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Volume 478: debated on Thursday 3 July 2008

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of Zimbabwe.

I do not think that there could be a more appropriate topic for today’s debate than the situation in Zimbabwe. Yesterday, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition expressed their complete agreement about the crisis in Zimbabwe and the British response, echoing the approach of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who speaks for the Opposition on foreign affairs, and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats. I hope that we can build on that consensus and send a united message not just about our repugnance at the actions of the regime in Zimbabwe but about our call for all those in the region to fulfil their responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe, and for the whole world to prepare for the rescue operation that will be necessary when there is a Government in Zimbabwe worthy of that name.

It is also important to say by way of introduction that I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House are in support of the President of Zambia, President Mwanawasa, who is currently ill in hospital. He is the chair of the Southern African Development Community and a man who has shown real tenacity in raising the Zimbabwe issue. We very much hope that he is able to make a recovery from his current illness.

It is well known that over the past decade, Robert Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe to its knees. Its economy lies in crisis and now, as a result of the failure to establish a proper second round of the election, it is in limbo politically. Zimbabwe’s people suffer from violence, intimidation and hunger, and the Mugabe Government have destroyed the basic infrastructure of the country—schools and hospitals are barely functioning.

I am conscious that many hon. Members will want to intervene. I shall try to let the hon. Gentleman come in later, but I shall see how I get on and how much time I have.

In his determination to cling to power, Mugabe has turned on his own people. The opposition have been quelled, the judiciary corrupted and the press suppressed. At least 90 people have been killed in the violence in recent months and more than 3,000 injured. The prospects for Zimbabwe’s people are economically bleak. Mugabe has ordered non-governmental organisations to stop delivering humanitarian aid, on which 5 million people depend.

I spoke this morning to our ambassador in Harare, who confirmed that the economic situation remains dire and the political situation stuck in limbo. He explained that the regime wanted time to lick its wounds, but that the anger of the Zimbabwean people is being sustained by the waves of international condemnation that are being heard there. It is very important that they continue to be heard.

I think that we agree that the elections of 27 June were a sham. The United Nations Secretary-General has said that the outcome did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people. The G8 expressed its disgust at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting that I attended in Japan last week. Many African voices are now speaking out against Mugabe, too—not just President Mandela but representatives of Botswana and Kenya. Many of us will believe that the recent AU summit did not meet the aspirations and hopes of the Zimbabwean people for a strong statement, but it is relevant to point out that the AU stated that the elections were not free and fair, and were scarred by violence. Sad as it is to say, that is an unprecedented judgment by the AU.

What discussion has the Foreign Secretary had with Botswana, specifically in relation to rumours of the build-up of Botswana defence force troops on the border of Zimbabwe?

Obviously our high commission is in close contact with the Government of Botswana. I have not had a read-out on the matter in the past 48 or 72 hours, and even if I had, I would probably not want to go into it in great detail in such a public forum. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have seen the call by the Tanzanian Foreign Minister for preparations for a peacekeeping force that might be needed in Zimbabwe at some point. I am not able to give him more information on the Botswana issue immediately.

Although it is indeed welcome that the AU, and to an extent SADC, have pronounced robustly on the situation, including the manner of the conduct of the election, would the Foreign Secretary accept that precisely because the will of the people was not allowed to be expressed, it is important that the AU and SADC speak up for the right of the people of Zimbabwe to have the genuine result respected? They should not be looking for ways to bypass or circumvent that result by talking about a Government of national unity. The people have spoken.

I promise that I shall let the hon. Gentleman intervene before I conclude.

Our goal is simple: to ensure that the Government of Zimbabwe reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe. This is not about Britain versus Zimbabwe, still less about establishing a new British Government in Zimbabwe, but about having a Zimbabwean Government who deliver for their own people. The opposition have recognised the need for a broad-based Government and called for the formation of a transitional Government, recognising the unique political circumstances that now exist. For that Government to be credible, it must be based on the outcome of the 29 March election. To address directly the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), whatever the final composition of that transitional Government, Robert Mugabe cannot be in control of it.

Our work, and that of the international community, must be focused on four matters. First, we must support and protect the people in Zimbabwe working for democratic change. Election observers and NGOs witnessed the appalling violence and abuses before the election, and we support the calls for the UN to send at least one human rights envoy to Zimbabwe to investigate those abuses. We also urge the AU and SADC to keep some observers on the ground to continue to monitor, and if possible prevent, further violence.

Secondly, we support further efforts by the AU, SADC and the UN to find a way forward. Whatever they feel obliged to say in public, most African leaders are now sick and tired of having to apologise for Robert Mugabe’s abuses. He is an embarrassment to them. Morgan Tsvangirai has said that he is looking to the AU to play a key role in any “mediation” effort—I put that in inverted commas because it is not mediation between two equivalent parties. Senior members of the AU, particularly South Africa, have a massive interest in, and responsibility for, bringing Mugabe and ZANU-PF to the negotiating table and securing a democratic resolution to the crisis. The Prime Minister will discuss that with President Mbeki at the G8 meeting later this week.

I promised the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) that he could come in, so I do not think that the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) should jump the queue.

The Foreign Secretary rightly paints a grim economic picture of Zimbabwe. Is the country in a state of total economic collapse, with the world’s highest rate of inflation and one of the lowest life expectancies? If not, how close is it to complete economic collapse?

I think that any of us would say that 100 per cent. inflation was pretty close to economic collapse, 1,000 per cent. inflation was a pretty advanced state of collapse and 1 million per cent. inflation was an unimaginable level of collapse. Zimbabwe is a country with between 4 million and 8 million per cent. inflation. I know that the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson), who is in his place, is a keen historian, and those figures make Weimar look like a prudent regime in its economic management. Zimbabwe is an advanced state of chaos, which is causing real hurt and harm to the people of Zimbabwe, who in many cases are surviving on the back of remittances that are being sent to them.

Thirdly, through the UN and the EU and bilaterally, we must step up the pressure on Mugabe and his cohorts, including through targeted sanctions. In our view, those sanctions must be focused on punishing those within, or associated with, the regime, and if at all possible not on hurting ordinary Zimbabweans. Building on the statement by the UN Security Council on 23 June, we will continue to push for a UN Security Council resolution calling for further sanctions, including an arms embargo, a travel ban and an assets freeze on key regime figures, as well as a strong role for the UN in a substantive political dialogue. A draft resolution is now circulating and I can confirm that it is strong and clear. I hope that there will be a vote on it early next week.

Within the EU, at our meeting later this month, Foreign Ministers will decide how to widen and deepen existing EU-targeted measures. We will push for an extension of the EU assets freeze to cover further individuals whose actions are contrary to a political settlement. We will also push for an extension of targeted measures to include farms and businesses owned by those individuals already the subject of targeted sanctions. We will support measures that prevent regime members from attending international events within the EU.

