|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
In the last minute, let me reassure noble Lords who raised matters about defence that part of the strategy for the protection of the overseas territories is the maintenance of a minimum credible deterrence and reassurance posture on the islands. There are many more details that I could give about defence, but time does not allow me to cover them. Therefore, I must simply end this debate by saying that we are determined to see a policy of strategic engagement with the overseas territories. We share the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that new and positive thinking is needed and we believe that we can carry forward the proposals that we have in mind with some of the suggestions of your Lordships. This is a complex and wide-ranging portfolio. There are many other points that I would dearly have liked to cover with your Lordships, but under the rules of this engagement in your Lordships' House I must here call an end to this debate.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, this Motion has been on the Order Paper for some time and I was delighted at last to be fortunate in the ballot. Not so fortunate is my noble friend the Minister. The luck of the draw means that he is faced with winding up two major debates on subjects of considerable importance to this country today. What was topical at the time when my Motion was tabled may have moved on, but it is clear that sufficient matters of topical interest remain. The debate has been truly global and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated and given us the benefit of their wide knowledge and experience. In particular, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Ribeiro on his excellent maiden speech. I found it fascinating to hear how he blended his African background with an interest in the overseas territories in the six Caribbean countries in particular.
The Motion was widely drawn by intention. I am therefore particularly pleased that areas such as Antarctica, the least populated but by far the largest territory geographically, were given due consideration. I thank in particular my noble friend Lord Selborne and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. I welcome the news of the early introduction of the Antarctic Bill and look forward to it. The Chagos Islands case was advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and my noble friend Lord Selborne and the Minister dealt with it thoroughly. Nevertheless, I think that we will all have to read Hansard carefully in this respect. It is a very difficult issue.
This debate is not party political. Indeed, I think that it is probably the least contentious area of government policy. It is therefore disappointing that a number of our colleagues who have visited the territories and who generally participate in events relating to them have not been able to be in their places to join in the debate. I therefore congratulate in particular the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, on being the sole contributor from the opposition Benches, carrying out his task thoroughly and making the important point that any future reforms of your Lordships' House should bear in mind possible representation from the overseas territories.
Finally, I thank the Minister, who dealt with the many and varied issues raised. It is always the fate of Lords Ministers that they have to deal with all subjects arising in relation to their departments, not just with those relating to their departmental responsibilities. My noble friend does this with what appears to be ease and authority and always with evident interest. I have certainly been reassured and informed by his reply, as, I hope, have the representatives of the overseas territories. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the last time we had a full-scale debate on Zimbabwe was in June 2010 at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, who I am glad to see in his place. I am looking forward very much to hearing what he has to say. The debate before that was two years ago, just before the global political agreement was signed, and yet the global political agreement is still very largely unimplemented, and progress towards its most essential objectives has been painfully slow. The Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee has told President Zuma, the SADC facilitator, that it aims to have a draft of the constitution ready for approval by 30 September, but at the same time it complained that lack of resources has been hampering its work. The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission-ZEC-says that it cannot begin
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1798
The backdrop to the looming election is the crescendo of political violence by ZANU-PF and the security forces against the opposition coupled with total impunity for the perpetrators, as detailed in a hard-hitting report from Human Rights Watch that was published earlier this week. Here, the coalition Government have announced that we are increasing our aid to Zimbabwe to £100 million a year to encourage fair elections and other reforms. The EU is spending €90 million on humanitarian aid in support of the key reforms of the GPA to promote an environment conducive to a general election. Presumably, the depoliticisation of the ZEC secretariat and staff must precede the collection of names for the electoral roll, but is that built in to the rules for the disbursement of aid? Will my noble friend say what we in the European Union are doing to combat the false allegation by the Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, that sanctions are to blame for the underfunding of the electoral commission? This is being echoed in newspaper advertisements in Zimbabwe carrying ZANU-PF and government logos that claim:
This message gets picked up elsewhere in Africa. Have our embassies been instructed to explain to their host countries the truth that humanitarian aid is not affected by sanctions and that they bite on only 163 individuals and 31 businesses that are involved in human rights abuses and anti-democratic activities?
On 15 February, the second anniversary of the GPA, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai listed, not for the first time, his requirements for free and fair elections. He wants a new biometric voters' roll, a stable and secure environment, a credible electoral body with a non-partisan secretariat, a non-partisan public media, security sector reform and a new constitution approved by a referendum. The need for a new list of electors was underlined just now by the ZEC finding that 27 per cent of the names on the existing list are of dead people.
There cannot be a free and fair election before these key milestones are achieved, the Prime Minister said, because, under the GPA, ZANU-PF has no power to hold an election without the consent of the other political parties. Obviously, they will agree only when the provisions of the GPA have been implemented. That position has been reiterated just now by SADC. They will also not allow elections to be held under the conditions that exist at the moment and without the substantial reforms that we expect from the GPA.
The three party leaders have just reiterated their commitment to the 24 principles of the GPA but that was exactly what they did last August, with ZANU-PF insisting that implementation should be concurrent with the lifting of sanctions. Is that still the position and what has been done to try and persuade ZANU-PF to lift that condition so that we can get on with the implementation of the entire GPA? Will my noble
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1799
The Prime Minister wants a timetable based on the attainment of specific objectives with no dates attached. That seems to be the view of President Zuma, the SADC facilitator. Mr Zuma's immediate concern is for an end to the politically motivated violence, as he demanded on a visit to Harare last month. The response since then has been more arrests, the torture of detainees and the denial of access to more than 50 political activists in custody by their lawyers and doctors. Nine of them, including MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, face trumped-up charges of treason, which of course attracts the death penalty. Their lawyer reports that they have been severely tortured and are held incommunicado on charges of watching a video of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Only yesterday, police disrupted a human rights workshop being held in a church and arrested the two co-chairs of the session. This morning, Elton Mangoma, the MDC Deputy Treasurer-General and Minister of Energy and Power Development, was picked up by three plainclothes police officers at his government offices, the Chaminuka building. Is SADC keeping a record of these events and reporting them to the African Union? Mr Mangoma is a member of the MDC negotiating team on the GPA and also co-chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee for the GPA, so this could be a particularly serious development.
Remembering the extreme violence at the 2008 election run-off, which led to the withdrawal of the MDC after they had been solidly ahead on the first round, do President Zuma and SADC have a fallback plan if their warnings about the urgent need to curb the ZANU-PF armed gangs and security forces are ignored? Without security sector reform, there is no chance that they would refrain from manipulating the electoral register and intimidating opposition candidates and voters. Has SADC considered enlisting the AU, its co-guarantors of the GPA, to bring extra pressure on ZANU-PF on this objective?
In our previous debate, there was some discussion about how the Commonwealth might be enlisted. Even though Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, there might be an agreement to welcome it back into the fold if it performs on the GPA. Would my noble friend consider whether the Commonwealth might have that important role, of course with the consent of SADC?
Mugabe and his party want a polling day this summer, no doubt fearful that at any moment his failing health will mean that he has to step aside. In between visits to Singapore for surgery, he finally met the other party leaders on 25 February and agreed to start implementing the GPA in accordance with the implementation matrix they had already adopted in August 2010. Have we any reason to assume that that agreement will go ahead this time when the August one was in fact a dead letter?
I turn now to the prodigiously lucrative Marange diamond fields, said to be the largest in the world and of which some 97 per cent are under the direct control of the military. The remaining 3 per cent was assigned to two companies granted their concessions without a tender process, both closely associated with ZANU-PF and military commanders. Senior executives of one of the companies, Canadile, are being prosecuted for obtaining their concession by fraud and smuggling $100 million-worth of diamonds into Mozambique so that they were not taxed. The frontier with Mozambique is still wide open to illegal exports sponsored by the military, as people at Global Witness told me when I spoke to them last week. We have some leverage with Mozambique, a major recipient of aid. Could we help it put an end to this traffic?
Leakage of revenue also seems to occur at ministerial level. Finance Minister Tendai Biti said a month ago that more than $100 million generated from recent diamond sales had not been accounted for. His ministry had been given a schedule from the office of President Mugabe listing a total of $170 million said to have been transferred to the Treasury by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, but in fact it received only $64 million. Mr Biti said he had asked the Accountant-General to investigate the destination of the missing millions, to which the Minister for Mines immediately said that he had no right or power to hold such an inquiry. If there has to be an alternative, one obvious choice would have been the KP monitor, Mr Abbey Chikane, but his betrayal of confidential discussions with Farai Maguwu, head of the Centre for Research and Development, the most effective human rights campaigner in Marange, ruled him out. Ironically, Mr Maguwu has now been chosen by the civil society organisations to head the technical team of the local focal point for the Kimberley process. Could SADC be asked to suggest an independent accountant to resolve the difference between Mines Minister Mpofu and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, and to recommend measures that will fully identify the amounts of money received and by whom they are now held?
This Kimberley process mechanism is responsible for overseeing the certification of rough diamonds as produced in an area free from conflict or human rights abuses. Even though the military is now firmly in control of the region, ITN reports that extrajudicial killings and major human rights abuses are continuing. That is confirmed by the recent Human Rights Watch report that I have already mentioned. There is an even greater likelihood that money from the three auctions held last year was siphoned off by the generals. Two of the auctions were held under the supervision of the Kimberley process but a third was not. It came to light only when Mugabe announced that $250 million from that sale would be used to pay the arrears of civil servants' salaries. Last week, Mr Tsvangirai said that diamond sales had generated $300 million revenue so far and that the money would be used to reduce foreign debt. As Mr Biti said, there is no accountability for the moneys being generated by these operations. Zimbabweans are not allowed to know what sums were raised in each of the three auctions. Does the
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1801
The EU still occupies the chair of the Kimberley process Working Group on Monitoring, which is supposed to assess the effectiveness of monitoring. Yet when the KP plenary in November 2010 broke up without reaching agreement on what to do about the Marange diamonds, the KP monitor, Abbey Chikane, made a quick dash to Zimbabwe where he certified the whole stockpile of 3.9 million carats, worth some $160 million.
The KP chair issued a notice to members not to trade in Marange diamonds pending consultations on how Zimbabwe could bring its operations into compliance with KP rules. But amendments were agreed that would make it harder to secure investigation of human rights in the area, and it was to be no longer required that individual parcels of diamonds be certified. Even with those concessions, the Mines Minister said last Friday that Zimbabwe had not agreed to the light-touch KP guidelines that would allow Marange diamonds to be sold on the world market. The Mines Minister defiantly told Voice of America that the Government objected to any reference to human rights and that they would continue to sell diamonds regardless of whether the sales were authorised by the KP. It is as if they had decided to withdraw altogether from the KP, to avoid oversight that would reveal official theft of the proceeds that belong to the people. What does that mean for Zimbabwe diamond sales? Will lower prices have to be accepted because the sales will not be KP-authorised?
This is a make or break moment for the people of Zimbabwe. SADC and the AU, as guarantors of the GPA, could "do the right thing", as Mr Tsvangirai puts it, and tell Mugabe that if elections are held without any of the reforms that were agreed two years ago, they would not be endorsed as free and fair, and any Government who came into office through such a process would not be accepted as the legitimate voice of the people. If on the other hand the elections are postponed until after the promised reforms are implemented, there will be a brilliant future ahead for Zimbabwe and its people. Like the Prime Minister, we have confidence in President Zuma and his team, and the EU should stand by to offer them any help we can provide.
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for bringing this matter to our attention and giving us this opportunity today. For more years than I remember, and probably more years than he cares to remember, he has brought such matters to the attention of your Lordships' House and made sure that we debate these things properly.
I come to this debate as a person concerned for the well-being of all Zimbabweans, those living in their own country and those scattered around the world and here in the UK because they have had to flee their own country in fear of what might happen to them and their families. I come to this debate also as a Methodist minister. Methodism has had a long relationship with
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1802
Zimbabwe is a country with great resources, wonderful landscapes, and above all a diligent, hard-working, resilient and extremely hospitable people. As with others we long for the day when the country can once again hold its head high in the community of nations. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us, the current situation in Zimbabwe gives us very little cause for hope. The global political agreement signed in 2008 between ZANU-PF and the two parts of the MDC-one of which is itself terribly fragmented-which led to the formation of an "inclusive Government", has for the most part not been implemented. Indeed, 24 articles have never been implemented, especially those that relate to security and the media. Technically, the lifespan of the GPA was over on 11 February 2011, so it ought to be behind us. Renegotiating it seems necessary, with seeking the implementation of all its articles as part of that negotiation.
