§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord Astor of Hever rose to call attention to the situation in Zimbabwe; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I open this debate in place of my noble friend Lord Blaker, who has unfortunately been taken ill. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing him a very speedy recovery.
§ I am grateful to my noble friend for securing this important debate and pay tribute to him for consistently keeping the tragic events in Zimbabwe before your Lordships' House. I am baffled as to why, with the crisis in Zimbabwe having loomed large on the radar screen of both the foreign policy and international development agendas, Her Majesty's Government have not found time for a full debate in government time either here or in another place.
§ I know that my noble friend Lord Blaker shares my concern that Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth should not mean Zimbabwe off the radar screen. I am encouraged that the chairman, President Obasanjo of Nigeria and the Secretary-General have given assurances that, despite Zimbabwe's withdrawal, the Commonwealth will remain engaged in the search for a solution to the crisis.258
Sadly, as the Foreign Secretary admitted in his letter to the England and Wales Cricket Board last week:
The situation in Zimbabwe is bleak, and is deteriorating".
§ I am disappointed that, in his conclusion to that letter, he failed to follow the precedent set by James Callaghan in 1970 when, as Home Secretary, he "formally requested" the International Cricket Council to call off South Africa's tour. I hope that the Foreign Secretary might be prevailed upon to show the leadership that his office demands rather than passing the buck to the ECB—especially in view of the threat from the ICC of heavy financial penalties.
The Foreign Secretary's letter pointed out that:
The UK is the biggest cash donor to the humanitarian emergency in Zimbabwe, having donated over £62 million since September 2001".
§ That massive contribution towards feeding 6 million people—half the country's population—is necessary, not because of a natural disaster but as a result of corruption in high places, economic ineptitude and political design.
§ Therefore, it is worrying, although not surprising, to read recent reports that the Grain Marketing Board, controlled by the Government of Zimbabwe, is deliberately withholding supplies from the commercial market, apparently so that the grain can be used as an electoral bribe in forthcoming elections.
The director of the UN's World Food Programme in Zimbabwe, Kevin Farrell, has asked for that stockpile to be released. To those of us with a suspicious mind, there is more than one way of interpreting the response from Colonel Samuel Muvhuti, the GMB's chairman. He said:
As soon as we feel there are areas where we need to pay urgent attention, we distribute".
§ I hope that the Minister will tell the House what the Government are doing in response to those reports. At the very least, we need to know what impact this action by the GMB is having on the commercial food market in Zimbabwe and on food security for the population.
Together with the thousands of acres of arable land in Zimbabwe lying uncultivated because of the corrupt and chaotic land reform programme, such stockpiling appears to be politicisation of food on a grand scale. It is an international scandal, with implications for the entire region. The ZANU-PF leadership is heavily implicated in many of the scams and corruption connected with the Grain Marketing Board monopoly. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that Her Majesty's Government have been energetic in following up on the Prime Minister's undertaking, given in December after his return from CHOGM. Referring to the measures that we have taken with our EU partners, he said:
We keep under review the number of people whom we can extend the sanctions to and it is certainly worth considering business people and others".
§ In the light of that, how many new names have been added to the travel-ban and asset-freeze list over the past 12 months? This week, the MDC delegation in 259 Brussels called for the names of businessmen and the upper echelons of the military and police to be included.
§ It is important that the ZANU-PF does not feel that it is winning by using one of its favourite tactics of simply fatiguing its opponents. Unless the use of targeted sanctions is seen to be a dynamic process, its impact will be dulled. I believe we can easily underestimate the effect that these measures can have on the listed individuals. I personally have heard, as have a number of other noble Lords, Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo and Professor Welshman Ncube, general secretary of the MDC—both outspoken opponents of the Mugabe regime—say that targeted sanctions are an important tool in isolating and embarrassing the ZANU-PF leadership.
§ The regime is kept in place through a system of patronage and corruption that, with the economy in chaos, has been gasping for the oxygen of hard currency. The banking system is teetering on the brink of collapse, with possible grave consequences for the stability of the financial system of the entire region. In this, as in so many other ways, the crisis in Zimbabwe is more than simply an internal crisis. I hope that the FCO and the Bank of England are in serious dialogue with the British banks that have a presence in Zimbabwe to ensure that they are fastidious in declining any connection with the tangled web of ZANU-PF-linked businesses and financial institutions.
§ In the past, Mugabe has found an ally in President Gaddafi, who has provided Zimbabwe with oil. There have been frequent reports that some of Zimbabwe's most lucrative assets have been handed over or mortgaged to him in return for that lifeline. I hope that the thaw in relations between the US/UK and Libya will mean that pressure can be applied on President Gaddafi to distance himself from the Zimbabwe regime. We must ask Libya to withdraw any continuing financial support and its moral support at assemblies, such as the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights.
§ I am enough of a cynic to suspect that the recent statements from President Mbeki of South Africa concerning a breakthrough on inter-party talks were not much more than part of a window-dressing exercise to persuade our European partners to oppose the renewal of sanctions at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council. President Mbeki appears to be playing a double game—promising to bring about talks and a settlement to the crisis when, in fact, he is simply buying Mugabe time and rallying support for him in the international arena.
§ During his visit to London last week, President Obasanjo echoed the message about a breakthrough on talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC. Senior figures in both parties have dismissed that claim and deny that any progress has been made towards talks. I remind the House that inter-party talks can only be the beginning of the process, not the end. Talks must only 260 be seen as the first stepping stone towards the free and fair elections that Zimbabweans have been denied for too long and which Mugabe knows he would lose.
§ President Mbeki has been promising a settlement of the Zimbabwe issue for a long time. It is now nearly four years since he promised to achieve a solution through quiet diplomacy at the Victoria Falls meeting. More recently he promised a solution by September of last year. Now he promises one by June of this year. The ever-receding horizon prolongs the agony of the people of Zimbabwe, and makes the journey back to economic viability longer, more painful and vastly more expensive to us and other members of the international donor community.
§ It is now apparent that the failure of Her Majesty's Government to take a firm line at the beginning of this crisis sent all the wrong signals to Mugabe. If the reaction to his increasing oppression and disregard for democracy had been unequivocal, he might have been restrained.
§ When there was widespread disquiet about the conduct of elections in 2000 the international community, the EU and the US expected Britain to take the lead, but none was forthcoming. If Britain, with her historical ties and close links with people of all races in Zimbabwe, was not prepared to take the lead, who else could be expected to do so?
§ We heard brave words from the Prime Minister at the Labour Party conference in 2001, but there was a loss of nerve. The rest of the world waited for Britain to seize the initiative, only to find a vacuum. Expressions of concern—or even of grave concern— were of little more irritation to Mugabe than a fly whisk.
§ When a delegation of the MDC leadership addressed some Members of this House last November, they repeated several times their call for Britain to take a lead in rallying international condemnation of the regime. They recognised that a policy of tip-toeing around for fear of upsetting Mugabe's supposed sensitivities had simply allowed him to set the agenda. When the Anglican Bishop of Manicaland visited London, he pointed out that things could hardly get worse in Zimbabwe, and that pressure should be put on its Government from whatever quarter.
Kofi Annan made an important statement when addressing the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1999, which he repeated when addressing the Commission again in 2002. He said:
No government has the right to hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate the human rights or fundamental freedoms of its peoples".
§ Leaders of African nations need to be left in no doubt that we regard their support of the Mugabe regime with horror.
§ Together with our partners in the G8, we must make it clear that the developed world will lose confidence in Africa if its leaders are seen to shield tyrants from censure and sanctions. NePAD, with its much-trumpeted peer review mechanism, lies utterly 261 discredited by the failure of its architects to address the blatant violation of all standards of good governance by the ZANU-PF regime.
§ The fact that President Mbeki failed to carry with him the majority of the heads of government from the African region at CHOGM is an encouraging sign. I hope that the noble Baroness will persuade her ministerial colleagues that the received view that African nations will always act en bloc, and in support of Mugabe, has now been proved to be wrong. That opens up the possibility of moving forward in the UN and securing resolutions calling for the respect of human rights and democratic freedoms in Zimbabwe. Surely the time has now come to seek constructive engagement with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.
§ I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give a clear commitment to helping Zimbabwe plan for free and fair elections as soon as possible. A vital part of that process is persuading the people of Zimbabwe that the international community really is committed to guaranteeing the implementation of the outcome for which they vote. We should already be putting in place detailed plans for substantial financial and technical assistance to support the democratic process before, during and after elections.
§ My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord Hughes of Woodside
My Lords, I begin by offering my sincere good wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, who is ill. We have been sparring partners over Zimbabwe and other issues for perhaps too long, but we agree that the situation in Zimbabwe is extremely serious; it is very dangerous and is getting worse. We agree entirely that the Government of Zimbabwe are engaged in intimidation. They misuse food aid and UK Government-funded programmes to favour ZANU-PF, and act against the MDC and the people of Zimbabwe. Any differences between us are not about the substance of the issue, but about how best to proceed—how to make a difference for the future.
