Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the most senior judges of the South African constitutional court, led by its president, Arthur Chaskelson, who is a former ANC lawyer, have joined in that condemnation publicly, as has Judge Richard Goldstone, a former special prosecutor? Senior judges from across the Commonwealth are also condemning the subversion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am aware of that.

My noble friend Lord Hughes said that there was a strong case for land redistribution. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, also spoke about the need for land reform. We have consistently said that we would support a land reform programme that was transparent, fair and cost-effective and formed part of a wider Zimbabwe Government programme to reduce poverty, as agreed by the Government of Zimbabwe at the 1998 land conference. We are working with civil society and private sector representatives to support independent land reform initiatives that meet those principles. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked particularly about the United Nations Development Programme land initiative. We welcome the Secretary-General's efforts to seek a sound way forward for land resettlements in Zimbabwe. However, we understand that the Government have yet to respond to proposals made by UNDP to the President in November last year.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who has much experience in these matters, that we must maintain and push the dialogue in Zimbabwe. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, that we and our EU partners favour a critical dialogue with the Zimbabwe Government within a tight time frame. President Mugabe's recent meetings in Europe were an opportunity for EU member states to bring home to him the seriousness of Zimbabwe's current situation.

I remind noble Lords that Zimbabwe has an elected Government. It is a matter of real urgency that President Mugabe and the Government of Zimbabwe turn from the course on which they are embarked and reaffirm the primacy of the rule of law, the institutions of democracy and the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, did the President of France raise those issues with President Mugabe? There did not seem to be many reports about it.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord a readout of President Mugabe's meeting with the President of France. I can talk only about the more general meetings in the EU context when President Mugabe went to Brussels.

7 Mar 2001 : Column 271

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, does not really expect me to respond to his question about Peter Tatchell.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, according to an AFP report, President Chirac called for solutions based on respect for the law, so he entered into the dialogue in the spirit that we have all suggested.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that intervention.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, and my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside all talked about the current problems in Mozambique. My noble friend Lord Hughes asked what is happening. The current problems stem from the release of excess water from the Kariba dam in Zimbabwe. That flows into the Cahora Bassa dam. Carefully controlled releases from Cahora Bassa have been made to prevent the flooding of the Zambezi downstream, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said.

Our contingency planning as a result of last year's flooding and the fact that we remained engaged with Mozambique have proved beneficial. Our response to the floods includes the funding of two Puma helicopters, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said. Those helicopters are moving people from the riskiest areas and transporting urgent relief supplies. We are also providing support to the World Food Programme to assist its operational response and providing a humanitarian specialist to reinforce our presence on the ground.

Noble Lords will be aware that we are committed to giving greater attention to supporting systems of governance that underpin the ability of a government to implement economic, social and environmental policies and to manage public expenditure effectively. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, that to succeed we have to tackle corruption and strengthen civil society pressures for accountability for public service delivery. My noble friend Lord Brett addressed the governance and labour unrest situation in Swaziland. The UK regularly discusses human rights issues with the Swazi Government. In addition, we recently raised human rights in Swaziland within the EU. Trade union rights were considered in that context. The EU is considering sending a troika mission to Swaziland later this year.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford spoke about governance issues in South Africa and the difficult process of reshaping structures and institutions in that country. The department's programme in South Africa includes support for public service reform and institutional transformation. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we agreed to double our share going to the poorest provinces in South Africa in 1999. I can write to the noble Earl with further details on that if that would be helpful.

7 Mar 2001 : Column 272

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford and others mentioned the HIV/AIDS crisis, which is a key challenge for Southern Africa. We and other donors are working to support governments in checking the spread of the epidemic, establishing systems of care for those affected and addressing the wider social and economic impact of the disease. So far, HIV/AIDS transmission rates show only slight signs of subsiding. However, evidence from other countries--notably Uganda, which was mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol--demonstrates that with committed political leadership a multi-sectoral response can reduce new infections. The personal attention that is paid to those issues by President Museveni is extremely useful.