According to our sources, the economic situation has seen some improvement with a reduction in inflation, largely the result of an abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar in favour of the US dollar and other currencies. The relationship between the parties in the inclusive Government is largely characterised by mistrust, and ZANU-PF still controls the vital ministries dealing with security, the police and the media. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has still not been able to do something as basic as moving into the official prime ministerial residence.
At its last party conference at the end of last year, ZANU-PF chose Robert Mugabe-aged 87 years-once again as its presidential candidate, and is eager to have elections as soon as possible. I wonder why. June this year would be its favoured time. Its hope is to gain an outright election victory and dispense with the GPA altogether. We have already heard eloquent arguments as to why such elections or proposals for elections should be held off until all the things mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are in place. Elections this year and in the current circumstances could certainly not achieve a free and fair election acceptable to the majority of Zimbabweans and it is my strong conviction that Her Majesty's Government should do all in their power to support and encourage those groups in Zimbabwe, in the region and in international organisations working for a postponement of elections until proper
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1803
South Africa and the countries of the southern African region are crucial in working on a road map towards elections, and it is in that area that we in Britain might best offer our support and, if requested, technical expertise. A new constitution, mentioned again by the noble Lord, was an essential pillar of the global political agreement, but has still not been achieved despite some half-hearted attempts at consultation. That needs to be in place before any election. More pressure needs to be exerted to bring about a full implementation of all the other articles of the GPA. A new electoral register needs to be produced, as was again mentioned by the noble Lord. I do not apologise for repeating matters mentioned in a previous speech, something that I normally find offensive, because the more we say this thing, the better. There needs to be an open media that will give coverage to all shades of political opinion. Contacts across Zimbabwe inform us that there is already a great deal of violence and intimidation around the country because people, by virtue of the last conference of ZANU-PF, are on election alert already. Therefore, the population is already, once again, in a state of fear. It is important that SADC and African Union missions be in place now and in the run-up to elections, and not leave their presence or activity too long.
It is perhaps an irony that President Zuma of South Africa should have come out so clearly in favour of removing President Mubarak from one country in Africa when his country has played relatively little role in seeking the removal of President Mugabe from Zimbabwe. Messages coming from Zimbabwe indicate that the MDC is being banned by the police from holding meetings in the run-up to its own party congress, let alone any election that might be in the offing. Church people-Anglican bishops and the general secretary of the Council of Churches-have had death threats issued against them, as no doubt have others from civic organisations who are working for cases of harassment and violence to be investigated and for the individuals responsible to be brought before the courts. We can highlight the plight of these people; perhaps we ought to. These are real things, happening right now. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned other instances of violence against people and the creation of a climate of fear. We should keep mentioning that to keep it before the public eye; then perhaps our Government can put pressure in the appropriate places to get assurances and action that will minimise these instances.
I shall finish here at home, with a word that may need to be said. We need to be conscious that the security situation in Zimbabwe has not improved greatly and that refugees and asylum seekers should therefore not be pressurised to return home prematurely. Perhaps we can put a little bit of muscle behind the coaxing-if it can be done with muscle-of the UK Border Agency and other authorities towards that end. Instead, the good work of agencies in this country in preparing and training Zimbabweans to go home when things are settled and to take their rightful places in rebuilding
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1804
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Avebury on securing this debate. He is a man I am proud to sit alongside on these Benches for all that he does for oppressed people. This is a time when the process of political reform in Zimbabwe is under serious threat. Dozens of people have been arrested in the past couple of weeks in a co-ordinated crackdown on political dissent. There is a renewed assault on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The build-up of intimidation and the recent deployment of military units on the streets of major cities are aimed at reinforcing a menacing sense of fear in Zimbabwe.
Ironically, while people have been, as my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, charged with treason simply for watching films about what is going on in Tunisia and Egypt, it is President Mugabe who makes inflammatory speeches that really threaten the future safety and economic well-being of the people of Zimbabwe. It is clear that he, together with the military high command and secret police, is determined to prevent any further progress along the road to democracy. They still have control of all the really important levers of power in Zimbabwe, which they plan to use to veto any further concessions to liberalisation.
I shall concentrate particularly on one area that is bearing the brunt of this crackdown: the independent media. I shall address some particular issues relating to freedom of the press and of broadcasting. Control of the mass media has long been a weapon in the armoury of those imposing repressive rule in Zimbabwe and it remains a key element in the old-guard strategy for undermining those working for reform. Free speech, free association and open access to the broadcast media would all give vital space in which to challenge the system of repression, but the tight system of control and regulation prevents that happening. That system was largely inherited by ZANU-PF from the minority regime of Ian Smith.
It is not just editors and journalists who face danger every day. I pay tribute to the people who are the unsung heroes of trying to disseminate free media: the newsvendors. They are attacked by Mugabe's mobs simply for selling newspapers, such as the Zimbabwean, that favour reform. Their stock is destroyed and they put their limbs as well as their livelihood at risk. Meanwhile, vitriolic comment and denunciation of Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC Ministers is a regular part of the diet of propaganda and distortion peddled by the state-controlled media in Zimbabwe. There is no BBC News, no ITV, no Channel 4 and no Sky. The television and radio stations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which has a near monopoly on broadcasting, are under state control, and despite the existence of the "inclusive" Government, in this context "the state" still means ZANU-PF loyalists.
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1805
Two major tools of control are the AIPPA, a positively Orwellian piece of legislation that stands for the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act-true "doublethink", given the way it is used-and POSA, the Public Order and Security Act. Those two Acts need to be repealed or radically reformed as a high priority. The international community has entrusted oversight of reform in Zimbabwe to the region. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the House that this issue is raised with South Africa and other SADC members in diplomatic and ministerial contact with the region. As major providers of aid to Zimbabwe and to its neighbours, the people of the United Kingdom-and, indeed the EU as a whole-have a right to expect serious engagement on these issues.
I also urge Her Majesty's Government, bilaterally and through the EU and the Commonwealth, to make every effort to ensure that adequate support is given to independent media operators. That means help to fund professional training and help with legal resources and technical assistance to ensure that robust and independent media operations flourish in Zimbabwe. It is very important that this should encompass support for investigative reporting on economic and social issues as well as politics. In an environment in which the media has largely been used as a tool for spreading propaganda, there is a real danger that the skills of journalism are lost. Corruption and malpractice in commerce as well as in central and local government have an easy ride if there are no vibrant and well-trained independent media professionals.
One of the most important ways in which we can support reform in Zimbabwe is by backing a free and fearless media sector on which an accountable, democratic tradition can be built. I am very pleased that the first group of Commonwealth professional fellows have just arrived in the UK from Zimbabwe and that part of their programme involves media training. However, I am also concerned that a fifth fellow, Tafadzwa Choto, is not here, as he is one of the six people still being held on charges of treason for watching television coverage of events in Tunisia and Egypt, as was mentioned before. I encourage both the FCO and DfID to continue to explore ways of supporting the independent media sector in Zimbabwe. I hope the Minister will reassure the House on that and add his voice to those who are calling for the immediate release of those who are being held on treason charges for watching the news.
Another important way in which our aid programme to Zimbabwe can help is by supporting the specially appointed statutory bodies such as the media commission and the electoral commission. They need assistance in the form of finance and technical expertise. I have a particular interest in the media commission, but the electoral commission is also vital. Unless these commissions are adequately resourced, their work is hampered and they become ineffective in their role. In dealing with the composition of these commissions, attention needs to be paid to the staffing of their secretariats. There is no point in carefully selecting the representative commissioners who oversee their bodies
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1806
Finally, I have an observation-here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. Restrictions imposed on the British media, which had included banning the BBC, were lifted a couple of years ago, but this does not seem to have resulted in adequate coverage in our own media of this very important story. I am glad to say that on this point and in this country, I do not expect the Minister to have any influence.
I pay tribute to the thousands of brave Zimbabweans who remain committed and in the front line of the struggle for democracy and human rights. I have had the honour of meeting some of them when they have visited us here at Westminster. There are countless others in towns and villages across that country whose dedication compels them to risk imprisonment, torture and even death in order to bring freedom to their people. Many of them are women. I think particularly of the courageous trade union leaders: Lucia Matibenga, General Secretary of the Commercial Workers Union; Gertrude Hambira of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, who is now forced into hiding and exile in fear of her life for exposing the way that members of her union were persecuted by Mugabe's regime; and Thoko Khupe of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Union, now Deputy Prime Minister.
It is heart-warming to see the solidarity with these heroes shown by the international trade union movement. The Confederation of South African Trade Unions has been staunch in its support, and in this country individual unions have mobilised support for their affiliated unions in Zimbabwe-the CWU with the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union, and the NUJ with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. Practical support such as this directly aimed at those working with people at the grass roots is enormously helpful, and I hope that more such links will be promoted.
Not long ago I had the pleasure of giving tea in this House to a member of the rather small union that I used to belong to, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean House of Assembly, Mr Lovemore Moyo. As well as being pleased to meet Speaker Moyo, I was delighted that the assistant accompanying him, Mr Zitha, has spent time studying at the University of Leeds, close to my home town. That reinforced for me the relationship between Zimbabwe, which has been spoken about earlier in this debate, and the United Kingdom. There are many deep and personal links at all levels of society between our two countries, so this debate and the many occasions when we can raise issues regarding Zimbabwe are most valuable.
At my meeting with Speaker Moyo I discussed some of the important protocols that protect Parliament. They have to be fiercely guarded if parliamentarians are to be free to conduct thoroughly and without hindrance the tasks entrusted to them by the electorate. I gave Speaker Moyo copies of our sessional orders, which I used as Speaker and which were agreed at the beginning of each new Session of Parliament. They protect Members of Parliament from obstruction or interference in the conduct of their parliamentary duties. These rights are vital to parliamentary democracy, by whatever mechanism they are enacted and however they are enshrined, and I am very disappointed by recent reports from Zimbabwe that show that they are not being upheld.
I make no apology for deviating for a moment. Only a few minutes ago, I had a note handed to me that comes from a very reliable source. It tells me that a court ruling in Zimbabwe today says that the conduct of the secret ballot by which Speaker Moyo was elected was improper. This is a very worrying development and a serious situation. It is another example of the way in which the judiciary is often used to undermine democracy. A re-election could of course be used as a shoo-in for a new Speaker sympathetic to the Mugabe regime. That could be the case if enough of the MDC MPs are kept locked up in jail. Although there is not much longer to go in this debate, I hope that the Minister will have something to tell us about that devastating news when he winds up.
Six years ago yesterday, on 9 March 2005, I raised the case of the Member of Parliament Roy Bennett. My concern then was the imprisonment of Mr Bennett as a result of an altercation in Parliament. The penalty imposed was out of all proportion to the misdemeanour for which he had unreservedly apologised. Mr Bennett was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour in the most inhuman conditions. Six years on, Mr Bennett is in exile but continues to devote himself to fighting for the rights and dignity of his fellow citizens.
The arrest of any Member of Parliament is a serious matter. A few weeks ago I learnt of the arrest of Mr Douglas Mwonzora. Mr Mwonzora is co-chairman of the parliamentary constitutional select committee, as was mentioned earlier, and is jointly overseeing the process of consultation on a new constitution for Zimbabwe. He simply lodged a complaint with the police about the violent disruption by Zanu-PF militia of a meeting that he was holding in his constituency. In what seems an utterly bizarre turn of events but sadly is not at all unusual, Mr Mwonzora himself was subsequently arrested by the police outside Parliament in Harare.
As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has mentioned, we got the news that Elton Mangoma, MDC Minister for Development and a member of the MDC negotiating team on the global political agreement, was picked up from his government office by police. The reasons for the arrest are unknown to me. Perhaps the Minister will have some news of this latest arrest in his wind-up.
Politically motivated arrests affect other citizens too. Vexation charges are brought but time and money that can ill be afforded are then needed to mount a
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1808
I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us when next there might be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary or the Minister for Africa to discuss these matters with the South African authorities. After all, the current political dispensation in Zimbabwe was imposed by South Africa. Robert Mugabe was able to engineer his so-called "victory" in the presidential elections only because he manipulated the figures in the first round and managed to deny Morgan Tsvangirai an outright win. In the second round, Mugabe unleashed such a wave of violence that Morgan Tsvangirai felt compelled to withdraw from the race to prevent further bloodshed. As we know, the former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa then used his powerful position within the region to manoeuvre for a settlement that propped up Mugabe and allowed him to remain in office. It was not a good development for democracy. It never is when the will of the people, democratically expressed, is denied, subverted or overridden. The way in which deals have been brokered allowing presidents to remain in office, just because they want to stay put despite losing an election, is to me a very worrying development.