I say immediately that pressure on the Government in Zimbabwe must be kept up, enforced and pursued with all vigour. I have no quarrel with that. I also believe that the proposed cricket tour should not go ahead. I would give every support to the Government, the England and Wales Cricket Board, or whoever is responsible, to ensure that that tour does not happen.
It is a strange position. When we used to argue for sanctions in the old anti-apartheid days, we were told, "They do not work. They only hurt the people you want to help". We were told that sporting sanctions were no good because the white population in South Africa would simply dig in its heels. Now it seems that the need for sanctions in Zimbabwe is the received wisdom in every quarter. I have no quarrel with that, and I make no accusation that those who have 262 changed their minds over the years do so from money-based motives. I believe that they have changed their minds because it has now been recognised that we were right to call for sanctions.
The sanctions imposed on South Africa were not so hugely damaging that they brought the economy down, but they made a serious dent in its economy. There is no doubt that the sporting sanctions had an effect, and concentrated people's minds.
It is mindless to impose sanctions without an end to them. We must have some idea of what we want to achieve. It is true that different signals are coming out of Zimbabwe. The MDC has said that if there have been talks, no one has told it anything about them. There are suggestions, which the noble Lord, Lord Astor, has amply demonstrated this evening, that President Mbeki is playing a funny old game and is not serious. However, I draw the attention of the House to the statement issued by Paul Themba Nyathi, the MDC secretary for information and publicity, which was issued on 22 January this year, headed:Mugabe Needs to Add Substance to Mbeki's Encouraging Announcement".It states:Today's comments by President Thabo Mbeki, suggesting that President Mugabe has agreed to enter formal talks with the MDC, are deeply encouraging. Similarly, we were encouraged when Mbeki made the same announcement after his visit to Harare back in December.Following Mbeki's comments back in December our initial sense of encouragement has been replaced by a degree of scepticism as to the nature of Mugabe's commitment to a process of dialogue".We would agree with that. The statement continues:To date, Mugabe and Zanu PF have taken no steps that would indicate a commitment to enter into a process of formal dialogue to end the country's multi-faceted crisis. There have been no approaches to the MDC whatsoever. In fact it has been business as usual with court orders being ignored and political violence carrying on relentlessly.If Mugabe has given President Mbeki renewed undertakings that he is prepared to begin negotiations then Mugabe himself needs to formally announce, to the people of Zimbabwe, that dialogue is to take place. Mugabe and Zanu PF need to demonstrate a tangible commitment to dialogue. The MDC is ready for dialogue, as we unequivocally stated in December, but while we wait for Zanu PF the people's suffering continues".I have read that in full because I believe that it spells out exactly the difficulties for the MDC. I would certainly ask President Mugabe, immediately and publicly, to welcome the progress made by President Mbeki and publicly and unequivocally to throw his weight behind discussion.
The question that I ask—I believe it is relevant—is: what are the discussions to be about? There are perhaps two schools of thought; there are different ideas. I know that not every noble Lord in the Chamber will agree with what I am saying but I have taken this view and if they dislike it they are perfectly free to challenge it. It is over-simplistic to take the view that all that is necessary is to get rid of Mugabe and that once he has gone everything will settle down into sweetness and light. Unfortunately that is not true, the fact is that there are serious and more dangerous issues. Intimidation runs from the top to the bottom of 263 ZANU-PF and that intimidation—that attempt to use violence to impose ZANU-PF's will—has gone on for 20 or 30 years or even longer. It was said at the time of the unilateral declaration of independence that the two armies of ZANU and ZAPU spent more time fighting one another than they did fighting Smith. At times some critical comments have been made about the attempt to form a patriotic front in which the two sides could come together.
There are two schools of thought. One is that the discussions should attempt to set aside the result of the previous election. I accept entirely—I believe that it is universally agreed and accepted—that the previous election was rigged beyond belief. There is no doubt about that. But I do not believe that it is realistic to approach a dialogue in the present circumstances on the basis that the results of the previous election be set aside. Elections are due next year. We should look to the future without in any way accepting the validity of past elections or saying that, "It was all right so we do not need to worry about it". That is not the case at all.
Some say that a government of national unity should be set up. There are some attractions to that and there are some dangers in it. Some would say that if that were to happen, ZANU-PF would be let off the hook and that change would not take place. The participation of the MDC in a government of national unity would lead to the MDC being compromised and contaminated. If the general public of Zimbabwe, who are anti ZANU-PF, were to become disillusioned with the MDC, what would happen? What then would be the prospect? That is far too serious to contemplate or to voice.
Nevertheless, it is wrong to reject entirely a government of national unity. Provided the objectives of a government of national unity are clear cut, specific and time limited, it may provide a way to the future. The first objective of a government of national unity must be to prepare the ground for free and fair elections. We want to see the next elections being free and fair. The elections are not far away. As the noble Lord, Lord Astor, said, four years ago there were talks with the Government but nothing has happened and, therefore, we need urgent and speedy action. I do not expect speedy action; I do not believe that once the government talks begin they will resolve the issue very quickly, but they have to be held and considered.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that there is a possibility that next year's elections may have to be postponed to achieve free and fair elections. I understand that that will be looked at with horror because there are huge dangers in saying that if the time is too short the elections will have to be postponed. The acceptance of such a proposition may simply lead ZANU-PF to come to the conclusion that we would be quite happy to allow matters to drift on with no change. The last sentence of the MDC press release states:while we wait for Zanu PF the people's suffering continues".We must bear that in mind as well. There is no doubt that such discussions must take place.
264 It is worth casting our minds back in history as sometimes we can learn from it. It may seem unlikely now, but when Nelson Mandela began his dialogue with the South African government and the South African National Party there were some who questioned the wisdom of that; some said that that was the wrong way to go about it and yet it worked. When I first had the privilege to meet Nelson Mandela at the Namibian independence celebrations he said to me that I must not expect that the discussions that they were having would lead to instantaneous results; that the discussions between the ANC and the government would continue; and that there would be periods when we thought there was great progress, periods when we thought that the whole situation would be reversed and periods when we thought that the whole exercise would fail. He said that we must have faith in the discussions and negotiations as being the only way forward.
Of course, I accept that there is no one on the scene in Zimbabwe like President Mandela and I accept that there was no one in Zimbabwe like President de Klerk. Those are two characters of immense vision who decided that they had to resolve the situation and they talked. Nevertheless, I believe that discussion is the only possible way forward. While we continue our pressure on the Zimbabwean Government and while we continue to insist that what the Government are doing is wrong—we make the right noises at the right times—we must also encourage the process of dialogue.
I know a considerable number of people in ZANU-PF. I am horrified by what some of them are doing and I can hardly believe what some of them are saying. However, there are also sufficient numbers of people in ZANU-PF to bring about a change. Although I said that the removal of President Mugabe would not bring instant results and make everything fine, the fact is that he cannot go on for ever. I believe that there is sufficient questioning within ZANU-PF to help that situation, but above all we must realise that if we do not solve the situation in Zimbabwe—it is important in its own right that it is resolved—the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe must be foremost in our minds. If we do not get the matter right, the peace and stability of the whole of southern Africa is in danger and the prospect of that is hugely frightening for us all.
When I speak and think about Zimbabwe and when I discuss it with my friends I have great mood changes. I swing from a mood of some optimism—rarely extreme optimism—to one of great pessimism. We must persevere. While it is right that the Opposition should press for change, I believe that this is an issue on which there should be a bipartisan approach between us and that we should all work together for the common good of the people of Zimbabwe.
§ 6.49 p.m.
My Lords, I too should like to send my best wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, on introducing the debate with such an interesting speech. 265 Taking up his point on cricket, I would adapt the old slogan, "Don't play games with apartheid" to a new slogan, "Don't play games with ZANU-PF".
The thought of anti-apartheid makes me say how honoured I am to follow my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside, who had such a distinguished record in fighting apartheid, and who made such a thoughtful speech this evening.
South Africa and Britain appear to diverge in their goals for the political future of Zimbabwe. President Mbeki has continually stressed his desire for a government of national unity, but he is silent about the need for democratic elections. The Foreign Secretary spelled out Britain's policy last July in his response to the report on Zimbabwe by the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. He said:We stand ready to work with any new administration in Zimbabwe which has been democratically elected by the Zimbabwean people in a process that is transparent and demonstrably free and fair and which is committed to respecting human rights and the rule of law".The Government are in close touch with South Africa. Surely they must strive to persuade President Mbeki that the rebirth of Zimbabwe should be the joint goal of the two countries, and that the way to achieve that is by free and fair elections. Starting afresh must be the aim; not a formula lacking the approval of the Zimbabwean people. Mr Mbeki's government of national unity would probably comprise a ZANU-PF core with some MDC ministers grafted on to it. In 1988 ZANU-PF gobbled up the last serious opposition party—ZAPU. Any MDC Minister who joined a ZANU-PF government would have to tread very, very carefully.
