, Ken Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Purnell, James Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Quinn, Lawrie Tyler, Paul
Rammell, Bill Vaz, Keith
Rapson, Syd Ward, Claire
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick Wareing, Robert N
Reed, Andy (Loughborough) Watson, Tom
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute) Watts, David
Rendel, David Webb, Steve
Robertson, Angus (Moray) Weir, Michael
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Wicks, Malcolm
Roche, Mrs Barbara Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Roy, Frank Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Ruane, Chris Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Ruddock, Joan Willis, Phil
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Wilson, Brian
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Winnick, David
Sanders, Adrian Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Sarwar, Mohammad Wishart, Pete
Savidge, Malcolm Wood, Mike
Sawford, Phil Woodward, Shaun
Shaw, Jonathan Worthington, Tony
Sheerman, Barry Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Sheridan, Jim Wright, David (Telford)
Short, Rt Hon Clare Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Singh, Marsha Younger—Ross, Richard
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S) Derek Twigg and
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Joan Ryan.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


That this House expresses its grave concern at the abuse of human rights and suppression of freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, the increase in poverty arising from the policies of the ruling party, and the impending humanitarian crisis in the country; reaffirms the view that the outcome of the recent Presidential election does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people; recognises the need for Land Reform but also recognises that this needs to be done responsibly; welcomes the actions taken on Zimbabwe by Her Majesty's Government in co-operation with the EU, the Commonwealth, the US and others; further welcomes the efforts of the Governments of South Africa and Nigeria to facilitate dialogue between ZANU (PF) and MDC, and deplores ZANU (PF)'s withdrawal from these talks; further welcomes the Government's commitment of £32 million to humanitarian relief in Zimbabwe outside official channels; and calls on the Government to encourage other donors to stand by the people of Zimbabwe at this difficult time.