It is important to be honest about the fact that we need to strike a delicate balance. We have no evidence of breaches of the current sanctions regime by British or other businesses. I reckon that it is a relatively easy choice to try to prevent direct succour and support from being given to members of the regime. It is an easy choice to try to keep employment and sustenance being provided to the people of Zimbabwe. But where both the regime and the people are benefiting from economic engagement, difficult choices must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Will the Foreign Secretary bear in mind the serious attacks on church buildings, leaders and elders? A friend of mine who was a pastor there was murdered during this time. Can any influence be brought to bear to safeguard those people who are being attacked because of their religious principles under a cloak of other reasons?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If he has any particular cases to raise, I would be keen to ensure that my office follows them up and deals with them as best we can. He makes a general point about abuse that is sometimes targeted and sometimes anarchic and random. We want to try to do everything that we can in all such cases.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the work being done at European level. Can he say a bit more about our efforts to ensure that all our European partners put as much pressure as possible on Zimbabwe and assist our work with the AU and other organisations?

I can confirm that our renewed friendship with the French Government is leading to an entente formidable on this issue. The French Government are driving the issue forward as part of their presidency of the EU, and we are feeding in all our ideas, as are other Governments. I hope that the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on 22 July will be able to take the issue forward.

The third set of elements that is important includes sanctions and other measures against the regime. In respect of bilateral action, Robert Mugabe no longer holds a knighthood in this country and the bilateral cricket tour scheduled for 2009 has rightly been cancelled because of the clear links between the Zimbabwean cricket authorities and the Mugabe regime. With regard to the Twenty20 world cup due to be held in this country next year, we have asked the England and Wales Cricket Board to request the International Cricket Council to annul Zimbabwe’s inclusion. The meeting taking place in Dubai has not yet concluded, but I very much hope that it will reach the clear conclusion that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to participate in the event, given the circumstances.

We will also consider whether action can be taken to exclude regime members or their associates from the UK and to freeze their assets.

What discussions are ongoing with overseas Governments, especially Switzerland and the like, about the sequestration of assets belonging to Mugabe and his regime?

This is critically dependent on the UN resolution and its strength. If we can get a strong UN resolution, we will be in a good position to try to clamp down on the assets of the regime, whether in Switzerland or elsewhere.

We do need a powerful UN resolution, because the Foreign Secretary will recall that the Smith regime was subject to such a resolution and the only countries to which members of that regime could travel were Paraguay, Taiwan and South Africa. Most people find it utterly galling that Mugabe and his henchmen are still allowed to travel around the world under UN auspices, especially to the recent AU conference in Egypt.

I think that we have covered the importance of isolating the regime as far as possible.

The fourth point is the vital need to ensure that despite the focus on the politics we do not lose sight of the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. We expect 5.1 million Zimbabwean people to be dependent on aid by the end of the year. Unless Mugabe lifts his ban on NGOs delivering aid and removes all obstacles to co-operation so that people can access food and basic medicines again, the situation will obviously get much worse. The UK remains committed to the people of Zimbabwe, as we are the second largest bilateral donor, giving some £45 million in 2001 and more than £200 million since 2000.

The Prime Minister has already publicly declared our willingness to play a major role in supporting the international rescue and recovery package for Zimbabwe when the time is right. That will cost at least $1 billion a year for the next five years—more than three times current aid levels. That is the bill for Mugabe’s inhumanity.

Around the world, Governments and people are asking themselves how they can shift the position of a Zimbabwean Government who have proved deaf to the views of their people and to the international community. We owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to support and protect the forces of democracy inside the country, to step up our mediation efforts to ensure a peaceful and democratic resolution to this crisis, and to back this with targeted pressure and sanctions on the regime. This is a responsibility for the whole of the international community, but the greatest responsibility will be borne—certainly for political isolation—by African countries, especially Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

The Movement for Democratic Change yesterday warned that

“The crisis in Zimbabwe requires urgent action. The violence, intimidation, hunger and suffering must be addressed as soon as possible. Zimbabweans cannot afford any more confusion or delays. Zimbabweans can no longer afford to listen to words that are not reinforced by action.”

I am sure that the whole House will join with me in echoing those words.

There will be much common ground on many of the matters that the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, not least the thoughts and good wishes that he extended to the President of Zambia. We are united in this House in our horror that over the last decade the world has witnessed the Mugabe regime’s relentless abuse of the Zimbabwean people and the systematic destruction of their country.

The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is probably the worst anywhere in the world outside a war zone. One in four Zimbabweans have become refugees, and those who remain are at the mercy of a regime that beats, kills and tortures with impunity. Allowing Mugabe to cling to power is to consign the people of Zimbabwe to years, possibly, of further depredation and hopelessness. That is why the international community’s response to the situation matters so much and why today’s all-too-short debate is so important.

There will be general agreement in the House about much of the response, although I wish to press the Foreign Secretary on some points. I expect that we all agree that the European Union should widen its sanctions, as he mentioned; that it was right to issue a presidential statement to the UN and to seek a strong Security Council resolution now; and that African countries should join in not recognising the legitimacy of the Mugabe Government, although regrettably some have.

The Minister with responsibility for Africa, Lord Malloch-Brown, has spoken of a knot tightening around the regime, and stated unequivocally that Mugabe cannot be a part of any Zimbabwean Government. We very much support such sentiments. The issue now is how that can be achieved. The Foreign Secretary spoke about the AU summit in terms with which I agree. It was very good that countries such as Botswana called for the suspension of Zimbabwe from African regional bodies, because its participation would

“give unqualified legitimacy to a process that cannot be considered legitimate”.

It is disappointing, however, that the summit resolution was less critical of Zimbabwe than we would have wished. It seems clear that a credible mediation—to use that word again—requires a new or additional mediator, such as Kofi Annan or the Nigerian President, as Morgan Tsvangirai has said.

The Foreign Secretary said that he would travel shortly to South Africa. I hope that he will take that opportunity to deliver a united message from this country that, following the violence and the sham elections, the regime of Mugabe cannot be recognised as legitimate. I hope that he will be able to go a little further and say that in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, we regard Morgan Tsvangirai as the democratically elected leader of Zimbabwe subject, of course, to the subsequent decisions of the Zimbabwean people when at long last they have the freedom to make their own choices in the future.

On the subject of a transitional Government, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is extremely important for that to be followed by a free, fair and properly monitored election very soon afterwards?

Of course, the whole House and the whole civilised world hopes that that will happen, and that the people of Zimbabwe will be able then to express their views in an election that meets international standards. We cannot lay down what will be agreed in the future, but in my view that certainly ought to be part of it.

The same message should be reflected in the conclusions of the G8 summit next week, at which South Africa, of course, will be present. That will be an opportunity not to bully South Africa but to challenge its Government to live up to their moral regional responsibilities. It will be an opportunity to leave South Africa and the South African Government in no doubt that there is huge disappointment in this country about the stance that they have taken.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the African National Congress, at this week’s conference of the Socialist International, sought to block the MDC from affiliating to the Socialist International? Sadly, the ANC is not seen internationally to be siding with the MDC and the G8 meeting is very important to maximise the pressure on South Africa.