I say this with all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, who I know will speak about national governments: some temporary transitional political authority would be required to bring the country to elections. Lesotho had such an authority in 1998. Zimbabwe could learn valuable lessons from that example.
Land has been a huge issue in Zimbabwe since the 1890s. An incoming democratic government will need a proper land-use plan to consult. Such a plan would assess how much of the land should be for peasant farming, how much for small-scale farming and how much for commercial farming.
Land tenure for farming is vital. Two of my nephews, who had their farms in Zimbabwe confiscated, have been welcomed for their expertise in Zambia, which I know will please the noble Viscount, Lord Goshen. There they have bought farms from the government on 99-year leases. Might long leases be the way forward for land tenure in Zimbabwe? Government ownership might soothe political sensitivities, while the length of the lease might give sufficient tenure to farmers. When I speak of the farmers, I speak of farmers at all levels, not just the commercial farmers; I mean the commercial, the small-scale and the peasant farmers.
266 For decades, tobacco has been the great Zimbabwean cash crop and foreign exchange earner. With the world tobacco market likely to shrink, finding alternative foreign exchange earning crops will be all important. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the obvious body to draw up a land plan for the use of a democratic Zimbabwean government. The UNDP was charged under the Abuja Agreement on land reform of 2001 to work with ZANU-PF and others on a land reform programme. But that agreement was aborted. Now the UNDP should be galvanised into producing an up-to-date land plan, including the aspects that I have mentioned.
With the destruction of commercial farming by ZANU-PF, as well as erratic rains last season, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will be feeding 4.5 million of the 5.5 million vulnerable people who by March will be dependent on gifts of food to stay alive. That is nearly half the total population of 11.6 million. An examination of those vulnerable people reveals much about today's Zimbabwe. One must start with the orphans. There are more than 1 million orphans under the age of 14—nearly 10 per cent of the population. Of those orphans, 782,000 are the children of parents who have died of AIDS.
One-third of the population aged 15 to 49—some 1.8 million people—the majority of them women, have HIV or AIDS. Unless properly fed, the chance of those with HIV getting AIDS increases. As 3,200 people are dying of AIDS each week, there will be many more AIDS orphans.
Then there are 300,000 former commercial farm workers, each averaging five dependants—a total of 1.8 million people. Most are unemployed, while those employed on newly-settled commercial farms are not paid enough to buy sufficient food. Nearly all those people need feeding from outside sources.
Moreover, the patchy rains have produced patchy crops for peasant farmers, some of whom have not grown sufficient mealies to feed themselves. I think that we have all talked about Zimbabwe so often that I am allowed to say "mealies" without explaining that it means maize. In Matabeleland many cattle raisers have had to slaughter their stock to pay for food and are now dependent on the WFP.
Finally, mention must be made of the hordes of urban people without jobs. Unemployment nationally is between 70 and 80 per cent.
Zimbabweans owe a huge debt of gratitude to the WFP. I, as a former Zimbabwean, should like to single out and record my gratitude to Britain for the huge amount of aid it has given. But I think I will be saying thank you to Britain again and again. For even when a democratically elected government comes to power, the task of reconstruction will be colossal, and the equivalent of Marshall Aid required for Zimbabwe will be vast.
267 The Foreign Secretary, in his response to the Select Committee, said:With the rest of the international community including International Financial Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, we will help a democratically accountable Zimbabwe with a reconstruction package aimed at turning its economy around".Those words "democratically accountable" bring us full circle. President Mbeki's government of national unity would not be "democratically accountable", and under his plan Zimbabwe would in all probability continue to spiral ever downwards. Britain and its allies must press the South African president to seek proper democratic elections and thus, at last, bring hope for the future of Zimbabwe.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord St John of Bletso
My Lords, I join noble Lords in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, a speedy recovery. I am pleased that your Lordships' House has never allowed the situation in Zimbabwe to slip off the agenda. I am grateful to, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and of course the noble Lord, Lord Astor, who very ably introduced the debate, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, for keeping the subject under review during the past few years.
Throughout this period I have shared the general sense of alarm and consternation at the escalation of violence and abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, the deteriorating, social, economic and of course political situation—and its repeated deterioration, as we hear from these reports on a weekly basis.
However, I confess that, in consistently advocating an African solution to an African problem, in believing that megaphone diplomacy from afar will be counter-productive, I have sometimes felt a little like the black sheep of the family. Having the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, speaking after me, I expect a little bit of flak after what I have to say today.
Despite the severe reservations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Astor, of the broken promises and, in his words, "the window dressing" of President Thabo Mbeki, I believe that the quiet diplomacy of various African leaders—I refer not just to President Mbeki and President Obasanjo but also to many other African leaders who of late have had meetings with President Mbeki—has been paying dividends. Obviously, President Mbeki has been at the forefront of and the front man for the negotiations.
There have been some positive developments. I really believe that the undertakings given by President Mbeki to our Prime Minister last year, as well as to President Bush, that there would be a change to the Zimbabwe constitution leading to the reintroduction of the position of Prime Minister, thereby laying the foundations for a government of national unity in that country, will be fulfilled. Moreover, President Mugabe will stay on as president but will be stripped of his executive powers and retain merely his ceremonial powers.
The big question is: when? The efforts to cajole Mugabe to accept change should be supported because they involve the only real prospect of relatively 268 peaceful transition from cruel dictatorship to genuine democracy. I appreciate the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Astor, that all the delays are causing the country more and more harm.
The process has not been easy, not least at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last year, when the issue of whether to continue Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation— essentially, whether to present the stick or the carrot to Mugabe—proved extremely divisive among African leaders. In my opinion, the ultimate decision to uphold the suspension—to keep wielding the stick—was correct, even if Mugabe then attempted to save face in his country by withdrawing from the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth continues to play an important role, despite the suspension, and that, in his heart, Mugabe wants to rejoin it.
Although, as I said, I support the call of the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, for effective, targeted sanctions against ZANU-PF leaders, an important element of the diplomatic process has been to maintain a balance between the stick and the carrot. It was significant that two of the three Commonwealth leaders designated to engage Mugabe—President Obasanjo and Prime Minister Howard—felt that there had simply not been sufficient developments in Zimbabwe to merit lifting the suspension.
I say that given that there had been a perception that President Obasanjo and President Mbeki were always of one voice. I had the good fortune to meet and have a lengthy conversation with President Obasanjo last week. He was firmly committed to his decision to suspend Zimbabwe and was definitely at odds with President Mbeki. In that context, President Obasanjo is emerging as a key player in the process, not least because he remains in regular contact with President Mugabe—he calls him Bob. Well informed sources suggest that his persistent approach—that Mugabe should transform himself from the problem to the solution by relinquishing executive power—will succeed.
I am aware that President Obasanjo met the Prime Minister in Teeside last Thursday and subsequently met various Commonwealth colleagues last Friday. Can the Minister give us an update on those discussions?
President Mbeki's reported statement last Thursday that a deal had finally been struck to ensure progress by June has prompted genuine hope. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, cited a statement from the MDC. I shall cite a few lines from zimbabwenews.com of last Friday. It reads:President Mbeki of South Africa yesterday claimed to have made an agreement with President Mugabe that the Zimbabwean leader would negotiate with the Opposition to end his country's devastating political and economic crisis. Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria with Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, Mr Mbeki said that he had mediated a deal lasi month that had been delayed only because of the Christmas holidays. 'I'm happy to say that they … will go into formal negotiations,' the South African leader said".269 It continues:'"Our position is that we have heard it all before,' Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary-general, said. 'We will believe it when it happens. It is better for Mugabe to speak for himself and say he is willing to talk unconditionally'".I believe that we are in the end-game, although I appreciate that many observers fear that this may be just another in the line of false dawns.
President Mbeki has announced one more positive development. He recently enlisted the help of a number of prominent black business leaders in South Africa to approach President Mugabe to make him aware of the region's blunt economic realities: in essence, that Zimbabwe's instability is contagious and that time is running out to secure a solution. That powerful business delegation, which will include Tokyo Sexwale and, possibly, Cyril Ramaphosa, is preparing to visit Zimbabwe in the next couple of weeks.
That new business initiative is significant because it addresses what many in southern Africa believe has been an underlying factor in President Mbeki's apparent reluctance to confront Mugabe. A theory in South Africa has been that it is not just that he is his old freedom colleague and comrade; it has been a fear of advancing trade union power in the region. It is held—I say this from President Mbeki's point of view—that the strongest potential source of real opposition to the ANC Government lies in the union movement. The theory runs that an example of union power within the MDC in Zimbabwe would not serve the general interests of the ANC Government in South Africa. Those specific fears would appear to be allayed by the installation of a government of national unity promoted and supported by business.
One outstanding issue is whether the deal should agree to requests for amnesty from several leading members of the Mugabe regime. It is beyond question that there have been many appalling abuses of human rights in that country, but many people believe that nothing—not even that—can be allowed to get in the way of a lasting settlement and restoration of a just democracy.
