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Tony Baldry (Banbury): My right hon. Friend has said a lot about the EU, but is this matter not also a test for Africa? Today, the G8 is discussing in earnest the New Partnership for Africa's Development. If NEPAD is to have any substance or meaning, surely the heads of Government of other African states should bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a test of whether NEPAD will work for Africa.

Mr. Ancram: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which I intended to make a little later in my remarks. I fully agree with him. The coalition I mentioned could bring pressure to bear on NEPAD's African members to exert pressure through NEPAD. I think that that would have a substantial effect, so it is one of the things that we would like to see being done in the coming days.

We should no longer expect Mugabe to listen to reason. He mocks the British Government's rhetoric and the Prime Minister's high moral pronouncements. He now believes that he can literally get away with murder and that we will not react, but I tell the House that the time has come when we have to act. Of course we should not try to act alone: we have to build a powerful international coalition to meet the challenges of what is now an incipient rogue state. With ourselves, such a coalition should include the European Union, the United States, the Commonwealth and, most important of all, South Africa and its neighbours, along with Nigeria.

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The coalition's objectives should be the re-running of the presidential elections, democratically conducted and independently monitored and refereed, if necessary involving further talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC to negotiate the means of setting such elections in process. The coalition must be strong and cohesive enough to exert on Mugabe the political, economic and, if necessary, military pressure needed to achieve its objectives. It must be bound together by an understanding that failure to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe threatens the whole region and will make international economic support for the region less practicable.

Mr. Straw: Just now the right hon. Gentleman mentioned military pressure, and in his preliminary remarks he made a reference to Kosovo. Is he suggesting that we should either unilaterally or multilaterally take military action against the Mugabe regime?

Mr. Ancram: No, I am not. At this stage I do not wish to rule anything in or anything out in judging what is necessary to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Mugabe to hold fresh elections. However, if the coalition is to be effective, it must have the means—whatever means are necessary—to achieve its objectives. For that reason, I mentioned the three areas of economic, political and military pressure very deliberately in that context.

The coalition must have strong and clear aims. In African terms, it should aim to isolate Zimbabwe diplomatically if the violence and intimidation do not cease, and it should persuade countries such as Libya to cease the material help that they currently give to Zimbabwe, which only serves to encourage Mugabe. In Commonwealth terms, the coalition should seek to secure the implementation of the Abuja agreement of last September in respect of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and the proper transfer of land. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State for International Development says, "We have tried," but I do not believe that we have tried hard enough. I want a coalition that can bring real pressure to bear. In EU and US terms, the coalition should extend targeted sanctions to directors and top officials in ZANU-PF affiliated businesses and strengthen the freezing of assets against them. The sanctions must be made effective in ways that they currently are not.

At the same time, the coalition should make the public in southern African aware of current levels of corruption in Zimbabwe. It should implement the recommendation of the UN panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Congo to make Mugabe face up to the realities of Zimbabwe's crisis. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry), at the G8 summit, progress on the NEPAD initiative should be linked to stronger and more credible efforts by African Governments to resolve Zimbabwe's crisis.

The time for appeasement and empty rhetoric is over. Supine inaction must now be replaced by action—[Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary returns to his usual theme: in the past when I have called on the Government to stop talking and start doing, he has always responded by accusing me of offering no plan for action. If he had been listening for the past few minutes, he would have realised that I have laid out a clear pattern of action that a coalition can and should take.

Time is running short. If disaster is to be averted, the Government can no longer afford to look the other way—the problem will not resolve itself. Hiding behind the alibi

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of our colonial past to excuse our inaction will no longer wash. Yet again, I call on the Government to cease the hand-wringing and the empty rhetoric, and to stand up against dictatorship for democracy and the rule of law.

I remind the House of what the Prime Minister said at his party conference last October, when he told the country that he would heal the scars of Africa:

and added that he would

The Government must now demonstrate that the Prime Minister's words are more than mere rhetoric. Let us see action—and let us see it now, before it is too late.

7.37 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and the Opposition for organising this debate in Opposition time. The fact that it is the first Opposition debate devoted to a foreign affairs subject for two years illustrates the difficulty that the right hon. Gentleman had in persuading his right hon. and hon. Friends in the shadow Cabinet to agree to it. That is emphasised by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition takes almost no interest in Zimbabwe or, indeed, in Africa.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw: No, of course I will not.