That is a good point, and I agree with it very much. Of course, the ANC has separated itself from ZANU-PF to some extent in its statements. Many of us have had conversations with Mr. Zuma about all this and have urged a stronger line from South Africa in the future. I met him last month—

Not at the Socialist International, but we meet in other forums. We all have to use all the relationships that we have with South Africa to urge a stronger line. South Africa is a country under huge pressure from the number of Zimbabwean refugees who are entering, and that is having a destabilising effect. That must be placing a strain on the infrastructure of a country that is planning, among other things, to host the 2010 World cup.

I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary has raised today the supply of food in Zimbabwe, which he said would be needed by 5.1 million people by the end of the year. Given that aid agencies have been prevented from operating, it is vital that humanitarian assistance reaches those who most need it. We urge the Foreign Secretary to raise that matter with South African Ministers and his other African counterparts.

I was pleased, too, that he talked about the international assistance that would be provided after Mugabe, whenever the people of Zimbabwe have the freedom to choose their own Government. It ought to be possible to lay out that programme of assistance in greater detail than has so far been done by our Government and other Governments of the world. A clear programme of assistance should backed by a donor conference; a contact group should provide diplomatic support and engage with regional countries; and support should be provided for the reform of the police and security sector in Zimbabwe as well as for the orderly return of refugees. In the event of a major deterioration in security post-Mugabe, an international observer mission or over-the-horizon humanitarian force under the auspices of the African Union and backed by the major powers could be ready. All that could be set out in more detail and would give great hope to the people of Zimbabwe in this desperate situation.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that providing carrots of the kind that he has just rightly described needs to be accompanied by the threat of the use of the stick? To put it bluntly, the longer this nonsense goes on and the more fatalities under the mass-murderer Mugabe there are, the greater the likelihood that he and others will be referred to the International Criminal Court.

My hon. Friend brings me right on to the point that I was about to make. The carrots can be made somewhat clearer, but of course the stick needs to be made bigger. We all welcome the initiative to introduce a draft resolution in the Security Council that places an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on regime officials. We certainly support the call for a UN human rights commission and a special envoy to Zimbabwe. Those are steps that the Security Council ought to be able to agree.

If that criminal Government manage to cling to power and the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, millions of people across the world will wonder why the UN did not do more. In our view, if the UN was living up to its responsibilities—particularly the responsibility to protect, which all nations signed up to in recent years—it would agree all the measures that I have outlined and the referral of the Mugabe regime to the ICC. Clearly, it is difficult to achieve that in the UN Security Council, given the balance of opinion. However, the Minister responsible for Africa has said that he anticipates human rights action against the regime that, in his words,

“will quickly make it impossible for them to travel anywhere for fear of arrest from human rights warrants put up by different judges”.

We would welcome clarification from the Government about what the Minister responsible for Africa was referring to. We strongly support such action, but it is not clear how it will be put into effect.

The Foreign Secretary said that he expected European sanctions on Zimbabwe to be enhanced at the next meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. Of course, we support that too. Perhaps the Government will be able to tell us, if they have the chance to respond to the debate or in the future, how many family members or relatives of regime members reside in Britain or attend British universities.

We hope that it will be made clear that the EU should not invite Mugabe to any further summits of any kind. I asked the Foreign Secretary about that a couple of weeks ago and he said that no such summit was in prospect, which is in itself welcome. It should be possible to make a stronger statement than that if the EU means business on those matters.

There is wide agreement that businesses should be responsible in their approach to investment in Zimbabwe. Some people have called for a trade embargo, and I do not believe that that or anything else should be ruled out for the future. In the absence of any prospect of Security Council agreement, that proposal would obviously have some severe deficiencies. However, there might be a need for greater clarity in the guidance to businesses on how to approach matters.

We welcome the announcements by Tesco and the German company that has printed banknotes for the regime that they have withdrawn their business from Zimbabwe. There appears to be some confusion, however. One businessman was quoted in the newspapers this week as having said:

“The politicians appear to be saying one thing and the Foreign Office another.”

We ought to be able to set out that those not engaged in the country should not seek to become engaged there and that those countries with assets and employees in Zimbabwe should make no new investments and do nothing that provides hard currency to members of the regime, feeds its corruption or prolongs the tenure of a Government who have lost all legitimacy.

I must ask the Government about a point that might seem detailed but is symbolically important. It is about Northern Rock, now a state-owned bank in the UK. Its Guernsey subsidiary is specifically asking for deposits from three African countries, of which Zimbabwe is one. Treasury Ministers who have been asked about it have not yet been able definitively to state that Northern Rock complies with the EU financial sanctions regime. Given that the bank is owned by the British taxpayer, Ministers should be able to state that. An explanation of why that subsidiary is asking for deposits from Zimbabwe would be welcome.

It is a tragedy that, after all the high hopes of the 1980s and the introduction of democracy, the people of Zimbabwe have suffered such appalling misrule. There is now a choice, which, as the Foreign Secretary has said, is largely before the African nations, about the way in which the regime will come to an end. It will either be a slow, agonising end with inflation reaching infinity, life expectancy falling even lower and food becoming even scarcer as Mugabe and those around him try to eke out their power, or it can be a quicker end that allows the country and its people to recover more quickly in a democratic and open society. Now is the time for all nations to send the unequivocal message to the regime in Harare and the people of Zimbabwe that there is a future for the country after Mugabe, and to send the message to the African continent that its Governments cannot sit on their hands and avoid taking sides in a crisis that blights the lives of millions.

Order. I remind all right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

I begin by reminding myself and the House that Morgan Tsvangirai clearly won the March election. The so-called run-off election on Friday was a sham and a betrayal of the Zimbabwean people. Marwick Khumalo, the leader of the Pan-African Parliament’s election observer mission, said that it was

“an electoral campaign marred by high levels of intimidation, violence, displacement of people, abductions, and loss of life”.

He went on to say that it was

“difficult to dismiss claims of state-sponsored violence”.

The mission concluded that the elections were not free, fair or credible, and called for new elections.

Members of Parliament in Africa have found their voice, and we in this Parliament should congratulate and stand by them. There is a lot of anger and frustration, but anger and frustration will not change things. We need to ask what the UK can do to change the situation in Zimbabwe. First, we need to increase humanitarian aid. As the Foreign Secretary said, we are the second largest bilateral donor, and provided £45 million in aid last year. There are 300,000 people receiving food aid, but the Department for International Development expects that figure to rise to more than 4 million come the hungry season in January. We and other donors must step up to the mark and increase our aid.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), complained about hard currency going into Zimbabwe. Is it not a dilemma that our hard currency, from DFID and other aid donors, is propping things up there? I do not ask my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) to condemn that aid, but we are in a dilemma that we are not facing honestly.

It is necessary for us to channel our aid money through UN agencies, and to circumvent the Zimbabwean Government, but what my right hon. Friend says is right. When foreign currency is exchanged in Zimbabwe, their Government take a cut, and some 20 or 25 per cent. ends up in Government coffers. We need to face that dilemma in relation to economic sanctions, but I will say more about that later.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 1.5 million people in Zimbabwe have been directly affected by the Zimbabwean Government’s suspension of the activities of non-governmental organisations. That activity was suspended because the Government falsely claimed that the NGOs were taking sides in the election. The election has passed, and there can be no possible argument for the continued suspension of the activities of NGOs. We should be pressing the Government of Zimbabwe, and pressing our friends in Africa to press that Government, to enable those humanitarian organisations to get back to doing their work.