That appears to be the tone and direction of the ongoing African diplomatic process. That is cause for optimism. There is real hope that the Zimbabwe crisis will soon be relieved and that that will give new momentum to NePAD and real hope that the vision of an African renaissance will materialise. In recent months, positive developments in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes district have tended to be overshadowed by the escalating situation in Zimbabwe, but the underlying trend in Africa is bold and encouraging.
Moreover, the Government deserve credit for the quiet and necessarily understated role that they continue to play in those developments. The facts of history mean that Britain must always be wary of exposing itself to accusations of arrogant, heavy-handed colonialism, but the Government have recently shown an understanding of the issues and emerged as a constructive influence.
270 My only suggestion is that the Government do more to consolidate their standing in the minds of important African leaders and might gain from an intensive public relations offensive about what they have done. I say that because, when the Government are accused of reneging on the Lancaster House agreement, rather than shrug our shoulders, there would be no harm in laying out the facts and proving that we have not reneged on it.
Similarly, as the noble Lord, Lord Acton, mentioned, every African leader should be aware that Britain is, and has been, one of the major aid donors in Africa and is heavily committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS and the relief of famine in Zimbabwe. Sometimes perhaps our natural reserve allows us to become an easy target and we should be more pro-active in announcing our record.
In conclusion, while I support the calls of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for effective targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe, I believe that Britain should continue to play a quiet and constructive role in supporting the bold diplomatic initiatives to resolve the situation in that country. We have been patient for many months. I believe that our patience will soon be rewarded.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the measured and helpful way in which my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever introduced the debate and set the tone for this interesting discussion. I also thank him for taking over the debate which was in the name of my noble friend Lord Blaker. I join other noble Lords in sending my best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.
The crisis in and collapse of Zimbabwe continues and is not improving. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, that we are in the end game for ZANU-PF. But in any conflict of this nature, we need to be thinking about the end game now, not when it occurs. On that aspect, Britain has a lead role to play in the world. I also agree with other noble Lords that Britain has nothing to be ashamed of in the way that it has behaved towards Zimbabwe since the Lancaster House agreement; and that needs to be stressed.
One of the most significant social consequences of the economic and social collapse of Zimbabwe since 1997 is in the field of human flight. It is now estimated that up to 4.5 million Zimbabweans have left the country since 1997. This represents 30 per cent of the total population and close to half the adult population. About 2 million Zimbabweans have moved to South Africa, of whom 1.3 million are illegal immigrants. Up to half the populations in squatter camps are now estimated to be Zimbabweans by origin. Mozambique and Botswana bear a similar burden. Although the embassies are engaged in a desperate effort to halt the flow by imposing restrictions on visas, it is not slowing the tide. There are about 1 million Zimbabweans elsewhere overseas.
Then there are the missing 1.4 million people who should be alive and living in Zimbabwe and who are not in the diaspora. Where are they? Here there are 271 some really shocking figures. About 2 million are HIV positive. Two-thirds, nearly 1.3 million, are women and girls. Sixteen per cent of all women who give birth die in childbirth: that is one woman in every six who bears a child. Infant mortality has doubled in the past three years, driven in part by the HIV crisis. They have 600,000 full blown AIDS cases with barely a few hundred on any sort of treatment regime.
Historically, Zimbabwe has a population that has grown at a rate of about 3 per cent per annum, births outstripping deaths by three to one. Now the ratio is tipped in the opposite direction. By my calculations, with human flight plus deaths, the population is now declining at a rate of nearly 2 per cent per annum. But worse than that, the majority of this decline is among the young people—their best educated and most experienced people, people on whom the future depends. Zimbabwe has lost 20,000 trained and experienced teachers in the past three years, with similar numbers of nurses and doctors. As a consequence their social institutions on whom their human welfare depends are now almost at the point of collapse.
There are epidemics of tuberculosis and malaria— diseases they believed they had defeated years ago. The average life expectancy has dropped from 59 years in 1990 to 33 years in 2003. There are nearly 1 million orphans in their education system. Recently the head of a major high school in Harare said that half of her first year intake this year were full orphans, both parents dead. If we take into account the numbers with one parent—the other either dead or absent—the numbers rise to a clear majority. The social implications, let alone the economic implications of this massive dislocation of normal family life, are impossible to calculate. The burden on the remaining breadwinners who must try to support this enormous burden within the extended family system is now impossible.
School enrolment, once estimated to be close to 95 per cent in primary schools, has fallen and less than one-third of all girls of school-going age are now in school. Literacy and numeracy, once the highest in the sub-region, are declining. What a tragic waste of all the money already pumped into the Zimbabwean economy by other countries.
The situation is not improving. Human rights are still being abused. Political violence continues. The latest by-election showed that the whole electoral process is still being abused and distorted in favour of the ruling party. In addition, the police and the courts are still playing the game the way the ruling party dictates with some notable exceptions—such as the support for the Daily News, on the streets on 22 January for the first time in five months.
There has been about one political killing per week so far this year. Other forms of political violence also continue. The dispossession of farm assets continues unabated. Economic collapse is accelerating. Food production this summer is expected to supply only about 35 per cent of all their food needs. Last year it was about 50 per cent. This is due to the continued 272 collapse of commercial agriculture and the decline in traditional forms of agriculture due to the decline in support services, previously based on commercial farming activity and extended to peasant agriculture. Shortages of seed and fertiliser have been serious. Industrial output is also in steep decline. Tourism shows no sign of recovery. The economy is expected to shrink another 10 per cent this year, the seventh year in a row.
The international community should be considering two issues. First, how to prevent widespread deaths from starvation and poverty in Zimbabwe without supporting the ZANU-PF claim that, "If you do not vote for us you will starve". Secondly, there are the talks which all noble Lords have mentioned.
There is an old adage in Zimbabwe. As leaders, the great difference between Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe was that when one reached an agreement with Joshua one shook hands on it and had a deal. When one shook hands with Robert, one had only his hand in yours: no deal was guaranteed at all. In December last year, President Mbeki went to Harare and held two meetings with President Mugabe and one with Morgan Tsvangirai. At the end of the discussions., the two leaders shook hands on the deal. A few hours later, President Mbeki went back to Pretoria. He thought he had got President Mugabe to agree to talks initiating a process which would eventually bring Zimbabwe back into the community of nations. But, if I am right, President Mbeki had simply had a chance to shake hands with President Mugabe, something he has done many times before. No agreement was really established in truth.
On 22 January, the quiet diplomat in Pretoria signalled that he was willing to "up the anti". He stated publicly in Pretoria that in December President Mugabe had agreed to start formal talks with the MDC in January 2004. As we have heard, the MDC immediately issued a statement saying that no talks were under way and there was no sign that ZANU-PF was prepared to enter into such a dialogue. The statement from the ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Mutasa, that talks were not contemplated, reinforced this stand. Once again, President Mbeki was wrong-footed by President Mugabe. Will ZANU-PF talk? Not unless it is forced to, just as it was in 1979, when the world community conspired together to end the political life of the Rhodesian Front and Abel Muzorewa.
If the talks start, are serious, and are on a formal basis, this is the end, and ZANU-PF has capitulated. That is what formal talks with the MDC must mean. They mean that ZANU-PF has accepted that it is in power illegally, that it no longer has a mandate to govern and that the road block into the community of nations involves facing a final electoral test under the new rules that will, almost certainly, result in a loss of power.
For some in ZANU-PF, such a development spells the end of the world. For President Mugabe and his cohorts, Msika, Moyo, Shiri, Chihuri, there can be no deals. For them, negotiations mean political, social, 273 and economic oblivion, perhaps even prison. They have their backs to the wall and are fighting back with all the skill and resources at their disposal. What is the Government's view of these people, who are criminals by any reasonable standards? Are they to be tried in due course, or are they, as African leaders, to be treated differently from Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic?
I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, on one technical point. He said, "an African solution for an African problem". Yes, but not in this case. We must have an even-handed world policy when it comes to ministerial criminals behaving in this way, no matter where it is in the world. If we treat African leaders differently from the way that other leaders are treated, Africa will only lose more credibility, and that is not what any of us would want.
For others, the status quo means huge losses as business empires fold and collapse. Some of the ZANU-PF hierarchy are now multi-millionaires in real money terms. They have created empires, and they think that they can survive a transition. This group is led by powerful elements such as Mujuru and Mnangagwa, and it is in favour of a change of leadership of ZANU-PF and negotiations leading to a restoration of international standing. ZANU-PF is now hopelessly split between these two factions, with President Mugabe mounting a full-scale attack on the reformists in recent weeks. Can the MDC govern on its own, which is what the electorate will probably want, or is the situation just too much of a mess? We have heard differing views tonight, from the noble Lord, Lord Acton, and others.
I wonder whether a government of reconciliation and national unity, as advocated by President Mbeki and endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, would not be better in the longer term. As we have seen in other African countries, it would not be a long-term solution, but one must practically help the Zimbabweans to move out of the rut that they are now in.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl will expand on that point. He said earlier that he thought that Joseph Msika and such people should have something terrible happen to them. Now, he wants them in a government of national unity. Is it both?
