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Jeremy Corbyn: The right hon. Gentleman asserts that globalisation of trade is raising the living standards of the poorest in the world. Does he not recognise that the gap between the richest and the poorest is the biggest it has ever been, and is widening? Living standards are falling in much of sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of south Asia, and unemployment is rising in many of those areas. Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the free market is benefiting the very poorest in the poorest countries in the world?
Mr. Maude: The countries to which the hon. Gentleman refers, where living standards are falling, have not established the framework of the rule of law and an open economy. That is not the fault of the people; it is the fault of bad Governments and bad leaders. It is precisely because they have denied themselves the benefits of globalisation and free trade that they are suffering. This is not a matter of controversy, at least between those on the two Front Benches. I have certainly heard the Secretary of State for International Development describe increased free trade as the biggest single factor that can help poorer countries, and she is absolutely right.
Those who want a specific example of a fantastic country that has much going for it but is suffering and going backwards at a desperate rate--not because of globalisation, but because of bad government--need look no further than Zimbabwe, which I have visited twice in the past year. It is a painful lesson that the gap between success and failure in any country is very narrow, and can be easily eradicated by the actions of the country's Government.
What is happening in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with international financial institutions, multinational companies, international bond markets or any of the other great demons of globalisation. It has to do with the actions of one man, who happens to be the country's President and who is laying waste to that country, and has declared war on his own people. That is what is bringing Zimbabwe to its knees. Britain should stand robustly against what that man is doing. Zimbabwe's neighbours should also stand robustly against what he is doing, because it is infecting and contaminating the whole of southern Africa.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there is much that is encouraging, particularly in southern Africa. Some countries have made the transition to pluralist, multi-party democracy, and are embracing the open economy and beginning to flourish. Things are not perfect--there is a huge amount to be done--but those countries are taking the necessary steps. Meanwhile Zimbabwe, almost at the centre of southern Africa, is a hideous abscess, contaminating and infecting all the surrounding countries. Britain has an obligation to help, and to support the overwhelming majority of people in Zimbabwe who want to do the right things. President Mbeki was here last week. I hope that the Foreign Secretary encouraged him to move a little away from quiet diplomacy to more robust diplomacy. South Africa itself--we all know it; the Minister for Europe knows it better than most--is suffering badly from the contamination that is emerging from Zimbabwe.
When I went to Zimbabwe, I met not only senior members of the Opposition there but people supporting the civic institutions, who are desperately fighting to retain the protection of the rule of law. They deserve our support; they are very brave people. Conservative Members may think that we have had a terrible reverse--we have lost an election in the past month--but we do not go around in fear of our lives, being threatened and beaten, as politicians do there. Sometimes it may have felt a bit like it, but the worst we get is some ridicule and a bit of abuse. We lost the election but we are still alive and free, whereas those people in Zimbabwe go in daily fear of their lives. They are very brave, fine people and they deserve our support.
We think that the time has come for robust action in relation to the Mugabe regime. It would be intolerable if, when the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting happens in the autumn, Mr. Mugabe were able to be there, with all the red carpet treatment that is accorded to a head of state mingling with respected and distinguished world leaders, and to enjoy the benefits of the propaganda coup that it would afford him. People in Zimbabwe have not forgotten how relentlessly he and his machine milked the propaganda benefits of being received a few months ago by President Chirac and the Belgian Prime Minister, so I hope that the Foreign Secretary will at some stage have something to say about the action that the Commonwealth
The Foreign Secretary talked about the middle east. I agreed with much of what he said. There has never been a more important time for Britain to be involved in the pursuit of peace in the middle east. Prime Minister Sharon has been strongly resisting the vigorous calls to abandon the truce and launch all-out war on the Palestinians. It is essential that he does so. We should all urge him to pursue dialogue above violence and we should all urge the Palestinian extremists to seek a peaceful resolution of their grievances. The Foreign Secretary put it well when he said that the continued security and existence of Israel, to which it is entitled and which we all support, depend on there being a durable peace, but it takes two sides to make concessions.