Our Government are the biggest donor to the replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association, so we should take a lead in the construction of an international economic rescue package for Zimbabwe. That package should be conditional on the re-establishment of an accountable Government in Zimbabwe. That would give the Zimbabwean players real encouragement to re-establish legitimate Government, so that the disastrous economic situation in Zimbabwe can be addressed.

Members of this House need to take account of our own history. Mugabe is a tyrant, but where did he learn his tactics? He spent the first 50 years of his life growing up under white minority rule. When Cecil Rhodes’s pioneers moved into Mashonaland in 1890, they simply seized the land. The Matabele lands were taken by the British South Africa Company because their leader, Lobengula, was double-crossed.

I find this history lesson fascinating, but before the hon. Gentleman gets too carried away in an anti-colonialist reverie, or even rant, may I remind him that Robert Mugabe was a Marxist dictator, and that it is no coincidence that a communist country, China, is his biggest supporter to this day?

The hon. Gentleman is right that during the liberation struggle, ZANU, as it was then, received a lot of aid and support from China. I certainly would not make the case that Britain’s colonial history is solely responsible for the situation. I make these points because we in the House need to be aware of why people in Africa sometimes regard our statements on Zimbabwe as prejudiced, and as being based on double standards. That is why it is so important for Africa to rise to the challenge of solving the problem itself.

If we are looking for leadership, we and others in Africa should look first to the Zimbabwean Parliament. Parliaments are meant to hold the Executive to account, and a majority of the Members of Parliament elected on 29 March were Opposition MPs. There were 99 from the Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, nine from Mutambara’s MDC, and 97 from ZANU-PF. We should clearly say that the Zimbabwean Parliament should be convened, and that the contesting of the election results, which ZANU-PF is still pursuing, should not prevent the Parliament from being convened. We should provide finance and support for the Parliament, perhaps through the Pan-African Parliament, to enable it to meet and to develop its capacity to hold the Government to account.

The UK’s smart sanctions have not been smart enough. It is time for Europe to look seriously at wider economic sanctions. We certainly need to consult those whom we can consult in Zimbabwe—the MDC, NGOs and Members of Parliament—about how the sanctions packet should be fashioned, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) said, whenever there is any business transaction in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime takes its cut. If the UK denounces the ZANU-PF junta but permits Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Shell or Tesco to invest or trade in Zimbabwe, and to take profit out, many will again accuse us of double standards.

During the 1970s and ’80s, I was a member of the executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and I stood outside Rhodesia House demanding political change. The illegal Smith regime had no legitimacy, and the Mugabe junta has no legitimacy. Thirty years ago, I demanded the right of the Zimbabwean people to be freed from tyranny and to control their own political destiny through free and fair elections, and I do the same today. Our Government, and Governments in Africa who care about the future of Zimbabwe, must not recognise the elections, and must insist that new, free and fair elections be held.

The Foreign Secretary was right to say that there was cross-party support on almost all the issues to do with Zimbabwe, and I agree with many of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), including on the need to put more pressure on South Africa, and on the need to support those African nations that are speaking out, such as Botswana; that clearly is the route forward. I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary recommended that Her Majesty take up our proposal to withdraw Mugabe’s knighthood. I want to use the small amount of time that I have to make three constructive suggestions to the Government. The first has to do with how we can help Zimbabweans living in this country prepare for their future role in rebuilding Zimbabwe. The second is to propose that the Government push for a stronger legal threat on Mugabe through the UN, and the third involves some comments about sanctions.

The key development objective for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe must be to help as many Zimbabweans living in this country prepare for their task of rebuilding their country, through education, training and work experience. The Government have taken some action in that respect, but I have spoken to representatives of the Movement for Democratic Change and of many of the organisations that work with Zimbabweans living in this country, and they are quietly critical of the Government for not doing much more. Their criticisms come down to two things—that huge uncertainties remain for failed asylum seekers, and that the thousands of Zimbabweans still waiting for their original asylum cases to be heard are unable to work. Those people have been left virtually destitute, with their skills and talents untapped by this country and withering away when it comes to any future use in Zimbabwe.

On failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers, the Court of Appeal yesterday decided to adjourn its hearing in the so-called “HS” case. That means that there should be no removals of such people for at least a few more months, but what about the longer term? We have heard some warm words from some Foreign Office Ministers, most recently on Monday in the other place, when Lord Bach said:

“we have no current plans to enforce returns to Zimbabwe and will not do so until the current political situation is resolved.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 June 2008; Vol. 703, c. 3.]

Yet colleagues will readily see that even that statement has a degree of uncertainty and ambiguity about it, even before one adds the ambiguity that is the hallmark of the Home Office’s position on this matter.

The policy issue involved is totally in the Government’s control. No quiet diplomacy or negotiation with any other country is needed; Ministers could take a decision and act. Why cannot all Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers be given special discretionary leave to remain lasting, say, for two years from today? That would give them the certainty that they need to get their lives together so that they can prepare for their eventual return to Zimbabwe. Ministers could also allow those people the right to work, and give the same right to work to the thousand of Zimbabweans who have been waiting for their asylum cases to be heard. Those people are seeking sanctuary in this country from the evil of Mugabe, but why do we allow them to suffer here? They have to rely on charity hand-outs and Red Cross parcels, but why can we not allow them the dignity of work?

On Monday in the other place, Lord Bach repeated the pledge that his colleague Lord Malloch-Brown had made the previous week. Lord Malloch-Brown had said that the Government were

“looking at the support that we may need to give Zimbabweans in this country, particularly at the ban on refugees taking up work”.—[Official Report, 23 June 2008; vol. 702, col. 1258.]

I hope that the Government will say more about that. Technically, Lord Malloch-Brown was wrong. Refugees have the right to work here, but asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers do not. I am pleased that the Government are looking at the matter, but we need action and some details now.

I endorse enthusiastically what my hon. Friend is saying, and commend his request to the Government. Those of us who represent many people from Zimbabwe know that they want to be able to work now so that they can live and work in Zimbabwe later. Does my hon. Friend agree with the plea made to the Government by the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) that we work to make sure that those elected to Zimbabwe’s Parliament can take up their places? In that way, and by working with the AU, the Southern African Development Community and others, we can be sure that a Parliament with an Opposition majority is in place to hold the Government to account. That is a hugely important and immediate requirement.

I agree totally with my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley).

My second point, about the UN and the International Criminal Court, has been touched on by Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members in recent days. However, the point that I want to make is more precise and immediate, and I believe that it will help focus the minds of those in the inner circle of ZANU-PF. The UN should resolve that, if Robert Mugabe does not leave office within six months, the jurisdiction of the ICC will apply in Zimbabwe.