We have to deal with the world as it is today. We have heard much about the global political agreement signed in 2008 by Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It is supposed to be guaranteed by South Africa as well as by the AU and SADC. Furthermore, it has been incorporated into the constitution of Zimbabwe. What is shameful is the continuing contempt with which Mugabe treats the obligations to which he solemnly signed his name. He has continued to take unilateral action on key appointments, and has threatened to call elections unilaterally without consultation with Prime Minister Tsvangirai and without waiting for the approval and implementation of the new constitution.
Surely the Minister would agree that such action is in contravention of the global political agreement. I feel very strongly that these issues need to be raised with Ministers from SADC countries. But I ask whether they are raised. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us.
Surely we can negotiate with SADC countries. I do not need to remind your Lordships that we grant substantial sums of aid to them in our budget. We have good relations with them and most are members of the Commonwealth. Can we not use that leverage for the benefit of Zimbabwe? I hope the Minister will agree, after all, that political progress in Zimbabwe will help the progress of the whole region.
The government statement on priorities for UK overseas aid made it clear that we want to see value for money. I agree with that. Surely an important aspect of this, in the context of Zimbabwe, is that we need to
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1809
I look forward to hearing from the Minister what steps the Government will take to impress upon members of the AU and SADC the gravity of the commitments they have made. I particularly look forward to his comments on the possible Speakership in Zimbabwe that I spoke about in my comments.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the role of a Whip is a painful one during debates. We are very tight on time. It would be very helpful if noble Lords could manage to bring their remarks to a close before "10" appears on the clock.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for this timely debate. I rise to speak in it because of an association with Zimbabwe over some 20 years. I have had the privilege of both employing and training some of the Bishops who now lead the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, and I attended most recently the consecration of the present Bishop of Harare, the Reverend Chad Gandiya.
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is undergoing a sustained and brutal persecution with its origins in a dispute over church properties and the non re-election of Dr. Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare and someone widely regarded as a plant of the Mugabe regime. When Kunonga lost the election in 2007, instead of stepping down he went on to form a rival faction. The police have consistently failed to protect Anglican congregations and clergy. This is something that I have witnessed, all too painfully, for myself in a number of places.
Police claim to be acting on orders from above. This persecution is evident across the country, most evidently in Masvingo and Matabeleland. Members of your Lordships' House will recall that in the 1980s, shortly after independence, the Mugabe Government recruited the North Korean Fifth Brigade with the specific intention of subjugating Matabeleland through a series of well documented atrocities, amounting to what has been described since as ethnic cleansing.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths mentioned the current death threats which have been made against the Bishops of Harare and Manicaland, and both men have recently escaped through warnings from friends when attackers have been on the way. All the congregations in Harare
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1810
Most recently, an 89 year-old woman, Mrs Jessica Mendeya, was killed defending the church. The Bishop of Harare described the circumstances surrounding her death, and I warn your Lordships that the description is shocking. Gandiya said:
Those who did this said it was something to do with the fact that she belonged to the Anglican Church. Following this killing, Gandiya said that he hoped that the police would step in this time to offer them help. He said:
The Bishop has also spoken of the resilience of the people, again something I have personally witnessed on a number of occasions. Reporting on a meeting a week or so ago, Gandiya spoke of another elderly woman beaten by Kunonga's supporters who had lost the use of one of her arms. She said:
Your Lordships cannot fail to notice how both the murder and the attack that I have reported signal a move to targeting the old and defenceless, indicating new levels of violence and human rights abuses.
The Anglican tradition is strong in Zimbabwe. The church has been active in peacemaking and reconciliation. Bishop Gandiya in his enthronement sermon in Harare Cathedral, an occasion itself marked by the locking and barring of the cathedral, offered an olive branch to those who supported Dr Kunonga. Bishop Gandiya is a valued member of the Archbishops international visitor programme, which I have the privilege of chairing, a body which seeks to keep conversations going across the divisions of the communion.
The oppression of the Anglican Church must be seen in the context of the wider oppression of civil society in Zimbabwe, of those perceived to be, or in fact in, opposition to ZANU-PF. Freedom of association has long been strictly limited in Zimbabwe and this has extended into restrictions on freedom of worship for many Pentecostal and Methodist groups, as well as other Anglican groups. As other noble Lords have mentioned, human rights groups-most particularly Amnesty International, of which I am a member-and Human Rights Watch, have recorded the extent of those abuses over the past few years and are due to present these at the international human rights review of Zimbabwe, which will happen in November. But November is a long time away, and things are pressing.
The prerequisites for new elections outlined in the global peace agreement have not been met, as we have heard. We also know that ZANU-PF is gearing up for a brutal election campaign of propaganda, intimidation
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1811
The persecution of Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe involves one of the most serious and sustained violations of human rights and religious freedom and demands international advocacy. The most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the head of the All Africa Council of Churches and the Archbishop of Cape Town, have supported the need to develop a regional advocacy strategy. The international human rights review will not take place until November, as I have said, but discussion needs to take place. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has said, there is an opportunity surely for the representatives of SADC to enable something of this kind to happen in the meanwhile. The support of your Lordships' House in this regard would send a strong signal to all those who are seeking an end to violence and intimidation. I hope that this debate will contribute to a better and more peaceful outcome in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. The recent developments in Zimbabwe do not reflect the aims stipulated in the historic global political agreement. Progress has been painfully slow with fears of a return to the old regime. There is speculation that Mr Mugabe has sent serving and retired Zimbabwean military personnel to Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi. The 46 people who were arrested in Zimbabwe for watching footage of the uprising in north Africa are to be charged with treason-an offence that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe. The former MP and Labour activist, Mr Gwisai, is among those to be charged. A magistrate in Harare has since halted the proceedings against these individuals and ordered that they undergo examination for torture. Most worrying is the revelation that among the 46 arrested is a woman who has had three operations for a brain tumour yet was assaulted by prison guards and refused treatment.
These actions have resulted in widespread condemnation, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about civil society in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is such that there is hunger, poverty and unemployment among the majority of citizens but wealth is enjoyed by a select few. The combination of low incomes and a shortage of food have exposed Zimbabwe, among other nations, to fluctuating market prices. The average citizen spends a large portion of his wages on food supplies. A meteoric rise in the cost of provisions has the potential to trigger protests in Zimbabwe as seen in north Africa. The decision by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to increase tariffs by 30 per cent puts further pressure on the cost of living, especially for citizens on the lowest incomes. Although economic activity has increased over the past two years, Zimbabwe's headline rate of inflation was still high for January despite the monetary policy statement of the Bank of Zimbabwe warning against
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1812
The rise in political violence is a cause for concern. Amnesty International has reported that supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change Party have been targeted by Mugabe's ZANU-PF for a campaign of prolonged violence and intimidation. It has been just over two years since the historic power-sharing agreement was signed by the two parties. Shopkeepers who stock and sell independent newspapers are being harassed and intimidated by people suspected of being members of ZANU-PF. A new organisation, Wealth to the Youth, which is linked to ZANU-PF, has been looting shops owned by foreigners. I support the decision of the European Union and the United States to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe until February 2012. This is the correct approach to dealing with a nation that does not reflect and does not respect its citizen's human rights, democracy or the rule of law. These requirements were stipulated under the global political agreement but have not been implemented.
Britain is one of the largest donors to the Zimbabwean state and last year gave the biggest aid package to date. The Government have pledged to increase aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years provided that it holds free and fair elections and successfully implements reforms. I am in favour of this decision as Britain's development aid reaches the people of Zimbabwe through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.
I welcome the Southern African Development Community's efforts to encourage the political parties in Zimbabwe to work towards achieving social and political reforms. The SADC is also playing an important role by investing in projects aimed at improving the infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has accused Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank of profiting to the detriment of Zimbabwe's economy and has threatened to bring them under state control. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships' House as to the steps Her Majesty's Government will take in response to this overt warning.
During a recent visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. China has signed a deal to provide Zimbabwe with a grant of $7.6 million. It is important to remember that in 2008 China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that sought sanctions against Zimbabwe for violating human rights. Having an ally with the economic prowess of China provides the Zimbabwean Government with limited incentives to implement reforms.
It is not only irresponsible but incorrect for Robert Mugabe to blame the sanctions placed on his country for Zimbabwe's ailing economy. It is more accurate to place a significant part of the responsibility for the nation's suffering on the violent land-distribution programme that has almost destroyed the agriculture industry. The way that the white farmers have been treated by Robert Mugabe reminds me of how the assets of my family and other Asians were seized by General Amin when we were expelled from Uganda.
The concerns of foreign investors in Zimbabwe are compounded by Mugabe's Economic Empowerment Act that states that black Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies worth more than £307 million. Any form of discrimination is wholly unwelcome. It does not serve the best interests of Zimbabwe's economy or society to implement such a blatantly odious piece of legislation that gives rise to racism. I should be grateful if my noble friend could provide up-to-date details of British companies and individuals affected by this law.
The recent direction taken by the President of Zimbabwe is hugely disappointing in the light of notable successes. The nation appears to have made progress, given its participation in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The Carlyle Group intends to launch a fund for investment in Africa, with a presence in three African countries, including Zimbabwe. The power-sharing agreement brought a great deal of optimism to Zimbabweans. However, it appears that ZANU-PF is still behaving in a manner that was rejected by the electorate two years ago.
Mugabe's continued defiance of pressure from the international community is a constant concern. We have an historic duty to engage with partners in the region to work towards achieving the social and political reforms that the people of Zimbabwe greatly deserve.
Finally, I am a great believer in the Commonwealth and would like to see its countries, particularly the African states, do more to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. I have spoken previously in your Lordships' House on the Commonwealth. It should do more on conflict resolution and promoting trade among its various countries.
Lord Dannatt: My Lords, the great privilege of being invited to join your Lordships' House has been exceeded in the past six weeks by the kindness and courtesy that everyone within this House has extended to me since 24 January, when I took my seat. My only sorrow is that my long-time friend and colleague, Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers, was not able to lead me into your Lordships' Chamber. I know that your Lordships have paid generous tributes to him for his time as Black Rod, which was curtailed only by his wretched illness. While I was the Chief of the General Staff, General Freddie was my No. 2 as the Adjutant General. Nothing would have given both of us greater pleasure than serving our nation together in your Lordships' House; but it was not to be.
However, I thank my two, or really three, supporters who guided me in my early days, and I hope they will continue to do so, given that map-reading is not my strong suit. I am most grateful to my senior supporter, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. He was the undoubted father of the modern British Army and I could have turned to no one else than he to stand beside me. Field-Marshal Dwin had won a Military Cross in battle five years before I was born. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has been a friend for many years. We share a common background in our military antecedents. As a Christian on the one hand and a Zoroastrian Parsi on the other, we share a common desire to do the very best for and with those around us.
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1814
Before entering your Lordships' House, it was my privilege to serve for 40 years in the Regular Army- 40 years that naturally divide into four decades, each with very different characteristics. Those decades resonate soundly with this afternoon's timely and important debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, whom I thank for providing this opportunity. Perhaps noble Lords will permit me to reflect briefly on those decades to make the association with today's debate.
For me, the 1970s were characterised by service in Northern Ireland; 1977 was the only year in that decade when I did not serve in the Province. The 1980s was the final decade of the Cold War, and of course included the Falklands conflict. The two are connected, because I believe it was not lost on the Kremlin that a democracy such as ours was prepared to send a task force 8,000 miles to fight for a principle. My third decade was that of the so-called new world order, when Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history-but we discovered the Balkans, East Timor and Sierra Leone, not to mention the deserts of Kuwait and southern Iraq in the first Gulf War. Then 9/11 ushered in my final decade as a soldier, propelling the Army, which it was my privilege to lead for three years from 2006 to 2009, back into Afghanistan and Iraq-countries well known to our grandfathers and great-uncles, and those of previous generations.
The conflicts that I took part in, or which formed the backdrop to my professional career, were all about people: their rights, their hopes and their future. That is all that the people of Zimbabwe are asking for. Like the people of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the Falklands in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s and Iraq and Afghanistan in this decade, all they want is to live free from intimidation in a secure environment that is conducive to freedom and prosperity. Is that too much to aspire to after the first decade of the 21st century?
