HC Deb 17 February 2000 vol 344 cc269-312WH

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Clelland.]

2.30 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain)

Too many of the world's leaders, foreign-policy makers and media commentators have downgraded Africa, using the excuse that it is a failed continent of little strategic importance. The Labour Government entirely reject that stance. Our policy is one of constructive engagement by Britain in Africa. We have real interests in Africa, which represents one eighth of the world population. Last year, it registered the fastest rate of growth of any continent in the world. We do more than £10 billion of business with Africa every year. About 1 million citizens of British nationality live on the continent of Africa.

We also care for wider reasons. Africa can be a powerful force for good in an increasingly interdependent globe. The Government are committed to helping to sustain and spread democracy and prosperity throughout the world. We have a moral duty to help ordinary women and men of Africa to build better lives for themselves and their children. Failure in Africa will hurt not only Africans but us, too; it will require more aid and result in refugee flows and lost business opportunities. In Africa, ecological damage, disease, crime and terrorism know no frontiers.

Another reason for critical engagement is that in the past few years a new wind of change has started to blow through Africa. The land of my childhood, South Africa, has turned from international pariah to global role model and regional leader. The other pariah of Africa was Nigeria, which was bled dry by dictatorship. It was repressed and brutalised by a regime that kept one fifth of Africa's population in misery while it squandered massive natural wealth on itself. Now Nigeria is restoring democracy, rebuilding its economy and laying the foundations for a vibrant future. The two giants of Africa—South Africa and Nigeria—are getting back on track and sending the clearest signal to the world that, with human rights respected and good governance, Africa's future can be bright.

They are not the only points of light on the dark continent. Kenya could become a third giant. With our encouragement, President Moi has launched a radical programme of much-needed reform. Its success will make Kenya a regional beacon—stronger, richer and more democratic. We are supporting that reform programme to the hilt, and I shall discuss the subsequent stages with President Moi in Nairobi next week.

Without fuss, Botswana has been on an upward path to prosperity. Mali is quietly building a better future for its citizens and is the author of the far-sighted west African small arms moratorium. After decades of chaos, which almost destroyed the country, Mozambique is now at peace and rebuilding itself. Ghana is moving successfully towards a peaceful democratic transition to a new generation of leaders. Sierra Leone is emerging from a decade of horror, with the chance to build lasting peace and prosperity.

There are success stories in Africa, but there are still some horrors. Angola is ravaged by civil war, land mines and devastating destruction, the main culprit being Jonas Savimbi's murderous UNITA gangsters. Yet it has enough riches and natural resources to feed the whole of southern Africa and be massively prosperous. We must end the war by enforcing United Nations sanctions against UNITA. Angola's vast oil wealth must be spent to improve the lot of the people. It should not be put into the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

My hon. Friend touched on a point of profound importance when he said that sanctions against Angola need to be effective. He will know, as I do, that the war is fuelled not only by internal rivalry but by those who are prepared to abuse the sanctions regime for personal or collective gain—sometimes people in high places—and to ensure that the diamonds find a market in the west so that Mr. Savimbi's war machine continues to be well provided for. How can we crack down on that evil, which continues to blight the lives of the people of Angola?

Mr. Hain

I agree with my hon. Friend. He did much good work as the previous Minister of State, on that and other matters. I pay tribute to him. I agree that in some countries, including Zambia, Uganda and Rwanda, people in high positions are busting sanctions. It is imperative that those countries' Governments crack down on them immediately.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

It is estimated that well over $3 billion-worth of diamonds from Angola have been used by UNITA since 1991. With such a value, surely a record is being kept of who is trading in them. We should be able to take action to stop it.

Mr. Hain

Again, that is an important point. I am glad that those matters are being raised, because sanctions busting is going on all over the world. That is why we are working with De Beers and other international diamond companies to achieve a self-certification scheme that will allow us to distinguish between clean diamonds, such as those mined in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, and blood diamonds from Angola and Sierra Leone.

Britain's policy in Africa is clear and unequivocal. We will back success. We will support those who stand up for democracy and human rights. We will help Governments who want to reform their economies. We will support just solutions—African solutions—to African problems. We will work with those African leaders who commit themselves to freeing their people from poverty. We will help empower ordinary African women and men to build a better future for themselves.

The reverse is also true. We will not support corrupt Governments. We will not subsidise economic mismanagement. We will not fund repression or bankroll dictatorship. Those evils have failed Africa and we will not back failure. We will speak out against failure, and do all that we can to help ordinary African people to establish their rights and the future to which they are entitled.

The people of Zimbabwe voted against the introduction of a new constitution that did not adequately reflect their wishes. I welcome President Mugabe's clear acceptance of the referendum result. I encourage his Government to seize the opportunity, listen to the people's voice and put in place proper machinery to ensure that the forthcoming parliamentary elections are free and fair. I publicly urge him, as I have consistently done in private, to abandon his disastrous economic policies and work with Zimbabwe's friends in the international community, such as Britain, to restore stability, growth and dignity. We want Zimbabwe to be a leader in Africa, not a loser.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

The Minister said that he welcomed President Mugabe's clear acceptance of the referendum result. Yet, from one of this morning's broadsheets, we learn that Zimbabwe is far from abandoning land seizure. Chen Chimutengwende, the information Minister, said that the land clause would be rushed through Parliament. Surely, that shows that Mugabe has not learned anything from the referendum result.

Mr. Hain

There is a difference between accepting a referendum result containing a question about the adoption of a new constitution that includes a clause about land reclamation, and dealing with that matter separately and in another fashion. I would urge caution over the question of land reclamation or rather, land seizure.

Mr. Paterson


Mr. Hain

It is land seizure. However, that is not Zimbabwe's priority. The country has serious economic problems. It is almost toppling into a deep hole. It ought to be adopting modern economic policies, and Britain will work with the Zimbabwe Government if President Mugabe adopts that course.

The lives of too many African people are ruined by conflict, blighted by poverty and crushed by dictatorship. Africa has suffered more than half of the world's war-related deaths, and has more than 8 million refugees, returnees and displaced people. Wars kill more than just people; they kill prosperity and hope too.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

The Minister dealt with the economic situation in Zimbabwe. Given the parlous state of Zimbabwe's economy, is not Britain's bilateral aid now a powerful lever which the Government could use to ensure that there is proper respect for democracy in that country, that elections are conducted fairly and that the land seizure programme is stopped?

Mr. Hain

I do not think that we can use aid and development assistance in the crude way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is important that Governments, such as that of Zimbabwe, understand that the reason that our aid and development programme is relatively low in Zimbabwe is that we have not been confident that the Government would deliver any development assistance to genuinely empower and help the people, as is done in other African countries, which we are assisting to far greater effect. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development would want to provide extra aid and development assistance to Zimbabwe if it were to adopt modern progressive policies and if we could be sure that the assistance would reach the people whom it is designed to help.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)

Can the Minister tell me what representations he has made to the Department for International Development about both the European Union aid programme for Zimbabwe and the bilateral aid programme? Can he tell the House how much the bilateral aid programme between Britain and Zimbabwe is worth, and whether he has asked for the programme to be halted or audited in any way?

Mr. Hain

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken a close interest in Zimbabwe. The aid that she is responsible for providing is delivered through non-governmental organisations to ensure that the issue of poverty elimination is addressed. We do not want to cut aid as the Opposition seem to be advocating if that would damage poor people's prospects, but we are determined to ensure that aid is not siphoned off in any way, and that is why it is not delivered through the Government.

We must prevent wars from starting. That means tackling the root causes of conflict—oppression, injustice and poverty. We have substantially increased our development assistance budget as a key part of that strategy and we have led the world in debt relief. Improving governance in African countries is a critical element. Good governments rarely go to war. They work with others, such as in the Organisation for African Unity, to resolve issues before they ignite into conflict.

There is also a key role for security sector reform. Improving the quality, supervision, training and democratic accountability of more African armies and police forces would make a major contribution to human rights and the quality of life in Africa, where arbitrary and brutal exercise of force by the state is commonplace. We are working with Governments on that in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and elsewhere.

We must also prevent wars from being stoked. Guns are one of Africa's curses. That is why we have introduced strict criteria for arms sales, to which we are sticking rigorously. We recognise the right of self-defence; African Governments have legitimate security requirements, but we will not export arms that would be used for internal oppression or external aggression. That is why the Prime Minister announced last week a tightening of the policy towards African countries engaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Zimbabwe. However, there is a key role for African Governments themselves in preventing the proliferation of weapons on the continent. That is why we strongly support the west African small arms moratorium and a similar initiative that is being launched by Kenya for East Africa.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

The Minister has said a lot about arms control and I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that he will review the conditions on which arms are sent to African countries engaged in conflict. But after all he said about Zimbabwe—the parlous state of its economy and the fact that it is spending £1 million a day on waging war—does he not have any regrets about the decision to send Hawk jet parts to that country?

Mr. Hain

I applaud the hon. Lady for continuing energetically to flog this old horse. The fact is, however, that we have agreed to honour an existing contract to provide spares, which was entered into by the previous Conservative Government, who sold Hawk jets to Zimbabwe. In respect of new export licence applications made by African Governments for arms that could be used to fuel or encourage conflicts in the Congo, I should restate that we shall not supply arms for such external aggression. That is the important point and it is a considerable advance on anything that the Conservative party got near to when it was in government.

Where war has broken out, we need to find more effective ways to stop it. That means renewed efforts on effective sanctions. We are pushing for smarter sanctions that target the guilty and not the innocent, and we are looking for better ways of shutting down outlets for those profiting from African wars. We are ready to name, shame and take action where we can on those who break sanctions. For example, we would take action in respect of the illegal provision of UNITA with supplies, without which it could not keep fighting in Angola.

I have named in the House several people included in breaking UN sanctions by supplying UNITA and I shall now name more. David Zollman is involved in exporting diamonds to Antwerp for UNITA. Based in Rundu, Namibia, Zollman paid a monthly fee to Namibian officials to enable him to operate without interference. We estimate that in 1999, Zollman was moving $4 million-worth of diamonds per month. His brother, Maurice Zollman, is carrying out similar activity for UNITA in South Africa. Hennie Steyn, a South African pilot, flies diamonds for Maurice Zollman from Angola, via Congo Brazzaville. He also acts as a middleman for UNITA in selling diamonds to European dealers and part owns a UNITA diamond concession. Jan Joubert organises the supply of fuel to UNITA. Until recently, aircraft carrying the fuel flew from Gaberone to Andulo while pretending to fly to Francistown in eastern Botswana. Dennis Coghlan, an Irishman resident in Botswana, owns a warehouse in Gaberone that is used to store fuel and other supplies for UNITA until they can be flown into UNITA-held territory.

Those individuals are making money out of misery. It is vital that all the Governments, agencies and companies where they operate take urgent action to stop their illegal activities. Britain will continue to play an active role as a friend of Africa in the Security Council of the United Nations, and where the UN can stop war or build peace we will back it to the hilt. We have passed the names to the UN and, in particular, to ambassador Robert Fowler, for his work on the sanctions committee responsible for tackling UNITA and Angola generally.

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)

I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend's comments and I am pleased that he has passed those names on to the UN. Are any UK citizens currently suspected of involvement in sanctions busting in support of UNITA?

Mr. Hain

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. We are looking to see whether any UK citizens are involved in such activities. UNITA's global network is widespread and reaches into Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe as well as into Africa. Indeed, it reaches into eastern Europe. UNITA has, for example, been supplied with Ukrainian arms. I would not stand here and say that no UK citizens are involved, but I give a warning: if any are involved, they will be tracked down and tackled as they are acting illegally, because UN sanctions are a matter of international law.

We are also backing African solutions to African conflicts. We support and fund the Organisation for African Unity, ECOWAS—the Economic Community of West African States—and other regional organisations in their own roles as peacekeepers and peacemakers. We also support individual African peacemakers. Next week, I shall join Nelson Mandela, at his request, at the Burundi peace talks in Arusha to help in his efforts to bring lasting peace to Burundi. The threat of renewed genocide still hangs over the beautiful and tragic region of the great lakes. We must lift that shadow for ever.