Currently, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the ICC, and that puts Mugabe and his henchmen outside the reach of international police and prosecutors. However, the UN Security Council can, by a resolution, bring any country within the locus of the ICC. That would mean that Mugabe and any other named individuals—wherever they went in the world and at any time until their dying day—could face lawful arrest, and subsequent prosecution in the Hague. That would surely focus the minds of the ZANU-PF inner circle.

Ministers should mount a diplomatic offensive to that end in the UN. I accept that it would be difficult, but trying to win international support for that powerful legal threat—the ultimate eviction notice—would surely be worth the effort.

My final point has to do with the vexed question of sanctions. There has inevitably been a debate over smart or targeted sanctions as opposed to dumb or blanket sanctions. Should we toughen the current targeted regime—for example, by including the families of the ZANU-PF leadership—or should we consider more intermediate measures, such as a UN arms embargo, or specific bans on things like financial remittances, electricity and petrol? Wider measures could include commercial disinvestment to a full-scale economic and trade embargo.

There are questions about the efficacy of such sanctions and who would suffer, but we need to do far more than we have done so far. It is the ordinary Zimbabweans who are suffering tremendously from malnutrition, unemployment and inflation. Many of the tougher sanctions that are available would not hurt them, but they would hurt the elite and those in Mugabe’s Government.

I very much welcome the cross-party nature of this debate, and especially the work done by the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary. However, I also want to pay tribute to the Prime Minister for his personal commitment to this matter and the huge amount of time and effort that he has devoted to it over the past few months. There has been some progress at the UN recently, and I honestly believe that that has resulted from the extra efforts that he has made, and from the work that has gone on generally in this House.

I am pleased that some of the things for which various hon. Members have called for some time have been accepted by the Government. For example, sanctions are to be tightened, and the problems with the Zimbabwe cricket tour have been cleared up. We called for that a year ago, but we were told that sport and politics do not mix. I hope that no one is dreaming of giving a visa to any Zimbabwean cricketer even if the International Cricket Council were to say that the team could carry on in Twenty20 cricket.

I do not want to go into too much detail, but does the international community really want Mugabe to attend the Beijing Olympic games? Should a Zimbabwean team be able to compete? If we can get South Africa out of the Olympics, we should be able to do the same for Zimbabwe.

I want to talk about humanitarian protection. What is the UN’s role in that? What has it said that it can do, and how little does it actually do? It utters grand-sounding words and resolutions, but how can we take that seriously if there are no mechanisms that allow it to intervene and give the real help needed to save people from the violent frenzy of Zimbabwe’s illegal Government? We should not even talk about President Mugabe—he is not a president, and he has not been legally elected. The Zimbabwean Government are an illegal, pariah Government.

The UN has a special adviser on the prevention of genocide. That sounds very laudable, but what has he done to prevent the slide towards genocide in Zimbabwe? It is not too extreme to use the word “genocide”, as some extremely dreadful things are happening in that country. Those events are not seen by cameras, and they happen out of the sight of the many brave reporters and journalists who have managed to get into the country. Has the adviser given any assessment to the UN of the genocide that is taking place in Zimbabwe?

I could spend a lot of time making critical comments about the AU, but we do not have that time. I welcome the fact that some African leaders have finally gone public with the criticism of Mugabe that they had hitherto made quietly behind the scenes. The AU monitors said that the first election was completely free and fair, but we knew that some terrible things were going on. They condemned the second round of elections, so how come Mugabe was allowed even to think of being able to attend the summit in Egypt? Zimbabwe must be suspended from the AU until an end is put to Mugabe’s Government and a new Government put in their place. The AU must be pushed by us. It has no credibility while it allows Zimbabwe to remain a member.

The hon. Lady is making an important point, but does she agree that it is important for members of the African Union to understand that if the international community is committed to massive transfers of aid and development funding to Africa, Africa must solve the political and economic problems at its heart? Otherwise, it will be very difficult to maintain public support for that transfer of funds.

Absolutely; I shall come on to that issue if I have time.

What is the point of negotiation and mediation if they are simply used as a tactic to prolong Mugabe’s rule and allow him to wear down the MDC by intimidation and violence? ZANU-PF is working on the basis that, if it can string out the mediation process for long enough, there will not be any coherent opposition left to confront. There is a systematic taking-out of duly elected Members of Parliament at this very moment. They continue to be abducted and beaten up and to disappear. Although there may be an MDC parliamentary majority, Members of Parliament who are kept in prison or in police cells for more than 21 days can be removed from their seats. The idea is that, by the end of the process, Mugabe will get his parliamentary majority by killing and torturing the Members who already sit in Parliament.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, unless clear standards are set for the proper governance for Zimbabwe, there is a real risk that mediation and compromise will simply result in a fudge that allows the present atrocities to continue, albeit under a slightly different banner?

Any fudge that involves Mugabe or any of his closest Government allies staying in power must be opposed.

If talks and sanctions fail, surely there is a logical corollary of that state of affairs, in that the only way to remove a genocidal regime is by virtue of a military deployment with an obligation to enforce peace.

We may have to consider a peacekeeping force, but I am very keen to ensure that we do what the MDC—the official Government, as far as I am concerned—asks for, rather than sit around here and decide what is best.

If this is an African problem, as we are told it is, and it needs an African solution, the AU and SADC must call for an end to the intimidation of African lawyers when carrying out their professional duties. The draft communiqués that emerge from the AU still manage to parrot ZANU-PF’s version of events.

I cannot even begin to say what I think of the South African President. I said last week in Parliament that we have been far too nice for far too long to President Mbeki, and I am glad that we are beginning to think that it is time to stop. When he and many others rallied people in this country on the issues of apartheid, we were not told that we should not get involved because we were ex-colonialists, or that we should not struggle to rid South Africa of oppression. Many South Africans came to the UK to seek refuge from terror; today, many Zimbabweans are coming here, and we need to give them the same support that we gave to the African National Congress exiles all those years ago.

I want to mention some people who have been to this Parliament, who have been involved with all of us and who are still being held in prison. Tendai Biti is of course now out of prison, but he was released not because of Mbeki’s protestations, but because of the very brave lawyers who continue in that country to ensure that, occasionally, judges rule on some elements of law and order. I want to mention also some of the women from Women of Zimbabwe Arise, whom I met many years ago on my first visit, and indeed, on my second and third visits. Those women, who were working throughout Zimbabwe, were not partisan and did not even think of themselves as politicised; they wanted their lives and those of the people in their communities to get better. Many were widows, and they knew that their children would soon be orphans, but they looked out for each other and vowed to care for each other when they were no longer able to look after themselves. That is what human rights should mean in practice, and that is what the responsibility to protect means at grass-roots level.

Today, many of those women are still in prison. People such as Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu were arrested on 28 May. They are still being held in custody in harsh and sub-human conditions, and they are subject to torture and other degrading treatment. Those women were detained purely because they attempted to exercise their rights to freedom of association and assembly.

In the trade union movement, Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and one of the most impressive men I have ever met, is fighting valiantly against all the odds to uphold the rights of workers in Zimbabwe. He has been imprisoned many times—under Ian Smith as well as under Mugabe—and is now on trial for inciting rebellion as a result of a speech that he made on May day. I welcome the role of the trade unions in trying to confront Mugabe, and I welcome also the changed and very strong views of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. If only the South African President would listen to them.

