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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government take the view that where it is appropriate and beneficial for this technology to be used in developing countries, all support should be given to that technology.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it may put a lot of people's minds at rest on this subject if we can be assured that a large bank of existing genetic material is kept of the plants that are being genetically modified? If something goes wrong, we shall then have something to fall back on.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is true of all modification, whether it is genetic modification brought about by modern techniques or by any form of breeding. It is desirable to be able to retrace one's steps if any change has been made, however beneficial.
The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest as a trustee of the John Innes Foundation. Does the Minister agree that enormous interest has been shown around the world in genome sequencing? Is it not desirable, if possible, for the intellectual property rights to remain within the scientific community, particularly at the national academies of those countries most likely to benefit?
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, despite the great benefits from genetic engineering, there may also be great drawbacks? As with nuclear power, from which many people benefit greatly, awful forces may be unleashed by such a development.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure that I accept the scientific basis for the analogy which the noble Earl seeks to draw. The case for genetic modification has to stand on its own and not by analogy with nuclear power.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, we are pleased that the Government of Zimbabwe have accepted international observers to observe the elections to be held in that country on 24th and 25th June. We are satisfied with the speedy response to send observers from the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community, the European Union, South Africa and the United States. The United Nations development programme is co-ordinating the arrangements for the various teams. The first observers arrived over the weekend of 3rd and 4th June and we understand that there will be around 300 observers in total.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the latest measure of intimidation devised by Mr Mugabe's so-called veterans is that, when they encounter a mother carrying a baby and she declines to attend one of Mr Mugabe's party meetings, they seize the baby, raise it in the air and drop it on the ground? As it is only a short time since Mr Mugabe lost the referendum, and the only important political development since that time has been his campaign of intimidation, is it not clear that if he wins the election, it will only be because of that campaign of intimidation? Who will brief the monitors?
It is important to make the point that the opposition parties in Zimbabwe have not walked away from the elections. As they have not walked away from them, then neither should we. But we deplore the pressure that they are put under. It is vital that they be allowed to campaign freely, and we hope that the observers will play their role in trying to make that happen.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in those circumstances, which are well known to the international community and everybody else, the only role that the observers can play is to legitimise the incoming government, which will undoubtedly be led by Mr Mugabe and be a totalitarian, vicious regime?
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the more than 300 observers who will be deployed to Zimbabwe will do a good job. They will consist of 160 from the European Union, led by Pierre Schori, an MEP who was a former minister in Sweden for international development. He is extremely experienced in the field of foreign politics. The Commonwealth is sending at least 45 observers and they will be led by General Abubakar, the former head of state of Nigeria. I shall not list the others. As everyone will understand, the figures are fluid.
Noble Lords must not pre-empt everything and say, as the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, implied, that nothing the observers report will be able to be taken seriously enough for people to judge whether or not the elections have been fair. I believe that the observers will do a good job. We shall study with great care the reports they give to the international community on what happened during the elections. That is all the international community can do at this time.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the United Nations development programme is co-ordinating the teams of observers. The arrangements for each team will be the responsibility of the organisations, such as the European Union and the Commonwealth.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, first, is it correct that British citizens are being refused admission as observers to Zimbabwe? Secondly, is it not one of the most prominent features of this tragic situation that the Movement for Democratic Change and its leaders are showing such amazing courage in the face of these hideous threats; and, indeed, of actual deaths? Is not by far the most important thing now to ensure that the observers stay on for some weeks after the election, thereby indicating that the international
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I certainly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said about the courage of the opposition in Zimbabwe. I believe that those people are showing remarkable courage in the face of unbelievably bad behaviour. We are well aware of President Mugabe's remarks about British observers. Of course, it is for the Commonwealth and the European Commission to make decisions on the composition of their observer team. But, at present, one Briton has been proposed as an observer with the Commonwealth team while the European team has three Britons. It will be up to the organisations, whose teams consist of many different nationalities, to look after that situation. We are not sending a British observers' team as such, but Britons are certainly part of the teams from the various organisations that are going to the country to observe the elections.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the noble Baroness observed the report in today's edition of the Harare Financial Gazette, which states that President Mugabe will issue a decree providing that observers will have to undergo a process of accreditation by the Registrar General, whose activities they are supposed to monitor? Does she not think that, under this system, those concerned will be able to refuse to allow particular observers into the country whose background, or origins, they do not like? Has the Minister also noted the claim that tens of thousands of voters are finding that their names have been left off the electoral role?
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: Yes, my Lords. I am aware of both those matters. I know that the accreditation situation is being negotiated right now, as we speak. The UNDP, which is co-ordinating the teams, will be involved in the process, as will the UN, the European Union and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The organisations that are sending the observers must be satisfied that their observers will be allowed to do the job that they have been assigned to do.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is not possible to hold free and fair elections in a culture which has a climate that refuses to accept liberty of opinion and refuses to uphold the rule of law? In the absence of those things, not only can there not be free and fair elections, but also the people themselves are subject to the abuses of political power.
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