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People Trafficking

8. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): What further action he intends to take to combat trafficking in human beings. [1545]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): We continue to work with our partners in Europe and across the world against the evil trade of people trafficking.

This year for the first time, immigration service officials have been appointed to the staff of British embassies in Europe and 10 officials were sent to reinforce the state border service between Croatia and Bosnia—one of the key conduits for people trafficking. Furthermore, 21 members of the immigration service work as airport liaison officers overseas.

Mr. Thomas: First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion to the Front Bench.

Does my hon. Friend recognise the continuing concern that Eurostar is being targeted by the mafia-like organisations that traffic in human beings? Can he tell us how successful the measures taken to increase security at Eurostar terminals have been, what further measures are under consideration and whether he agrees that it is co-operation not confrontation with our European partners that will be the key to dealing with this terrible trade?

Mr. MacShane: I thank my hon. Friend for his congratulations. When I returned from Paris recently, I was extremely pleased to see British immigration officers at the Gare du Nord working to try to control that flow of traffic. That issue and the problems with Eurotunnel were raised by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Paris yesterday. That again proves the necessity for joined-up government between Britain and France to deal with that real menace—in contrast to the isolation and rejection of such integration and co-operation demonstrated by the Opposition.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): We welcome the steps that have been taken to deal with human trafficking. Will the Minister also deal with slavery throughout the world, especially in Africa? Are the Government

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concerned about that? What steps have they taken to put pressure on international businesses to take a stand on the issue?

Mr. MacShane: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his important question. I know of the great concern that he has shown over the years about slavery, especially in some African countries. The Government have taken the lead in supporting the UN convention and in applying the protocol on human trafficking. We are stepping up co-operation with several countries throughout the world to try to put an end to that evil trade.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): Is my hon. Friend aware of the claim that financial grants from international organisations, such as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, are going to organisations in Bosnia, such as the HDZ, which then use the money to smuggle not only tobacco and drugs but human beings?

Mr. MacShane: I am aware of those allegations and I shall address them when I visit Sarajevo later this week. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing them to the attention of the House. We have sent 10 British officials to work with the Bosnian state border police to try to damp down the problems of smuggling and people trafficking. Those problems touch many of us in our constituencies. That is why the first line of defence is overseas and why Britain must be engaged in Europe and throughout the world.

Ministerial Responsibilities

9. Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): If he will make a statement on the ministerial responsibilities within his Department for Africa. [1547]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Within the Secretary of State's overall responsibilities, Baroness Amos is the Minister for Africa. She is responsible for sub-Saharan African issues. I am the Minister responsible for north African issues and will answer questions on sub-Saharan Africa in the House.

Mr. Brady: I congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. Does he agree that at a time of deepening crisis in Zimbabwe, and as Britain's diplomatic efforts in Africa have completely collapsed this week at the meeting of the Organisation of African Unity, it is extremely regrettable that the British Government's response has been to downgrade the ministerial responsibility for Africa from a Minister of State to two Under-Secretaries?

Mr. Bradshaw: I do not accept for a moment that our diplomacy has failed, and the responsibilities are nothing new. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) split the responsibility between sub-Saharan Africa and north Africa when he was a Minister. Indeed, under the previous Conservative Government, a Minister in the House of Lords, not in this House, had to answer to hon. Members. As I said, my right hon. Friend the

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Secretary of State carries the primary responsibility for Africa, and the Prime Minister is extremely engaged in the subject.

Barbara Follett (Stevenage): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his new post. What steps are being taken to resolve the long-running land distribution conflict in Zimbabwe?

Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is an urgent need for land reform, but the British Government believe that it must be within the ambit of the rule of law and that it must be sustainable and transparent. We have contributed £44 million to land reform in Zimbabwe since independence, and we have consistently said that we would support land reform in line with the principles agreed by the Government of Zimbabwe and international donors at the 1998 land conference. Sadly, Zimbabwe is not adhering to those principles.