It was as a schoolboy in 1965 that I heard that the then Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, had unilaterally declared independence from the United Kingdom. To a teenager at the time, it seemed preposterous that this should have happened, and therefore it was with some relief that one heard in 1979 that, after a vicious and bloody civil war, there was the prospect of peace, perhaps reconciliation, and a better future for Zimbabwe. In the years that followed, I visited Zimbabwe several times, noting with a degree of professional pride the staff college that the British Army had established in Harare to underpin the professional development of the post-UDI army. I often reflect that there must be a generation of Zimbabwean army officers who were trained by us in the 1980s and who know that there is a better way than that of the repressive dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. Will they, I wonder, find the moral courage to stand up and do the right thing? They know what that is; we taught them.
On my third day in your Lordships' House, we had a debate on the military covenant. I was too much of a new boy to take part, but the debate highlighted what is really at the heart of the people issue that I am talking about today. In general terms, the covenant touches on the unwritten contract, or bond, between those who govern and those who are governed. In specific terms, it sets out the relationship between an elected Government, who decide what military operations are to be carried out, and those of their citizens in uniform, and their families, who are to carry out those operations. When the covenant is in balance, much can be achieved: when it is out of balance, the sparks fly. In a mature democracy such as ours we can debate these things, imbalances can be rectified and the scales brought into equilibrium: but in a brutish and nasty society such as Zimbabwe's today, the imbalances are perpetuated, injustices go unchallenged and the poor get poorer while the rich get what passes in Zimbabwe for richer. It is therefore no surprise that decent people around the world say that enough is enough and that the regime of Robert Mugabe has more than had its day.
In closing, I pay tribute to those who, despite the repression and opposition, have continued to try to do what is right for the people of Zimbabwe. I declare an interest as a periodic contributor to the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for choosing the charity ZANE- or, to give it its full name, Zimbabwe A National Emergency-as one of the charities for its 2010 national Christmas appeal. The £350,000 raised will go a long way to making the lives of former service and civilian pensioners just that little bit more bearable. However, in a country such as Zimbabwe, rich with agricultural and mineral potential, it should not be like this. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a chance, just as the people of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan have deserved a chance-a chance being given to them, by our nation, as I have witnessed over the 40 years of my military service, but there is more to do. I am grateful to have been given the chance to continue to serve people here in your Lordships' House.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, it is a great privilege to be the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Dannatt on his interesting and compelling maiden speech. We have all followed his recent career both as a soldier and, for a time, as a party politician, and I hope and expect that it is with great relief that he has arrived on the Cross Benches, where he will feel among friends both gallant and otherwise. As my noble friend told us, he completed 40 years' service in the Army. He held many prominent positions, including Commander, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, 2003-05, Commander-in-Chief Land Command, 2005-06, and Chief of the General Staff, 2006-09. He also told us very movingly of his personal experience of and service to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. I reassure him that his map-reading in the House can only improve. In the mean time, we will greatly look forward to his contributions to our debates.
We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate at a time when we need to be more watchful than ever of events in Zimbabwe, which, again, are taking an unpleasant turn. It seems that the violence that we saw three years ago leading up to the elections is returning in a similar form. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury-as he does so well-and others have given us details of this rise in violence and human rights abuse. Inevitably, the MDC is being targeted, as are the churches, the trade unions and civil society-in fact, anyone, for whatever trivial reason, who falls foul of the authorities. The most ludicrous example was the video of the news the other day, and most recently there have been gruesome attacks on those attending International Women's Day and other events in Bulawayo.
There is a new determination by ZANU-PF to block constitutional change, remove or intimidate the opposition, and threaten more violence in preparation for possible elections later this year, no doubt assisted by the diamond money which is being pocketed by officials. I strongly support those who call for a firmer intervention from SADC and the African Union. They could be selecting observers and getting ready for these elections now. What can the Minister tell us about the UK's contribution, including technical support for the Electoral Commission, the need for voter education and making better use of civil society organisations, churches and trade unions in spreading awareness? Some of us have direct experience of the elections in South Africa, where this was so effective. It seems that history is repeating itself. It may therefore help to look back at what happened after the 2008 elections and to examine the EU's and the UK's diplomatic role at that time.
During the summer when Mr Mugabe had clearly lost all legitimacy and credibility, in the June 2008 elections, could the UK and other EU members have played a cleverer game? In retrospect, we now see that, three months later, he got ahead of us by entering this agreement which led to a coalition the following spring. Surely we can now admit that the coalition, which left the opposition with almost only the junior portfolios, was a considerable coup for the president and a major deception for the rest of us, as my noble friend Lady Boothroyd said. It simply became a prop to perpetuate Mr Mugabe's regime.
Secondly, I wonder whether the sanctions, strengthened in February 2009 and relaxed since then, have really had any effect on Mr Mugabe, or whether in some perverse way they have actually boosted his morale. If we look at the Ivory Coast, we see President Gbagbo grandstanding against the French colonial power in order to boost his post-election position, echoing Mr Mugabe's performance three years earlier. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is playing a similar game of one-upmanship by baiting foreigners. Clearly, the Zimbabwean dictator has attracted other African leaders, or should I say gangsters, to his master class. Interestingly, Jeune Afrique magazine left him out of its list of contemporary political arch-criminals from Salazar to Saddam last week. Is it possible that we in the UK have exaggerated the importance of Mr Mugabe and, thereby, contributed to his platform?
Having recently spent two weeks in Africa, I am certain that in both African and European Union eyes we in the UK still seem to feel over-responsible for Zimbabwe and are still his outstanding critics. I am not sure that that is a good thing. Is it perhaps time for us to lower our profile and join forces with the European Union in reaching a more convincing EU foreign policy? I recognise that that is controversial, but in a sense the process is inexorable and it might be a more effective and pragmatic diplomatic policy. We already have positive examples of close EU co-operation. At the time of the coalition-the Minister may confirm this-some EU members were understandably reluctant to work with the ministries held by ZANU-PF but since then there has been a more general engagement with the Government as a whole which has undoubtedly been a more productive way of working.
Another example has been the success of the EU's partnership with the NGOs, which kept many families out of poverty during the harsh times of inflation and the collapse of social services. We can be very proud of the EU aid programme, and our own, and of the work of UK aid agencies over the past 10 years, also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. With the restoration of most services, NGOs, rather than being purely service providers, are beginning to adapt to a more traditional development role, albeit under a humanitarian banner. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, about the need to support skilled Zimbabweans in the UK and the organisations which are behind them.
With the positive changes in the economy, thanks largely to the excellent Finance Minister, there is a new investment climate. There has also been an improvement in food supply and health performance mainly in urban areas and a decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, but some of the figures for maternal mortality, as my noble friend Lord Crisp will probably say, are still among the worst in Africa. I could speak of the conditions of farm workers, but I have spoken about them in these debates before.
In conclusion, I am not suggesting that sanctions should be further relaxed, but I feel that we are stuck where we are and that we should press much harder for the rule of law, fairer elections, constitutional change and a great deal more commitment from SADC, the African Union and Zimbabwe's African neighbours.
Lord Chidgey: It is always a privilege to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in his contributions to this House. I say for the record how much I enjoyed his company and his wisdom in Sudan a couple of weeks ago. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his first speech to the House. I am sure that the definitive words that he gave us will be the first of many such contributions, to which we look forward. I also thank my noble friend Lord Avebury for bringing the debate to us today. His contributions over many years have always stimulated this House into making its views known on important issues of the day.
The debate comes at a time when there are developments inside Zimbabwe that give us some cause for pessimism, as many speakers have said. However,
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1818
Let me deal first with the threat to regional investment in Zimbabwe. The political and economic sabre-rattling by Mugabe will do nothing to encourage re-engagement by the international community. Conferences and initiatives to encourage investment in Zimbabwe, such as those in Harare in the past week or so, take place against a backdrop of a renewed threat by Mugabe, as set out in his recent birthday speech, to seize foreign businesses in the country. He was not talking only about EU or American investments in Zimbabwe. As Newsday, an independent newspaper in Zimbabwe, commented:
"Hardly a week after the ministerial statement on the Bippa with Botswana, birthday-boy President Robert Mugabe drove horses and chariots through the positive development on the signing of the Bippa ... He also made threatening noises against South African-owned platinum miner Zimplats, accusing the giant mining firm of squirrelling profits across the Limpopo. He said Zimplats had 'never given us any substantial money'".
As for South Africa's approach, Mugabe's claim that he could call snap elections and bring an end to the power-sharing inclusive Government was countered by Deputy President Motlanthe of South Africa. He said that, when elections eventually take place, there will need to be international monitoring on the same scale as happened at the end of the liberation war when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. He said:
He said that the next elections were viewed by all parties as watershed elections and therefore they had to prepare for them thoroughly to ensure that there would not be any more violence and intimidation during the course of the election campaign. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned, there is now a real window of opportunity. The European Union, the Commonwealth and UN institutions need to set in train the plans, preparations and funding arrangements for election monitoring. To be effective, that monitoring would need to be longer term than the normal election observer missions-both before polling and afterwards. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us what we in the UK are doing to make sure that plans for such monitoring are put in hand. What budgetary planning is there for such an intensive programme? It will be expensive, but it will be money well spent. The recent announcement of a 15 per cent increase in the UK aid programme to Zimbabwe, which several noble Lords have mentioned, from £70 million to £80 million in the next financial year, is good news and I welcome it, but what resources are specifically set aside to ensure that a countrywide network of international monitors can be adequately resourced in staff and infrastructure?
On the contributions from the AU and SADC, President Khama of Botswana has consistently adopted a closely engaged and constructive stance on supporting political and economic progress in Zimbabwe. It is good that others from the region, such as Georges
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1819
I hope that this debate will help the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa to demonstrate the support that there is at Westminster and among the people of the United Kingdom for the people of Zimbabwe. The DfID aid budget has shown that over many years and, as I and others have said, it is still rising. The fact that we have a large Zimbabwean diaspora living in towns and cities throughout the UK also strengthens our ties with their families and friends in towns and villages across Zimbabwe. I hope that Ministers stress that financial commitment and those close personal ties when engaging with the AU and SADC on Zimbabwe.
In mid-February, the EU announced the rollover of restrictive measures on Zimbabwe for a further 12 months, with the arms embargo, the travel ban and the asset freeze remaining in place, as noble Lords have mentioned. At the time, the Foreign Secretary said:
"This rollover ... reflects the fact that the economic progress that has been made since 2008 has not been matched by progress in key political areas such as the rule of law, democratic reforms and the creation of an environment conducive to free and fair elections".
I am particularly concerned that the upsurge of political violence and intimidation that we are seeing now suggests that a pre-election intimidation campaign is gathering momentum. Can the Minister confirm that the United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the people of Zimbabwe? Last year, the UK gave its largest ever aid package to that country. With free and fair elections and a reforming Government in place, is it the case that the UK would significantly increase its aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years?
When we here at Westminster call for a greater sense of urgency from the AU and SADC in implementing the reforms set out in the global political agreement, it is because we want to see no delay in efforts to improve the lives of the millions of Zimbabweans who suffer hardship and poverty as a result of corruption and political repression.
In this context, it is important that the vexed question of security sector reform is tackled. It is quite possible to conceive a well run election with a proper voters roll taking place only for the process of transition to be thwarted by an intransigent military high command. All the indications are that support for ZANU-PF has fallen to a very low level right across the country, probably below 20 per cent. This poses a serious threat to senior officers in the army, the air force, the police and the intelligence services, who have vowed never to recognise Morgan Tsvangirai as President of Zimbabwe even if he wins elections. According to recent reports on ZimOnline, more than 80,000 youth militia, war veterans and soldiers will be deployed across the country in an army-led drive to ensure victory for Robert Mugabe in the next elections, which, according to the investigations, look set to be the bloodiest ever witnessed in Zimbabwe.
The investigations, which include interviews with Cabinet Ministers, senior military officers and ZANU-PF functionaries, revealed a desperate determination by
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1820
The Joint Operations Command in Zimbabwe is made up of the top military commanders in that country. With the introduction of the inclusive Government, the JOC was supposed to be disbanded and replaced by the National Security Council. In fact, the JOC continues to operate as a political high command. Unless security sector reform is tackled urgently, the JOC poses a real threat to further progress towards reform and democratic government in Zimbabwe. I hope that in this, as in other areas, the Minister will be able to reassure not only this House but the people of Zimbabwe and the region that the UK stands ready as a friend and ally to support the aspirations of the people for political and economic progress.
Lord Crisp: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on his powerful introduction to this debate, which sparked many other powerful speeches, including the remarkable maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Dannatt. I want to speak briefly about health in Zimbabwe. Our main discussion today is naturally about the political situation, rights and the rule of law, but I know that noble Lords will well understand the relationship of health in the short term and, perhaps more importantly, in the long term to the condition of the country. The reduction in health status that we have seen in recent years is as significant a deficit in the country as any other problem.