The Leader of the Opposition has made only one foreign policy speech in the whole time that he has occupied that post—getting on for a year. In that speech, on foreign policy and the world, there is not a single reference to Zimbabwe, still less to the rest of Africa.

The speech that we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Devizes is long on indignation and almost wholly devoid of action. He says that his agenda for action beyond what we are already doing is to rule nothing in and to rule nothing out. I thought that he gave away his real interests when, in a slip of which Freud would have been proud, he said that not even the people of Gibraltar would be fooled by what we are doing.

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That illustrates only too well that he could as well have applied his speech to Gibraltar as to Zimbabwe, despite the entirely different circumstances.

Mr. Turner: How many people have been murdered in Gibraltar?

Mr. Straw: None as far as I know—or if they have, the Gibraltar police have investigated. I merely point out the fact that the right hon. Member for Devizes made an extraordinary but highly revealing Freudian slip.

What we heard today, and what we hear from the right hon. Member for Devizes each time the issue is raised, is the usual incantation in which he calls for the establishment of an international coalition, including members of the Commonwealth, the European Union, the United States and countries in southern Africa, to take effective action against the regime. When we have achieved exactly that—in the Commonwealth, with Zimbabwe's suspension, and in the EU, with targeted sanctions against the ruling party and the military—the right hon. Gentleman has scarcely been able to hide his disappointment.

This morning, as he has so often done, the right hon. Gentleman made similar remarks on the radio to those that he made this evening, describing what is unquestionably a profoundly dire situation, and implying that all that rests between peace and harmony in Zimbabwe and the current circumstances is what he describes as inaction by the British Government. Would that that were the situation. When put on the spot, as the right hon. Gentleman was this morning, and asked what Britain could realistically do, given its history with Zimbabwe, he said:

He went on to say:

What the right hon. Gentleman does, which is a deception of the good people of Zimbabwe, is to make the wish the deed. The wish is straightforward: that we move quickly to new elections, which are properly monitored at every stage and which Mugabe and his henchmen do not steal. The wish is that that regime have an agricultural policy which allows the farmers to do what they are dedicated to and skilled in—that is, planting and growing crops—rather than the current circumstance. The wish is that that regime sign up, in deed as well as in words, to the Harare principles and allow the judiciary to operate properly, observe human rights and ends the arbitrary arrest and detention of Opposition spokespersons and journalists.

We share those wishes. The question is how they can be achieved. That can be only by an international coalition and international co-operation. I wish we could have gone further in some respects. The constraint is not the desire or the wish of the United Kingdom, but the need to ensure that we get together an international coalition.

Let me remind the House of the steps that we are taking, both bilaterally and with our partners in the Commonwealth, the EU, the US and countries in the region to encourage reform and avert further disaster in Zimbabwe. Bilaterally, we have introduced a range of sanctions, including an arms embargo and a reduction in

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development assistance to the Government of Zimbabwe, to ensure that the regime cannot divert UK funds for its own ends.

However, in recognition of the scale of the economic disaster engulfing the country, we have increased our own humanitarian relief to Zimbabwe, but our aid moneys go direct to impartial groups such as non-governmental organisations and Churches, ensuring that those most in need, rather than ZANU-PF insiders, benefit. In the past 12 months we have committed £10 million in humanitarian assistance. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, who will wind up the debate for the Government, announced last week £45 million of further assistance for the region, of which we expect almost half to go to Zimbabwe.

Over the past 12 months, we have promoted international action against Mr. Mugabe's regime. I noticed that when my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) asked the right hon. Member for Devizes about the cosy relationship that existed under the Thatcher Government and, I may say, the Major Government, the right hon. Gentleman's answer was devoid of content. The record of the previous Government, once the noble Lord Carrington had ceased to be Foreign Secretary, was not altogether a creditable one, to put it mildly.

That continued through the astonishing blindness that the previous Government showed in the mid-1980s when, as my hon. Friend said, 10,000 people in Matabeleland were slaughtered, and the reward that President Mugabe received for that was a state visit, which gave him the most astonishing endorsement of his actions. Much more recently, when the President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), was Foreign Secretary, throughout the period that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has held her post, and since I have held my present post, President Mugabe's principal complaint about the current Government was that we have not been easy to deal with—unlike the previous Government, we have been told repeatedly, who turned out to be remarkably easy to deal with. That is a charge to which I and my right hon. Friends are only too happy to plead guilty.

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