HIV/AIDS is killing more Africans than war. The scale of the epidemic is truly appalling. Every day, 5,500 Africans die of AIDS and some 24 million Africans south of the Sahara are HIV positive. The highest infection rates are among people aged between 15 and 24, taking them in the prime of their life. Half of all pregnant women in some of the worst-affected regions are HIV positive. The epidemic affects skilled professionals, which impacts on the education, health and private sectors. How does one plan for a school system in which a third of its trained staff will be dead within five years?

AIDS is a threat not only to health, but to economic development. It is undermining the progress that Africa has made in the past 30 years, slashing life expectancy, orphaning millions of children and destroying the capacity of skilled work forces. It is crippling Africa's rightful place in the world.

Dr. Tonge

The Secretary of State for International Development recently announced a £14 million contribution to AIDS vaccine research. We were pleased with that; everyone was excited. Have the Government made progress in persuading others, especially the United States Government, to contribute equal or greater sums to the research?

Mr. Hain

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the subject. At last month's debate at the Security Council of the United Nations, Vice-President Gore pledged an extra $60 million of funding to tackle the AIDS problem in Africa.

We must not lose sight of the 650 million people in Africa who are HIV negative—we must keep hope for them. We know what works: reaching young people with the right information and training, providing condoms and ensuring that safe blood is available. Of course, we need care systems for those already infected with the virus. The Government are working hard to help to forge a co-ordinated response to the epidemic. More money must be found, and Africa's leaders must demonstrate more commitment. Where money and commitment go hand in hand, we have seen success—Uganda, for example, has made progress towards culling the epidemic.

A third challenge is to lift the debt burden that is crushing Africa. In 1998, sub-Saharan Africa's total debt was $226 billion, its new grants from the international community amounted to $15 billion and total debt service payments by Africa amounted to $15 billion. The net inflow to Africa was zero. Debt relief can free resources for priority spending and promote investment, and thus help poor countries to support poverty reduction, health and education. That is why the Government have led the international community in pushing for faster, deeper and wider debt relief.

Our support is not unconditional. Debt relief will work only when African Governments are committed to tackling poverty and to economic policies necessary to encourage growth. When they are, we shall back them to the hilt and support them in the international financial institutions.

Boosting trade and investment is Africa's fourth challenge. Some African Governments have acted to increase their competitiveness on world markets and to attract inward investment. We are encouraging others to follow their example. International finance is always looking for new opportunities. I met about 100 business people interested in Africa in the House of Lords over lunch yesterday. The challenge for Africa is not only to be attractive to traders and investors, but to offer opportunities that are more attractive than those elsewhere.

Mr. William Cash (Stone)

Does the Minister agree that we must have an even harder and better policy on debt relief, and that it is important that we trace the millions, if not billions, of pounds that have been salted away in Swiss bank accounts? Our policy should guarantee—as far as it can—to get the money back by tracing it, in the same way that moneys associated with the Jewish holocaust have been traced.

Mr. Hain

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's contribution. We are working with the Nigerian Government to trace the hundreds of millions—possibly the billions—that were salted away by the previous regime of Abacha, and by his family. Some of it might be in Britain. The hon. Gentleman raises a serious issue that we are seeking to address.

Globalisation is not a policy but a fact and an opportunity. If it is well managed, it will help to drive forward African efforts to build prosperity and to eliminate poverty. Badly managed, it will increase the divide between rich and poor. We are encouraging African countries to engage actively with the World Trade Organisation and the key international players, and to help set the terms of the debate.

A fifth challenge for Africa is to build good Governments that act consistently in their people's interest. We are working in Africa to help build democracy—to ensure that people can choose and change their Governments freely and fairly. Human rights are at the core of that. We are working to protect and promote them across the continent. That is not just a moral imperative. Where they are respected, economies flourish. Human rights make humans rich.

We are working to promote more accountability in the way African countries are governed. We want to ensure that all those in authority are properly accountable for their actions. Free media, independent courts and a vibrant civil society are vital to Africa's future success. We are working, too, for more transparency, to ensure that ordinary Africans know what those in authority are doing. Secrecy breeds bad decision making and corruption. Open government is better government.

Corruption is not unique to Africa, but its effects are arguably uniquely bad there. Corruption is a tax on the poor by the rich. The world's poorest continent can least afford that tax. Corruption contributes to debt. It undermines the rule of law and Africa cannot afford it. Clean government, by contrast, attracts investment and business confidence. Corrupt Governments repel it and cheat their own people of the benefits. We are targeting corruption wherever we find it.

Britain's engagement in Africa is not just about what the British Government do. Business matters. Companies that do good do well. Non-governmental organisations make a real difference in working on development from the ground up. We work closely with them too. Human rights activists such as Amnesty International and Article 19 inform the Government and keep us on our toes. They play an even more important role in doing that for African Governments.

The Government work with, not against, our international partners in taking forward our African agenda. We have ended 130 years of historic rivalry with France in Africa. With the United States Administration in Washington and the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Dick Holbrooke, we have helped to harmonise our approach to African hot spots. We are working closely with our European Union partners. The European Union common position on democracy and human rights in Africa was written under our presidency.

The Government's vision is of an Africa at peace with itself and the world; a prosperous, democratic Africa in which the scourges of war, famine, disease and poverty are banished for ever; an Africa where ordinary people decide their own futures, freely and democratically; and an Africa as a good friend of Britain which recognises Britain as a good friend.

2.57 pm
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)

It is good to be back in Westminster Hall. This is the fullest I have ever seen it for a debate, and it is the first time that I have taken part in a three-hour debate. It is good to see the Minister here for the debate that he has initiated looking so relaxed and suntanned. Several colleagues and I were also at yesterday's lunch, with more than 100 British business men and women who do business in Africa. We all appreciate the Minister's genuine concern and interest in Africa and his personal perspective on that country as a son of Africa, as he has dubbed himself. I wish him well with his brief.

I am, nevertheless, rather sad that the Minister's first outing with respect to this vast continent should be a three-hour debate in Westminster Hall on a subject so broad. It is impossible to cover all the issues and all the countries from Morocco to Mozambique, or Algeria to Angola. I recall one of the purposes of setting up Westminster Hall—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must address her comments to the subject of the debate, which has been determined by the authorities of the House of Commons. She can take up the question of why it is being held in Westminster Hall elsewhere.

Mrs. Gillan

I was going to say that, as the debate concerns the whole of Africa, I hope that the Minister will in future feel able to initiate regular debates on its regions. I hope that he will consider tabling a Government motion for a debate on each and every country in Africa to be held this Session. Africa could be debated much more fully in this Chamber if a Minister were present on a weekly basis.

Two or three matters illustrate the tale of two Africas, to which the Minister referred earlier. United Kingdom investment in Africa between 1983 and 1997 was about $5.7 billion—even more than investment from the United States, the second largest investor. The predicted growth for sub-Saharan Africa in 2000 is 3.9 per cent. Our commercial involvement in 1998, the last year for which figures are available, shows that 5 per cent. of all European Union exports to that region came from the United Kingdom and that UK exports account for 7 per cent. of all exports into sub-Saharan Africa.

We must take note of the reforms made and steps taken by African Governments to improve the foreign, direct investment climate: with tremendous private sector encouragement, the improved environment has resulted in more than 40 countries becoming members of the World Trade Organisation. There are about 17 broad-based privatisation programmes in place, and it is no secret that Africa looked to the United Kingdom, and the fine example set by Conservative Governments with regard to privatisation, to base their hope for a rosy economic future. Indeed, 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are at present transferring all or part of their telecommunications ownership from the state to the private sector, and there are plenty of opportunities there for UK businesses.

Many African countries have improved their regulatory framework for foreign direct investment, with investment promotion agencies to assist investors. Indeed, everything points to Africa being a good market and target for British companies; it is a good place to do business. As the fifth largest trading nation in the world, the UK is in most markets, and Africa should be featured in a major way.

As Africa grows, our businesses cannot afford to ignore its potential. Members may be interested to know that yesterday, African Lakes became the first fully listed UK plc to obtain a listing on the Nairobi stock exchange. The company's press release announced: The positive attitudes of the Capital Markets Authority and the NSE have been evidence throughout the process. The listing will increase awareness of African Lakes in a region which is important for the Company's future. It will enable Kenyan institutional and private capital to invest and participate in one of the region's most active and focused groups. We are committed to growing African Lakes in our domain of sub-Saharan Africa, an area for which the Economist Intelligence Unit recently projected economic growth at 39.9 per cent. pa—one of the fastest growing in the world. I do not know whether the Minister saw the press release, or had the opportunity to talk to the African Lakes' representative, but yesterday was a red-letter day for United Kingdom business.

Africa has the great advantage of having a wonderful climate. I jokingly referred earlier to the Minister's suntan. Tourism is a great opportunity for businesses and it will help Africa's economic recovery. I hope that the Minister will tell us later how he is promoting the tourism sector, and British business and tourism interests abroad, particularly in South Africa, which he visited recently.

My second point relates to Zimbabwe, and I am sure that many of my colleagues will speak about it too, if they manage to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. Zimbabwe is, potentially, one of Africa's most prosperous nations. It achieved independence in 1980 under the leadership of Robert Mugabe, but the regime is undermining Zimbabwe's economy and damaging human rights. In fact, the economy is in free fall: inflation is 60 per cent., interest rates are at a similar level and the currency has plummeted. Mugabe's cronies stay rich, while the poor suffer. We are all familiar with the plan to seize lands illegally, to which my hon. Friends the Members for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) and for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) have alluded. Journalists have been arrested and the free press is under attack. Still, the Government continue the programme of bilateral aid.

I was sad that, in response to my intervention, the Minister gave the impression that he was familiar neither with the amount of aid that was going in nor with the auditing procedure for ensuring that that aid does not find its way into the wrong hands. Perhaps, with a little inspiration and a little more briefing, he will be able to tell us in his reply exactly what is happening about aid.

I hope that the Minister shares our concern about the forthcoming general election in Zimbabwe. Although the referendum was a triumph for the opposition in Zimbabwe, it did not take place without flagrant abuses by the Government, both in the media and at the polling stations. The scale of the defeat was such that even Robert Mugabe felt that he could not stuff any more ballot boxes than he did. How do the Government intend to send the Government of Zimbabwe the message that their behaviour during the referendum was wrong, that the untrammelled ambitions of the kleptocrats and cronies must be curbed and that Robert Mugabe's system of government is fundamentally corrupt? Will the Minister insist on sending Commonwealth monitors to Zimbabwe? Is he prepared to suspend help to that Government, if they resist calls for impartial international supervision of their elections? He must tell us in his reply.

I know that the Minister shares our concern that Mugabe is treating the referendum defeat as something to which he can return later. Does the Minister understand, however, that should the ZANU-PF Government win the election, they could press for the nationalisation of farmland, claiming a democratic mandate denied them by the referendum? Does he accept that that argument could also be used to promote another constitution, containing threats to individual liberty and allowing Mugabe to reign for life, as a monarch of a bankrupt socialist republic? I urge the Minister to answer those questions at the end of the debate.

Dr. Tonge

I refer the hon. Lady back to what she said about bilateral aid. All of us understand and share her concern about the Government of Zimbabwe. Is she really suggesting that we should not give aid to that country, to people who are desperate for education and desperate for relief from the AIDS epidemic and for measures to stem its spread?

Mrs. Gillan

The hon. Lady and I have participated together in far too many debates for me to fall for that line, and I am surprised that she is pursuing it. She was present at a sitting of a Committee that examined the efficacy of EU aid to Zimbabwe, when it became apparent from a Court of Auditors report that the aid was being misdirected.

Dr. Tonge

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Gillan

No, hold on for a second.

Dr. Tonge

The hon. Lady said bilateral aid.

Mrs. Gillan

Hold on. The aid was not reaching those most in need, and it is right that I should ask how bilateral aid is audited. If, as the European Union's Court of Auditors tells us, aid is being misdirected and is not reaching the poorest, the House also needs assurances that United Kingdom taxpayers' money going to Zimbabwe as aid to the poorest is not also being diverted to people who have no right to have their hands on it and who are creating more poverty, more ignorance and more death and despair.

Dr. Tonge

That point needs to be clarified. It is my understanding that most bilateral aid would be channelled through non-governmental organisations. Marie Stopes International, for instance, is doing great work on the AIDS front. We must have clarity, but the argument about bilaterial aid from this country is totally different from the one that we had on European Union aid.