§ The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, no, the noble Lord has got me wrong. I was separating the two parts of ZANU-PF. There are those for whom negotiations spell the end of their world; and those—as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, reminded us—who want to see a change of leadership and see Zimbabwe continue. My underlying concern is that we have a horrible split in Zimbabwe between ZANU-PF and MDC. If there are elections and the MDC get in, are we still going to have that split that will prevent Zimbabwe from moving forward? That was my reason for suggesting, as the noble Lord said, a temporary way forward, to get that stability that Zimbabwe surely needs.
274 I hope that Britain will take a lead role. We have nothing to be ashamed of. If President Mbeki is the point man for the south African nations with regard to Zimbabwe, surely our Prime Minister, Mr Blair, is the point man for the rest of the world. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. I am not so sure that President Mbeki is still the right point man. He and President Mugabe are old friends, and they are stuck in the time warp of continually wanting to blame the old colonialists and colonial attitudes. That is outdated; it is long gone. There are new, young leaders in Africa who see past that and realise that something more must be done. I hope that the noble Baroness can tell us that there is a great deal of discussion, not just in the Commonwealth but in the UN, about a concerted approach to solving a very real problem for millions of people.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, this House has certainly not shirked its duty to keep Zimbabwe on the political agenda. Just because there is no one obvious solution that is being urged on Ministers, that should not mean that Back-Benchers from all sides of the House should not continue to press the Government to explain what pressure they are applying on various African leaders, on Mr Mugabe himself, on our European partners, and on colleagues around the world to try to bring a solution to this terrible situation.
It was extremely clear from the debate in the House this evening that no one thinks that we should look the other way. This is far too important to let slip from the international agenda. The debates in your Lordships' House are heard in Zimbabwe or at least are seen on paper. People listen to short wave broadcasts and reports on the Internet. It is encouraging for people in Zimbabwe to feel that their country has not been forgotten.
Archbishop Tutu was right to say that we should not have two standards for human rights, those for Africa and those for the rest of the world. My noble friend Lord Caithness made this point extremely forcefully. That is exactly what some leaders in Africa have implied when they seek to portray this situation in the old terminology of black versus white, haves versus have nots or colonialists versus nationalists. We are seeing the deliberate destruction of a once-prosperous country for the political and financial advantage of a small ruling elite.
We have heard some horror stories from all sides of the House about what is going on in Zimbabwe. I have received recent and personal briefings. We have heard about inflation touching 1,000 per cent. We have heard about banks with no money unable to honour cheques written in their name and about the destruction of 90 per cent of the farming infrastructure and of the national beef herd—an extremely serious development that will take time to put right. The confiscation of land is well rehearsed. There are terrible food shortages; the population is starving in some areas. Food aid is being used as a political weapon. Murder, rape and intimidation are organised by the state to 275 suppress the populace. If this is deemed acceptable to anyone in Africa, Heaven help that great continent. We all fear the implications for South Africa and other countries in the region.
Strong leadership must be taken up by other African leaders. One thinks of NePAD. This is exactly the sort of situation for which this organisation was set up. If the nettle is not grasped by Mugabe's peer group, NePAD will have failed. There are serious implications for the political and financial credibility of countries in the region. We have a duty to be frank, not to couch our words and be overly diplomatic about this. If countries support Zimbabwe—even tacitly— their own economy, political situation, credibility and creditworthiness come into question.
The real tragedy is that the situation is entirely man-made. It is unnecessary, and it is the ultimate betrayal of a great country, undertaken by a weak, tottering regime. I might differ from some speakers in that I believe that there could be a rapid transition. We saw regimes in eastern Europe, for example, that looked invincible one moment but, the next moment, there is a crash, followed by sudden collapse. I support the point of view that, once the army, the police and the other institutions see which way the wind is blowing and sense weakness from Mugabe, the transition could be quicker than some of us believe.
We must consider what action has been taken by the West. On 14 January, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, said that the UK was maintaining dialogue with countries in southern Africa, the Commonwealth, our EU partners and the US, as well as making a substantial emergency food aid contribution. Those are important developments, but I wonder about the sense of urgency. If I were to leave the Minister with one question tonight, it would be to ask how much time she feels Zimbabwe has. We have heard some say that the situation there is so bad that it cannot get worse. I think that it could get much worse. It could become very bloody, very quickly. That would be a desperate situation that we would should all do whatever we can to prevent.
We must examine the concept of quiet diplomacy in that context. It is all very well being quietly diplomatic, but, if things do not happen in time and there is no political change or any sign of such change, there could be significant civil unrest with severe consequences for the people of Zimbabwe.
There is no one in the Chamber this evening who doubts that South Africa holds if not the key then, at least, one of the keys to the situation. South Africa could certainly turn the lights out in Zimbabwe overnight—literally, as it holds the key to its power. Having at least some tacit support in the region is important to Robert Mugabe. We should listen carefully to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. He has good intelligence from the region and good contacts with South Africa. I listened carefully to what he said about the views of President Obasanjo. We need to know whether that is just talk or whether there really is a prospect of talks. I would like to hear the Government's view. The Minister should tell us as 276 frankly as possible whether she feels that there are real developments. Conflicting reports have been quoted to us.
We have heard much discussion about the relative merits of a government of national unity. The most important thing is to see some progress towards change and some progress towards a better political situation. At that point, we could judge whether it would be sustainable, but I would rely heavily on the views of the MDC leadership at that time.
I sympathise with the Minister in some ways. There is little that she could announce this evening that would satisfy all of us. We need to hear that Her Majesty's Government are playing the role of leadership that they can play. I agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness and others that we should not be shy or worried about being seen as the former colonial masters. That was a long time ago. We have proved that our money is where our mouth is. We pump huge quantities of aid money into the country, and we have taken a political lead, to some extent. There is more that we could do, but the Government are in a good position to exercise their high level of political influence on the international scene to bring about a solution as soon as possible.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I begin by joining in the good wishes that have been sent to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for a quick recovery from his illness. We are sorry that he is not here this evening, and we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, on his excellent speech introducing the debate. We thank him also for all the work that he has done on Zimbabwe. It is not the case that Zimbabwe has fallen off the radar screen, as the noble Lord feared. As long as there are people such as himself and the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, who are willing constantly to draw attention to the problems in Zimbabwe, there is no danger of that happening. We have heard people from all parts of the House with enormous knowledge of the situation in Zimbabwe. All are enthusiastic about trying to reach some kind of solution, even though there are minor differences about the right approach, which I shall come to.
There is always the danger that, if Mr Mugabe is conscious of the debates in the House, he would see them as supporting evidence for his propaganda that Britain is unnaturally interested in Zimbabwe—as opposed to letting it drop off the radar screen— particularly as compared with the rest of Africa because of the concern that, he believes, we have with the white farmers. That is not true, of course, and your Lordships have frequently debated many other problems in Africa, as the Minister will confirm. She has been present at debates on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Angola, NePAD and general questions of development in Africa.
The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, said that there was a danger of the situation slipping further towards civil unrest. I agree with him. I draw your Lordships' attention to what the Irish Defence Minister said, 277 speaking from Liberia on last Sunday's "Focus on Africa" on the BBC. He said that the Irish presidency of the European Union would put Africa higher on the agenda and hoped, in particular, to see that action was taken to prevent conflicts, rather than to pick up the pieces afterwards. I paraphrase the Minister, but that is the sense of what he said. He might well have had in mind the threat that Zimbabwe would deteriorate even further into a situation such as he saw in Liberia, where many Irish troops are engaged. We thank them for the contribution that they have always made to peacekeeping.
How can the international community do anything before such a state goes over the precipice into total failure, when the principle of non-intervention is firmly enshrined in the United Nations charter? I remind your Lordships that, in the case of Kosovo, we appealed to a new concept of international law and claimed that intervention was justifiable when it was necessary to prevent an overwhelming human catastrophe. We obtained the tacit consent of the international community after the event for what we did in Kosovo, and there is no disposition nowadays to contest the legality of that action. What is the difference between Kosovo and Zimbabwe? Presumably, it is only the political inexpediency of a humanitarian rescue operation designed to remove the dictator and restore democracy through free and fair elections. There is also, perhaps, the strong feeling among other African states that, however awful the suffering of ordinary people in Zimbabwe, it is better to cajole the ailing tyrant into handing over power voluntarily than to use coercion of any kind. That was the sense of the speech that we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside.
