HL Deb 03 February 2005 vol 669 cc353-5
Lord Blaker

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the situation in Zimbabwe will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the G7 Finance Ministers in London.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the Chancellor set out his priorities for the February G7 Finance Ministers' meeting in his recent speech at the DfID/ United Nations Development Programme seminar, "Words into Action 2005", held on 26 January. In that speech he highlighted the responsibilities of both developed and developing countries to meet the challenges of Africa, especially in the fight against corruption. The focus for the agenda will be on tackling some of the key issues affecting Africa: aid, trade, debt, health and education.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for that Answer. Given that the Prime Minister has declared that this is the "year of Africa", should not the conference be taking note of the fact that the catastrophe in Zimbabwe is not only political, but economic, financial and social for the whole of southern Africa?

The noble Lord mentioned AIDS. Is he aware that AIDS is being spread to other countries of southern Africa by individual Zimbabweans who are fleeing to other countries in search of work, to make money to send back to their families at home? Could not a strong statement by the G7, stressing the importance of the other African countries to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis in accordance with their treaty obligations, be of value—especially if it were endorsed by Nelson Mandela, who will attend the conference?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, of course I share with the noble Lord the anxiety about what he defined as the catastrophe of Zimbabwe. He will recognise that the G7 Finance Ministers are meeting to consider overwhelmingly the economic issues of Africa and the major project of dealing with the whole of Africa, of which Zimbabwe is not typical, but presents a particular challenge that the noble Lord has identified. He referred to health; we all recognise that HIV/AIDS is a real issue for the whole of the continent. However, the main objective for the Finance Ministers is to concentrate on those broad issues which cover the whole of Africa in a positive way and it would not, therefore, be entirely appropriate for them to spend a great deal of time considering the particular issue of Zimbabwe.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, although I applaud the general approach of the Chancellor, should not the G7 Finance Ministers commission a report on the impact of Mugabe's policies on foreign direct investment, not just in Zimbabwe, but in the whole of the region?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, that is a constructive suggestion and the noble Lord will recognise that world organisations, particularly the International Monetary Fund, are looking carefully at the catastrophic development of the Zimbabwean economy and its wider impact. I assure him that the issue that he wishes to be addressed will be subject to real interest among the Finance Ministers who will attend the G7.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, does the Minister agree that financial action in countries emerges to a great extent from its political procedures? The Iraqis have just had a successful vote abroad. Nearly 2 million Mozambiquis living in South Africa were allowed to vote in their country's election, but up to 2 million Zimbabweans living abroad were not allowed to do so. Will that point be put forcefully by the G7 Ministers to the SADC countries, because it is totally unrealistic that the SADC countries are supposed to be observing the election, but that nothing should be done to enable the people who have a right to vote to do so?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the noble Baroness has introduced an interesting point. I recognise entirely that the finance and economics of the situation are dictated by political arrangements and the catastrophe of Zimbabwe represents political failure, too. She will know that we shall examine the question of further economic measures after the Zimbabwean elections have taken place, but we share with her our real anxieties about the nature of those elections. In a sense, these issues need to be addressed in the broader context of the political and economic situation, not specifically by the Finance Ministers.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that one of the most important economic issues for Africa is creating investment in order to create employment and that the political situation in Zimbabwe is absolutely central to the likelihood of foreign investors investing in Africa south of the Sahara?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, Zimbabwe is clearly important, but we should not exaggerate its importance in relation to the whole of Africa. The commitment of the G8, under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, is to focus on the whole continent of Africa, which has many problems—and we have a strategy for beginning to tackle some of them effectively. The importance of Zimbabwe should not be exaggerated in those terms. There are many common issues across the whole of Africa, which can appropriately be addressed by the advanced countries. The forum of the G8, which is political, will concentrate on those issues. Of course, the G7 Finance Ministers will make their contribution to those developments.

Lord Lawson of Blaby

My Lords, the Minister mentioned in his Answer, very properly, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals at the G7 Finance Ministers' meeting would be made against a background of corruption, which is the great disease of Africa and until that can be tackled, there is no hope for the economies of the African continent. What proposals do the British Government have to extirpate or, at least, greatly to diminish the extent of the cancer of corruption in Africa?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the noble Lord has highlighted the general issue that is of greater concern to the wider world and relates to that earlier question about investment in Africa; namely, that investment must be for the benefit of the peoples of the African countries, rather than the select few who, in the past in some countries—as the noble Lord has identified—have been able through corruption to channel resources to limited numbers. My right honourable friend has made it absolutely clear that one of the G8's key objectives in making progress on the whole strategy for Africa is eliminating corruption.

Lord Puttnam

My Lords, while sympathising—

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but we have completed eight minutes and we should move on.

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