A healthy population is strongly connected to the economy, to well-being, to civil society and eventually to the rehabilitation and rebuilding of a healthy society. There have been some improvements over the past two years, but they follow a desperate decade of deterioration. Everywhere we can see chronic shortages in the supply of drugs and of staff, many people having fled the country, some of them coming here but a significant number going to their neighbours, poor morale and-that indicator of difficulties in the future-a reduction of and other problems in the education and training of health workers.
The result, as my noble friend Lord Sandwich said, is predictably awful. Over the past 18 years, maternal mortality has more than doubled, from 380 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 810 per 100,000 in 2008. Translated into terms that are easier to understand, it means that one mother dies in every 120 births. The equivalent would be a mother dying every week in St Thomas's Hospital across the river. These are awful figures. Over the past 15 years, life expectancy has dropped from the mid-60s to 44 years. The health status of the country has deteriorated very quickly.
As I said, there has been some improvement over the past two years, which can be linked to economic improvements in the country, but there is more to do. What I want to draw attention to in my remarks is the work and role of diaspora organisations and the many links that we have between the UK and Zimbabwe. From time to time, I am approached by groups of Zimbabweans who ask how civil society, as much as government, can help to support the rehabilitation and improvement of health in the country both now and, crucially, in the longer term.
Let me talk about one such group, Zimbabwe Health Training Support. Founded in 2006, the group comprises health professionals who are almost all from Zimbabwe, the others having strong links with the country although they come from the UK. Its role is to leverage the talent of the diaspora and to create sustainable links between this country and people in Zimbabwean organisations in order to support improvements in health.
Currently the group is supporting 10 Zimbabwean institutions across all parts of the country, regardless of politics, and working with organisations such as the Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals. Zimbabwe Health Training Support responds to need. Over the past four years it has trained 100 midwives with partners in the UK, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and by drawing strongly on British talent has trained 16 people in emergency obstetrics The organisation is grateful for the support that it gets from the UK, recognising that some element of DfID money allocated to the country is going towards maternal and child health, as well as towards water and sanitation improvements. The group recognises that at the moment it can receive only a small grant from DfID to support its work but urges the department to pay more attention to helping it to support the training and education of future health workers in Zimbabwe, because that is what will be vital in the years to come.
I conclude my brief remarks with two questions. First, thinking forward and at the right time, do the Government plan to provide specific support for rebuilding and revitalising the health sector in Zimbabwe? Secondly, in the short term, what support will they give to diaspora organisations, such as the one that I have talked about, which are working in the healthcare sector?
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for giving us an opportunity to debate this extremely important subject. It is vital that Zimbabwe is kept high on the political agenda. I am also delighted that my noble friend Lord Dannatt was able to make his maiden speech. He did not mention it, but he and his son have been very involved in the charitable sector, particularly the protection of street children in Sierra Leone.
While much has been achieved on the economic front since I initiated a similar debate on Zimbabwe in June last year, sadly that cannot be matched by developments on the political front. Rather than repeat the many achievements of the coalition Government
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1822
It is well recognised that the country has enormous potential, boasting a comparatively highly educated workforce, a reasonable infrastructure and huge potential for agriculture, mining and other industries. The country also has minimal debt, with GDP growth expected to be in excess of 9 per cent this year. However, the country will be unable to achieve its full potential until and unless there is a clearer political road map and the brain drain of Zimbabweans to all parts of the world can be reversed.
In the past 10 years, more than $100 billion of trade has flowed into sub-Saharan Africa. That is 10 times the amount of trade in the previous decade. However, trade flows into Zimbabwe have reduced by 40 per cent from 10 years ago. For Zimbabwe to achieve its much needed foreign direct investment for infrastructure, mining and other key areas, so as to create much needed jobs and to reduce poverty, not only does there need to be much more political certainty but issues arising from the Indigenization and Empowerment Act, for example, need to be resolved. The promulgation without any consultation of the MDC of that Act, which aims to give 51 per cent of all businesses to locals, is farcical and a major deterrent to international inward investment into that country.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the prickly issues of Marange diamonds, human rights violations and allegations of gross corruption. I warmly welcome the recent demand by the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, for a formal audit inquiry by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority into the diamond proceeds from that area. Not surprisingly, there has been fierce resistance to the audit from the ZMDC and others involved in Marange. I am also pleased that an amendment has been made to the Kimberley process agreement, insisting on more monitoring and transparency of the operations in Marange. There have been many varying reports on exactly how much money is unaccounted for, but I understand that it could be as much as $300 million. Many believe that the fortunes of ZANU-PF have been revived by the proceeds of Marange diamonds.
Time prevents me addressing today the sensitive issue of land reform and the Lancaster House agreement. It is clear that it needs to be addressed. Sadly, there are continuing reports of farm invasions, which have a massively destabilising effect on the revival of the agricultural sector.
There has also been a lot of speculation about the timing of the next election. President Zuma of South Africa as well as the SADC countries have made it clear that they will not support an election until and unless all the electoral conditions and the constitution have been agreed and implemented. This will be the only chance for free and fair elections. At the very earliest, it could be achieved by the last quarter of this year or early next year.
There has also been a lot of speculation about the health of President Mugabe and how long he will be able to continue in his current role. If he dies in office, one of the Vice-Presidents is obliged by the constitution to take over. There is growing support for Vice-President
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1823
I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, raised her concerns about the need for more freedom of speech and more freedom for the press and the media. While Jacob Zuma managed last year to negotiate for the establishment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Commission, these commissions appear to have been established in name but without any muscle. Can the Minister give an update on the envisaged powers and independence of these commissions?
Clearly the people's revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have resulted in a mood of paranoia in the senior hierarchy of ZANU-PF and, as many noble Lords have mentioned, it is farcical and outrageous that 46 citizens were arrested and charged with treason for watching a programme on the uprising in Egypt. The coalition Government of ZANU-PF and the MDC could never be an effective Government of national unity while the military and the police force are controlled by ZANU-PF.
Robert Mugabe has, on several occasions, indicated his desire to engage in more proactive negotiations with the British Government, and particularly with the Conservative Government. Apart from the assistance of DfID, can the Minister elaborate on what plans there are to engage with the Zimbabwe Government on agreeing a road map for the future of the country?
Finally, can the Minister also outline the Government's policy on the future of sanctions in Zimbabwe? While I have always supported sanctions if they can be seen to be effective, I am of the view that our sanctions policy against Zimbabwe has been singularly ineffective. It has been used as a weapon to bolster support against the West and for the poor performance of certain parts of the economy. The likes of Emerson Mnangagwa have been egging for an early election and supporting the anti-sanctions rallies and the indigenisation campaign, blaming the MDC as being puppets of the West. I am of the opinion that President Mugabe is keen for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth and that this incentive is more powerful than the current sanctions policy against the country.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for instigating this debate and for his continuing insights, determination and commitment to fighting against injustice wherever and whenever it occurs. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his excellent maiden speech.
There has been a great deal of discussion today around all the issues of concern. I contend that the best way forward for us would be to exert our influence and raise our concerns through stronger collaboration with fellow member states of the European Union. As
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1824
The EU would want to assist with the preparation for and organisation of an election, but of course the circumstances and the context-which includes freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as well as other issues-need to be right before any election observation would be worthwhile or appropriate. Of course neither the European Union nor the Carter Center nor anyone else will go to such an election unless they receive an invitation, which they would also require. I think it highly unlikely that the European Union or any international observers will receive an invitation from Mugabe, were he to have total responsibility for it. As in 2008, we could see a very complex situation in which only those who have no neutrality or independent thoughts on this matter are "observing" the election.
As other noble Lords said, the security situation is likely to continue to be deeply concerning. We have seen serious disturbances which have been proven to have been instigated by pro-Mugabe militias trucked in for that purpose. In addition, the police force remains partisan, and the MDC will take the brunt of the violence that occurs. Politically motivated violence and the lack of accountability for abuses remain serious problems. All that we see and hear poses questions about the likelihood that anything like a credible election will occur.
Under Article 96 of the Cotonou partnership agreement, which was agreed between 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union, appropriate measures have been applied to Zimbabwe to prohibit any government-to-government co-operation. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that any such co-operation would be totally inappropriate at this time. Zimbabwe is also subject to other measures, including an arms embargo, a visa ban and asset-freezing for targeted individuals and institutions.
Despite what Mugabe says, the EU remains one of the biggest donors, and the measures in place do not affect humanitarian aid. All programmes and projects to support public health, education, micro-projects, decentralised co-operation, democratisation, support for human rights and the promotion of the rule of law are still in place and funded by the European Union. A package of €635 million is in place to assist the people of Zimbabwe. The sum of €130 million has been allocated under the EU's development envelope, but funds from this envelope will be available only if progress is made on the political dialogue instigated in 2009.
As noble Lords will be aware, the EU has removed 36 names from the visa ban list. In the current circumstances, I trust that no further concessions will be considered. Although there is some scepticism about sanctions, it would seem an endorsement of Mugabe's position to do anything else at this stage. We should not be seen to be bending to the blackmail on sanctions which he is endeavouring to exert on the European
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1825
Mugabe and ZANU-PF are pushing and pressing for elections before reforms because Mugabe knows that reforms will improve the MDC's election prospects. He does not want reform because he knows that that election outcome would be a direct effect of reform implementation. As other noble Lords said, we can assume that it is unlikely that South Africa and SADC, the key arbiters of the GPA, will endorse early polls. I certainly hope that that is the case.
Although there are huge tensions within the power-sharing Government, these tensions have not received much mention this afternoon, and they are increasing. Tendai Biti has made progress in stabilising the economy but the economy remains fragile. This progress will not be enough without the necessary constitutional reform and a credible election process. Twenty-four items of dispute have been identified between the two parties, and these items remain largely unresolved. An electoral commission and human rights commission have been appointed but they lack adequate financing and continue to argue about their respective remits. Critically, there is little confidence that bodies aligned with ZANU-PF, notably the security forces, will in any case respect anything that those commissions do. I trust that the EU will monitor the constitutional reform process and make it clear that such a process must be in place before any election is contemplated.
He knows that more than 80,000 militia, war veterans and soldiers are already being deployed across Zimbabwe in order to ensure victory for President Mugabe. This week, we have seen the response to the peaceful International Women's Day demonstrations. In both Bulawayo and Harare, women were arrested, imprisoned and report being tortured. Efforts to intimidate and silence political opponents and stifle open debate are evidenced everywhere you look at this time-efforts which are consistently backed by politically motivated violence. Women have memories of terrible sexual violence in the last election and actually fear another election taking place because of how vulnerable they will be.
Meanwhile, as reports of instability and violence continue, I was surprised to read that at the African Union summit in Addis in January, Zimbabwe did not feature in the discussions on crisis countries. The focus was entirely on Côte d'Ivoire, Somalia and Tunisia. Incredibly, the AU's commissioner responsible for democracy and human rights said that the view was that the situation in Zimbabwe had improved and therefore Zimbabwe was not on the AU radar at this time. Has anyone told the African Union about the
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1826
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we all owe a debt of thanks to my noble friend Lord Avebury for returning to this issue, which the House has debated many times in great depth and with great concern. He is right to bring our thoughts back to it when so many other turbulent events are occurring round the world. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his excellent maiden speech. He brought his immense military experience to bear and applied it both to this issue and to the many issues round the world that we have to face. We all listened with the greatest interest to what he said and look forward to hearing much more of his vast supply-his hinterland-of expertise applied to the many issues of international affairs which we have to deal with in the House.
I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for a number of things that she said. I shall come back to some of them in a moment. She hit the nail very much on the head in pointing out that the sanctions measures that the EU are taking do not affect humanitarian aid. All the propaganda that has been put to the contrary is of course propaganda and no more than that. That cannot be said too strongly, and I will come back to that point a little more in a moment.
This debate has brought out one matter that gives the Government growing concern: the marked recent increase in politically motivated intimidation and violence after a period of relative stability. This point was made by my noble friend Lord Avebury, the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and was amplified when the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, focused on the media restrictions that are also closing down parts of Zimbabwean life instead of opening it up. There is no doubt that the whole pattern is one of ratcheting up the pressures on the reformers and generally closing down Zimbabwe's society.