Mrs. Gillan

The hon. Lady is dancing on the head of a pin, because we are not going to disagree on the need for aid and the excellence of NGOs giving aid. I seek assurances from the Minister that a sufficiently good audit process exists in Zimbabwe, because NGOs also work perforce with local people in the hinterland and rural areas. I want to know that the Government have a sufficient grip on taxpayers' money to make sure that it is not wasted. I hope that the hon. Lady agrees with me.

Mr. Brady

When replying to my earlier intervention, the Minister conceded the principle by saying that the Government are already withholding aid. He clearly said that the Government would give more aid if they were happy with the behaviour of the Mugabe regime. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no difference in principle between what the hon. Gentleman says and what some of us are saying, which is that the Government should take a tougher line?

Mrs. Gillan

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I want to know exactly what audit controls the Government are planning. Otherwise it is all warm words and no action.

Finally on this subject, we know the direction in which Robert Mugabe has taken his country, and it is the wrong one for the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister will understand how ludicrous it is to have Robert Mugabe in the high-level group established to review the future of the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth is to stand for the values set out in the Harare declaration, is it not about time that it set an example and suspended the Zimbabwean Government as they do not deserve to be one of the eight Governments in whose hands the debate on the future shape of the Commonwealth rests? I hope that the Minister will answer my question.

Mr. Paterson

Does my hon. Friend agree that another good ground for suspending Mr. Mugabe's membership of the high-level group is that he is stalling on the publication of two reports about the Matabeleland massacres in the early 1980s, when about 3,000 people were killed? Until his attempts to obstruct the judicial process—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody)

Order. Interventions must be brief, even if they are on Matabeleland.

Mr. Paterson

Does my hon. Friend agree that stalling on those reports is a good enough reason for preventing Mr. Mugabe from being in the high-level group?

Mrs. Gillan

Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I hope that he will catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, and be able to make a full contribution on that matter.

Before I finish, I want to raise a couple of specific issues with the Minister. One is from a news brief that arrived on my desk. There is a report that the Minister told the UNITA rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, that he would be accorded a safe and comfortable retirement if he abandoned his activities. Of course, we know that the international community has declared Savimbi a war criminal. Will the Minister clarify what he is reported to have said? If he did not give such an assurance to Jonas Savimbi, we would like to know. If he did give that assurance, what plans does the Minister have for Mr. Savimbi's safe and comfortable retirement? I think that hon. Members would like to know during the debate.

My last point relates to the British Council, which does tremendous work throughout the world, particularly in Africa. It has worked with the Foreign Office for 20 years on the delivery of Britain's aid programme, as a partner and as a major commercial supplier. The council invested heavily in African infrastructure and appropriate staff skills. However, recent major changes in international development policy are especially worrying. Specifically, there are the changes to the mechanisms for aid delivery. The changes will significantly reduce the need for a supplier such as the British Council. The speed of that change in policy and the limited warning that was given to the British Council has left it with severe problems in resourcing its current network in Africa and will necessitate some major restructuring programmes. I hope that the Minister will comment on what appears to be the undermining of a tremendous British institution.

I have gone on for far too long and I apologise to hon. Members. As I said, however, with a debate that ranges across a whole continent it is impossible to bring all the key issues to the attention of the House and to discuss them properly. I have laid out a few of them for the Minister, and I hope that he can give straight answers to the questions that I have posed about his actions, rather than saying one thing but doing another.

3.15 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)

I welcome both the debate and my hon. Friend the Minister's positive and informative introduction to it. I was interested in the comments on Zimbabwe, but I know that you would agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the debate extends rather more widely than that, important though Zimbabwe is. My hon. Friend's encouraging remarks invite us to consider the comprehensive nature of Africa, particularly in the context of those countries that he visited and in the light of the changes that have taken place and the challenges that are still to be met.

Those of us of a particular vintage will recall the days of Alan Paton's "Cry the Beloved Country" and, more recently, Richard Attenborough's "Cry Freedom". We know what impact they had on public opinion in this country and elsewhere. As my hon. Friend the Minister was speaking and adding to Harold Macmillan's wise speech on the wind of change and the implications of Africa's history, I reflected on some of my own visits there, especially when I was the shadow Secretary of State for International Development. Indeed, I was part of a delegation led by your good self, Madam Deputy Speaker, to Botswana, where we had the opportunity of seeing relative prosperity and progress, not least at Chobe game park. Some of us also visited South Africa before the major changes there and Swaziland. Even then, Africa was a continent of contrasts; that has not changed, despite everything else that has.

My hon. Friend touched on many of my worries about Rwanda, Burundi, which is in a very serious situation, and Angola. Before I say a few words on that, perhaps I could develop the Minister's invitation for us to debate Africa's standing in the world, its economic influence, economic problems and the economic challenge facing many African countries, particularly the poorest people of the poorest countries in the poorest regions. I welcome what my hon. Friend said about the Government's policies on international development. Under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, our policies—including the policies on debt which are supported by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor—have been inspiring and progressive. I welcome the changes that even the World bank and the International Monetary Fund have made. I trust that we will not hear an argument against that progress; we want to see more of it, but we welcome that start.

We have been brought up to date on Africa by not only my hon. Friend, but by what the World bank and other important organisations have said. In an overview, the World bank group in Africa made some important points. It said: Forty per cent. of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1 a day. While we rightly deal with abuse of public money, we need to view it in its proper context and assess priorities. The overview continued: In aggregate, this combination of low economic growth, the highest rate of population increase in the world (at 2.8 per cent.) and a high burden of dependants to workers, puts Africa low on the rankings for those most critical indicators of social progress: how long people live, how much knowledge they acquire and how much access they have to resources necessary for a better standard of living. It also stated: To put it another way, each additional dollar in aid is five times more effective in countries with good policies"— and I was delighted that my hon. Friend did not dodge that issue.

We have debated structural adjustment—or conditionality, as it used to be called—for many years. We have done so knowing that we should not penalise individual citizens in any country because of their Government's—often unelected Government's—policies, particularly against the backdrop of the lifestyle that millions of people, especially in Africa, are forced to live.

My hon. Friend drew attention to educational problems in African countries. He said elsewhere, at an excellent meeting that I attended, that he was disappointed by an unimpressive decade for Africa. Instead of improving, educational policy has deteriorated. Sixteen of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa still enrol fewer than half their children in primary schools—and enrolment rates are dropping. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) mentioned adult literacy which, as stated in the Minister's report, is particularly low among women. Fewer than 50 per cent. of women in these countries are literate, and enrolment rates are dropping. That poses tremendous social challenges, even without the other problems that I mentioned earlier.

I wish to refer briefly to a speech made by the vice-president of the World bank in which he dealt with important social issues. He said: Social development in Africa still trails badly. Birth rates, childhood and maternal deaths are the highest in the world, and more than a quarter of African children are malnourished. Two hundred million Africans have no access to proper health services … Diseases both old and new are undoing many of the gains made since independence. More than nine out of 10 Africans are still at risk of contracting malaria, an ancient killer. And nearly 23 million Africans are now living with HIV/AIDS". That remains an important issue when such limited resources are available for health care in individual African countries.

In the light of the Minister's refreshing report, and because they are so important, I wish to move on to three countries. I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned Angola. I recall meeting President dos Santos of Angola six years ago, as my hon. Friend has done. At the time, the president was optimistic about the agreements reached with Savimbi of UNITA. Today we find broken dreams, dashed hopes, a much worse war raging there, with land mines multiplying daily, more people than ever being killed and injured and the great hopes that we had for peace being shattered. I welcome what my hon. Friend said about Savimbi.

If the international community is determined to apply itself positively to getting a settlement in Angola it will have to accept that the country is a mass of contradictions. It is potentially one of the world's richest countries in terms of oil, diamonds and natural resources which, if they are being used at all, are put to improper use. My hon. Friend needs no reminding that even with that background, Angola is number one on the list of heavily indebted, poor countries. I welcome my hon. Friend's commitment to progress.

I shall deal briefly with the extremely serious situation in Burundi. In many ways, Burundi was overshadowed by the tragic events in Rwanda and the implications for the neighbouring African states. I will read a letter that I received from Ben Crampton, the co-ordinator of the all-party parliamentary group, on Rwanda, the great lakes region and the prevention of genocide: Burundi is the main issue of concern at the moment since it is the country where a little pressure might make a big difference. I can't stress enough how desperate the situation is there. If the economy collapses there is a real danger of a military coup which could bring to power a hardline Tutsi faction within the army and put an end to the Arusha peace talks once and for all. The assassination of the president in 1993 resulted in unspeakable bloodshed, which was eclipsed by the slaughter in Rwanda a few months later. In reply, I hope that my hon. Friend will respond to the serious concerns about Burundi and comment on the implications for its neighbours.

As an example, I turn to one of my visits to Uganda some years ago with David Steel, now Lord Steel of Aikwood, to study the problem of AIDS, and the country's debt—which alone would be bad enough for any country to deal with. We saw some of the most grotesque examples of what Burns called "Man's inhumanity to man"—the consequences of what was happening in Rwanda. I will not go into detail because it is not particularly pleasant. I saw the refugee camps at the borders of Uganda, Zaire and Rwanda and the multilated bodies of men, women and children floating down Lake Victoria. I saw the problems that the Ugandan people had to get their food. Fishing was virtually destroyed because of the environmental consequences of that terrible genocide. If that was true of Uganda, Rwanda and Zaire, it remains true of countries suffering civil war. Where there is strife, we should apply ourselves as an international community to the solution of problems—and perhaps apply ourselves more forcefully to such problem solving in Africa. I trust that we will do that.

I welcome debates on issues such as this. Indeed, we are having more such debates than we did previously. However, we should have democratic, open debate reflecting the transparency which the Government wish to see in every field, including the World bank and the International Monetary Fund. That transparency should also be apparent in the responsibilities of elected leaders in Zimbabwe and other African states. Progress has been made, but we should not be complacent. People are still crying for freedom. As a Parliament dedicated to such objectives, we should seek to assist them in their journey.

3.30 pm
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

I, too, welcome the opportunity to debate Africa. Incidentally, I regret that we never had an opportunity to debate the White Paper on development, the first such paper for 20 years. Perhaps our debate will go some way toward stemming our irritation at not having had a chance to debate such issues.

Africa used to be quite a big part of the British empire. Some say—indeed, I have heard it said in the Chamber—that it was much better in those days and it is a pity that we cannot return to the days of empire. Whatever Britain did to rule or—as some say—exploit Africa, it was certainly not sustainable. Many African countries broke up in corruption and confusion in the 1940s and '50s, when we had to get rid of the colonies at the end of the second world war.

Colonial divisions did not help. Ever since I was at school, I have said that colonialists divided Africa with a pencil and ruler, because the map is all straight lines. Indeed, last week, a Namibian sitting next to me in an airplane flying over the border between Namibia and South Africa said, "Look. There's your straight line." He pointed out a dead straight fence. In colonial days, there was no recognition of natural groupings, tribal boundaries and so on. The land was simply divided up and people had to get on with things.

We have heard about British business wanting to invest in Africa. I was at yesterday's lunch and it is a pity that some of our food could not be shipped to some of the African countries I have visited. Government policies should encourage investment. The only way that that can be done is to ensure that no departmental policies cause instability and conflict in Africa. That is a case for joined-up government if ever there was one.

As international development spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, I have visited several African countries in the past three years. As a Member of Parliament, it is a great privilege to have such an opportunity. Many of the places that I visited were involved in the programme of the Select Committee on International Development, so I have had a good opportunity to see in depth what is happening.

Four things stand out in my mind, one of which is conflict. Three quarters of countries in sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in, or under threat of, armed conflict. The HIV/AIDS epidemic rages throughout sub-Saharan Africa, affecting 25 to 30 per cent. of the population in most of the countries. Unlike previous epidemics, which would wipe out the very young, the elderly, the weak and the frail, the AIDS epidemic is wiping out economically active young people. That is a tragedy with desperate consequences for the economies of such countries. Poverty leads to a lack of education, and education, as we all know, is essential for a good and growing economy. A lack of education leads to poor governance and corruption. We heard a great deal about that from the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan).

