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Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

The situation in Zimbabwe gives grave cause for concern. That is why the Prime Minister has stated he will not attend the EU-Africa Summit if President Mugabe is present. It is also why we are working for change by maintaining international pressure on the regime; supporting those working in Zimbabwe working for democratic change; and giving up to £40 million in humanitarian aid every year.

In 2003, the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs suggested revoking Robert Mugabe’s knighthood. In July this year, Lord Malloch-Brown said in a letter to me that his Department will continue to keep the issue under close review. When will the Foreign Office stop dithering and take some action on this issue?

I understand the cause of those who wish to see the knighthood removed, and as my noble Friend said, we are currently reviewing the matter. However, let us clear about this: the situation in Zimbabwe demands a great deal more than that, and removing President Mugabe’s knighthood might detract from that focus and give him more publicity. We need to concentrate on the real problems faced by the people of Zimbabwe.

Following on from the Prime Minister’s welcome statement that neither he nor any of his senior Ministers will attend any summit between the European Union and the African Union, and the agreement of the Foreign Office last week not to allow Peter Chingoka, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, into this country, would the Foreign Office consider taking up the suggestion of Lord Morris, the former Transport and General Workers Union general secretary, that we consider co-ordinating with Australia a wider sporting boycott on Zimbabwe?

We are happy to hold discussions about that. There are currently no formal agreements about sporting sanctions but we have made our position clear and are happy to discuss those matters.

It must be right for the Prime Minister to follow our advice and say that he will not attend the EU-Africa summit if Mugabe is there. Will the Under-Secretary confirm that if any of Mugabe’s senior henchmen are there, the Prime Minister will not attend? Otherwise, we will send a bad message to Zimbabwe.

We have always said that Zimbabwe should be represented because it is important that the issues that affect it and the whole of Africa are discussed. We will have to consider specific personnel at the time.

My hon. Friend knows that the German Chancellor has repeated the Portuguese Government’s mistake of suggesting that Robert Mugabe should attend the EU-Africa summit later this year. Will she make representations to not only our German colleagues but other EU countries to try to ensure that the embargo on Robert Mugabe is maintained?

I assure my hon. Friend that we are in discussion with our EU partners on the matter. Chancellor Merkel was clear that all African countries should be invited to the summit, and we agree. However, we have always said that Zimbabwe should be represented, but not by President Mugabe.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and I am glad that we have moved on from our debate in July, when the Under-Secretary was unable to give us the guarantee that the Prime Minister would not go to the EU-Africa conference. Following the comments of the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) about Chancellor Merkel, do the Government believe that we need to generate additional EU sanctions against Zimbabwe? In particular, does she believe that the EU could go much further and home in on some of the more obnoxious members of the Zimbabwean regime, such as Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who is a leading friend of President Mugabe and helps finance the regime? Does she agree that it is disgraceful that he can still travel abroad and that we cannot impose sanctions on him?

It is important to examine sanctions carefully. European Union targeted measures are there precisely to ensure that they do not further hurt ordinary Zimbabweans. On the specific issues that the hon. Gentleman raises, we have already argued for Gideon Gono to be added to the EU list. We will continue to do that, and the Home Secretary has excluded him from the United Kingdom.

Discussions are fine but action is needed. The sooner action is taken, the better. The whole country has been razed to the ground. I have met groups from Bulawayo and they cannot accept that everyone seems simply to be talking. They need action now. I urge the Government not to wait any longer, please.

I agree with my hon. Friend, but the situation ultimately needs an African solution. Since July, when we had our debate here, the UK has committed a further £8 million to the World Food Programme and we have ensured that Zimbabwe is discussed at the United Nations Security Council. We in the EU have put pressure on Zimbabwe at the UN Human Rights Council. We are clear that action needs to be taken, but the UK cannot do that alone; we need to work with other people. African countries in particular need to act on the matter.