The particular issue to which the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, drew attention is a very telling indicator of particular issues. First, there was the arrest of Minister Mangoma, to which my noble friend Lord Avebury also drew our attention. Then there was the declaration that the election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker is to be declared null and void. These are both highly sinister developments, marking a significant increase in pressures. The Government are urgently seeking further clarification, and we will have no hesitation at all in voicing our concerns with the appropriate interlocutors, and in every way we can. These are clear evidence of a development that we do not like, which might herald the start of pre-election intimidation campaigns, although there is no certainty yet about the date of elections. Obviously, a longer timeframe would permit more of the building blocks for free and fair elections to be put in place, instead of all these counterpressures. If the elections take place later this year, which is one suggestion, those attempts to build
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1827
We continue to work closely with our international partners in support of the work being undertaken by SADC and the South Africans on developing a road map towards credible and properly monitored elections. The role of SADC as guarantors of the global political agreement will be key to the future of Zimbabwe-a point that my noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Chidgey made graphically. It is in SADC's interests to have a neighbour that is politically stable and economically thriving, and it has a regional mandate to take concrete action when the UK or EU does not. We are encouraged by the recent increased diplomatic activity in working to create an environment conducive to holding free and fair elections, and fully support it in its continuing efforts.
In our view, an election is the only route by which Zimbabwe will be able to move forward sustainably. The key determinants for a credible election are political will in Zimbabwe and the SADC region, but development assistance can provide much needed technical expertise and funding for checks and balances to help level the playing field. We will assess carefully any requests made by the inclusive Government for support to a credible election process, taking into account the changing political context and, particularly, the anticipated South African-sponsored road map to elections that we want to see.
Noble Lords will be aware that we have recently engaged in extensive discussion with our EU partners over the future of our restrictive and appropriate measures in Zimbabwe. The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, asked about this point. The outcome, as stated by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in his Written Ministerial Statement of 16 February, a month ago, was the right one. We have acknowledged the continuing economic progress in Zimbabwe, but we have noted our strong concern at the lack of equivalent political and democratic progress by keeping the measures in place for a further 12 months. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, addressed that point. We have removed a modest number of individuals from the target list and have left the door open by announcing our willingness to revisit the measures in a year in response to concrete developments on the ground, in particular in relation to creating the right environment for free and fair elections. I hope that that meets the point that a number of your Lordships raised.
Perhaps I might come to some specific, additional points that were raised before I develop one or two broader themes. The important issue of diamonds was again raised by my noble friend Lord Avebury. We call on Zimbabwe to maintain a firm commitment to the Kimberley process and to continue to take action to bring all mining operations in the Marange diamond fields into compliance with the KP requirements. In that way, diamonds can contribute to Zimbabwe's economic development instead of distorting it in the way that some of the proceeds appear to be doing now.
The UK remains fully committed to the Kimberley process, which is of course an EU matter. The EU is the body representing the UK in the process. We play an active role in and through the EU in pushing for Zimbabwean compliance with KP minimum standards. We have persistently called for a robust EU response to Zimbabwe's failure to comply with the aspects of the joint work plan agreed at the 2009 Kimberley process plenary. That plan clearly sets out the improvements that Zimbabwe needs to make to ensure compliance with the Kimberley process minimum standards, so that is the position and the stand we have taken. Exports of diamonds cannot take place from Marange until resolution of the KP negotiations with Zimbabwe and we will go on fighting for a robust solution on that matter.
I wanted a word on the interesting theme that my noble friend Lord Sheikh touched upon: the role of the Chinese. Their role throughout Africa, and indeed throughout the Indian Ocean area, is a matter of great interest. Some people have mixed feelings on the involvement of China-even in north Africa, as we have seen in recent days-but we think China has an important role to play in the growth and development of Africa. There has been progress where there has been infrastructure development as a result of China's financing. That can only be for the good.
However, we think it vital that donors such as China are open about their investments and make it clear what they are spending and what the results will be. That empowers people to hold Governments to account and ensures that donors can co-ordinate their work effectively and avoid building up contingent liabilities, which may be difficult for future Governments to meet. We have no evidence that China is willing to commit, as one report suggested, $10 billion to development in Zimbabwe. That was a press report which we cannot confirm, but it could be that Chinese authorities will come to understand that a stance of saying, "We're involved commercially but have no interest in political developments", is not possible. They, as they have perhaps found out in Libya, find themselves drawn into the political process as well. That is an interesting and important theme to which this House will no doubt return its attention.
My noble friend Lord Sheikh also mentioned the Commonwealth. I am one of the strong believers-hopers is perhaps the word-that the Commonwealth can, in due course and at the right stage, play a valuable and leading part along with SADC in the recovery of that great country, Zimbabwe. I hope so. I do not think we are yet at that point but we want to get there and, when it comes, there can be a very constructive role for Commonwealth leaders. I hope that this will be discussed at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, at the end of October.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, made an interesting contribution on health aspects. Our observation is that the whole health service structure in Zimbabwe is close to collapse. DfID has provided critical health sector support to tackle the staffing crisis, provide essential medicines and address HIV/AIDS. We will continue to support this in future with a particular focus on reducing maternal mortality rates, which I think the noble Lord specifically referred to.
I am advised that DfID has funding mechanisms to support civil society and diaspora groups in Africa, and I invite Zimbabwe Health Training Support to contact DfID to see whether it would be eligible to access these mechanisms.
I shall say a further word about the European Union, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, made several references. I have already said that our rollover to the package of measures as a whole recognises the huge shortfalls in matching progress with political reform. There has been some progress, particularly on the economic side, but on the political side there is a long way to go. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in his Written Ministerial Statement the other day that we, along with the EU, have emphasised that we are willing to revisit the measures should there be concrete developments on the ground. I think that that covers a number of the specific questions. If I have not covered them all, I will write to noble Lords about them.
I shall summarise how we see the situation. This debate has been enormously valuable in reminding the wider world-I hope that it will get noticed outside-that human rights abuses, cruelties and brutalities continue. This is not a country that is quietly improving; a vicious regime is still at work and anti-freedom and anti-democracy measures are growing, as is personal brutality of the kind so vividly described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells. That is an unpleasant and worrying atmosphere.
We note, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, rightly noted, the remarkable economic progress since the formation of the inclusive Government, and we will continue to support those who are driving that reform. I repeat, however, that we share the strong concern at the lack of real inclusivity in that Government when we consider the lack of progress on the real sharing of power. There has been a bit of opening up regarding the written media, although I was struck by what the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, had to say, and the constitutional review process has helped a little to open up the democratic space. However, that window, which we hoped would open wider, now appears to be closing in anticipation of the right of people to give their verdict on the Government's progress.
Your Lordships have rightly focused in this debate on the need for the next elections in Zimbabwe to be freer and fairer than those of 2008, and have stressed the need for effective observation and monitoring, including by the UK, the EU and, as I have suggested, the Commonwealth. In fact, I think that the Commonwealth can play a significant part in that aspect too. That is what we want to see, but it is not within our gift. Observers have to be invited by the host Government, and it is not inconceivable that objections might be raised on the grounds of perceived political bias. That is why the role of SADC is key; it has the mandate for ensuring full implementation of the global political agreement, and we will continue to give it our full support as it works to create an environment conducive to credible elections.
This afternoon we have heard expressed, again and again, concern about human rights abuses. I have said that we share that fully, and we urge the Government
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1830
In this context, Mugabe's recent threats to nationalise British companies are utterly irresponsible and counterproductive. We are in contact with British companies, and have offered those who might be affected whatever support we can. In a similar vein, we also urge the Government of Zimbabwe to maintain a firm commitment to the Kimberley process, which I and my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, and to bring all mining operations in the Marange fields into compliance so that diamonds may benefit the people of Zimbabwe rather than just a small, corrupt clique.
In the mean time, we will continue our support to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, recently announced in another place, we are prepared to increase our aid substantially over the next four years in response-and this is important; it is the condition-to credible elections and the creation of a reforming government in Zimbabwe.
I am grateful to all those who have spoken for their lively and informed contributions to this debate. It is important that we have these debates, and I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Avebury, as I said. The Government share the goal expressed by your Lordships of a better, more prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. There is sadly a long way to go on the political side, but I believe-as we all do-that it is a brilliant country, a potentially prosperous and admirable country that could rise again from its dark period and escape the grip of a once trusted man who has sadly been transmogrified into a twisted tyrant. That day, for Zimbabwe, will come.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, it only remains for me to congratulate, as all your Lordships have done, the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his brilliant maiden speech based on 40 years of experience, much of which was concerned with the rights of people and how they obtain them. He gave several examples from Northern Ireland and more came from East Timor where, ultimately, the people were successful. The same can happen in Zimbabwe. We hope to hear from the noble Lord again, not only on this subject but on the many other conflicts that plague the world.
I also thank my noble friend the Minister for giving his usual thorough and careful reply to the many speeches that your Lordships have made. I endorse the picture that has been presented almost unanimously
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1831
It is horrifying to think-as my noble friend Lord Chidgey and the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, said-that they are already deploying tens of thousands of militia all over the country in preparation for attacks on the MDC and disruption of the preparations that the opposition are making for the election. Once this process is on site and working, we can never expect people to be able to cast their vote in a free and fair election. I, too, join the Minister in hoping that what your Lordships have said this afternoon will gain a wider audience.
I make the more general point that we as a country need to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe know that we are definitely committed to a much higher level of aid over the years-the Minister mentioned this-which is conditional on the performance of the undertakings which the parties have already agreed. All they have to do is to go forward on that basis and large amounts of help will come, certainly from Britain, and from the European Union and the United States. Zimbabwe can look forward to a rosy future not only with the aid that she will get from the rest of the world but with the regularisation of the sale of Marange diamonds. I am not so sure that I share my noble friend's optimism on this because the Minister of Mines has ruled out any commitment by Zimbabwe to taking part in the KP. That is a separate issue which will have to be tackled very seriously by those who are in charge, including the EU chair of the monitoring process.
However, faint signs of hope have been identified. The parties have agreed to enter the timed programme for implementation of the GPA. We shall know in a few weeks whether it is possible for progress to be made that will enable the European Union and other friends of Zimbabwe to play a much larger role in promoting and arriving at the democratic elections that they all want to see. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the points-based visa system introduced in November 2008 as it affects non-European Union artists, performers, academics and others intending to work in the United Kingdom.
The Earl of Clancarty:My Lords, I am very glad that we have the opportunity today to debate the points-based visa system and the effect that it has had since its introduction in November 2008. I thank the Library for providing a briefing pack. I also thank the Visual Arts and Galleries Association, the National Campaign for the Arts, English PEN, and the campaigning group the Manifesto Club, whose painstaking documentation of the numerous, often humiliating, experiences of non-EU artists, academics and students over the past two years provides an important ongoing contribution. I also thank the Greater London Authority, which last month commissioned a survey on this issue and has made available to me its conclusions, which I have the privilege of sharing with this House and making public for the first time.
I look forward to hearing the speeches of noble Lords, some of whom are experts in this field and have been pressing this issue for longer than I have. In addressing the points-based system directly, I argue that we go to the heart of the problem. I find it extraordinary that such a major change to our immigration practice, with such strong cultural implications, should have occurred only through altering existing Immigration Rules without any necessity for debate in Parliament.
As an artist myself, my particular concerns are with tier 5: that is, temporary visits that are far and away, at least officially, the main route by which non-EU artists and academics enter this country. These could include artists present for the opening of an exhibition, poets attending festivals or musicians playing concerts, with visits ranging from a few days to a few weeks. The GLA survey discovered that a quarter of artists and academics were from outside the EU and, of those, 98 per cent were applicants under tier 5.
The irony of the new system is that while it appears simpler, the process of making it tighter and stricter has led to an often overwhelming bureaucracy not only for those applying to come to the UK but for their hosts. The new criteria include proving that one has the equivalent of £800 in a bank account for a minimum period of three months, applying in person, supplying biometric details, paying an individual fee and having a sponsor who also has to pay at least £400. The application process is therefore lengthy and tortuous and is often not completed in time. Many applicants can be refused for no obvious reason.
"In April 2010 we presented an ... exhibition called 'Contemporary Art Iraq', the product of several years' research and planning including my visit to Iraq and a collaboration with a small organisation Artrole ... who foster relationships between UK, America and Iraq. We invited three of the artists and two academics to the opening of the exhibition and to take part in our ... symposium. We would have liked to invite more but the process ... necessitated sending the group to Beirut for three weeks to get their visas. The group were a mixture of backgrounds, gender and ages. Everything was done in time and with the assistance of ... solicitors. All the visas were declined on the basis of insufficient financial information as most had letters from their employers but not bank account statements (as is fairly standard in Iraq at present). We had already booked their ... accommodation and would provide them with enough money for their visit. So ...