All those factors affect African countries. Yes, there are tremendous signs of recovery and development. When I was in Uganda I was constantly amazed and delighted at how that country was coping and growing, and how positive the people were. Likewise, in South Africa—I have not been there, but I was recently in Namibia—there is extraordinary optimism, organisation, and good governance. It has everything going for it. Mozambique, the despair of all of us as it bumped along the bottom a few years ago, now has one of the fastest growing economies. Nigeria and Ghana are showing good signs, and Botswana is the champion with the highest growth of the African countries. It is impossible to cover all aspects of Africa and the UK engagement in that continent, so I shall confine myself to a few aspects that concern me most, and then I shall talk about one country in particular.

Conflict is one of the crucial issues in Africa. Three quarters of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa are in armed conflict or at threat from armed conflict. Excluding South Africa, the arms spending in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 14 per cent. last year. The economic growth average was 1 per cent. Ninety per cent. of the casualties in these wars are civilians. Many of these countries are subject to arms embargoes, but that can be irrelevant to the combatants in a civil war. We have all heard of Mil Tec, the scandal in Rwanda, Sandline and Sierra Leone. A good "Dispatches" programme just before Christmas showed how easily arms brokers can transfer arms to any country whether there is an embargo or not.

When I was staying in a village in southern Sudan for a few days last year I talked to some of the rebel leaders. When I suggested that the embargo on arms trade with northern and southern Sudan might make it difficult for them to get arms to pursue the war, they looked at me as if I was completely mad. They told me that it was easy, and that they could get arms from anywhere. They are flown in from across the borders. They need them and they get them. That is a terrible reflection on what is going on in the west. The Government dodge the issue of arms brokers time after time. The people who break these embargoes are dealers in death worldwide. Do they ever see the consequences of their business, as many hon. Members have?

The report of the Select Committee on International Development on conflict prevention recommended a register of arms brokers. Until recently I was a member of the Committee's inquiry into the annual reports for 1997 and 1998 on strategic export controls. The first report has just been published and states: We support a more stringent national policy on brokering and trafficking, which could act as a spur to international action. In other words, Britain should be leading the way on this problem. It continues: We look to the 1999 Annual Report to make some specific reference to the Government's view on the way forward". We must do something about arms brokering.

The report also emphasises the need for proper scrutiny of legitimate arms exports requiring licences and the involvement of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. These Departments are responsible for our engagement in Africa and encourage investment. Yet I have evidence from many parliamentary questions that they are not involved as much as they should be, and that they are constantly overruled. The Secretary of State for International Development did not even see the annual report on arms exports until it was published.

I could not leave the subject of arms control without mentioning Zimbabwe, but the Minister said that I was flogging the same old horse. I remind him that that horse is not yet dead. People in Zimbabwe have overwhelmingly rejected their Government, yet we have been prepared to repair their Hawk jets and so continue the fight in the Congo. Will the Minister comment on criterion 8 of the European code of conduct, which we have signed up to and think important to obey? Criterion 8 states: Member States will take into account, in the light of information from relevant sources such as UNDP, World Bank, IMF and OECD reports, whether the proposed export would seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country. They will consider in this context the recipient country's relative levels of military and social expenditure taking into account any EU or bi-lateral aid. That is a most interesting little clause.

The war in the Congo is costing Zimbabwe £1 million a day. There is unemployment all over that country. Its Government are in disarray. They are corrupt and in debt. HIV/AIDS is raging, with 25 per cent. of the population affected. What is the rationale of our exporting Hawk jet parts to Zimbabwe when it is in that state, irrespective of whether we are fulfilling a contract? Surely, although we would have had to pay if we had breached the contract, doing so would have been worth while and a darn sight cheaper in the long run than clearing up the mess that is sure to follow. Before leaving that subject, I must pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the Government for revising their policy on selling arms to African countries.

Mrs. Gillan

While the hon. Lady is praising the Prime Minister so fulsomely, does she agree that it was the Prime Minister who overruled the Foreign Office to enable the spare parts to be sent to Zimbabwe? Will she then revise her remarks?

Dr. Tonge

I thank the hon. Lady for her typical intervention, but I believe that the carrot is more effective than the stick. The Prime Minister made the announcement in response to a parliamentary question that I tabled, which is why I keep mentioning it. As he has gone that far, and we welcome what the Government have done, he should extend his thinking a little further and realise that the parts for the Hawk jets should be involved in the equation. It is terribly important that he understand that.

I would have mentioned HIV/AIDS further, but the Minister has dealt with it fully, so I shall simply refer to my first sight of Africa. After arriving at Entebbe airport in Uganda, I passed through a few villages on the way to Kampala. I could not understand why there were piles of coffins in every village. One hut in each village housed a coffin maker and coffins were piled up outside. Naive western woman says, "Coffins are good business here." Indeed, they are because of the AIDS epidemic. The coffin maker has the best business in each village and can sell a coffin a day because of AIDS. That fact, not just the sight of sick people obviously suffering from AIDS and its complications, brought the problem home to me. Those piles of coffins have stuck in my mind.

Whatever the situation in a particular country in sub-Saharan Africa and whatever the Government involved are like—I refer to my intervention on the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham—I urge the Government not to stop our investment in education and the use of condoms or the striving and work being done to find an AIDS vaccine. That is the most essential and valuable thing that we can do for Africa.

I cannot sit down without mentioning the Sudan. This time last year, I spent several days living in a village compound in Baht el Ghaza, which is situated in the war zone. My stay left a mark on me. I cannot forget the Dinka and the Nuer people of southern Sudan, who are hardworking, intelligent and lovers of Great Britain. Why are we not helping them more? They speak English and listen to the World Service. I well remember the first morning that I woke up in a straw stockaded compound. As dawn broke, I suddenly realised that the only sound was that of Lilliburlero, drifting across the compound. One Dinka tribesman was sleeping in the compound with us and he had managed to keep his little tranny radio away from the raiders who threaten the people at all times and which wreck their villages. He switched on his transistor radio for five minutes every morning to listen to the BBC World Service. That is a plug for the World Service, which is still listened to throughout Africa, where it is so greatly valued. It has been a huge influence for good in that continent, and I should hate to believe that the Government would even dare think about cutting the funding for that wonderful service.

The people in the area are reduced to living in the stone age. I would challenge anyone to find people who are so deprived as those in Baht el Ghaza. There is total poverty; nothing is left. Everything has been taken, wrecked or ruined. The people plant crops, but the war ensures that they are destroyed before they can be harvested. Women and children are taken away up to the north. There is terror and starvation. These are the results of decades of war between north and south Sudan, a war that is now exacerbated by the extraction of oil in southern Sudan.

I commend to hon. Members the Harker report, for which some of us have been waiting and which was published in the past few days. This independent report was commissioned by the Government of Canada to investigate the conditions in southern Sudan and to track down some of the myths and truths in that area. Talisman, a big oil company based in Canada, is working in the southern Sudan oil fields, as are British companies. Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry produced a flowery document telling British business men how they could invest in the oil fields in southern Sudan. The document was scurrilous, and, thank goodness, the Foreign Office—I hope that it was the Foreign Office—had it withdrawn. British companies are operating in the region, and around the oil fields there is more rape, pillage, fire, destruction and indiscriminate bombing than in other areas. The Harker report which, as I said, is an independent report from another Government—I commend the Canadian Government for having commissioned it—shows exactly what is going on. The case is urgent: we must read the report, do something about the Sudan and reengage in the region.

The Minister will tell us that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development talks are in place to broker peace. I feel that they are getting nowhere and that a much more concentrated international effort is needed. In the meantime, British companies should not be involved in the area. An article in one of this morning's broadsheets stated that the United States had banned trade with a Sudanese oil joint venture in an effort to stop the war. There should be no more involvement in the oil fields until the war is settled and peace is restored to the people after 30 years, or whatever the period is.

Lastly, I appreciate the Minister's comments and feel uplifted following yesterday's lunch. We must ignore the gloom and think about encouraging investment in Africa. As I have already mentioned, there are many success stories, but to ensure regeneration in the continent, we must re-engage in Africa. The Government must ensure that the policies of all Departments promote the stability of the continent, stamp out corruption, invest in education and health care and, above all, do nothing to increase conflict. Africa is a beautiful continent full of people who long to be part of our world, and we owe it to them to help them become peaceful and prosperous.

3.50 pm
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

This is an important, interesting and wide-ranging debate. I wish to concentrate my remarks on Kenya. I chair the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Kenya group and I have been privileged to visit Kenya many times. I last visited that country last summer, on a CPA visit led by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwick (Mrs. Dunwoody).

Kenya is an African Commonwealth country, which has historic and close links with the United Kingdom. We have built up a relationship of understanding based on frankness between the two countries. As I am sure hon. Members know, Kenya, like many African countries, is very beautiful. It is popular with tourists and has much to offer. Since independence, it has been stable. Over the years, the political system has changed. It used to be dominated by one political party, KANU. The present make-up of the Kenya Parliament is that, although KANU remains a major political party, there are now also opposition parties, which play an ever-increasing role in the political affairs of the country. That is undoubtedly welcome.

The President, Daniel arap Moi, who has led the country for many years, has stated that he will not seek re-election at the next presidential elections, so we will start to see major political changes in Kenya. That is vital for democracy. I hope that we will encourage those changes and support the development of human rights at every level of society.

We also know that, like many other African countries, Kenya is poor and, for many people, life is hard. I have seen many aspects of life in Kenya. I have seen a life where progress, opportunity and life style are so very different from that which we and people in other parts of the world experience. That is why I am delighted to pay the warmest tribute to the Government, and in particular to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, for her interest in Kenya, where she is known and widely respected. Our aid to Kenya is about £43 million, which marks a significant increase in recent years. When, in December last year, I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a question about our involvement with aid projects in Kenya, she replied that we financially support 25 projects. Those projects cover many day-to-day issues of importance to the people of Kenya: women's projects, education projects, family planning and family health, HIV/AIDS preventive measures and agricultural projects. We have a proud record of help and assistance in Kenya, which I fully support.

We all have issues to highlight that are relevant to countries such as Kenya. High on the agenda must be what we and other important donor countries give to Kenya to improve its economy and social structure and to create employment. Some aspects of the Kenyan economy are successful, but others, such as the tourism industry, are not. My hon. Friend the Minister knows that that industry is enormously important. It creates employment and a demand for services, and brings in hard currency. However, the country and the people are suffering because it is not doing well. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us how the United Kingdom, which has an excellent tourism industry, will help Kenya to redevelop what could and should be a major income earner. I also hope that he will say how we are helping other African countries to develop their trading opportunities in the world, especially with the European Union.

I mentioned some of the projects that we are funding in Kenya, many of which involve women. They work far harder than the men, which may be true of other African countries, while coping with the family responsibilities. Women suffer most throughout the country and have the hardest time in what is a difficult life for many people. That is why I hope that donor countries will give a greater commitment to improving the life of women, so that they receive greater respect and better opportunities.

There are many ways to do that. Millions of people in Kenya have no access to adequate water supplies. Many hon. Members will be aware that women walk miles every day to get water for their families. Surely modern technology can help us to bring that essential resource nearer to where people live. That would save hours of walking. Men are never seen walking to water supplies; young children sometimes go, but it is invariably women, who will have done many other jobs earlier in the day. I hope that my hon. Friend will give the issue the consideration that it deserves. I want to see a greater commitment to the development of women's projects in Kenya. Many women of great ability do not have the resources or the know-how to develop the opportunities that would help their families and country. Britain, with its long links with Commonwealth countries, should be committed to that.

Health care is a major issue. When someone becomes ill, it causes problems for their family. In Kenya, people must travel a long way to get medical attention from a doctor or hospital. We know of the huge cost of buying medicine. Kenya's health service is not like ours. We are told repeatedly that many people who need urgent medical care get none because of the cost of medicines. The Minister will be aware of that. We have skills in the United Kingdom, and in the other important donor countries that help Kenya in many ways, and we must consider the situation.