The UK Prime Minister recently challenged the G8 members to live up to their promises at Gleneagles to increase development aid, but so far they have not kept them. I hope also that he will issue a strong challenge to Thabo Mbeki and the AU representatives to live up to their promises. It is quite amazing that we continue to think about pouring in millions of pounds of aid. I am not necessarily talking about Zimbabwe, but there are real problems with the way in which aid is used there. We have to be very careful, because when I was in Zimbabwe, and more recently, many people said to me, “We’re suffering anyway. Is it not better to get the suffering over as quickly as possible, rather than dragging things out and keeping Mugabe in power by paying to feed the people who Mugabe is trying to kill and oppress?” It is us—my constituents—who are paying. We have to say to the rest of the African Union, “We are aiding you, we are giving you things, we are helping you. You cannot expect continually to have it both ways—to take what we give and then condemn us for interfering in Africa.”

It is time for Governments throughout the world to recognise that we have been too slow to get involved in Zimbabwe. If we do not now undertake proper international involvement, get in there and make Mugabe go, there will be a genocide unlike anything we have seen—certainly not since Rwanda.

I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey). As she knows, I have taken an interest in Zimbabwe ever since I entered the House, and the country and its people are very close to my heart.

Three months on from 29 March, when the presidential and parliamentary election results that were posted at polling stations seemed to bring change within the grasp of the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe, their lives have become worse. With every day that passes, there are examples of brutality, killings, beatings and imprisonment. You name it, they have experienced it. It is important to remember that Zimbabwe has a democratically elected Parliament, as the hon. Lady said. While discussions over transitional arrangements continue among South African Development Community and African Union leaders, we must bear in mind the Zimbabwean people’s democratic will, which was expressed in the mandate given to the members of the House of Assembly on 29 March. The voices of those parliamentarians must be listened to as an expression of the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe.

We in this House want democracy in Zimbabwe, not a stitch-up engineered from outside to protect the interests of ZANU-PF, its elite and its associates. Mugabe is reported to be planning to undermine the MDC majority in Parliament by bringing trumped-up charges against Movement for Democratic Change MPs. It is also said that he will use imprisonment and abduction to make them forfeit their seats, because as the hon. Lady said, under Zimbabwean law, MPs who do not attend Parliament for 21 consecutive days lose their seats.

Understandably, I advise the House, many newly elected MDC MPs are already in hiding and at least 10 have been arrested on spurious charges. I hope that this House will do all it can to alert parliamentarians throughout the world to the threats faced by those Zimbabweans who have put their lives on the line by offering themselves up for election.

No, I shall not give way. Time in the debate is limited and others want to speak.

Measures which time and again were dismissed as unacceptable and unhelpful are now being adopted as it becomes clear that Mugabe and his ZANU-PF thugs will not respond to conventional pressure of any sort—political or diplomatic. Strong and unequivocal action, which isolates his regime and cuts off the sources of payment, patronage, privilege, travel, fuel and energy, is needed to reduce the benefits that he receives and which fuel the machinery of oppression. It is heartening to see the growing international mood towards serious engagement to bring an end to Mugabe’s madness and the tragedy of Zimbabwe. I pay tribute to the voices of two archbishops—John Sentamu and Desmond Tutu. Their passion for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe stands in stark contrast to the silence and inaction of so many political leaders in Africa.

The hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), who chairs the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, has already spoken. I say with regret that, sadly, the Commonwealth has failed to live up to the challenge that Mugabe presented when he withdrew Zimbabwe from membership. Many of us feel huge good will towards the Commonwealth and feel that it can still play a valuable role in international affairs. It is not too late for the Commonwealth to fulfil its potential and protect the citizens of Zimbabwe, who should surely still be considered to be members of the Commonwealth. They have an even greater need for support since Mugabe petulantly abducted them rather than fulfil his obligations to uphold democracy and decent behaviour.

I should like to refer briefly to the G8, which meets in a matter of hours. It should not only issue a stinging rebuke to Mugabe, but ask pertinent, searching questions of President Mbeki of South Africa and perhaps deliver to him a slightly less stinging rebuke. He has failed miserably to live up to his side of the bargain with the G8. The House may not know this, but the whole basis on which he attends the annual G8 summits as an observer is the understanding that he will take a lead in Africa on upholding good governance and respect for human rights. He has failed to do that.

This weekend, Morgan Tsvangirai told a South African newspaper:

“I have received information that President Mbeki is lobbying at the African Union to have that position taken”—

that is, the position that Mugabe is president. He went on:

“For President Mbeki to promote Mugabe in these circumstances flies against the grain of international opinion, disregards the feelings of Zimbabweans and undermines again his credibility in the mediation effort.”

We must resist the voices of those who tell us that we have no right to involve ourselves with what they claim is a purely African matter. That surely overlooks the massive financial contribution that we in this country make towards the humanitarian effort in Zimbabwe and in other SADC countries. I say sincerely to the Foreign Secretary that SADC leaders and the African Union must be reminded that our continuing commitment to the development of all the countries in the region makes it incumbent on them to join us as partners in protecting the development that we are promoting. A failure to confront Mugabe’s wanton destruction of Zimbabwe is hostile to any genuine commitment to ongoing development in the area.

Much help will be needed in establishing the rule of law again in Zimbabwe. The House will know that its traditions of professionalism in the armed services and the police were drawn largely from our own tradition. Similarly, the links between the education systems, legal professions and judiciaries in Zimbabwe and this country are strong. I hope that we will do much to nurture a revival of those professions. The bonds between the people of the country and the United Kingdom are strong. They have remained strong despite the viciousness of Mugabe’s actions and his vitriol. I look forward to visiting Zimbabwe again one day soon and celebrating rebirth, stability, peace and economic progress in that wonderful country.

It gives me particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), both of whom, from different sides of the House, have relentlessly and unstintingly raised the plight of Zimbabwe and ordinary Zimbabwean people. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

It was absolutely right for the Foreign Secretary to open by saying that the House will and must show total unity today. There have been moments of slight disagreement in the past, because we were all pushing for action at a different pace. I readily acknowledge that the Government had a difficult hand to play. However, I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that now that last week’s sham election is over, the pace has changed completely. People can no longer say, “Oh well, the ex-colonial power should not look as if it is interfering in Zimbabwe. It is counter-productive to speak out, as it might give succour to Mugabe.” I put it to the Foreign Secretary that a brief topical debate such as this is inadequate, although better than nothing. It is important that there should be a full-scale debate on the Floor of the House. It is also important that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development return to the Dispatch Box regularly to update us on developments as events unfold.

We all know what horrors have been happening in Zimbabwe; we do not need to rehearse them again in the short time available. However, I wish to make two specific points, which I have raised before in Westminster Hall debates. The first is about smart sanctions, which, as the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) said, have not really worked. There has not been the necessary professionalism and desire to make them work.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will soon be able to answer the pertinent question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). Many believe that a significant number of children of members of the Mugabe regime are at private boarding school or university in this country. Every single one should be slung out, because they have absolutely no right to benefit from being in this country. If sharp sanctions are to mean what they say and are not to affect the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, we should go for what I have suggested.