On the question of drugs and pharmaceutical companies, my noble friends Lord Hughes of Woodside and Lady Whitaker, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and other noble Lords made reference to the legal case taken against the South African Government by companies over South Africa's medicines legislation. The United Kingdom Government are actively involved in helping to improve poor people's access to healthcare, including essential drugs, in South Africa and elsewhere.

A major issue involves the way in which investment in the research and development of drugs and vaccines for the diseases of the poor, such as malaria and TB, as well as HIV/AIDS may be increased. Currently, only 10 per cent of global health research funds are dedicated to the 90 per cent of the global disease burden that affects the poorest. The Government have set up a major study into global health issues, which will report within the next few months.

My noble friends Lord Hughes of Woodside and Lady Whitaker and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol referred to the announcement by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He trailed the proposal in the international child poverty conference on 26th February and announced it this afternoon in the Budget. He announced the creation of a new and special tax credit as an incentive to accelerate research into diseases such as AIDS, TB and malaria. He also announced that Britain will take the lead in establishing a new purchase fund for global health that will develop new life-saving drugs and make existing drugs more widely available.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol asked about TRIPS. The Government's position on TRIPS is set out in our recent White Paper on globalisation. We believe that developing countries need intellectual property protection as a way of encouraging more investment, research and innovation, from which they should benefit. For that reason we support the TRIPS agreement, which requires countries to provide minimum standards of

7 Mar 2001 : Column 273

intellectual property protection. We are committed to monitoring the impact of TRIPS on poor people's access to drugs.

The right reverend Prelate also asked about debt relief. By the end of last year, 22 countries had qualified for HIPC relief, including three in the region: Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Heavily Indebted Poor Countries are developing their national poverty strategies in consultation with civil society, which determines how government resources, including those freed up by debt relief, will be spent in support of poverty reduction. I say to my noble friend Lady Whitaker that the final agenda has yet to be decided for the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

Before I conclude, I stress that Africa's commitment to its own development agenda is important. That is captured by the millennium renaissance plan. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, said that it is for African governments to resolve African conflicts. African leaders, mandated by the Organisation of African Unity, have developed an initiative to give new impetus to reform and development in their continent. President Mbeki outlined the various priority areas in a speech at Davos. He referred to the importance of creating peace, security and stability, of democratic government and of investing in Africa's people. He also referred to the need to: harness and develop Africa's strategic and comparative advantages in the resource-based sectors; increase investments in the information and communication technology sector; develop infrastructure; and develop financial mechanisms. A key element of the programme is that African countries will be able to join the programme and benefit from its initiatives only if they sign up to its basic principles, including those on democratic governance. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been very supportive of the initiative and has set up a special unit to work on the British response.

In conclusion, Africa's leaders are now setting out an agenda for action that demands the support of the international community. To reach the international development targets in Africa--and in southern Africa--will require significant international development assistance. However, African leaders are seeking more than our financial assistance. They see an African future that is designed and built by Africans and founded upon peace, security and stability. They see African growth that is driven by private investment. Above all, they see Africa's future within a global partnership. That is an aim that I hope we all share.

7.16 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for her extensive and detailed reply to the many issues that were raised in this long debate. I make no apology to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for raising many issues. It was inevitable that the debate would be, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a bit of a Cook's tour around southern Africa. I tried to stress in the wording of the

7 Mar 2001 : Column 274

Motion that our debate should not impose a negative spin on the region; it refers to the "challenges facing southern Africa". We have had a balanced debate, which has stressed many of the opportunities and positive features that are associated with the future of southern Africa.

Our debate has had several core themes. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, rightly said that we could have had a completely separate debate on the AIDS/HIV pandemic. The issues raised will, I hope, be used as themes in future debates on this subject. Those issues include the need for accountability and transparency and to address corruption. They also involve calls for constructive dialogue to achieve stability and for more concerted international pressure to be put on the Zimbabwean Government to address abuses of human rights. They also include the need for a negotiated solution to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which could act as a catalyst for stability in the region.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this evening's debate for their contributions. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page