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Lord Bach: My Lords, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord and to the House that of course we are not going to send Armed Forces, if it comes to that, anywhere in the world unless there are proper communications which are as safe as possible. Urgent operational requirements are in line and items are being procured as we speak in order to ensure that the communications system works as well as can be expected.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, Foreign and Commonwealth officials in London and Harare advised the ICC of the deteriorating humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. We have also made our views clear to the England and Wales Cricket Board. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my honourable friend the Sports Minister and I met officials from the ECB earlier today. We repeated our view that the final decision on whether to play the England fixture in Zimbabwe on 13th February must be taken by the ECB and the ICC but that it was the view of Ministers that the match should not go ahead in Zimbabwe.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and appreciate the effort she made today in attempting to persuade the ECB not to go ahead with the game in Zimbabwe on 13th February. I also believe that the Government are right to refuse to pay compensation to the ECB for cancellation of that match as it should never have been arranged in the first place.
Does my noble friend agree that this is a moral issue comparable to that applied in the case of sporting contact with apartheid South Africa where a boycott and international isolation substantially helped to deliver political change and human rights? Is it not wholly deplorable that the ICC should concern itself with security issues and not consider the view of informed Zimbabwe opinion, which is that cricket should not be played in the country where the President has seized power illegally and where half the population are starving as a result of his repressive policies?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I believe that noble Lords in this House are clear about the Government's view of the Government of Zimbabwe. They are facing a humanitarian crisis; nearly half the population requires food aid; there is large-scale economic mismanagement; and there were food riots on 4th and 5th of this month. We hope that the ECB and the ICC will take that into account. Our role is to give them that information and advice, and we have done that.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a party of Zimbabwean athletes came to the Commonwealth Games in this country? What would the reaction of Her Majesty's Government be to the Zimbabwean cricket team coming to this country next year to play a series of test matches with our cricketers?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Government's position has been entirely consistent. Officials met with the ECB in July last year. We gave them the information and made it clear that we thought that the situation would deteriorate. We met members of the ICC in November. Our High Commissioner in Harare met members of the ICC in Harare when they made a fact-finding visit. There has been no change in our position.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I wonder whether this morning the noble Baroness and Members of your Lordships' House heard the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, speaking on BBC Five Live. The reaction in my householdand I dare say that it was shared in other householdswas that the Government, through no fault of the right honourable lady, was transmitting a lack of leadership to the country. There is no substitute for leadership in a situation such as thiscertainly not a mixture of rhetoric, moralising and spin. Why cannot the Government now come out and say that they are dealing with a totally reprehensible and despotic government of an African state which does not discriminate between white and black and which is a serious threat to British interests; that therefore, all people in this country who are involved culturally, commercially and in sport should be prepared to make sacrifices in order to lessen their communications with the military regime, thus allowing the Government to "get on with it"? If the Government were to do it even-handedly like that, they would have no problem with the ECB.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I believe that this Government have been absolutely clear on the matter and it might bear repeating in this House. We have made it clear that the imposition of wider economic sanction which would damage the ordinary person in Zimbabwe is not a route down which we would want to go. That is why, with our European Union partners, we have targeted sanctions against the elite. We have made the details of the deteriorating humanitarian, security, political and economic situation clear to the ECB and ICC. The decision is theirs. To look to the Government to make a decision which should be made by the ruling and governing bodies of cricket is reprehensible.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the noble Baroness ensure that a copy of the minute of the meeting of last July to which she referred is placed in the Library? I understand that only today the English and Welsh Cricketing Board received a copy of that minute. It is that minute which is now being interpreted by the Government as an indication by
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the House will be aware that notes are taken at every meeting between officials and outside organisations. The notes are confidential to those organisations and to the department. That is the basis on which the meeting went ahead and therefore I cannot make a commitment to place a copy of the minutes in the Library of the House. I am happy to go back and talk to the ECB about whether or not it is prepared to allow the minutes of the meeting to be made public.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, is not the truth of the matter that the Government refused to do anything until the Secretary of State for International Development, encouraged by the Foreign Secretary, spoke out against the playing of cricket in Zimbabwe as it would be seen to be supporting the Mugabe regime?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness's information is entirely inaccurate. The ICC published its report following its visit to Zimbabwe on 16th December; my honourable friend, Mike O'Brien, a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, replied to a debate in Westminster Hall on 17th December and made his view as the Minister quite clear.
Let me outline the reason for the amendment. I received a letter on this subject from a man who bought a house in which a hedge was planted in the garden. I do not know whether or not it was a leylandii, but a typical hedge. The man who sold the house to him has since bought the pub next door. The hedge is a lifeline to the man in the domestic property because the pub is very noisy. However, the man who now owns the pubthe former owner of the househas said, "I intend to make your life impossible. If the Bill goes through, I shall have that hedge down. That will make your property worth nothing. I shall then be able to buy it back and join it on to the pub that I now own".
Lord Monson: I have supported all the noble Baroness's amendments so far, but I have some reservations about this onealthough those reservations may disappear if, after the next stage of the Bill, the word "exclusively" is inserted before the word "commercial".
There are many residential buildings which are also commercial for part of the time. All farmhouses, for example, are partly residential and party commercial. Many people with IT skills now work from home rather than spending hours and hours a week commuting to their place of work. So there is a danger that if the amendment as it stands is agreed to, it might unintentionally affect buildings which are partly commercial and partly residential.
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