I shall not give way; as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said, many others who want to speak have been waiting patiently. Giving way would eat into their time.

The second issue that I wish to raise is that it is clear that very little progress will be made at the United Nations. Deep down, the Foreign Secretary knows that. The reason is simple: China will veto again and again. Yes, we can play our part within the European Union and the G8, but we all know that the final solution has to be in the hands of Africa. Some progress was made at Sharm el-Sheikh, although the summit was deeply disappointing in many ways. However, more and more African countries are speaking out—Nigeria and Kenya, as well as SADC countries. Progress has also been made at SADC. The role of the President of Zambia has already been mentioned, but Botswana and Tanzania have also been important.

The real problem, however, is South Africa. South Africa holds the key; it is the economic and political giant of southern Africa. If South Africa were to lead, the rest would fall into place. We have seen the courage of ex-President Mandela in speaking out, we have heard the wise words of Archbishop Tutu, we have seen some movement from Mr. Zuma on behalf of the African National Congress, and we were delighted by the stance of the South African trade union movement in refusing to allow—[Interruption.] The Foreign Secretary seems to think that this is funny. I do not think that it is at all funny that trade unionists—dockers—in South Africa rightly did not allow the Chinese ship to dock with its arms and munitions for Zimbabwe. That lead should have come from the South African Government, but it did not—it was taken by trade unionists.

As the hon. Member for Vauxhall said, the real culprit is President Mbeki. He could do more but does nothing whatsoever. Huge pressure must be put on him and huge condemnation must be made of him. It is vital that he is shamed into taking greater action. One can perfectly well understand why Mr. Tsvangirai does not feel that this man can be a mediator. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will assure us that when he visits South Africa he is very plain-speaking with President Mbeki, who is letting down the people of South Africa and affecting the reputation of that democracy.

It is a pleasure almost to follow the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who gave an extremely well balanced and thoughtful speech, in stark contrast to some other Labour Members who are always under the shadow of the post-colonial guilt that has led to virtual paralysis in dealing with Zimbabwe over the past decade.

Last time we had a full debate on Zimbabwe in this Chamber, the Foreign Secretary urged us to be temperate with our language, on the grounds that Mugabe was listening to us. I sincerely hope that Mugabe will get a report of today’s proceedings. I welcome the fact that, belatedly, the Foreign Secretary’s language has got tougher. It is clear that the African solution that was envisaged as being the answer for so many years is not working. Why? Because while President Mbeki is around, nothing is going to happen. We must rest our hopes on Jacob Zuma and other African leaders who genuinely want to move matters forward.

There are several things that we can do, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will do them. At the forthcoming G8 summit in Japan next week, he should urge all states to refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Mugabe’s regime and call on the Southern African Development Community and African Union countries not to recognise the legitimacy of the regime; at the European Union, he should call for wider EU sanctions on Mugabe’s regime members; at the United Nations, he should call for a UN commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in China; and he should urge British businesses and individuals not to make any investments that prop up Mugabe’s regime. We have addressed many of those issues during the debate.

At Prime Minister’s questions recently, when I asked the Prime Minister whether he would summon the Chinese ambassador and tell her that the eyes of the world were on China in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, he gave me the brush-off. I urge the Foreign Secretary to use every possible pressure that he can to persuade the Chinese that they must desist immediately from financially shoring up this evil, criminal regime. Without China, we will not get the resolution that we need at the UN, and that needs to be spelled out to China in very bleak terms. It is possible to intervene in Zimbabwe under the UN responsibility to protect, or R2P. Equally, it is possible to refer some of these criminals to the International Criminal Court, but that would also need to be supported by China.

I support the idea that sanctions should be extended—they have clearly been violated by some members of the Mugabe regime—and, yes, I believe that they should extend to members of the families of those associated with what has been called Mugabe’s criminal cartel. It is perhaps worth doing a roll of dishonour of some of the people who I believe have questions to answer in due course: Constantine Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwean army; Augustine Chihuri, the police chief; Perence Shiri, the air force chief; Gideon Gono, the central bank governor; Patrick Chinamasa, laughably called the Justice Minister; George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesman; Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Rural Housing Minister; and Happyton Bonyongwe, chief of the Central Intelligence Organisation. All those people should be aware that this House and other democratic Parliaments around the world have their eyes on them and will want them to be called to account for their deeds, in Mugabe’s case going back to the Matabeleland massacres and since.

I want to ask the Foreign Secretary about our moral obligation in two fields: first, to the people who are still UK citizens or British passport holders in Zimbabwe; and secondly, to pensioners. I refer him to the recent case of Ben and Laura Freeth, who were violently beaten up by Mugabe’s henchmen, as were their in-laws, Mike and Angela Campbell. Ben Freeth is the holder of a British passport. He, or his parents-in-law, acquired their land after independence. The Zimbabwean Government were offered the farm but chose not to buy it. It was bought in good faith under the law, yet there have been attempts to run them off it. It is a remarkable testament to them that they are intending to stay and defend what is rightfully theirs. On 16 July, the case is coming up at SADC, and that will be a litmus test on land reform in Zimbabwe. So far, the Zimbabwean Government have repeatedly put it off by saying that they do not have the paperwork. I urge the Foreign Secretary to look into this case and to raise it in Japan, because we need to see that justice can still be done.

I want to turn briefly to our moral obligation to pensioners. The Overseas Service Pensioners Association has been working on this issue for many years. I urge the Foreign Secretary to listen, because it is quite important and quite complicated. At the time of Lancaster House, it was clear what the British Government would or would not do in terms of their obligation to pensioners. They have responsibility for a huge number of pensioners living in this country and a significant number of pensioners living in Zimbabwe, many of whom have not had their pensions paid for many years. Many of the people who have had their pensions transferred into a local currency are in the same situation as all Zimbabweans.

I urge the Foreign Secretary to continue as best he can in next week’s negotiations in trying to bring this evil regime to a close. In the meantime, now that he has discovered a sense of urgency, I ask him to look urgently at how we can protect UK passport holders in Zimbabwe and protect all those to whom we have a moral obligation in ensuring that they have the decent wage that they are entitled to live off, whether they be in Zimbabwe or in the UK.

Casting aside much of what I wanted to say, I want to draw the House’s attention to a couple of quick points.

This week we have had a small success, as Back Benchers sometimes can, in the campaign on Zimbabwe. I do not pretend to believe that early-day motions are anything more than, in effect, parliamentary graffiti. However, following the tabling of EDM 1753 to draw the House’s attention to the actions of a company called Giesecke and Devrient, which was printing banknotes for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the company has withdrawn from that contract. I do not pretend that that action was a result of the EDM. There has also been pressure from the media and political pressure—I give all credit to the Minister for Africa for his involvement, and to the Government of Germany. This is, to an extent, people power, or shareholder power, and shareholders in other companies can learn from it. If I were a shareholder in Anglo-American, I would be looking seriously at that company’s corporate responsibility policy and asking it seriously about investments that it announced last week it is carrying out in Zimbabwe. A company of that size cannot invest in Zimbabwe without dealing with Gideon Gono, at the very least, whom my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) just mentioned. Gideon Gono is Robert Mugabe’s personal banker and he is right at the centre of the illegal criminal cartel that has brought so much misery to that country.

