HL Deb 15 July 2002 vol 637 cc956-8

2.44 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What decisions were reached at the G8 Summit in Canada about the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) and in particular Zimbabwe.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, at the G8 summit leaders welcomed the initiative taken by African leaders in adopting the New Partnership for Africa's Development. They agreed to build a new way of working together, focusing especially on those countries that demonstrate commitment to good governance, that invest in their people and that pursue policies that spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. There are no specific references to Zimbabwe in the G8 Action Plan for Africa. But it makes clear commitments to respond to NePAD efforts to improve governance across Africa.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Can she assure the House that the Commonwealth initiative at the African Union meeting in Duban last week is not a road to compromise on its previous decision to suspend? Considering that Zimbabwe was suspended because of a fraudulent presidential election, can she assure the House that the Government will not support any move to remove the suspension until a free and fair election is held?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, as I understand the situation, there are parallel initiatives. Noble Lords will know that the governments of South Africa and Nigeria sought to facilitate dialogue between the two political parties in Zimbabwe. Commonwealth leaders suspended Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth. It is suspended for one year. That remains the position. The UK Government support it.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

My Lords, many international gatherings are considering Zimbabwe, and the situation gets worse. Bearing in mind that Mr Mugabe is a member of the Roman Catholic Church—I am not sure of what standing—does the Minister agree that it may be opportune for Her Majesty's Government and to the world community to ask the Vatican to intercede in this great tragedy?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, that is one suggestion. Noble Lords will know that we have sought to ensure that we pursue all avenues. We are concerned about Zimbabwe, particularly the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the economic mismanagement, which is having an impact on the countries in the region. I shall certainly take back the noble Lord's idea.

Lord Hughes of Woodside

My Lords, did the G8 summit discuss the problems of Angola? Coming out of the war into peace has proved much more difficult than one imagined, because of both the scale of the poverty and the scale of the hunger caused by the war. What is being done to make sure that food aid especially is made available and to bring about a quick improvement to the situation?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, there was discussion of Angola. The G8 action plan makes reference to three specific conflicts where the international community, and in particular the G8 countries, feel that there needs to be concerted international action; that is, the Sudan, the D RC and Angola. We remain committed to work with the UN and others not only to get food aid into Angola but also to those from UNITA who are disarming and demobilising. We shall continue to do that, but the situation remains difficult in terms of distribution channels.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, does the Minister accept that having tried to deal with problems in South Africa over a period of six years, I understand well the frustrating difficulties of trying to grapple with a situation of this kind from thousands of miles away? Does she further agree that if international pressure is to have the effect that we would all wish upon the catastrophic tragedy in Zimbabwe, it needs to be pervasive, comprehensive—not least throughout Africa—and sustained unflinchingly on every possible occasion?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I totally agree with the noble and learned Lord. In my comments to this House. I have made that absolutely clear. It is particularly important that that pressure comes from governments within Africa and from the neighbouring countries that are being severely affected economically by the mismanagement of the Zimbabwe economy.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, can the Minister tell us what immediate steps are being taken by the G8 countries, including the United Kingdom, to deal with the unfolding tragedy in Malawi? It is estimated, as the Minister will know, that something like one-third of children are close to starvation? Can she say what steps are being taken urgently to try to relieve this unfolding catastrophe?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the food aid and famine situation not only in Zimbabwe but across the southern African region is deeply distressing and difficult. Malawi is one example. We have been working with the World Food Programme. At a meeting in South Africa it laid out for the international community the situation facing the whole region. We have been working with it and with non-governmental organisations to facilitate the delivery of food aid to Malawi. The pressing and immediate issue is humanitarian, but we will continue to work with the Government of Malawi on a longer-term, bilateral basis to try to ensure that such situations are not repeated.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the reaction of the African states to Mr Mugabe at the African Union meeting presided over by President Gaddafi was not exactly reassuring? Can she tell the House precisely what we are to urge at the General Affairs Council on the 22nd of this month? Will we urge that pressure be brought to bear by all European countries on all their African partners to ensure that maize is planted now for next year? Will the question of HIV also be considered, as most of the HIV clinics, which are partly run by farmers' wives on farms, are closing? Finally, will anything be done to prevent the families of Ministers travelling, not just the Ministers themselves?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the travel ban is a European Union ban. I am sure that it will be considered again at the GAC meeting next Monday. It will be for the EU to decide whether to extend the ban as the noble Baroness suggests. We have been pressing our EU partners and working with them consistently over Zimbabwe, so that is not a new item on the agenda for consideration on Monday. The dialogue will continue.

On HIV/AIDS, the noble Baroness will be aware that that is an area in which we have continued our bilateral assistance to Zimbabwe because of the terrible impact that it is having on ordinary Zimbabweans.

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