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1833
I would like to say that this is an isolated case, but it certainly is not. Artists denied entry to Britain include Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, the Chinese artist Huang Xu and the great Cannes prize-winning film director Abbas Kiorastami, despite his being invited in 2009 to Britain to direct "Cosi fan Tutte" at the English National Opera. After twice being fingerprinted, he gave up in disgust, vowing never to visit the UK again, yet saying how much of a real and indeed deserved welcome he receives in other European countries. In November, the cellist Kristin Ostling from the Chicago-based string quartet Carpe Diem, which was invited to play at a music conference in Leeds, was detained at customs before-in the words of the conference organiser, Derek Scott-being,
and then sent back to America. The reason given was that she was taking work from British musicians, even though her attendance, which would have included three recitals, was unpaid. Her ability as part of this quartet is unique-something that is indeed true of all artists. Perhaps the Minister will note that this single incident has had significant reverberations in America in both the musical and academic spheres.
Perhaps the Minister can throw some light on whether such Kafkaesque situations have now improved. Also, we will never hear about those artists who, either because of the sheer difficulties of the procedures, the lack of money or our growing reputation for unfriendliness, understandably fail to apply.
Let me turn to the arts organisations that are expected to act as sponsors. Here, the conclusions of the GLA survey are pertinent. They are, in order of significance, legal hurdles, increased administration tasks, and last-minute changes or cancellation of events, and they are all significant. One small theatre states:
"The worry of not knowing whether we will have to cancel a sold out event two days before, because the artist has been refused entry on some paperwork technicality, hugely discourages us from booking overseas artists due to the financial risks involved. This is highly detrimental to the quality and diversity of the UK cultural sector".
Forty-two per cent of arts organisations in the survey feel that they will work with fewer non-EU artists and academics as a result of the changes to the system; 64 per cent say that the PBS has increased stress associated with event planning.
One of the things that the sponsorship rule is doing is to sow seeds of mistrust where none previously existed. As with universities, sponsors are now in effect expected to snoop on the artists in their charge. The Place theatre in London, which puts on up to 90 contemporary dance productions a year, tells me that it has, embarrassingly, to check the paperwork of
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1834
There are indeed a significant number of organisations both large and small that are technically breaking the law by telling visiting artists to make their own arrangements. I do not blame them for doing this. This says that the system does not work; and it does not work because it is wrong.
The current system fundamentally misunderstands the way in which the arts operate. Whether they come in on a visa or via another route, the artist never stops working. For Customs officials to try to prevent a photographer such as Alec Soth from using his camera in the country, or even, as has been the case, to try to prevent artists using paints and sketchpads while they are here, is a joke-and a surreal one at that. Nor does the system take into account the rapidity and spontaneity with which arts events are often organised.
In the GLA survey, 70 per cent of arts organisations stated that the points-based system was not the right way to limit non-EU workers. English PEN, while asking the UKBA to develop the entertainer and festival visa routes, also stated:
The late Lord Strabolgi, who is greatly missed, not least in arts debates, told me last year of the singular, and at the time unusual, case of a relatively unknown Cypriot artist who, during the troubles in Cyprus, was not allowed into the UK. Lord Strabolgi fought the Government of the day and won. It seems that we have gone overnight from being a relatively welcoming country to one that is quite the opposite. Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, stated in the Evening Standard of November 23 last year:
A year ago, the Manifesto Club submitted a 10,000-strong petition to the previous Government that highlighted discrimination against artists from developing countries and those with a low income. The petition was signed by many in the arts world, including Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, Sandy Nairne and Nicholas Hytner, as well as by Members of this House. Will the Government respond to the Manifesto Club petition, and will the Minister ponder the strength of feeling and deep concerns about these issues within the arts in Britain?
There might be a solution to some of these problems. The entertainer's visa may be expanded. Perhaps it could be called the artist's visa, and payments of fees to artists be allowed. I understand that there is to be a review of tier 5. I hope very much that we will not see the introduction of more bureaucracy that will only discriminate further, and instead see a move towards a more flexible and progressive system.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I decided to speak briefly today, in part to follow up on the short debate that I introduced on 11 January, which related more to the new regionalised system of so-called spokes and wheels that is being operated by the UK Border Agency and that is causing such anguish to many of our visitors from Latin America-as I know-and also to those from other parts of the world outside the European Union. In that debate, I asked whether a review of the border agency's work could be instituted in order to see if it was working as was originally intended, rather than simply treating everybody who wishes to visit the United Kingdom and requires a visa as a potential terrorist. The then Minister, my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones, said that a review was under way of the border agency system centred in New York, which was the particular subject of my interest since that is where everybody from all over the Americas now has to apply to obtain a visa. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to ask the Minister whether there is any news of that review and when its mission might be accomplished.
I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on securing this debate. It is very important to keep up the pressure. I find it extraordinary that the quota-based system appears to have been introduced without consultation or any widespread dissemination of information. I find it very hard to understand why distinguished performing artists should be subjected to such an unnecessarily unfriendly and unwelcoming system.
It would be very interesting to have a review of how the system is working on a case-by-case basis to show us what security it has preserved for us. When I hear about some of the cases, including those enumerated by the noble Earl, I wonder how the British Council would feel if performers going from the United Kingdom to other parts of the world were subjected to the same treatment. I agree that it is hugely detrimental to the United Kingdom's image as a cultural and artistic centre of world status.
My own experience lies more in the world of classical ballet-in particular, in relation to the Royal Academy of Dance, of which I am a governor. It is the institution which teaches the teachers of dance, and it has also introduced the first ever degree in classical ballet in collaboration with the University of Sussex. Again, many of the students who come over to follow that course are subjected to this new quota-based system, and the future of the royal academy now depends on the number of overseas students that we have. Therefore, it is vital that we improve the system and get over the difficulties that have certainly been experienced in recent years.
It always seems a nonsense that people from our prestigious academic institutions spend a lot of time going around the world looking for potential students, and indeed in some cases for teachers at their institutions, and they are then faced with the hurdle of overcoming the visa application system. Therefore, I warmly support the noble Earl in his efforts to have the system reviewed and I look forward to hearing the comments of other speakers.
Lord Parekh: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on introducing this debate and showing how our immigration system is largely seen as unwelcoming to outsiders. He concentrated on how this points-based system is likely to affect artists, musicians and others, and how right he was to do so. However, I want to concentrate on an area that requires even more attention-namely, the way that tier 1 and tier 2 affect academics and researchers. As I understand it, the Government want to restrict tier 1 immigration of non-EU staff to 1,000 and tier 2 to 20,700-a reduction of nearly 20 per cent. I am convinced that that will greatly damage our universities and research centres, and I want to spend the next few minutes showing why.
Our universities currently have a non-EU staff of 19,000. Last year, it was 18,400 and the year before it was 15,650. In other words, it has been going up every year, for obvious reasons-there is a demand for it. Universities increasingly recognise that they need to compete with other universities across the world and that they are going to require highly talented people from outside. If the total cap is set at 21,700, universities, which already employ 19,000-plus people, will have to bear more than their fair share of the burden.
Tier 1 is the key route to academic appointments, and it is absolutely vital for professorial appointments. The non-EU academic staff are concentrated in certain areas: clinical medicine, social studies, business and management studies, various types of engineering and computer science. Many of these areas are expanding and will continue to do so, and they will need world-class staff. New and unexpected areas continue to spring up, as we saw in the case of nanotechnology. I can point to instances in social sciences and the humanities, where totally unexpected areas of research spring up. If universities are to compete, they will recruit people, and as these are new and unexpected areas, the talented people needed to do the teaching can come only from outside this country.
The numbers of people needed in unexpected areas cannot be predicted, let alone arbitrarily capped. The non-EU staff have contributed greatly in a number of areas. A quarter of our Nobel prize winners come from non-EU academic staff and they make Britain proud. They train the next generation of scholars and keep up the lead that this country has globally. They also attract foreign students and, no less important, they help to shape the academic and moral culture of our society. Talented scientists and others should not be seen merely in terms of the courses that they offer or the discoveries that they make, but also in terms of the contribution they make to the moral and social life of this country.
In my view, the restrictions that the Government propose are extremely severe and more severe than those of the United States or even Australia, whose points-based system we claim to have borrowed, although we have dropped some of the good points that the system has and added a few others that we should not have. The talented staff from abroad will not come if we put too many restrictions on their dependants and the ability of those dependants to work here, which is
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1837
Therefore, I strongly urge that we should trust universities and research institutions. So far, they have shown a great deal of responsibility, they are closer to the ground and they are fully aware of the new trends in sciences compared with the Government. A bureaucratic muddle could easily arise if the Government start to set targets. Even as far as tier 2 is concerned, they cannot say that skilled people can come in only if there are gaps or there are no British equivalents. The concept of a gap or a shortage is extremely ambiguous and very puzzling. Gaps cannot be identified in advance. Even when they are identified, it requires years to train home-grown people. Sticking to a British-only policy, or looking elsewhere if no British applicants are available, will not work. If there is a gap and no locals are available, let us bring in outsiders.
Let us consider the concept of shortage. Shortage implies that there is a demand but no supply. That presupposes that demand is static and does not take account of the fact that demands are created. A creative mind, a creative scientist, can come along, open up new areas of inquiry and suddenly there is a global demand for a particular course or research and many people from all over the world begin to enrol for that or take interest in that research, and the country which started that research first has a global advantage. That is what entrepreneurs do in business. They do not try to cater to existing demands but they anticipate what people might like to have and create a demand. Indian restaurants did not open because there was a demand, but they created the demand. In exactly the same way, in academia and in research centres, talented minds come along, open up new areas of research, new interdisciplinary ways of looking at things, and lo and behold, a demand is created. Suddenly there is a gap where there was none before because something new has come into being.
The Immigration Minister, Mr Damian Green, says that we should attract the brightest and the best to fill job gaps. I say: attract the brightest and the best, then leave them alone and you will be surprised by what new gaps they can create. The points-based system is heavily biased in favour of high salaried jobs-above £40,000. That can happen in engineering or some areas of science, business studies and management. It works against social sciences. I do not need to point out to this House how many of those of us in social sciences, philosophy or international relations do not earn the £40,000 that is demanded for tier 2.
I end by making two simple points. Of course we have a right to control immigration; of course we must do everything to stop bogus students or those who do
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1838
Secondly, as for academics and researchers in tier 1 and tier 2, leave it to the good sense of the university. Of course the Government, who are in charge of this country's immigration policy, must keep an eye on it, but it would be totally wrong to be too prescriptive. That would stifle the potential of our universities.
Lord Clement-Jones: First, I commend the patience and determination of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on securing this debate on a subject about which I know he feels extremely strongly. I also congratulate him on his opening speech, which set out so clearly the case on the tier 5 visas.
The points-based visa system was introduced in November 2008 by the previous Government to ensure that we were bringing in the right skills from abroad to meet the needs of UK business in the permanent workforce. I have no quarrel with that aspiration, but in a number of areas, the system has proved over-bureaucratic, self-defeating and damaging to Britain's reputation. Nowhere has that proved more the case than with the provisions relating to non-EU artists who wish to perform or exhibit in the UK.
After the introduction of the PBS in November 2008, it became immediately apparent that tier 5, for visiting performers and artists, was having an adverse effect on cultural exchange-in particular, international artists and academics who visit the UK for a variety of cultural and academic activities. Rather than being welcomed, visiting artists are being treated with suspicion.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, set out the current basis of the system, with requirements for savings, sponsors and so on. I first became aware of the issue when the Manifesto group, in 2009, published Cancelled by Order of the Home Office, which set out an appalling catalogue of the damage done to Britain's reputation as a centre for international arts as a result of the new system. Other organisations, such as English PEN and the National Campaign for the Arts, which the noble Earl referred to, also are heavily engaged in trying to improve the system.
The new system affects international artists and academics who visit the UK for a variety of cultural and academic activities. The regulations have led to a stream of cancelled talks and art events by artists and academics from anywhere outside Europe, as the noble Earl described. He mentioned the petition presented last year to No. 10. Subsequently those petitioners, in a letter to the Times, said of the points-based system:
"It is ruining Britain's reputation as a cultural hub and also turning cultural institutions and universities, against their will, into surveillance arms of a UK Border Agency, itself largely unaccountable ... The vibrancy of British cultural life rests on the
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1839
As a result of the new visa arrangements, more than 20 major events have been cancelled or badly affected. In December 2009, I raised the matter in this House and received the reply that I was not giving the then Government credit for what they were doing to mitigate the situation.