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): I welcome the Minister to his new responsibilities and congratulate him on his appointment. I also welcome the Government's statements that Africa will be a priority in their foreign policy, although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) that the institutional arrangements set up do not suggest that; they send the reverse signal. There is so much in Africa, particularly in southern Africa, that is encouraging, given the number of countries that have become pluralist, multi-party democracies, that are embracing the open economy and that are flourishing. We understand the desire of the old Organisation of African Unity to rebrand and relaunch itself as a new African Union as a signal of a new era, but does the Minister agree that the decision of the Foreign Ministers of that union to give full support to President Mugabe's tyrannical and ruinous regime is as bad a start for the new organisation as it could possibly have? A generation ago, Africa was wealthier per capita than Asia; since then, the position has been reversed. How will the Minister convey the message that success in today's world lies in embracing the rule of law, democracy and the open economy? Mugabe's regime and the OAU's support for him contaminates the whole continent.

Mr. Bradshaw: The right hon. Gentleman should view the statement by the African Union, as it now calls itself, in the context of its desire to maintain unity, but he and all hon. Members know that many countries in Africa, and many people in Zimbabwe, share our deep concerns about the Zimbabwean human rights record, want that country to move swiftly towards free and fair elections and feel very sad about the state of the Zimbabwean economy.

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham): I welcome the Minister to his new post. Can he assure me and my constituents, many of whom are African, that Africa remains a top priority and that conflict resolution and the formation of civil society across Africa is at the top of his agenda?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, Africa remains a top priority. The Opposition were rather unfair about my noble Friend

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Baroness Amos, who will be an excellent Minister and has already shown great energy. She has met a succession of African leaders and will visit Nigeria shortly. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister has held a summit with President Mbeke of South Africa. We are very supportive of the formation of the new African Union, and the Prime Minister will take the recommendations that come from the meeting of the African Union this week to the forthcoming G8 summit in Genoa.


10. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): When the Secretary of State will next meet the United States Secretary of State to discuss the future of NATO. [1550]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Tomorrow.

Mr. Winterton: I am grateful for that brief and succinct reply. Last year, the Secretary of State for Defence gave the impression that defence spending among European Union nations would increase. Why have the International Institute for Strategic Studies and President Bush of the United States both noted that European defence spending is, in fact, falling? Is it not now essential to repair the damage done to US-British relations by the Labour Government's desire for a European army?

Mr. Bradshaw: No damage at all has been done to US-British relations. Perhaps President Bush is the best judge of that. He said:

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): When Ministers meet their American counterparts, as well as welcoming the fact that the US Administration have changed their approach to the European defence policy, will they also welcome the fact that there appears to be a growing recognition, particularly in the Senate, of the importance of the American Government having a detailed discussion with Russia, and that any move beyond the anti-ballistic missile treaty should take place on the basis of co-operation, not unilateralism?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already said, we welcome President Bush's willingness to engage not just with us and our European Union and NATO allies but with Russia and China on the important issues of international security.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): I join other hon. Members in welcoming the hon. Gentleman to his post.

May I ask the question another way? European Union politicians, such as the Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel—whom I am sure the Minister knows well—talk openly and confirm that the real reason for the European army is to realise Europe politically with a European security and defence policy. Not just the International Institute for Strategic Studies but a succession of reports

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have shown that European defence spending, far from increasing to pay for better equipped forces, continues to fall by 5 per cent. a year in constant dollar terms. Notwithstanding the announcements to be made later today, spending on new defence equipment in Europe is at its lowest for decades and NATO officials have complained about gaping holes in our procurement. Therefore, does the Minister not think that it will be an uphill battle for the Secretary of State to prove to the Americans tomorrow that Europe's grand designs and diminishing defence spending will strengthen NATO rather than weaken it? Unfortunately, is it not true that NATO is not safe in the Foreign Secretary's hands?

Mr. Bradshaw: There is rather a lot in that question. The hon. Lady and most of her colleagues on the Opposition Benches need to have a little more confidence, particularly in Britain's ability to win arguments with Belgian politicians. She has a serious point on European defence capabilities that was also made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). All of us in the House share the view that the European defence force and Europe as a whole need to improve their defence capabilities. That is partly a matter of spending more, but it is also a question of how we spend the money. At the moment, compared with the United States, we get very little capability for what we spend.

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