I do not believe that we should let off companies such as Giesecke and Devrient as lightly as we have. We need to look at the other contracts that they have with the British Government, and I have submitted a freedom of information request. Those companies have to be held to account because, year after year, they have been actively conniving with the regime. There is a sense of real frustration among the newer breed of African leaders who have a more enlightened approach to governance in Africa. We in the west have to provide whatever assistance we can, be it overt or covert, to the enlightened leadership of such countries.

I was particularly pleased to read the words of Raila Odinga, the new Prime Minister of Kenya. His wholehearted condemnation of Mugabe was echoed by brave comments from other Southern African Development Community leaders, such as the leadership in Botswana. We need to work with these people to encourage them; they must be so frustrated with the lumpen rump of Mugabe apologists, led, as was so ably articulated by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), by Thabo Mbeki. There are few words that one can summon up to denounce him further. The sense of disappointment among those who campaigned so hard for change in South Africa, and the sense of revulsion that he has propped up this regime, is almost tangible.

The hon. Lady made another good point. What about our constituents? Where do they fit into this argument? They fork out substantial amounts of money, through their own taxation, in aid to countries in Africa. It is exactly right to say that if we are involved in Africa in such a way, we have every right to comment on regimes such as Mugabe’s. They cannot take with one hand, while saying, “We do not want your comments on or involvement in Africa in any other way.”

The eyes of the world will very much be on China in the coming weeks, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take every opportunity to raise with the Chinese Government the appalling fact that they were prepared, in the first instance, to allow arms to be sent to such a country—as they continue to do to other countries such as Sudan. They then connived with other countries to find an alternative way to do so, after a brave move by elements of the Congress of South African Trade Unions prevented the unloading of an arms shipment. Too often we say that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, and that can be an overused cliché, but it really will be at stake if the Security Council cannot get its act together and put some robust wording into a resolution dealing with the Government of Zimbabwe.

In the dying seconds of the time left to me, I would just say the following. I had the privilege of attending a meeting last week that was addressed by a brave journalist called Peter Oborne, who described with moving clarity what he witnessed in hospitals in Bulawayo and Harare just a few weeks ago. The courage of individuals such as Peter Oborne was not matched, unfortunately, by a group of people in the room, including a former high commissioner to Zimbabwe, who spoke as much unutterable rubbish then as he did to me and other Members of this House on the Terrace when he was high commissioner in 2001. Those people do no credit to the argument. London is infested with intellectuals, organisations and institutes full of people who want to fight yesterday’s battles on Africa. We must focus on today’s problems, which are urgent, real and dangerous to millions of people. I cannot emphasise enough the need for the Foreign Secretary and all his colleagues in Government to focus with brutal clarity on what is happening today, and on what needs to be done to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. We need to put in hand the means to bring about change and prosperity for that wonderful country.

I very much agree with the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon), who has just spoken. This is the 21st century, and it is time to hold Zimbabwe to the same criteria and standards as we did South Africa, fascist Germany, fascist Italy and other hideous regimes. Why, therefore, are we unable to take stronger action?

The hon. Gentleman says “China” from a sedentary position—all well and good. We must put pressure on China. But why, for example, are Virgin Atlantic and British Airways using Harare as a stopover on flights to South Africa? Why are KLM and Lufthansa flying to South Africa through Zimbabwe? Why are we talking about putting more money into Zimbabwe via the Department for International Development? Why are we not looking at the companies that prop up the Mugabe regime, such as Shell and Rio Tinto, and asking their shareholders whether they should not be divesting—rather than complaining, as the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) did, that this is not a good time to sell their shares?

What can we do to get the United Nations to focus on its responsibilities? It is unable to discharge its responsibilities. What can we do to make sanctions work? They failed against Serbia during the Balkan crisis, and they failed against Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They are failing against Sudan and they failed against Burma. What do we want from an effective sanctions policy? I hope the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will speak personally to all their opposite numbers at the G8 about the importance of this matter. Reference to the International Criminal Court is important, but the United States has refused to ratify the relevant treaty. What is good for the United States goose will be good for the Zimbabwe gander. We have a new culture of international responsibility, and we need to develop sanctions that can work, not just in Zimbabwe, but in other countries around the world, to guide them towards democracy.

This is a huge test case, and it is time for the Government to be robust, and time for Britain to cut financial support of any sort for Zimbabwe. It is time for Britain to take a lead, not wait for others to decide what to do.

I would like to thank the House for this passionate debate on the current situation in Zimbabwe. In the short period of time I have left, I shall refer to some of the main themes, particularly our support for the people of Zimbabwe. Of course, I and the Foreign Secretary will look at all the points raised during the debate.

I pay tribute to the work of our UK officials in Zimbabwe. I spoke to our team this morning, who described to me the conditions there, and the work that they continue to do to support some of the poorest in Zimbabwe. The truth is, as we know, that conditions in the country are desperate, as we see a naked battle for power being played out. It is Mugabe’s reckless policies that are driving thousands into poverty every week, and let us never forget that it is the responsibility of the Government of Zimbabwe to look after their people. That is not happening.

Zimbabwe is a country that once enjoyed healthy growth, but has seen its economy shrink by a half in only a decade. It used to enjoy macro-economic stability, and it now endures inflation that is beyond imagination. The net result is that it is a country where more than four out of five live in poverty, and between a quarter and a third of the population have fled. By the end of this year, I regret to say that up to 5 million men, women and children could be facing severe hunger and malnutrition.

Despite constant threats and recriminations from Mugabe and his cronies, we continue to be one of the largest donors directly assisting those in Zimbabwe who need the most help. Last year, we provided support that helped to feed 4 million people, to fight HIV/AIDS, to support smallholder farming and to provide access to basic education, clean water and shelter. I am pleased to announce to the House that the Government will be allocating a further £9 million to provide food to the most hungry. That funding, through the World Food Programme, will provide food to more than 4 million of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable families, including many children. I can give the House the assurance that although most of the £9 million will be used to provide food, a proportion of the funding will be used to strengthen monitoring systems to prevent political interference and ensure that food is received by the right people: the hungry and suffering people of Zimbabwe.

The banning of non-governmental organisations has affected 1.5 million people and it demonstrates that Mugabe is using hunger as a political weapon with a callous disregard for human life. It is crucial that NGOs are allowed to restart operations, and the United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator held talks on Monday to seek the full or at least partial lifting of the ban on NGO activity.

Many hon. Members have suggested a range of additional measures. For us, the test has to be whether any additional measure targets Mugabe’s elite or whether it harms ordinary Zimbabweans, or, indeed, the poorest of Africans.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of the proceedings, the motion lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the Temporary Standing Order (Topical debates).