To his credit, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, in his cultural strategy document entitled Cultural Metropolis, launched in November 2010, also called for an overhaul, believing that the new system is onerous and costly and damaging London's reputation as a world centre for culture. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, has given us some of the early results from the survey carried out by the Mayor of London into the problems caused by the tier 5 visa system-results which are pretty damning in themselves. Despite the campaign, and even under this Government, the catalogue of problems for visiting artists and academics has continued to grow, and the regulations have continued to lead to a stream of cancelled talks and art events by artists and academics from anywhere outside Europe.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, mentioned the case of Kristin Ostling, the cellist with the US Carpe Diem String Quartet who at the end of last year was held for eight hours at Heathrow. What he did not say was that she was caught by UKBA because she had a cello. The members of the quartet seem to have been allowed into the conference because their violins were more discreet. A Brazilian theatre company, Teatro da Curva, which was intending to perform at the Camden Fringe, was deported. Last October, five writers heading for the Southbank Centre's Poetry International Festival were refused entry to the UK. One of them apparently did not have enough money in her bank account. I could mention a similar catalogue of woes in respect of visiting academics. I was extremely interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, had to say on that subject. The Manifesto Club set these out in Fortress Academy, which it published last year.
In the face of these real instances of bureaucratic ill treatment and ignorance I have been pressing, with others, for a review of the PBS as it applies to the arts and academia. I was extremely interested in the noble Lord's optimism in that respect. However, on 22 July, in response to a Question in this House, I was assured by the relevant Minister, my noble friend Lord De Mauley, that although there were no plans for a full review, a broader survey across all categories of tier 5 had been undertaken and will be published shortly. He asserted that the arts and entertainment task force was closely involved to ensure that the detail of the system reflects the creative sector's needs while being robust and fair. Where are the results of the survey? How many times has the task force met to discuss the visa issue? What are its conclusions?
There has been some progress. Of course I welcome the inclusion of certain categories of artist in the UK shortage occupation list. There are also ways of mitigating
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1840
There are further fundamental issues to be addressed. We need a comprehensive review. It is completely inappropriate that visiting artists and academics are dealt with in the same way as long-term migrants. These people have no impact at all on net migration into the UK. The exchange of artists is the lifeblood of the creative arts and industries, and of the education sector. We should do everything we can to facilitate that. This means that visa routes outside the points-based system must be developed. The entertainer route should be expanded; it is currently too narrow. There are some high-profile festivals, such as Edinburgh, Glastonbury and WOMAD, which have been marked out for special treatment. The approved list should be expanded to cover more and smaller festivals. I welcome the current proposal to create a tier 1 exceptional talent route for the arts, sciences and the humanities to cover people at the top of their profession, but will that be capped? Perhaps the Minister will clarify what this will mean.
Schengen visas for performers and artists are much more readily obtainable. So what should happen? Will all future gigs be held in Paris or Berlin while all our interchange is over Skype? Believe me, I am not joking. I hope that the coalition Government will recognise that this is a major issue and agree to undertake a full review so that we can ensure that the points-based system no longer damages UK arts and cultural exchange.
In the final minute, I want to deal very briefly with the specific issue of postgraduate work visas for overseas students under tier 1. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in the course of answering questions for the Government on student visas recently, gave an assurance that the Government are determined to protect our overseas students. But speeches by the Minister of State run somewhat contrary to that. The almost universal response to the proposal from businesses, universities, research charities and student bodies to eliminate post-study work visas has been negative, and for good reason. Recent experience in Australia has shown that changes in the student visa rules have led to drastic declines in student applications to Australian universities. There could be a sensible compromise so that these visas are obtainable by those with a higher degree in the form of a master's. I hope very much that the Government will consider that.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, like other speakers, I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for initiating this timely debate and for his masterly overview of the subject. I wish briefly to speak about the problems faced by nurses, particularly from Australia, New Zealand and Canada when applying to work in the United Kingdom. I would mention that the disparity in requirements between healthcare professionals applying from outside the European Economic Area and from within it is, in my view, little short of scandalous. However, I have tabled a Question for Short Debate on this subject which is due in the next few weeks; and in any case it is a problem for another department. I therefore propose today to concentrate on the group which is from outside the EEA.
This country has a long tradition of welcoming nurses from what might loosely be called the old Commonwealth. They, by and large, have received their training on the old British pattern, with great emphasis placed on hands-on nursing and the ward hierarchy. In many hospitals they form a vital element in the nursing staff. They are characterised by excellent nursing, hard work and fitting in easily. There has also been a tradition, through their networking back home, of finding replacements. In other words, they are a hospital employer's ideal source of staffing.
Let us be realistic. The immigration issue is a huge problem, and I very much welcome the Government's efforts to tackle it. In the recent past, however, the overseas nurses problem, particularly with regard to the countries that I mentioned, has been in danger not so much of being overlooked as of government failure to appreciate just what they have to offer. Save for one or two very specialised exceptions, nurses have been removed from tier 2 and the shortage occupation list. Incidentally, I would be grateful for the Minister's clarification on whether the position has been changed as a result of the Migration Advisory Committee's announcement of 3 March. Assuming that the position is in fact unchanged, the UKBA obviously has no difficulty in enforcing the test that no home-reared candidates are available to fill vacancies before a visa for a non-EEA nurse is granted. On a totally different subject, the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, made a very interesting comment on the British-only policy. However, all this is to ignore the very high quality of skills brought by the nurses to whom I have referred.
There is also the expense element. Registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, admittedly common to all nurses, is required. There is also the Overseas Nurses Programme, lasting 20 intensive days. However, there is a shortage of capacity for the course both in the United Kingdom and in countries of origin that has led to cases of exploitation about which the Nursing and Midwifery Council is rightly concerned. Then there is the English language proficiency test under the IELTS. In short, an applicant is unlikely to be out of pocket for anything less than around £2,000, and in some cases considerably more. I would mention in passing that the expenses for a nurse seeking to practise in the UK from within the EEA are confined to the NMC registration fee of £76. An additional hurdle to be overcome by any non-EEA applicant is a very rigid
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1842
Without minimising the problems faced by other non-EEA applicants, I suggest that there is a case to be made that hospital professionals and nurses in particular fulfil a clear community requirement. It is surely the ideal of any community that its sick and dying should have the very best nursing care. Here we have a resource that has been well made use of in past years. However, the current figures speak for themselves. In 2003-04, the number of these nurses registered with the NMC was 1,674; in 2006-07, it was 373; and in 2009-10, it was 208.
The current recruiting position for nurses from the EEA, including the United Kingdom, is reasonably satisfactory, though the quality is in many cases questionable. The number of the nurses that I have discussed is not large. Nevertheless, here is a resource which many hospitals have found in the past to be of great value-I declare an interest as a former chairman of an independent hospital which has made considerable use of it. In short, the resource is currently underutilised.
If I may tread dangerously with my metaphors, we have been in danger of throwing out the baby with the vast and turgid bathwater of the immigration problem. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that this issue is in need of revisiting.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for giving us the opportunity to debate the points-based visa system, which was introduced in November 2008 by the previous Government. I was unhappy about it then and I remain unhappy about it. Like everyone else who has spoken, I believe that it operates to the detriment of the arts world, our international relations, our relations with business and the strengthening of our economy. It does not make sense as currently designed.
As many know, I have spent time as the chair of the British Council. I have also chaired other arts organisations, such as the London International Festival of Theatre. I have seen at close quarters the great enrichment of our society, our creative people and our academics that comes from having the opportunity to meet and mix with artists from abroad and the great cross-fertilisation that comes about through those connections. Such contact strengthens our relations around the world and greatly enhances our creative environment here.
I shall speak first about the education world, because I am the president of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the detriment that we experience as a result of the system. I shall speak also about the business of the visa system as a whole.
We are about to launch yet another assault on our engagement with the world by reducing substantially the proportion of international students coming to Britain. In doing so, we forget the huge and long-term benefits that come from our relationships with them.
10 Mar 2011 : Column 1843
The enrichment that I wish to talk about has been referred to by my noble friend Lord Parekh. It concerns the ways in which international academics come to us. Because of the skills and new knowledge that they bring with them, our own academics working with them are able to provide a plethora of courses. That would not be possible without those international academics spending time here. However, increasingly they are being put off by the way in which they are treated by bureaucracy and the difficulties involved in bringing with them their families, their partners, their spouses and their children. The complex nature of our immigration system is discouraging that important element of what is on offer in our universities.
On the problems that have been raised within SOAS, we run important pre-degree programmes for students who come from education systems around the world that are different from ours. It is therefore difficult for some of them to be assessed or to take on a particular university degree, not because of their lack of ability but simply because their own education systems are so different. We provide pre-university preparation for international students, who then go on to become students in universities in the UK. Those in-house foundation courses are provided for undergraduates and postgraduates to enable them to take on deeper educational opportunities. The programmes attract large numbers of bright students, but the system for visas is now acting as a serious detriment to their coming to Britain.
On the English language test-again, this was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Parekh-most students coming to Britain acquire the English language very quickly. To make the demand that we make for other economic immigrants-that they are able to speak English before they come-often works as a disadvantage for those coming to pre-courses or as students. These people are incredibly intelligent and acquire the English language very quickly, but our system of immigration does not recognise that. There has to be a criticism of the culture within the Home Office around this because the system does not recognise that there is a difference between students and economic migrants. Limiting the entitlement of students to work makes the UK a less attractive place in which to study.
There is a madness in all this and the system needs to be looked at holistically. We are in a very competitive situation in the offers that we make to students around the world and we are now tightening the entry requirements in such a way that many students will not choose Britain as their preferred place to come. I would like the whole system as it is currently operating to be looked at again. We are sending out messages to potential students that they are not welcome here.
There has been an inheritance of the system that was in existence, but the efforts now will deepen a system that is not working. I say to noble Lords on the government Benches that the system is ripe for reappraisal and that we should look at the workings of the points-based system to see whether it can be improved.
On a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, Goldsmith's, one of the really fine art schools in our country, has written to organisations complaining that it needs international artists to come and be part of the programmes that it makes and offers for its art students and that increasingly it is becoming impossible to do that. That experience is shared by other schools around the country. The example given was that of Abbas Kiarostami, a film director renowned and admired throughout the world, who gives us links with a country with which we have troubled relations. He was coming to direct an opera at English National Opera. He found it impossible to get over the hurdles and felt it insulting to be expected to go through the processes that were described by the noble Earl.
I think that revisiting this system is timely. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, for introducing this debate and other noble Lords who have spoken. It is truly a source of scandal that we cannot invite people into our country who are enhancing everything that we are seeking to do in the arts, education, business and the economy. Last night, I met a senior executive of Google. One of the things that he immediately raised with me was the problem that it is having in getting skilled people into this country to work. If we are upsetting a company such as Google, we are really in trouble.
Baroness Brinton:My Lords, I declare an interest as executive director of the Association of Universities in the East of England and, through that role, as an employee of the University of East Anglia. This country has a proud history of over 800 years of intellectual rigour and academic excellence in its higher education institutions. Even in medieval times, there was a free flow between universities across Europe, with the best academics moving around to teach, research and learn from others elsewhere. The horizons of our universities today are truly international and the breadth of knowledge being shared is quite extraordinary. Many noble Lords in this House have contributed to this global exchange.
This is not just about Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial, proud as we are of their international rankings. Every university I have worked with has groundbreaking research or teaching projects in which they are collaborating with universities overseas or are hosting exceptional researchers to strengthen the UK's knowledge base and, really importantly, given the Government's focus on innovation and growth, to provide the innovation that our economy needs to make it grow over the next few years. Our universities are genuinely global businesses, generating about £8 billion of foreign exchange earnings for the UK every year. They have globalised workforces. This country needs the brightest and the best, not least because within the UK we undersupply in several critical areas, for example in mathematics and engineering.
There are structural difficulties with the new points-based system that may prove to be catastrophic to our universities. The closure of tier 1 general means that universities will now have to use tier 2 general to try to recruit academics and researchers from overseas, which will place additional pressure on this category. As an aside, the planned closure of tier 1 post-study work, which is currently under consideration as part of the consultation on the student immigration system, has implications for the recruitment of international graduates of UK universities into research and academic posts on completion of their studies in the UK. This route has been widely used for the recruitment of postdoctoral staff and others into universities. The closure of this route will further restrict the progression and recruitment of highly skilled academics into our universities.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|