Other African nations are not willing to take a firmer line. South Africa, for instance, will not refuse to admit Mugabe when he goes there, as he has just done, allegedly to undergo private medical treatment in an expensive clinic in Pretoria, a privilege that is not available to members of the opposition such as, for example, David Mpala MP, who was kidnapped and stabbed in the abdomen by so-called war veterans. In fact, as we have heard, the health service in Zimbabwe has collapsed. Nobody gets treatment, unless they can afford to spend 2 million Zimbabwean dollars a night to stay in a private hospital. We heard a catalogue of disasters concerning the state of health services in Zimbabwe. It is aggravated by the fact that last year 2,000 nurses left Zimbabwe for South Africa, Namibia and Britain and that in Harare's main hospital, only two out of six wards are open. Tuberculosis, dysentery and AIDS are being left untreated, as we have heard. Mr Mugabe is indeed lucky that he does not have to rely on his own health service. If he did, it might concentrate his mind rather more effectively than President Mbeki's powers of persuasion.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who referred to the health statistics, also said that large numbers of people were fleeing into neighbouring countries. He gave some statistics—more than 2 million have gone to South Africa, large numbers have gone to Botswana 278 and Mozambique—although we do not know the exact figures—with 1 million going elsewhere in southern Africa. We should take this rather seriously. Those people are not necessarily welcome in the countries to which they have gone temporarily. It may be that in some of those states, they are making up for the deficiencies of the working population through the losses suffered from AIDS. That may be true of Botswana, for example. But in South Africa, those people are not altogether welcome. There is a special camp where they are shovelling them back across the border at a rate of 40,000 a year, according to a recent article by Andrew Meldrum.
How long will it be before many of those people, not receiving a warm welcome in those countries, wish to come here? It would be the logical place for them to end up. As your Lordships know, 7,000 Zimbabwean asylum-seekers applied to this country last year. The only reason the figure has fallen substantially is because we imposed a visa regime which makes it almost impossible for them to come here directly. They have to travel via South Africa where many of them obtain false South African passports. We are now seeing people being sent back to South Africa because they claim to be South African to get passports when in fact they are Zimbabwean citizens. I suggest that the Government think carefully about this. With these several millions having gone to Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries, it will not be long before they start looking towards Europe as a safer haven than they have there.
Last week, President Mbeki said that when Mugabe returns to work next month from his supposed holiday in South Africa—whether he is in this posh clinic or whether he is helping his wife Grace to buy a block of houses, which is the alternative explanation, as they might be looking for a bolt-hole for when the crash comes—he will be graciously pleased to reopen the negotiations with the MDC that were suspended in May 2002. As noble Lords have pointed out, that has not been announced officially in Harare, but if it does happen, it would be a totally inadequate response to the crisis. If the ZANU-PF Government want to return to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, they have the power to do it themselves. They could ensure that the elections that are held are free and fair, such as the Gutu North by-election, held on 2 February. We will be watching that with great interest.
The ZANU-PF Government could repeal the laws cramping freedom of expression. In particular, they could stop the continuing attempts to silence the Daily News. I am not sure what happened today, but the case has been continuing before the Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, who fast-tracked an application by the state's media watchdog for the Daily News to be shut down—a most exceptional procedure, which is in conformity with that judge's conduct in other cases. He has been sitting on appeals against the MDC's victories in parliamentary elections in 2000, while failing to hear constitutional cases, including appeals against the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the state's new press-gag laws. So we do not have free courts in Zimbabwe; the Zimbabwean 279 Government could put that right without waiting for the dialogue between the government and the opposition, which may or may not take place.
I suspect that Mugabe's half-undertaking to negotiate is just a desperate ploy to gain further time. That is demonstrated by the treatment of journalists on the Independent newspaper who reported on his holiday excursion to south-east Asia on a wide-bodied jet commandeered from Air Zimbabwe. He ordered the jet to fly to Kuala Lumpur, to carry him and his family from there to Jakarta, then to Singapore, and back home. Passengers were bounced off flights which they had booked on the aircraft to come to London during the five days that the plane was away. That was said to have lost the national airline 3 billion Zimbabwean dollars, at a time when, as noble Lords have said, the economy is in chaos.
That was not the first time Mugabe had used national assets as if they were his personal property. However, if he was genuinely preparing to give way to democracy, as has been suggested, that is not exactly the way to signal the intention. To arrest journalists, to have the chief reporter of the Zimbabwe Independent savagely beaten up, to continue with this relentless campaign to shut down the Daily News, to hound the leader of the opposition through the courts on false charges and to continue with the human rights atrocities described in so many accounts—that is not the way to reconciliation and reform. It is not a preliminary to the kind of discussion that will be held on a level playing field between the government and the opposition which would be designed to lead to transitional administration.
Frankly, I do not believe in the optimistic noises made by Don McKinnon and by Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki. I do not think they are warranted by any developments within Zimbabwe. If Mugabe is about to announce officially that he is prepared to enter into negotiations with the opposition, as has been leaked via these messengers, why cannot the regime demonstrate by practical means that it is ready to change? If I was in Mr Tsvangirai's shoes, I would remember the proverb that if you want to sup with the devil, you take a long spoon.
The MDC should not allow itself to be cajoled into entering a process that is no doubt intended to relieve the pressure, for example, by the EU when it considers the renewal and possible intensification of sanctions next month, rather than as a genuine move towards the restoration of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
In conclusion. I ask the noble Baroness, when she replies, to say something about what the EU's attitude will be when the sanctions come up for renewal on 18 October. I hope that it will be tough in its approach and will not simply renew the sanctions as they stand. It is universally agreed that the situation has deteriorated seriously since the last time the EU considered the matter, so it would be totally inadequate if it merely renewed the sanctions as they stand. It has plenty of reports about the situation from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, 280 Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the US State Department. By the way, the US State Department has just issued a new travel warning, telling US citizens not to go to Zimbabwe, and if they are there, to come away. That is an indication of how the Americans view the deterioration of the situation.
I hope that the European Union will be strict in its application of the sanctions. I suggest that it examines the report just issued by the Redress Trust, which talks about 60 Zimbabwean police officers, who are being employed in the Kosovo Administration, including one gentleman who was accused of serious offences of torture in Zimbabwe. It seems shocking that an international body, such as the Administration UNMIK in Kosovo, should be a harbour, a refuge, for people who have committed atrocities in Zimbabwe. I suggest that when the EU renews the sanctions, it should extend them to any former serving police officer in Zimbabwe. As the Redress Trust points out, people are not going to be nominated to that position by the ZANU-PF administration unless they were loyal servants of the regime.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, this has been a debate of highly informed speeches. I fully share the gratitude that your Lordships have expressed to my noble friend Lord Blaker for being the original instigator of the debate and for his tireless questioning on the subject, and to my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever for stepping in and making such an excellent opening speech, which raised many issues that have run as themes through the debate this evening.
Zimbabwe is sadly today a stain on the African dream; it is a burden on southern Africa and a threat to development, which threatens and sours the whole high hopes for NePAD and all our hopes for achieving a better region of the world in southern Africa. Some of your Lordships have expressed their understanding of our own Government's difficulties in grappling with the issue. There is a problem about merely waving a hand and suggesting, even in this age of intervention, that there should be outright intervention by force. That is not on the table at all, or even possible. However, we have always maintained on this side, and we maintain again tonight, that we in Britain could do more. We have set out list after list of proposals of what can be done realistically here in London and with our allies and colleagues round the world to accelerate the move towards a better situation.
The MDC has repeatedly called from inside Zimbabwe for Britain to take a more positive lead, as my noble friend Lord Astor reminded us. Again and again it has been suggested that we should be more decisive, especially against those who are bankrolling Mugabe and his regime—and we know the names of many of them—those who have been coining money out of the DRC, and a whole network of undesirable operations and individuals who have supported the Mugabe system. Above all, we have urged again and again that we should seek to take the matter lo the United Nations Security Council. I know that each 281 time we suggest it we are told that it is not the right time, that it would be counter-productive and that this or that would happen. However, I believe that we should try, try and try again and be at it all the time, in seeking to present to sympathetic ears at the UN the need for a much firmer stand—indeed, for a resolution at the United Nations.
The MDC has pleaded with us, as many others do, to really in practice use our policy of targeted sanctions to prevent Zimbabwe leaders from swanning around Europe and the world, as they appear still to be doing. We are left with the feeling, as I have said from this Dispatch Box before, that our American friends are somehow more outspoken and determined. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has just given an example of that. Colin Powell, the American Secretary of State, has spoken with great vigour—there has been no hanging back on his part—as has the whole of the US Congress, members of which have spoken out and raised their voices—and, indeed, used measures—in a way that does not seem to be matched all the time on this side of the Atlantic or here in London.
Why is that? One is always left mystified as to why we cannot move as boldly and strongly as our friend. Is the colonial guilt syndrome hanging in there? As my noble friend Lord Goschen said, we should not hang on to that and be shy. That is yesterday's pattern of thinking and simply does not apply to the global situation in the 21st century. Is it because we are dominated by the theory that it should all be left to Mr Mbeki, as the nearby influential next door neighbour? I find that a rather sad and, so far, very disappointing line of thought, and I believe that it is a basic misreading of Mr Mbeki. He was always going to bow to Robert Mugabe and always regarded him as his senior. He was even a little nervous and in awe of him, so the chances of any heavy pressure from that side were never very good, and I do not believe that they are now.