Like you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I always visit schools when I go to Kenya and I have visited many. Schools should be happy places where youngsters have the opportunity to get a good education that will offer them opportunities as they grow older and embark on life in their country. Sadly, in Kenya, rates for school enrolment and for the completion of youngsters' education have been falling, especially for young girls. Successive reports say that the reason for that is the cost to families of getting their children educated. Figures were mentioned in earlier speeches. It is unsurprising that that is the case because about 50 per cent. of the Kenyan population earn but a few shillings a day. The lack of education facilities is surely unacceptable to all hon. Members. I hope that we shall give great consideration to the matter.

We have a special role regarding Kenya, because of its Commonwealth links. I have touched on some of the important issues faced by Kenya and I could mention others. HIV and AIDS have already been considered. Countries such as ours must help not only financially but with our skills and knowledge to protect Kenya's natural resources. We must help economic development. Kenya has suffered from an enormous influx of refugees from its neighbours because of the problems that those countries face. Above all, we must work for the elimination of poverty. That opinion is supported throughout the House.

Like other hon. Members, I pay the warmest tribute to the work of the British Council. It does magnificent work in Kenya and other countries, not only in Africa. Sadly, the Government to whom I am proud to belong do not always give the total commitment that they should to its work. I should also pay a warm tribute to the British high commissioner for Kenya and his staff—he does an excellent job. You know him, Madam Deputy Speaker, as do I. We should be proud that he represents us in that important Commonwealth country.

I have talked about what we should be committed to doing. I was delighted to hear the opening remarks of the Minister of State about his Department's work with Kenya. There have been differences. Sadly, constructive, or sometimes critical, dialogue is not always welcomed because of attitudes in Kenya. I hope that the Kenyan Government will accept that, through our discussion and the issues that we seek to raise, we extend the hand of friendship. Our priority is to improve the daily life of the people, wherever they live in that beautiful country—a country that has enormous potential.

I fully endorse what my hon. Friend the Minister said about the essential reforms on which he is working with the Kenyan Government. The members of the all-party Kenya group, and all hon. Members here today who have an interest in African affairs, will wish to see those reforms being achieved.

4.5 pm

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

Madam Deputy Speaker, it is a pleasure to make my first contribution while you are in the Chair, especially as you are the Member of Parliament for my neighbouring constituency of Crewe and Nantwich. This is my first appearance in the Chamber. It reminds me of a rather upmarket Blackpool winter-gardens version of a mock mediaeval dining room, but I am sure that I will get used to it.

The Minister and I have one thing in common. We are both sons of Africa: we were both born there. I am sure that the Minister is as proud of having lived in South Africa, despite his and his family's forced departure at such an early age, as I am of having lived in Mtwara, in what was then Tanganyika—it is now Tanzania—before moving to Mombasa in Kenya, which used to be pronounced "Keeyna". I thank the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) for his forensic and experienced analysis of that country and its current problems.

Over the years, in a combined business and charitable guise, I have had the opportunity to get to know the Sarahan and Sahel states in west and north-west Africa. I have no doubt that the Minister's knowledge, experience and care for Africa are genuine. Sadly, despite sharing our continent of birth, the Minister and I are forced to part company because of a higher authority. Having followed African matters closely, particularly this country's engagement with that great continent, I am greatly disappointed that the United Kingdom is losing a real and crucial opportunity in its relations with Africa.

Our historical connection with Africa has been fine and genuinely outstanding. At one time we had administrative responsibility for that continent. Of course, serious and even disgraceful incidents took place, but many of them were a function of their time in history rather than, as they are now, a source of shame or guilt. Compared with other former colonial powers in Africa, we can hold our head up high. That, however, is the past. Here, today, we must focus on the present, and on the United Kingdom's future engagement in Africa.

The problem is not the Minister's; it is a problem for that higher authority—the Foreign Secretary. For many years, I have lived and worked abroad, not only in Africa but in the far east, Australasia, continental Europe, north America, central America and south America. I am acutely aware of those countries' perceptions of this country's political, economic and commercial standing in their corridors of power and boardrooms. I once joined a Conservative Trade and Industry Minister on a mission to Latin America, and I was aware of the interrelationship between the Government and the commercial world, and how important in this day and age it is to have mutual understanding.

I was elected to the House of Commons only seven months ago, so I have recent experience of the effect of our foreign policy in those corridors and boardrooms since Labour came to office and since the Foreign Secretary took up his post. Given the ridicule and confusion that his foreign policy has created in Africa and, although perhaps a little less so, in other countries, like so many of our fellow citizens, be they politicians, diplomats, business men and women, civil servants or tourists, I am ashamed that I and my country are represented abroad by the current Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Paterson

Would my hon. Friend comment on what was said in The Jersusalem Post after the Foreign Secretary's disastrous trip to the middle east, about the effect for the Prime Minister of having a diplomat like Cook by his side"?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The debate is about Africa.

Mr. O'Brien

Indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Perhaps I may give another example of what I am talking about, bearing in mind, Madam Deputy Speaker, your stricture that we are talking about Africa.

When a dozen wars are simmering on that continent, affecting 200 million people, is it not a disgrace that Britain offers troops on standby for peacekeeping operations and reneges on the promise as soon as it is unveiled? I refer to a pledge made last year. In June 1999, in one of the more remarkable instances of posturing by a Foreign Secretary who is renowned just for that, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) told Kofi Annan that Britain would have 8,000 troops on standby to be used by the UN for rapid response emergencies. Before the Minister tells us that the Foreign Secretary was quoted out of context, I shall quote exactly what he said on 25 June: The problem for the UN is that every time there is a fire they have had to get down the blueprint and start to build a fire engine. At least now they will have the components for the fire engine. We will be giving the UN an undertaking that when called upon we are prepared to commit [troops] for an operation. We will earmark some so that they are ready to be used when the time comes. It will always remain our decision to respond to the decision [of the UN] but I do not think we have let you down yet, Kofi. On 15 December in New York, in a speech entitled "The UN's partnership with Africa", the Minister declared "we need better peacekeeping" in Africa. He is right. We need better peacekeeping, but not posturing by his left-wing boss, whose ambitions are bigger than his budget. Will the Minister promise the House of Commons that in future the Government will not promise more in peacekeeping than they can deliver? That is one of the most serious let-downs for our potential and current relationships across Africa.

The Minister has talked in the House of Commons and elsewhere about a renaissance in Africa and about backing winners there, as if that is a new policy or passes for a new ethical foreign policy. However, as was, I understand, pointed out to him by a civil servant from the Department for International Development at the all-party Africa group this week, is not backing winners and promoting a renaissance merely a continuation of Britain's policy? In his conceit, the Foreign Secretary forgot to say that for the best part of 400 years British foreign policy has had a significant ethical element and has always been a mixture of patriotism, principle and pragmatism.

When the Foreign Secretary took office he ignored the achievements of his predecessors and loftily announced that foreign policy must have an ethical dimension. I could not help noticing during the Minister's opening remarks that he defined the word "ethical" in terms of a concept better known in the world of conveyancing. He said that it was subject to contract, in justification of the Government's defiance of its ethical foreign policy by selling spare parts for Hawk jets to Zimbabwe, despite that country's involvement in a military adventure in the Congo. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) said—and I support all that she so cogently argued—that is hardly evidence of a new policy from the Prime Minister with respect to selling arms to Africa.

A report in the "World Today" this month commented on the United States taking over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council. The United States declared January the month of Africa. It is not the first time that new initiatives have been announced for a continent that some describe as forgotten. The report said: During the Cold War, the countries in the Horn of Africa received substantial aid because they were strategically significant to the United States and Soviet political and military engagement in the Middle East. However, with a change in the military situation and the gradual development of the Middle East peace process, the Horn has lost its importance … there have been humanitarian enterprises and regional diplomacy, mainly led by the US. Ethiopia and Eritrea have indeed lost importance. The report continued: The division of Africa into what is described as utile and inutile"— that is French diplomacy, I am told— sits uncomfortably with claims of an ethical dimension in foreign policy and the high moral crusade proclaimed both by Prime Minister Blair and President Clinton in the international arena. That was an important and objective comment.

The future of Africa is first and last dependent on the creation and maintenance of confidence, as the Minister said, because that is what draws in business, of which I have some experience. Prosperity is the best guarantor of reducing the negative pull of tribalism and factionalism.

The security risk increasingly associated with hosting refugees from intractable regional conflicts and the resulting unwillingness by host Governments to provide asylum protection creates a dilemma: one may want to do the decent thing, but conflicts mean that difficult decisions must be taken.

Tanzania remains a beacon, to use a current term—

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)


Mr. O'Brien

Yes, a fashionable term. Tanzania is exemplary in hosting some of the largest refugee populations. I salute Tanzania's progress and, to the extent that it may have anything to do with the United Kingdom, I accept that it is probably also to the Minister's credit; but as sure as the cloud will cover the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro whenever one wants to see it or to photograph its glorious splendour, it is despite, not because of, the Foreign Secretary that we have made progress in our engagement in Africa. Like so many of those with whom I have shared business ventures in Africa, I am ashamed of our Foreign Secretary's approach to foreign policy.

4.17 pm
Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands)

I was privileged to visit Zambia during the summer, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I was impressed by its people, its land, its abundance of water, its fertility and its huge potential for tourism. It is a country, like many in Africa, blighted by poverty, by its debt burden and by the scourge of AIDS. Infection rates are running at an incredible 25 per cent. among adults. Swathes of its population—its most productive people, those in their 30s and 40s, and whole families—have been wiped out by AIDS.

I visited the country just before the AIDS conference in Lusaka. AIDS was discussed at an official level, but even so complacency prevailed there. Zambia does not have the political leadership that has stemmed the spread of AIDS and HIV in Uganda and Thailand. Cultural practices mean that widowed women sleep with their dead husband's male relatives, which encourages the spread of AIDS. Condoms, although talked about, are not widely used. Widows are also thrown out of their homes when relatives decide to repossess the house. It is illegal, of course, but women and their children, already deprived of their main breadwinner, are put out on the streets.

There are projects that try to cater for the hundreds of homeless street orphans. They attempt to give a meal a day and some education, but they have virtually no resources and no outside assistance. Without education and nutrition, those street children are unlikely to live to a productive age, especially given the AIDS epidemic. I recognise that the UK is playing a significant role in trying to support health programmes and clinics, but more needs to be done.

Zambia has not been torn apart by conflict, so it seems to be a forgotten corner of Africa, yet it has the legacy of other conflicts. Land mines along its borders continue to pose real problems. President Chiluba has a proud record of promoting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he led the Lusaka peace accord while we were there, but Zambia has become a principal conduit—people very high up in the Government are implicated—for busting UN sanctions against UNITA. President Chiluba must act and we must back him in stamping that out. Having met him, I do not believe that he wants his Government involved in sustaining such a devastating war, which is now spilling over the Zambian border.

Zambia is a wonderful country with huge potential. The tourist board's slogan proclaimed "Zambia: the real Africa" and it was right. The country feels real: unsanitised, unpackaged and largely unvisited. It offers the best of wild Africa—abundant game and top guides—yet although it is twice the size of Zimbabwe, it receives only about 10 per cent. of the number of tourists.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation visited Victoria Falls and the South Luangwa nature reserve. We were impressed by the totally unspoilt environment. While the spectacle of Niagara Falls is spoilt by over-commercialisation, at Victoria Falls—at least on the Zambian side—there was just a curio stand, a place to buy postcards and drinks, and lavatories. Minimal provision meant maximum enjoyment.

The Zambian Government are under tremendous pressure to allow a major hotel chain to build a luxury hotel overlooking the falls. I am pleased to say that they are resisting that; they recognise that their future lies in eco-tourism and sustainable, long-term development. I fear, however, that the country's lack of infrastructure and inward investment makes it difficult for the Government to reject all commercialisation. At present, most tourists fly into Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe to visit the area, rather than using the closer Livingstone airport because the facilities of the latter are poor and the runway is a little too bumpy for many airlines. When the delegation enjoyed an evening boat cruise on the Zambezi, we experienced a similar problem. Only two of the many boats operating on the river were registered in Zambia. All the others were from Zimbabwe, although they all used the Zambian side of the river because there was more wildlife to be seen there.