There has been a huge narrowing of the gap. When I was in Jerusalem in January, I met Faisal Husseini, an eminent Palestinian, now sadly dead. He said something very revealing. Ten years ago, he said, he could not have physically brought himself to say the word "Israel". He could not have made it pass his lips. Ten years ago, Palestinians were insisting that all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean must be Palestinian. Ten years ago, the Israelis were claiming the same for Israel. Now that gap has hugely narrowed. Of course, the matters left to be resolved are the most difficult, but they have to be resolved. I think that enough people on both sides now see that the benefits of peace--the prize of the final process--are so big that it is worth making concessions.
The Foreign Secretary understandably dwelt on Europe a great deal. My party is criticised for being obsessed with Europe, but he devoted an extraordinary amount of time to it. He did not talk about the Indian sub-continent. Some recent developments in relations between India and Pakistan lend some hope--there has been hope before but I hope that it is real this time--of finding a resolution to the violent stalemate in Kashmir. I hope that the whole House will welcome the proposed dialogue between Prime Minister Vajpayee and General Musharraf. I hope that those talks will act as a precursor to an expansion in the relationship between the two countries, which will be beneficial to both sides.
Britain has a role. We are, and should be, friends with both countries. We have, I hope, some influence with both countries. We cannot make things happen there, but we can act to facilitate. I hope that we will be ready to do so. I hope that the new Foreign Secretary will adopt a slightly more delicate approach to these matters than his predecessor did at the beginning of his term--there are still rumblings following his slightly clumsy handling of these matters in his visit to India in 1997. I am approaching this in a non-partisan way, but it did not show the previous Foreign Secretary at his diplomatic best. That might be giving the wrong idea--perhaps it was his diplomatic best, but it was not a good outcome for Britain or for relations between those two countries.
Mr. Maude: There is. The whole House will be deeply concerned that General Musharraf has unilaterally assumed the presidency. It may have serious implications for the stability of the country and, obviously, for democracy in Pakistan. We should use what influence we have to encourage him to do what he said he was going to do: to hold proper democratic elections at the earliest opportunity. Of course there are implications for Pakistan's membership of the Commonwealth, currently suspended under what are ironically called the Harare rules, but I hope that Britain will seriously engage with General Musharraf to urge him to introduce a clear, timetabled process towards elections.
Everyone will have been profoundly shocked and saddened by the terrible news from Nepal. I am sure that the whole House would want to express its sorrow to the Nepalese people over the dreadful massacre of much of the royal family. King Birendra was greatly respected and played a large part in bringing democracy to Nepal. It is important that his death does not lead to further disruption in a country already troubled by a Maoist uprising. I hope that Britain, based on its historic links with the kingdom, which are embodied in the Gurkhas, will be at the forefront of efforts to help the Nepalese Government at this difficult time.
Closer to home, the Foreign Secretary talked about the Balkans. It is worrying to hear about the breakdown in peace talks there. I hope that they will be resurrected substantively. A durable ceasefire, an agreement between all the parties in the coalition, and an agreement by the armed extremists that they will proceed towards disarmament are essential precursors to peace.
The Kosovar Albanians should be doing everything they can to ensure that ethnic Albanians end their terrorist activities in Macedonia. I believe that we should be quite unequivocal in our support for the Government of Macedonia. They are a democratic and legitimate Government who are doing a great deal to protect the interests of the Albanian majority.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary and his new team will take a much more hands-on approach to the Balkans than did his predecessor and the previous Minister for Europe. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), had some lacerating criticisms to make of the lack of hands-on contact. That approach, and particularly the failure of the previous Minister for Europe to visit the area at all, is very worrying. There is a concern that politicians lost interest in the region when the conflict was over, the aeroplanes had returned to base and the television cameras had left. That will not do.