It may be that the effects of this tragedy will spread into South Africa and we shall begin to see starvation and maybe civil disturbance on a bigger scale in South Africa. The starvation is already there; the dangers of the lack of food is a knock-on effect of the situation in Zimbabwe in many ways. Of course, there are other causes, such as the drought, but it is partly a knock-on effect from Zimbabwe. As those things begin to shake up the scene in South Africa, minds may change, but I do not see that. At the moment, the report is that Mr Mugabe is in or has just visited South Africa for a medical check up and that he is looking for a plush estate for his retirement, which we obviously all hope will be soon. However, it does not sound as though pressure on Mr Mugabe is yet at a serious level where it is likely to lead to a radical change of course.
What is the position now? In the great country of Zimbabwe there is a downward spiral of economic performance, with 80 per cent unemployed and inflation rising towards 700 per cent, and a downward spiral of disease and HIV/AIDS, as my noble friend Lord Caithness so graphically and authoritatively described. There is also a downward spiral of food 282 supplies, with shortages growing, as the noble Lord, Lord Acton, so graphically described. There have been some sort of informal talks but, meanwhile, the leader of the opposition is on trial, free speech is being suppressed and human rights abuses are abounding, including torture and arrest without trial.
That is a sickening situation and one in which the Government this time should stop dithering, although I can see that there are two sides to the argument on cricket and sport. They should come right out and not only tell the ECB to consider its position but tell it that the tour is off. I realise the difficulties and that a promise was made, but the situation is so bad and the dangers of strengthening and endorsing the direction and policy of Mugabe are so strong that I believe that the Government should take a tougher line than they have.
As for the hopeful talks, are they the way forward? I listened closely to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who speaks with great expertise on these matters. Of course, President Obasanjo has been in London suggesting that there are talks and that they could move to a more formal level. I do not know whether that is possible without the MDC becoming entangled in a ZANU-PF gameplan merely to prolong its power.
There are four important blocks—stumbling blocks or, as they should be, absolute conditions. One is restoring press freedom. The second is that the ZANU-PF fascistic militias should be disbanded. A third is that the constitution should be sensibly amended, which is a very complex issue. The fourth is that there should be free and fair elections—maybe at a specific time and not immediately. Those must be the conditions and I hope that the MDC stand firm on them, although none of them at the moment is within miles of being acknowledged or agreed to by the ZANU-PF people.
What can we do? We can have these debates, which do help, and keep the matter firmly in the frame. We can speak more boldly, too—we really can. The softly, softly approach in terms of our rhetoric has not worked, and I do not believe that we should be constrained by the complexes and parameters of past ideologies and 20th-century ideas, which no longer apply today.
The sanctions need toughening further to weaken Mugabe. I believe that they can be toughened. We need to work very closely with the Americans and obviously ensure that our EU colleagues move along the same line. When I say "we", I do not just refer to the British Government—they cannot carry all the burden—but to everyone who is concerned in the United Kingdom. I refer to the media. I should like to see the media be more active in defending media freedom which is being suppressed and destroyed in Harare. I refer to the trade unions who should be more active—perhaps they are already but I do not hear very much of it—in supporting their brothers and sisters in the suppressed and harassed unions of Zimbabwe.
I have raised my next point already. I think that it is our duty to try the UN route again. I pray that we are not given the line that it is not quite ready or would be 283 counter-productive and so on. Our diplomats, who are vastly able people and very experienced, ought to be able to find a way forward in that regard. We must go against the bank rollers, as I have said. As one of my noble friends suggested—I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Caithness—we should identify the human rights abusers and the potential war criminals, as I suppose they would be called in another context, to show that these people will not get away with the horrors that they have inflicted on their fellow human beings.
There is the question of the asylum seekers. I know that now there is no forcible repatriation. Those who are refused asylum are not required to go back, although they are not given much support either. But are the criteria for deciding on asylum seekers from Zimbabwe the correct ones? There is a feeling that the Home Office still regards going back to Zimbabwe or South Africa as safe. All I say is that those I have met who are given that kind of judgment and that kind of direction do not regard going back to Zimbabwe or even to South Africa as safe at all. In their eyes they are not safe places.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will allow me to put on the record that of the 7,000 people from Zimbabwe who applied for asylum in 2002, only 45 returned voluntarily at the expense of the IOM in 2003. The vast majority of them, in spite of the fact that they are left destitute at the end of the asylum process, prefer that to going back to Zimbabwe.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, that indicates the strength of their feeling and their fears but of course it is a shocking situation. It is one that the Government should look at again very carefully indeed.
Some say that we can do nothing. That has not been the view of your Lordships tonight at all but that view exists. I argue that the constraints on action that were believed to exist a few years back do not exist in the 21st century. It is a different place where everyone is demanding different standards of behaviour, different moral standards, different standards of observance of human rights, and that is a good thing. This is part of the global network. It is not just a remote country we can quietly ignore while we get into the big action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Zimbabwe is part of the global network. When one part gets infected, the virus affects us all. I believe that we should stand with our Commonwealth colleagues and with our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia and Europe in condemning the cruel inhumanity that is being perpetrated in Zimbabwe and work night and day to see that the Zimbabwean people cease to have to cry for their beloved country and can rise and live again.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Baroness Crawley
My Lords, I join everyone who has congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, on having introduced this very important debate and on the way in which he did so. He should be congratulated also on the range and quality of the 284 speeches that he has encouraged tonight. I send my best wishes to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, who would have added his experienced voice to our debate tonight had he not been indisposed.
I hope that I shall be able to respond to many of the questions put by noble Lords in the body of my contribution. If, however, I do not respond in my allotted time to any outstanding questions, I shall, of course, write to noble Lords.
I should like to begin by assuring the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, that the Government's attention remains closely focused on Zimbabwe. The debate to which he referred in his opening remarks is for the usual channels to take up. Our main aim is clear. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said on 14 January, in answer to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, that the Government's objective,remains a return to democratic governance, prosperity and the rule of law in Zimbabwe".—[Official Report, 14/1/04; col. 553.]That is not the view of a government who are not completely engaged in seeking a solution to this crisis.
If I may, I shall begin with a short overview of the situation in Zimbabwe as the Government see it. As several noble Lords have emphasised, the situation in Zimbabwe remains grim—a stain on the African dream, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, so eloquently put it. The World Food Programme's estimate that around 6 million people will need food aid during the January to April pre-harvest period— and this figure could rise further as new assessments are made—is a disgrace to the entire international community. I shall address, in due course, the measures that we are taking to help the people of Zimbabwe and to try to persuade the Government of Zimbabwe to change their disastrous policies.
The economy was referred to by many noble Lords. It remains in a dire state. Official inflation remains at some 600 per cent. Unemployment is 70 to 80 per cent. A much publicised anti-corruption drive has begun. The most high profile arrest has been ZANU-PF MP Philip Chiyangwa after he allegedly interfered with a Reserve Bank investigation into corruption in an asset management firm in which he allegedly has substantial interests. If the Zimbabwean authorities are genuinely moving against corruption, that would be most welcome. But it will take more than one or two arrests to convince the watching world that anything substantial has changed.
Political violence and oppression continue. One person was killed in a ZANU-PF attack on Movement for Democratic Change supporters in Mashonaland this month. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum has reported that during the January to November 2003 period, there were nine cases of murder, almost 500 cases of torture and over 500 cases of unlawful arrest. The figures speak for themselves.
Noble Lords may also have read of the horrific murder of the financial director of a tea plantation and there has recently been the first murder of a commercial farmer in 18 months. Those particular attacks do not appear to be politically motivated; rather, they are a tragic consequence of the crisis in 285 Zimbabwe. While crime against whites in Zimbabwe tends to receive international attention, we should never forget that the great majority of the victims of ZANU-PF rule are black Zimbabweans, whose cases never hit the headlines. We are of course keeping our travel advice under constant review.
The MDC has been the subject of numerous threats and attacks. The treason trial of the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, has recommenced. It would be wrong for me to comment on the details while the trial is in progress, but I do not believe that it helps reconciliation in Zimbabwe. Neither does the state's decision to go ahead with those charges suggest that Mr Mugabe is seeking to create a climate in which dialogue can go ahead.
Regarding talks between the two parties, we understand that Robert Mugabe told President Mbeki, when he visited in December, that his party was committed to carrying forward the process of dialogue with the MDC. However, there appears to have been no progress since that discussion and police raided MDC headquarters on Friday 23 January. If there was a genuine desire on the part of Mugabe for talks, that would of course be welcome, as my noble friend Lord Hughes said. We have yet to see real evidence of that commitment. We need to see it.
Press harassment has been mentioned by many noble Lords. Harassment continues—the Daily News, the country's only independent daily newspaper, has been off the streets for several months. It finally managed to bring out an edition in Zimbabwe on 22 January, after winning five court orders saying it could publish. The Government returned to the High Court on 23 January in a fresh attempt to stop publication.