What the country needs is appropriate and ethical investment. There must be two interlinked goals: the development of local people and the conservation of the environment and wildlife. Local communities must see that visitors pay because they want to see the wildlife, and local people should understand that they will benefit from conservation. It is important that Zambia learns from the mistakes of its neighbours. I have heard countless stories of people going on long game drives in Kenya and seeing hardly any animals. If one appears, a dozen or more vehicles arrive within minutes.

Nothing could be more different from the experience of the South Luangwa nature reserve where we had many close encounters—indeed, some were extremely close. Unlike in Kenya, the guides are not allowed to radio other guides to attract them. They do not need to: the game is abundant. At present, few local people are involved in tourism, beyond employment as camp workers and scouts. The way forward must be for game lodges and safari operators to plough money back into local communities. Tourists, though few, should ask their local tour operators how much revenue goes back directly to local people.

On a six-hour road journey from Lusaka to Livingstone, the CPA delegation saw what benefits investment can bring. Where there is irrigation—there is an abundance of water in Zambia—the land is fertile; but where there is no irrigation, little is grown and poverty prevails. I hope that the Government will play their part in helping Zambia to achieve the increased inward investment that it so desperately needs.

Mrs. Gillan

I am listening carefully to the hon. Lady's account of a trip that obviously left its mark on her. Did she have the opportunity to discuss refugees in Zambia? Is she aware that the UN singled out Zambia for praise for hosting more than 200,000 refugees? What extra support could be given to Zambia for taking on that role when other countries are so busy rejecting it?

Charlotte Atkins

We were indeed able to discuss that issue. Zambia certainly takes more than its fair share of the burden, especially in view of the country's poverty. Its Government set budgets, but are seldom able to meet them because of a lack of resources. Zambia certainly should be praised and supported for its valuable work.

I hope that the Government will help Zambia to achieve increased inward investment—sustainable commercial investment. That might help it to avoid grasping a dangerous short-term strategy and to achieve long-term sustainable development.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Several hon. Members wish to speak. If they exercise a little self-restraint, they will be able to contribute to the debate.

4.28 pm
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

I shall do my best to follow your instructions, Mrs. Dunwoody.

I wish to draw attention to double standards over Zimbabwe. When I was at university in Cambridge, the great issue was the civil war in Rhodesia, as it was then called. A great campaign was fought in the press and protests were made with the overwhelming support of left-wing agitators. The Minister would be proud to include himself among them.

The reality of the profoundly horrible civil war was brought home to me when a Viscount was shot down and a friend of mine lost both her parents who were travelling on it. It is striking that we hear nothing about the country now, despite what Mugabe has done to it since he came to power. Where the Royal Navy failed, he succeeded. The BEIRA patrol attempted to stop petrol imports reaching Rhodesia. Now, thanks to the incompetence and corruption of the Mugabe regime, petrol and diesel are hard to come by. According to one of the Harare newspapers, trucks recently had to wait three hours to buy 20 litres—only four gallons—of fuel. Diesel is in short supply and farmers have been hit, so they cannot harvest tabacco. That is the result, I repeat, of sheer incompetence.

Between August 1997 and December 1998, the Zimbabwean dollar changed, in relation to the American dollar, from seven to 38, which pushed up the price of imports. Like most communists, the Government were so incompetent that they did not change the price of fuel in Zimbabwe. Noczim, the national oil company of Zimbabwe, was not allowed to increase its prices and it ran up a deficit of $9 billion. We do not have time to go into the expense of the war in the Congo, which is probably being fought for Mugabe's personal gain.

The impact on the country is devastating. The hon. Member for Tooting. (Mr. Cox) mentioned the value of education. According to a report in the Zimbabwe Standard on 30 January, the Cambridge examination board is refusing to clear examination results because it is owed £2.6 million by the Zimbabwean Government. An official said: Forex reserves at the central bank have dwindled to alarming levels. Well, government can make a directive, but if there is no forex nothing will be done. That affects every level of Zimbabwe, yet no one appears to be protesting.

Mr. Tony Colman (Putney)

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman look at yesterday's Financial Times, in which the Minister delivered a stinging denunciation of the Zimbabwean regime.

Mr. Paterson

I should be delighted to read that report. However, the Minister gave a different impression when he spoke earlier. The hon. Gentleman might have turned up late and missed the Minister's speech.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) spoke movingly of her direct experiences. AIDS is a grotesque problem in Zimbabwe. According to the UN, one in four adults between the ages of 15 and 49 have AIDS, 2,500 people die of the disease every week and, incredibly, the average life expectancy will have fallen from 61 to 39 by 2010. There is astonishing corruption and theft.

Dr. Tonge

I must take the hon. Gentleman to task, as I feel strongly about AIDS.

AIDS did not occur in the past couple of years. Ten or more years ago, the medical profession was sounding clear warnings about it. The previous Government did nothing apart from mount a brief television campaign, and then the issue disappeared.

Mr. Paterson

I am grateful for that. However, I am discussing the Mugabe regime, which has been in power since the 1980s—[Interruption.] If the hon. Lady will allow me to get a word in edgeways, I shall make the point that Mugabe and his regime have stolen wantonly from the Zimbabwean people.

I shall give a little vignette. In the past decade, Mugabe has been to 150 countries and his travel costs are $260 million. Those audited costs are for fuel bills alone: they do not take account of Mugabe's charges and expenses. He takes an allowance of $50,000 and an extra $10,000 per trip, which is what the first lady also receives. None of that is audited, although that is where the money is going. Of course, Mugabe takes his entourage with him. Senior Government officials receive $12,500 a day. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) described that as a kleptocracy. Mugabe's regime is totally corrupt and raids the wealth of Zimbabwe. As a result, the Zimbabwean people are suffering.

Dr. Tonge

I must take the hon. Gentleman to task yet again. The Conservative Government were in power for 17 years, during which time the Mugabe regime became worse and worse. Indeed, the previous Government even sold that regime Hawk jets. How does he explain that inaction?

Mr. Paterson

I am discussing the damage that Mugabe and his entourage have inflicted on Zimbabwe. It is extraordinary that the hon. Lady is trying to score cheap points against the Conservative party, when we should concentrate on the welfare of people living in that benighted country.

Mugabe's regime is backed by deeply unpleasant repression of the media. News is suppressed, the classic case being that of Mark Charandula, editor of the independent Zimbabwe Standard, who was arrested because he reported an alleged military coup in which 23 members of the Zimbabwean national army were detained for plotting to overthrow President Mugabe's Government. Several high court orders were made calling for Mr. Chavanduka's release, but the authorities failed to comply. The military said that the judge could not direct them and that anyone meddling with military matters would be subject to such matters.

Mr. Chavanduka was severely beaten in custody and emerged with signs of torture: he had cigarette burns, electric shocks and had been immersed in drums of water. Dr. Johnson said that one can tell a man by the company he keeps. It is interesting that Mugabe has been harbouring the other communist dictator who brought Ethiopia to its knees, Mengistu Haile Miriam. He is doing so in return for the guns that Mengistu gave him during the civil war.

I turn now to the referendum and the general election that might be held in March. Replying to my intervention about the possible seizure or theft of land, with no compensation, from 4,500 white farmers, the Minister said that it was not a priority. They farm half the country's prime agricultural land. If such burglary is allowed, the impact on those who want to invest in Zimbabwe will be catastrophic. We should not underestimate the devastating impact, not just on the white people who are our flesh and blood relatives but on those who lived there for centuries before. It will have an appalling effect on all sectors of the Zimbabwean population.

What is the Minister doing to support those brave people who have stood up against Mugabe? There is the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats led by Margaret Dongo. If they link up, they could win 75 seats. What encouragement is the Minister giving them? What messages is he giving the Mugabe regime that their freedom to campaign should not in any way be infringed? It is worth noting that one non-governmental group calculated that a quarter of the people on the electoral roll for the next stage of the general election planned for March were dead, fictitious or had multiple listings.

The Justice Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced that the election should be postponed until June, but he has been overruled by Robert Mugabe. I strongly endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham said about the fundamental importance of the Commonwealth getting involved in the election to monitor it extremely carefully. The Commonwealth should threaten to expel Zimbabwe if it is not allowed rigorously to check how the election is conducted.

Mugabe is trying to stall two reports on the Matebeleland massacres in the early 1980s, in which about 3,000 people were killed. Again, we come back to double standards. We do not hear great left-wing protests about that. We hear about General Pinochet often enough; he is accused of doing 3,000 people to death in a non-judicial manner, exactly as Mugabe and his cronies have done.

Mrs. Gillan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and for his support for the line that I have taken and for the line of questioning that I hope the Minister will address directly. Does he share my concern that Zimbabwe is rapidly going downhill? That is evidenced by the withdrawal of some of its lines of credit, notably by one of its leading trading partners, the South African Customs Union. Will he comment on reports that Mugabe has secured a loan of millions of dollars from Colonel Gaddafi to alleviate the current fuel shortage and to pay soldiers, who have not been paid since last November? Does he agree that that is a very disturbing development?

Mr. Paterson

It is grotesque that he should receive such help from another equally unpleasant and dangerous source—Gaddafi in Libya. We do not have enough time to go into the details of the war in the Congo. It seems that it is being fought very much for Mugabe's personal gain and at devasting cost to the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe. I am worried that the Minister is compromised by his past. There are two standards. In the case of Burma, Cuba and Zimbabwe, the Government do not take the strong line on civil rights, abuses of state power and kleptocracy—we heard about this in Zimbabwe—that they do in other areas.

Mr. Hain

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman was on Tuesday afternoon during Foreign Office questions, but if he had been listening he would have heard the clearest ministerial condemnation of what is happening in Zimbabwe. There was certainly nothing like it during the 18 years that his party was in power, when things went seriously wrong in that country and his Government did nothing about it.

Mr. Paterson

I was present at Foreign Office questions, and the Minister failed to answer my supplementary question. This referendum result is a possible breach in the dam if the forces of good push through it.

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

Given the hon. Gentleman's comments about double standards, is he prepared to condemn the handiwork of General Pinochet?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. If we could have a little discipline and brief interventions, preferably on the subject of the debate, we might proceed.

Mr. Paterson

I will observe your first injunction and be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The remarkable result in the referendum gives the forces of good in Zimbabwe a chance. I thought that the Minister's initial comments about what Britian can do were limp wristed. There must have been a way of stopping the jet parts about which I asked a question. If the Foreign Office had used its lawyers, they would have found a way round that. There must be some way of insisting that the Commmonwealth becomes actively involved in the preparations for the general election and ensures that the two reports on the Matabeleland massacres are published. The Government must find a way of putting pressure on Mugabe to stop him silencing the press in the build-up to the general election, and to give advice to the democratic groups that need to unite and work against Mugabe. I want the Minister to say that he will take a strong line on Zimbabwe. Failing that, I strongly suggest that he find someone else who will.

4.42 pm
Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

A significant number of hon. Members must have either lived and/or worked in Africa, and they must realise how much it has to give as well as how much it needs to receive. In the mid 1960s I spent some years teaching in Tanzania and I came back having learnt far more than I taught. I want to use the experience of that country then and since to emphasise the importance of looking at the quality and nature, as well as the quantity, of our aid.

Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is a life expectancy of about 48. Illiteracy among men is 18 per cent. and among women it is significantly higher, at 38 per cent. By comparison with many other countries, that is not so high, but it is still significant in a severely indebted, low-income country. As debt is relieved and bilateral aid is given, it goes to programme aid, technical co-operation and humanitarian aid. I am proud that in 1999–99 this country gave £79 million in bilateral aid to Tanzania.

Tanzania has made progress, as an earlier speaker said. Economic, structural and political reforms are under way. However, education and health indicators are getting worse. I have learned that of the programmed aid, first we fund a range of general imports. I question the word "imports". Will the Minister tell us whether we are funding imports into the country, or out of it? It is essential that we understand the importance of Tanzania's exports. What matters is what is coming out. Trade with the rest of the world is vital for that country.

We have heard a great deal about investment in countries. I want to emphasise both the necessity of fair trade with them and the importance of what those countries export, especially Tanzania at the moment. Coffee is my example, and I have brought my example with me. I am delighted that the House of Commons takes part in fair trade and that Cafedirect and its equivalent in tea are used in the House. Would that more business and industry did the same. Yet Tanzania's export earnings fell by 8.1 per cent. during the past year. Low production of coffee, cotton, sisal, tea and tobacco is given as the cause. One realises how dependent it is on climate and the availability of water when one hears the list of exports, and therein lies part of the problem. Rich countries, such as the United States, stockpile coffee, so the price is stable from year to year, whatever amount is produced.

