Zimbabwe (Freezing of Funds, other Financial Assets or Economic Resources) (Amendment) Regulations 2002

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:45 pm on 1st November 2002.

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Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 1:45 pm, 1st November 2002

My Lords, the allegations have to be investigated. I am not saying that we have to wait for the Security Council to meet to take action. Given that all noble Lords agree that multilateral action is better than unilateral action, it is important that the Security Council meets to consider the report and for there to be joint UN action in respect of the recommendations made in it. We are already engaged in discussions with our UN colleagues on this issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, and other noble Lords referred to the question of adding spouses and dependent children to the list. Again this has not been ruled out entirely. However, we need to consider the matter with our EU partners. It has been discussed and we shall continue to discuss it. If there is a change in what is recommended to the European Union, I shall bring that change to the attention of the House. It is right to recognise that we have focused on the key decision makers in the Zimbabwe regime, and we shall continue to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, asked me about the United Nations. We and others supported a resolution on Zimbabwe to the UN Commission on Human Rights. We lost that resolution because of a blocking resolution by the African group at Geneva. As noble Lords know, the UN Secretary-General has been studying these issues with respect to Zimbabwe through the world food programme and UNDP. He has spoken directly to Mugabe and has issued statements of concern.

I should remind noble Lords that the UN Security Council's role is concerned with international peace and security. Any UN Security Council role in Zimbabwe will require backing from the region, in particular from the Southern African Development Community, which, in the light of what we have seen, is unlikely to be forthcoming at present. We are very conscious of this issue and are continuing to discuss it with our partners. We need a broader-based support than currently exists if we are to get UN agreement.

This fits in with the point made by noble Lords that we need a greater global consensus on these matters, and we shall continue to work and press for that. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, referred to the frustration that he believes I feel. It is a difficult process—it is painstaking—but we shall not give up.

As regards its broader recommendations, the DRC panel report does not call for sanctions against the 12 companies with headquarters in the United Kingdom. They are deemed to be in breach of voluntary OECD guidelines. We shall of course follow this up and seek more information from the panel about the precise nature of the alleged violations in order to take the matter further.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park, suggested sending the report to Commonwealth and other countries. It is a very good idea and one which I shall take up. We have put together a number of different short information reports about what is happening in Zimbabwe, which we have sent to a number of countries. Information is often muddled and the UK position in regard to these issues is often misrepresented, and it is very important that we do all that we can to communicate properly and to get the correct information out there. I shall certainly take up the noble Baroness's suggestion.

I was asked about paying compensation direct to dispossessed farmers. I have made it clear before in the House that any financial support for land reform in Zimbabwe would be provided as part of our international development programme—and that is to reduce poverty. It would not be specifically to compensate farmers.

We need to think carefully about this. This House and the Government do not agree with the fast-track land reform programme put in place by the Mugabe regime, but if we were to go down the road of compensating farmers for that fast-track process we would be letting the Mugabe regime off the hook.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who has raised the issue with me before, and the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, referred to Oryx. That organisation has an office here but it is not UK based, which slightly complicates the situation. We need to investigate the allegations that have been made and we are in the process of doing so. We have to do so very carefully, with the UN, and then we shall think about the next steps to take. I shall be happy to keep noble Lords informed of any progress, but I remind them that these processes can take quite a long time.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, asked about the EU-SADC meeting, as did other noble Lords. It is important to remember several things. Zimbabwe is facing a humanitarian crisis—the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, called it a humanitarian catastrophe. There are 14 million people in southern Africa facing starvation, half of whom are from Zimbabwe. We need to make clear to SADC the implications of the situation in Zimbabwe in terms of what is happening in their own countries. I have been doing this over a number of months. When I was in New York in September for the UN General Assembly meeting, I had a number of bilateral discussions with colleagues from African countries which focused on the economic and humanitarian impact of the situation in Zimbabwe on the region as a whole. We have to get this message across. It is important that the European Union should engage in a dialogue with SADC, not only on the humanitarian issues but more generally on issues of poverty, human rights and governance.

I shall be representing the United Kingdom at the EU-SADC meeting next week. I can assure noble Lords that I shall be extremely tough in the messages that I give to SADC. It is almost inconceivable that 40 million people can be facing starvation and that is not being recognised by government in the region. It is right that the EU should engage in that discussion through the EU-SADC process. This is a matter that governments in the region have to take seriously. The United Kingdom Government are giving substantial amounts of humanitarian assistance not just to Zimbabwe but to the region. This is about the responsibilities that governments themselves need to take for what is happening in their countries.

I do not agree that part of our policy has been to say: leave it up to Africa. That has never been our position. We have said that this issue should concern the whole international community. That includes Zimbabwe's partners—including governments on the continent. It includes the European Union, the Commonwealth and other countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, talked about the need for a global approach. That is very much what our strategy has been about. I do not agree that the Government have vetoed British action in specific respects because we are concerned about allegations regarding our colonial past. We have been clear about the limitations of what we have said because of that colonial history. It does not mean that we have not made our position clear, but it is heard and read in a particular way because of our historical relationship with Zimbabwe.

The issue of the Commonwealth was raised by many noble Lords. I have had numerous discussions with the Commonwealth Secretary-General. It is important that the Commonwealth obtain data. Noble Lords will know that Mugabe has refused to meet the Commonwealth Secretary-General. It is important that the Commonwealth gathers what data it can, but it is difficult for it to gather data within the country.

My noble friend Lord Bruce asked to what extent our responsibility to the European Union stops the United Kingdom considering the steps that we should be taking. This is a matter of us acting together. It gives us greater weight. I can assure my noble friend that working in partnership with our EU colleagues has not prevented us from taking specific action. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, that we need to keep up the pressure, and I agree with him about the unequivocal message that we should send; namely, that as a government, or as the second Chamber in the British Parliament, we are not prepared to accept racism.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, talked about working with New Zealand and the United States. I have addressed that point. The meeting in March will not be a CMAG meeting; it will be a meeting of the troika that was mandated by the Commonwealth Heads of Government.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, asked about the World Cup. This is a matter for the ECB and for the cricketing authorities. The United Kingdom Government do not send our cricket team to Zimbabwe. As to the point about promoting a government of national unity, we have been in constant contact with our SADC partners on this. We were strongly in favour of the initiative taken by Nigeria and South Africa in this respect. I am aware that discussions continue behind the scenes, but very little has changed in regard to the matter.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the pressure needs to be kept up across a number of different fronts, including through the Churches. It is the people of Zimbabwe who deserve our support. They want to know that they have that support and we need to make it clear through whatever channels we can.