Regarding the vital subject of humanitarian aid, referred to so movingly by my noble friend Lord Acton, Robert Mugabe's policies have proved a disaster for the people of Zimbabwe—a matter also raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, and others. We are trying to help pick up the pieces. Since September 2001 we have spent £62 million on humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, £20 million of which has been spent during the present financial year. We are grateful for the appreciation of noble Lords on our humanitarian efforts. We will be providing further funds for emergency feeding and HIV/AIDS programmes in the coming weeks. DfID is working with the World Food Programme and other UN agencies to ensure that resources are targeted on the most vulnerable. Our highest priorities are households with chronically ill adults, those headed by children or the disabled and those without access to land. In addition to UK contributions to UN feeding programmes, DfID's own supplementary feeding programmes are providing food to over 1 million people every month.
The Government are aware of concerns that food aid could be used for political purposes—a matter that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, and others. However, I assure the House that distribution of international food aid, including all the food contributed by the UK, is closely monitored and 286 the World Food Programme has agreed satisfactory distribution arrangements in a memorandum of understanding with the Zimbabwean Government. In recent months there have been no significant cases of political interference with food deliveries.
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe gives enormous cause for concern, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, powerfully set out. A quarter of Zimbabweans aged 15 to 49 are infected with HIV/AIDS. We are spending £26 million on HIV/AIDS prevention programmes over five years to help tackle that crisis. It will be delivered through para-statal organisations and rural health clinics.
UN sanctions—binding on all member states—are the most effective option when considering targeted measures, but would require consensus in the Security Council. I am sorry, but despite the frustration of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and his commitment to the issue, that is not an option at this stage. The UN Security Council's focus is on other international peace and security issues, despite the impact that we know the crisis is having on the wider African region. It remains the case that Zimbabwe's neighbours are not calling in the UN for wider UN intervention.
As noble Lords are aware, the EU has for the past two years tabled a resolution on Zimbabwe at the UN Commission on Human Rights. On both occasions, the resolutions fell to a no-action motion supported by, among others, all the members of the African group. However, if there is no improvement in the human rights situation in Zimbabwe by the time the UN Commission on Human Rights meets this year, I hope to see another resolution tabled. As we know, the commission meets in March and April.
We would gladly move a UN Security Council resolution on Zimbabwe if we thought it would succeed, but doing that and failing would provide succour to Mugabe and his supporters and we are not in the business of doing that. Five members of the Security Council voted for the 2003 no-action motion at the UNHCR and it is difficult to see them voting for a Security Council resolution on Zimbabwe after that action in the UNHCR.
I will now move on to what we are trying to do to persuade the Zimbabwean Government to change their disastrous policy and what our action is at European level. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made a pertinent point about the danger of this being seen as only a bilateral issue and therefore playing into Mugabe's propaganda hands. We must always be on our guard in that respect. However, the EU has imposed targeted measures against Mugabe and 78 leading members of ZANU-PF. These include a travel ban and an asset freeze. There is also an arms embargo. The Americans and others have introduced similar measures, as noble Lords are aware.
The EU measures are due for renewal next month and we are looking for ways to strengthen them. We are seriously looking with our EU partners at ways of maintaining their effectiveness and relevance, while not hurting the people of Zimbabwe. But one thing we will not argue for is general trade sanctions. That 287 would be a propaganda gift to the Zimbabwe Government's claim that we are trying to undermine their country. No trade measures we could undertake would have the same impact on Zimbabwe's economy as ZANU-PF's own disastrous policies.
Implications for the withdrawal from the Commonwealth have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, shared with us his interesting and experienced observations on the role of African leaders post-CHOGM. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister argued at CHOGM that it was inconceivable that Zimbabwe could be readmitted to the Councils of the Commonwealth until we had seen concrete evidence of a return to democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law—the very principles on which the Commonwealth was founded. I am glad to say that the heads of government agreed by consensus to continue indefinitely Zimbabwe's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth at CHOGM in December.
They also agreed to the issue of a statement on Zimbabwe, giving the lie to Mugabe's claim that suspension was a UK-led white conspiracy against black Africa. Mugabe has now increased his country's isolation by withdrawing from the Commonwealth. The ties of affection between the people of Zimbabwe and the rest of the Commonwealth remain and I look forward to the day, as I am sure do all noble Lords, when a democratic Zimbabwe is welcomed back. In the mean time, we will continue to work with our international partners to bring about the restoration of good governance and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
The subject of cricket was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Astor of Hever and Lord Howell of Guildford, and my noble friends Lord Hughes of Woodside and Lord Acton. Whether or not to tour Zimbabwe is a matter for the England and Wales Cricket Board. However, noble Lords will be aware that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has written to the board clearly pointing out the situation in Zimbabwe and suggesting that it may wish to consider whether a high-profile tour at this time is compatible with the international community's isolation of Zimbabwe. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library of the House.
Noble Lords may have picked up on the discussion in another place this week when my honourable friend Mr Mullin, the Minister for Africa, said that the Government would prefer that the England cricket team did not go to Zimbabwe. But at the end of the day, it is up to the ECB. I understand that it is meeting later this week and we await the outcome of its deliberations with interest.
Many noble Lords have asked me questions and I shall get through them as quickly as I can. I shall make sure that noble Lords whose questions are not reached receive a written reply. Many noble Lords have asked whether we are doing enough; could not Britain do more; could we not try, try and try again; and could we not put more urgency into the problem? I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, spoke about quiet diplomacy and it being a little louder.
288 I refute the charge that the Government have been dragging their feet on the crisis in Zimbabwe. We continue to work closely and robustly with our EU and Commonwealth partners to bring about a return to democratic government in Zimbabwe as regards human rights and the rule of law. The Commonwealth has stood firm. When its leaders met in Nigeria last month, and they included our Prime Minister, they agreed to the indefinite suspension of Zimbabwe following its failure to meet basic Commonwealth standards of good governance.
The EU is also engaged. It has issued a number of statements condemning the Mugabe regime for its repeated attacks on trades union and civil society leaders and on the independent media. The EU has continued to enforce its target of measures against the ZANU-PF leadership and to look at ways of making these measures as effective and robust as possible. At the same time the UK has provided a sizeable programme of humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.
We are the largest cash donor and, after the United States, the largest bilateral aid donor to Zimbabwe. Since September 2001 when the current crisis began, the UK has provided £62 million in humanitarian assistance, as I said earlier.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, asked me about the end game. That was also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. We stand ready to work with any new administration in Zimbabwe which has been freely and democratically elected by the Zimbabwean people. With partners, we are already planning for a time when we will be able to re-engage with Zimbabwe and assist with its reconstruction. It is premature to speculate on the scale of future UK support, but we would be certain to play a leading role in helping to rebuild Zimbabwe when the rule of law and representative government are restored. Our record of providing over £500 million in development assistance to Zimbabwe since independence shows that our commitment to Zimbabwe is for the long haul.
I was asked by noble Lords about President Mbeki and his role and what the Government feel about it. Following his visit to Harare on 18 December he has stated that he met both Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai and that a formal process of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition is now imminent. We hope that that is the case. We have made it clear for some time now that we see such a process of dialogue as the vital first step towards restoring democratic governance in Zimbabwe. But we have seen no evidence that the parties are moving in that direction. We hope that both President Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo will continue in their efforts to get the parties re-engaged and that we soon see concrete evidence of that progress.
Noble Lords asked me about extending the EU sanctions to business people. We note that the Movement for Democratic Change visiting the European Parliament this week called for EU sanctions to be extended also to business people. We 289 remain open to the argument that any individual who is demonstrably responsible for the suppression of human rights might at some stage be added to the list.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked me about the Grain Marketing Board stockpiling and withholding food. It is very worrying if the Zimbabwean Government are using food in this way. But that government signed the memorandum of understanding with the World Food Programme last year agreeing to its principles on distribution. Ultimately, of course, we have no control over the food that Mr Mugabe's regime buys in.
I have come the end of my time and will answer noble Lords' further questions in writing.
The Government's desire is to see a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. To that end, we are working robustly with our international partners. We may not yet have achieved that aim, but we have helped to provide humanitarian aid to half the population of Zimbabwe, in which this country can take great pride. We continue to keep the pressure on ZANU-PF and engage with all those working for change in Zimbabwe. It will come, and Britain intends to help Zimbabweans build their lives again.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Lord Astor of Hever
My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, and I am sure that it will cheer up my noble friend Lord Blaker when he reads it. I hope that it will also give some comfort to those suffering in Zimbabwe, who, as my noble friend Lord Goschen said, will be closely following this debate.
I thank all those who have taken part in the debate. Each speaker has a long record of not letting Zimbabwe slip off the agenda, and it is to be hoped that all will continue to speak out. All speakers would agree with the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that the situation is very dangerous and getting worse. There were differences about how to help resolve that situation, but all suggestions were constructive and thoughtful. Finally, I thank the Minister for constructively and resolutely addressing the various questions that have been fired at her. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.