Mrs. Gillan

Does the hon. Lady think that the figures might also have been affected by the European Union ban on imports of fresh fish from east Africa, which was lifted recently? How will the resumption of the trade help Tanzania's economy?

Valerie Davey

I was going to mention the restoration of the trade in 50 tonnes of fresh fish from Lake Victoria. It was stopped nine months ago because of the fishermen's excessive use of chemicals. Who sold them the chemicals? I am sure that the fishermen of Lake Victoria would not normally have used chemicals in the trade. We must examine what we are exporting that is of value, and what we are using.

I can tell the hon. Lady, from many years of experience, that we have sold as part of our aid what we wanted to sell, when we have not been careful. Contracts have often not included parts. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends have seen high-tech agricultural equipment lying by the side of the road because spares were not available. African ingenuity in the use of equipment has been brought to my attention recently. Many of my hon Friends will know of Tools for Self-Reliance. In the past, it has sent Singer sewing machines for good use in parts of Africa, for example. It is now bringing back from Africa renewable parts of used machines for making tools that we need for forestry. That seems an excellent quid pro quo. Tanzania, especially, has the most incredibly self-reliant and able people. However, the provision of education is declining.

I want to praise Tanzania for the number of refugees that it is taking in. The last figure I saw was that it had taken up to 800,000 refugees from eight countries, including 300,000 people from Burundi and many from the Congo. The populaton is 31 million people. Think of the debates in the House about the number of asylum seekers that we might be willing to take in. Tanzania's generosity might be with United Nations financial help, but its support and reception for those refugees leave this country, yet again, with much to learn.

It is important to help with literacy. In the five years to 1996, the assistance that we gave was largely limited to English language support at secondary level. I again endorse the important work of the British Council, but I ask it to think again about its provision. A review has shown no positive impact on poverty from that support. Our aims for educational support—to give a widespread service—have not been achieved by the teaching of English in secondary schools. I am glad to say that we are now working to improve education services nationally, especially at a basic level.

We must revitalise primary education. Indeed, while the wider programme is being developed, we are considering giving interim support in the form of textbooks and school buildings. I want to put a big question mark over that and say how much more imaginative our approach should be.

I support what has been said about the World Service. How many more people might we reach via radio, with the agreement of educators in Tanzania? How much more we might do via e-mail. Before hon. Members say, "Where is the equipment at the other end?" I must emphasise the cost and energy of sending books. I was concerned by the reference to Cambridge university. Why are we setting Cambridge university exams in Africa? We need to support African countries to develop their own education in their own way. That might not be with textbooks in school buildings but through radio and women's groups, which are essential to the further development of African countries. We might need to learn from them.

I know that other hon. Members want to speak, so I shall cut my speech, but I want to emphasise one final point. Coming soon, in Dakar, Senegal, is the United Nations tenth anniversary conference on the importance of primary education throughout the world. I want to ask the Minister what contribution Britain will make? The United Nations has learned a lesson. I could tell the House of many ways in which UNESCO and other organisations have betrayed western countries by not listening and learning, but I shall not pursue that now. I shall simply ask the Minister what contribution we will make to the conference in Dakar—at least the conference is being held in Africa—and what support we will give over the next 10 or 15 years to ensure that the young people of Africa receive the level of education that they deserve, so that those desperately poor countries can develop and take their full role in the world community with dignity.

Several hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

I call Mr. Brady. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

4.51 pm
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

I am grateful to my hon. Friends for such vocal support. I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) who made a sensible contribution that centred on the vital importance of education to improve the situation in Africa. Like myself, the hon. Lady is a member of the Select Committee on Education and Employment, so I know that she takes as great an interest in educational matters in this country as she evidently takes in such matters elsewhere. In speaking about whether it is appropriate for British aid to focus on secondary education and the teaching of English, I should like to ask the hon. Lady what she knows about other national or European Union and aid programmes and how all the programmes dovetail because, clearly, it is important that we do not take unco-ordinated decisions. If other countries are also contributing support for infant and primary education, it may be more sensible for us to concentrate our assistance on more advanced education.

In a somewhat partisan intervention earlier in the debate, which was not necessarily in the spirit of Westminster Hall, the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) called into question the previous Government's record on aid to Zimbabwe. I draw to her attention the fact that even with an increase in aid by the Government this year—the figure now stands at £29 million—that sum is still £6 million less than the total provided in 1994–95.

Dr. Tonge

I was referring not to aid, but to the Conservative Government's inactivity and encouragement of the regime in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Brady

It is very easy to criticise people for what has not been done without giving credit for the good efforts that have been made. It does the hon. Lady no credit to make cheap partisan points and to attack the previous Government's record in one area when so much good work was done elsewhere. [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) if he wishes to intervene.

Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)


Mr. Brady

I thought that the hon. Gentleman wanted to intervene. It is important to set the record straight.

We have heard some good contributions. The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) spoke with considerable knowledge of Kenya, which some hon. Members pronounced "Keenya". I have less experience of Kenya and was encouraged to hear what he said about the opposition parties getting established. That was not the case when I was there nearly 10 years ago. It gives great cause for hope.

Much was said about the enormous problem of HIV and AIDS across sub-Saharan Africa. That should be taken seriously and tackled, but we must be cautious that we do not focus all our attention on that one concern. We cannot ignore other problems, especially health problems. Many hon. Members know that in parts of Africa—indeed, across much of the world—there is a resurgence of malaria. It remains an enormous killer, but it is virtually unreported and unnoticed. We must pay that some attention instead of focusing on a subject that catches headlines.

In my intervention, I mentioned the situation in Zimbabwe and I support the calls to take that seriously. The referendum result has opened a window of hope in the past few days. Not many of us expected the people of Zimbabwe to be permitted to express that view in a referendum. Now that the disgraceful proposed constitution has been rejected, we have reached the critical moment when Britain can exert influence and, hopefully, make a difference. We must use whatever methods are at our disposal to achieve that.

I am not saying that we must withdraw all bilateral aid tomorrow—a considerable amount of bilateral aid should continue to be given. The Minister said that we would give more if the regime in Zimbabwe were more acceptable to the British Government. The Government have accepted, then, that aid can be used as a lever. This is the time to make it clear to Mugabe's Government that we are prepared to use the levers that are at our disposal.

We must take a firm and tough line and back the people in Zimbabwe who are bravely making the opposition voice heard. We do not need to pull the rug on valuable programmes, but the aid that is given to Zimbabwe is wider reaching than the hon. Member for Richmond Park would have us believe. She mentioned aid, which I accept might be essential, for birth control and sexual health projects. Nearly £30 million a year—a large sum of money—is provided. Much of that is technical aid, aid and trade, grants and other aids in kind. A relatively small sum goes towards humanitarian assistance.

There are many different headings under which we are assisting the regime in Zimbabwe. The hon. Lady mentioned the £1 million a day, which the people of Zimbabwe can ill afford, spent on pursuing the war in the Congo. The British Government are providing £600,000 a day to Zimbabwe in one way, shape or form. Although that may not be going directly to support the war effort, there is a great danger that it is indirectly funding undesirable activities. The Government must focus on that if we are to achieve an acceptable outcome in Zimbabwe over the next few months and years.

4.59 pm
Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)

I am delighted to participate in this important debate, especially as I believe that it is the first debate on the subject in Westminster Hall. It comes 10 years after Nelson Mandela's release from prison in South Africa and shortly before Namibia celebrates its tenth year of independence from the control of apartheid in South Africa.

I have listened with great interest to all the comments made, especially those of Labour and Liberal Democrat Members. I thought that at least two out of the three Conservative contributions were at best imbalanced and unfortunate. If the Conservative party had shown a small proportion of the anger and rage that they spend on the Zimbabwe Government—who are, of course, acting reprehensibly—to the apartheid regime in South Africa, perhaps the millions of black South Africans who suffered under that regime would not have had to do so.

Mr. Brady

Would the hon. Gentleman like the present Government to take as tough a line against the appalling regime in Zimbabwe as they are taking against the current regime in Austria?

Mr. Murphy

I shall not be tempted into discussing Austria.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Very wise.

Mr. Murphy

When I am faced with a choice between the performance of the current Foreign Secretary and the previous Conservative Government's attitudes to apartheid in South Africa, there is only one thing that fills me with shame. I refer not to the actions of our current Foreign Secretary, but to the previous Conservative Government's support for the apartheid regime.

There is much to say about the continent of Africa, which has 53 countries, although I do not intend to spend even five seconds on each of them. It has more than 750 million inhabitants from the northern point of Bizerte in Tunisia to Cape Agulhas in South Africa. If one believes the tabloid press, the continent has unlimited problems and no cause for optimism. I do not hold that view, and neither do most hon. Members. Let us remember that the continent's GDP has grown faster than its population. It did so in 1998 for the fourth successive year. Although there are many difficulties and problems, there are also an awful lot of good and positive things.

Africa has grave economic problems and other dire difficulties. The per capita income in Africa is $688 per annum, by contrast with that of the UK, which is more than $20,000 per annum. Even within Africa, there are enormous inequalities within and between the various nations. In the countries to the north of the Sahara, the average annual income is more than $1,200; in sub-Saharan Africa, the average is $526. In the least developed nations in Africa, which account for two thirds of the 53 countries, the average income per day is just 61 cents. We should remember that that level of poverty applies to two thirds of the countries. The five most prosperous nations in Africa have 60 per cent. of the entire continent's GDP, and the country of South Africa contributes more than a quarter of the entire continent's GDP. We must be aware of the differences within the continent and the difficulties experienced by different nations within it.

I mentioned South Africa, for which I have a great affection. Unlike the Minister, I am not a son of South Africa, but I have lived there. For better or worse, it made me what I am today and has made my life as it is today. I met and married my wife there. I do not have time to dwell on my experiences in South Africa, because other hon. Members want to speak. I must say, however, that I find it remarkable that Nelson Mandela, the world's premier leader of the 20th century—or perhaps of any century—could grow in a country that was so scarred by the degree of racist discrimination that was prevalent there for decades. He is a living symbol and a force for change and reconciliation in that nation. It is a matter of historical regret that some people in the Conservative party would have had him treated otherwise.

South Africa has a long way to go. Everyone acknowledges that it has a problem with crime, but I do not enjoy reading the comments made in this and other countries about the stereotypes of Africa and South Africa: that it is a war-ravaged continent, that it is a continent of corruption and that we should have an affinity with the white people of Africa because they are our flesh and blood. I do not share that outlook on life.

A high-profile example is the bid for the world cup. I do not want to trivialise the issue, but England is rightly bidding for the 2006 world cup. I hope that England's bid to hold the tournament is successful—it is a strong bid—but I do not hope that they are successful in winning the cup. I hope that Scotland wins it. Of course, England's bid is strong, but South Africa also has a strong bid, yet some people have used the excuse that South Africa's bid should not be successful because it is part of a war-torn continent. They use the terrible experiences and occurrences in Angola as a reason why South Africa should not be allowed to host the world cup. We all know that Angola is further away from Cape Town than Kosovo is from London, so let us not allow any of those unfortunate stereotypes to be dressed up as logical explanations why South Africa or the African continent should not get a fair share of international events and the international economy.

Mr. Colman

A bid has been produced for the Rio plus 10 conference to be held in South Africa in 2002, rather than at the United Nations in New York. Does my hon. Friend support that bid from South Africa?

Mr. Murphy

Based on what my hon. Friend says, I think that would be an important step forward for South Africa.

I should like to comment on many other matters, such as diamond mining in Namibia and Angola, but I shall conclude my speech by referring to United Kingdom investment. Only 2.6 per cent. of all United Kingdom outward investment goes to Africa, half of which goes to South Africa. Therefore, slightly more than 1 per cent. of all United Kingdom external investment goes to the other 52 countries. We should work with British companies to develop that economic opportunity in future.

Mr. Paterson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Murphy

I am sorry, but time does not allow me to do so.

Business cannot take that opportunity simply by giving philanthropic support to develop the continent. That would be desirable, but naive. We must develop opportunities for business to prosper. We should bring down barriers and open opportunities in those nations, and the Department for International Development White Paper on globalisation, which will be published later this year, represents an important step forward for the United Kingdom in doing so.

Through debt relief and economic development, we must help to create populations in those countries that are educated, live in peace and are highly motivated, so that there is a skilled work force. We must ensure that British companies understand the opportunity of investing in that continent. I strongly urge that we continue with our crusade on international debt relief which, although it has to be conditional, is not just a moral imperative but an economic necessity.

5.10 pm
Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

I want to cover very briefly one country-specific issue—the referendum in the western Sahara—and two general issues: the arms trade and debt cancellation. I congratulate the Minister on calling for this debate and recognise that he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders because of the impact that his interventions can have on people's lives. The people of the western Sahara have been waiting for years for a referendum on the right to self-determination. I note that 116 hon. Members signed an early-day motion expressing their concern that the referendum might face further delays because of the questionable 70,000 or more appeals from Morocco. The new millennium should mark a new start for the Saharawi people. The Minister's interventions could have a real impact, so I hope that he will tell us what actions he, together with the United Nations, can take to ensure that parties in the conflict strictly abide by the terms of the signed appeals agreements.

Other hon. Members have spoken of the human damage caused in Africa by the arms trade. The Government have done more than any other to try to combat the real problems that it causes. They have said that arms will not be supplied where they are likely to be used for external aggression or internal repression; and that code of conduct will be strictly enforced. However, we are big producers and exporters of arms and are likely to find the arms industry snuggling up to Members of Parliament and Ministers, asking them to support particular defence contracts. That can and probably will fuel this wicked trade. I remind hon. Members that so often it is the poorest people in Africa and other countries that suffer most from it. Of course countries have a right to defend themselves, but the availability of weapons in Africa is doing so much damage that we need to tackle the problem head on. We should use our talented engineers and workers for a positive agenda in Africa, not for a destructive one.

Debt relief is another important issue, on which the Labour Government have a fantastic record. Two years ago, many people would not have believed that we could come so far. The Government have offered 100 per cent. debt cancellation to countries that are committed to tackling poverty. The problem is, however, far from solved. Only three countries—two in Africa—have had their debts cancelled under the Cologne initiative. One is Mauritania, which received help through the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, but will still have to spend more on its annual debt service repayments than on health or education.

In Mauritania, 62 per cent of adults cannot read. What does that say about people who have to live in this increasingly globalised and technology-driven world? One in three children receive no education, yet the country has to make $80 million repayments every year, even after HIPC, which could more than double the health and education budgets. There is still such a long way to go.

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries on many indicators. It received help under HIPC I, having met all the IMF's strict requisite conditions. Yet the country will not benefit from HIPC II until June this year at the earliest. That may seem soon, but every day that passes destroys opportunities and takes away lives. One reason for the delay is the need for these countries to produce poverty reduction strategies before they may be helped. The lack of such a strategy causes the delay. We must pile in help so the country can devise its strategy and overcome the obstacle as soon as possible.

Even when June 2000 arrives, this poor country will still have to spend $62 million—more than it currently spends on health—on debt repayment. That is in a country where three quarters of the population have no access to safe water or sanitation. Those are countries that are in the HIPC initiative. There are others which, although very poor, are outside HIPC.

Nigeria was dropped last year for technical reasons. It is Britain's biggest debtor amongst the poorest countries, but it is not expected to benefit from the Chancellor's 100 per cent. promise. It is a new democracy with a new Government who are struggling to establish economic and social stability. They are under an impossible burden of debt. Creditor countries, including the UK, lent freely to previous military regimes, and we must share responsibility for freeing Nigeria from that debt crisis, which is constraining development.

I urge the Government to take still further action on debt relief. I congratulate them on everything that they have done, but we need to put more pressure on G8 countries to take forward the agenda for faster, deeper debt relief. We must urge the other G8 members who have not made the 100 per cent. commitment on bilateral debts to do so. Italy, Germany, Japan and France must follow the lead that this country has taken. We can be rightly proud of it. We must also urge the United States—the richest country in the world—to put money into an HIPC trust fund to cover some of the multilateral relief costs. There has been a proposal to Congress this week about that. We must ensure that that money is delivered.

Some of the subject matter of the debate can sound dry and technical, but it has inspired children and adults alike in this nation. We hardly remember the pain of hunger, but we sometimes have pangs after just a few hours of not eating. People in Africa go through that pain day after day. Perhaps all of us know someone with HIV or, worse, someone who has died of AIDS; perhaps we know someone who has lost an arm or even their life because of the arms trade. We know the pain that that causes when it happens to one person, but in Africa that pain is writ large in millions and millions of lives. The Government are doing a lot, but we cannot rest. There is so much to do before we can deliver opportunities for people in Africa.

5.16 pm
Mr. Hain

I am delighted to respond to the debate, which has been an outstanding example of how Westminster Hall can be used. I was especially delighted to discover another son of Africa in the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien). Speaking of sons, I welcome back to the House my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown), who has just returned after having a son. It is good to see her here and to hear the authoratative way in which she spoke about debt relief and Africa's problems.

I commend other hon. Members for the authoritative way in which they spoke. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) showed his deep knowledge of Kenya, while, in recounting her experience in Zambia, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Charlotte Atkins) was, if I may say so, a good advertisement for CPA visits. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) obviously knows a lot about Tanzania; the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) showed her deep knowledge of Uganda and Sudan and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) showed his knowledge of South Africa.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) was at yesterday's business lunch on African issues, along with the hon. Member for Richmond Park, and her point about opportunities for business in Africa was well made. I was talking to a senior executive of Unilever, who said that his company gets its best returns in Africa. That should be a green light for invesment there by British-based companies.

The hon. Lady spent time attacking the Zimbabwean Government, as did her colleagues the hon. Members for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) and for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady). I share their criticisms of the policies that are being pursued by the Zimbabwean Government. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) kindly reminded hon. Members, I spelt them out in yesterday's Financial Times. The hon. Lady might like to know, however, that President Mugabe plaintively refers to the nostalgic delights of doing business with Conservative Members, particularly the former Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, whom he described as a great friend. He finds it difficult to deal with this Labour Government because we are critical of human rights abuses, bad governance and Zimbabwe's dreadful economic policy. So there is a large dose of rewriting history.

Mr. Paterson

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hain

No, I do not have time.

In conjunction with international financial institutions, the Government are tackling—or at least, seeking to tackle—Zimbabwe's many deep problems.

Mrs. Gillan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hain

No, I am sorry, but I do not have time.

In relation to electoral education, we provided a £20,000 grant which was used to fund what became the civil society opposition in the referendum campaign. Indeed, that was attacked by President Mugabe.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham asked about aid levels. British aid to Zimbabwe is currently £10 million, which is a small amount, much less, indeed, than we would be prepared to give if the Government and their economic policies changed. That £10 million is overwhelmingly concentrated on policies to eliminate poverty, and almost entirely dispersed through non-governmental organisations, although there are some joint Government projects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development assured the House that, to her knowledge, there was no evidence of British aid funds to Zimbabwe being used inappropriately.

Mrs. Gillan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hain

No, I do not have time.

The hon. Lady asked for an explanation of my statement about Jonas Savimbi being taken out of the Angolan conflict. I said that if Mr. Savimbi decided to retire to one of his many homes elsewhere in Africa, that would greatly aid the end of the conflict and the peace process—if there were to be one. He is a wealthy individual and his safe passage could be guaranteed under UN arrangements.

Mrs. Gillan

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hain

No, I do not have time.

Mrs. Gillan

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are supposed to be engaged in debate. Would you therefore advise me whether, in this Chamber, it is right for the Government spokesman to avoid taking questions about points that are directly relevant to the Opposition parties? Do you agree, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Westminster Hall was set up to enable us to debate? However, the Government obviously want not a debate but a showcase.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The Chair's life is complicated. However, I am not responsible for what Ministers do.

Mr. Hain

I am spending the first few minutes of my speech answering the hon. Lady's questions. I generously accepted many of her hon. Friends' interventions during my introductory remarks. I simply do not have time to accept interventions now, as I am trying to answer questions.

The hon. Lady asked about the work of the British Council. I endorse her comments as I strongly support the council's work. I also endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting, who asked about education, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West. The position in Africa is devastating. There are more children out of school in sub-Saharan Africa than there were a decade ago. In five years' time, 50 million children will be out of school; by 2015, the number will have reached 57 million, three quarters of the world total.

Reversing the decline in school enrolment is probably the single most important investment that foreign nations, including Britain, can make in Africa. The Labour Government's aid and assistance programme has therefore been targeted to a great degree on funding education provision throughout Africa. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) made that point. Having worked on aid and development over the years, he speaks with great authority on Africa. I acknowledge and pay tribute to that.

The hon. Member for Richmond Park asked several important questions about arms dealing, and made valid points about brokering and trafficking. We are committed to new legislation seeking to put that under some kind of control, however difficult that is to do in practice.

The hon. Lady spoke knowledgeably about the problem of AIDS, drawing on her experience of visiting Uganda. Uganda is a good example of how we can begin to turn the situation around if a Government leads and works with donor countries such as Britain. The hon. Lady mentioned landing at Entebbe airport. I am not sure whether she visited the centre which is tackling the AIDS epidemic and which Britain helps to fund—I visited the centre when I went to Uganda in October.

My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands talked extremely movingly about the problem of AIDS in Zambia, where the effect is devastating. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting for his generous tribute to the excellent high commissioner in Kenya, Geoffrey James, who does a very good job for us and for the people in Kenya. I agree that it is vital that we see the success of the economic and good governance recovery programme that is led by President Moi, with able assistance from newly appointed civil servants, including Richard Leakey. Kenya has been sliding down for some years and there is now an opportunity to turn it around. President Moi's commitment to the programme should have Britain's support, and we are giving it.

While I acknowledge the African origins of the hon. Member for Eddisbury, I did not think that he did himself any credit by almost obsessively attacking my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. My right hon. Friend has paid a number of important and successful visits to Africa, including, importantly, a joint visit with the French Foreign Minister, Hugo Vedrine, to try to forge an alliance on African policy. He has also visited Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana. Those visits were extremely successful in cementing the relationship between Britain and Africa.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the current climate of this Government's policy towards Africa, our standing there is very high. I cannot claim that it is at the highest level. The evidence is the persistent response that I get from African Ministers and others when I speak at the United Nations and visit the people of African countries who believe that the British Labour Government genuinely speak in support of Africa. That was echoed at the business lunch yesterday when one person after another said that they thought that our policies were a great advertisement for Africa, which assisted in the success of that continent.

The hon. Member for Eddisbury said that we must deliver on peacekeeping when we promise it. That is a legitimate comment. We are doing that by contributing to the peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We cannot put troops in, but we have put in military observers. We are contributing more support to Sierra Leone to end its brutal conflict and estabish peace there than any other country outside Africa.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands for the way that she targeted sanctions busters in respect of Zambia. I am sure that, as she rightly said, President Chiluba will want to tackle that problem, given the lead that he showed in tackling the conflict in the Congo. Many other Governments need to show the same determination to crack sanctions busting in their own countries and to bear down on supplies going to UNITA to sustain their murderous war. The Governments of Rwanda, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso, to name just some, ought to show leadership because people in those Administrations are operating within the countries to supply UNITA with fuel, arms and other logistical equipment without which the war could not be waged.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood was right to speak of the stereotypical image of Africa simply as a continent ravaged by famine, conflict, AIDS and corruption, as if nothing good is happening there. There are lots of success stories in Africa, and my hon. Friend said that South Africa was the prime example. We need to build on those because they give tremendous opportunities for Britain and British business to build a close relationship and partnership with Africa.

Finally, in respect of western Sahara, may I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon, South that we are indeed urging all the parties to abide by the United Nations peacekeeping agreement, which includes a commitment to a referendum. I believe that more creativity is needed to tackle the problem. Legitimate grievances are held by the people of western Sahara. The recent dismissal of the Interior Minister, Mr. Basri, by the King of Morocco is a very encouraging sign because there were serious human rights abuses there.

It being half-past Five o'clock, the motion for the adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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