Skip to main content


Volume 520: debated on Wednesday 8 December 2010

[Relevant Document: The Eighth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2009-10, on DFID’s Assistance to Zimbabwe, HC 252, and the Government response, Cm 7899.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the year ending with 31 March 2012, for expenditure by the Department for International Development—

(1) resources, not exceeding £2,498,978,000, be authorised, on account, for use for current purposes as set out in HC 593,

(2) resources, not exceeding £700,200,000, be authorised, on account, for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a sum, not exceeding £2,962,928,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to debate the subject of Zimbabwe, particularly the UK Government’s aid programme to that troubled country. I am sure that the debate would have taken place earlier, had not the election intervened, and it is important to recognise that there is genuine interest in what is happening in Zimbabwe, in what the UK Government’s engagement is doing for the people of Zimbabwe and in how that might most constructively be taken forward. It will obviously not be possible to strike a wholly optimistic note in a debate on this topic.

Eight members of the International Development Committee and two staff visited Zimbabwe between 1 and 4 February this year. I would like to pay tribute to our ambassador, Mark Canning, both for his constructive help and assistance in preparing for the Committee’s visit and, perhaps more fundamentally, for the remarkable role he is playing—not just on behalf of the UK, but in reaching out, as leaders of other missions testified, to a number of parties engaged in trying to get some positive forward momentum within Zimbabwe. It is worth noting that, prior to being in Zimbabwe, he was our ambassador in Burma. He certainly gets the pick of the appointments. Clearly, he has experience of dealing with countries where the situation is extremely difficult.

The Committee found a fragile and fraught political situation. I am grateful that the ambassador has today given a timely briefing—I will not read it all out, because I suspect that the Minister may have a copy—which tells me, and the House, that the situation that we perceived in February still pertains. Although some things may have deteriorated, the tensions are similar, the ups and downs are still there, and there are still some positives, with lots of negatives attached.

The UK Government are channelling $100 million- worth of aid into Zimbabwe, and the Committee had an opportunity to see how that was being used in action and in practice. We visited a number of projects—schools, hospitals and other activities—in and around Harare, and did similar visits in and around Bulawayo. We met Morgan Tsvangirai, and Ministers and officials from ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, and we were invited to meet the President, but the invitation came about 15 minutes before we were due to leave for the airport to fly home, so we were not able to accept it.

Although the purpose of the debate is not to focus on the politics of Zimbabwe, it is impossible to ignore the political aspect. Observance of the global political agreement—the basis of the Government of national unity—is highly dysfunctional, but, however imperfectly, it did help to create some space in which positive things can happen. My belief, and I think, the Committee’s belief, is that if the agreement were not there, or if it failed or was abandoned, much, if not all, that space would rapidly disappear. The situation is not perfect, and no one would suggest that it was. It requires compromises, which, to some extent, are unacceptable. However, we saw genuine benefit to people who had been in abject hopelessness prior to that agreement.

Let us remember that inflation was of astronomical proportions, literally—I think there are billions of stars nearer to planet Earth than the multiplier effect of the Zimbabwe dollar to any other known currency. Almost at a stroke, the US dollarisation of the economy enabled a degree of normal economic functioning to be restored to the country. As we travelled around Harare and Bulawayo, the shops looked much the same as those in a good, modern city anywhere. For most of the people, of course, the problem was that the goods were beyond their reach, but at least the goods were there. For people who could get hard currency, a variety of things could be bought.

The fact that the finances were under the control of the MDC had a significant effect on ensuring that significant parts of the budget could be directed precisely where it was supposed to go, rather than to where it might have gone alternatively, which creates frustration in parties in government that are not comfortable or happy with that situation.

I draw the House’s attention to our visit to a hospital outside Bulawayo. The matron who showed us round said that, 18 months before we visited, the hospital was abandoned—no patients, no staff, no drugs, no activity. On the day of our visit, however, she said that it was fully operational, fully staffed, had all the drugs it needed, and was operating as well as any hospital anywhere could be expected to operate. That is a fantastic transformation. Indeed, many parts of Africa with functioning Governments have less well-functioning hospitals than the one that we saw. That is, perhaps, the biggest frustration of all. The capacity of Zimbabwe to deliver what its people need, if it were only given the chance, is probably without equal in Africa.

Although the Department for International Development is employing a rather complex mechanism—we expressed some concern about its complexity as well as its cost—it is nevertheless able to engage with locally based non-governmental and other organisations that can deliver the services that people need. We saw the delivery of health, education and livelihoods. We saw that really happening now, and we saw that there was substantial potential for it to happen on a far greater scale. Of course the Committee was not able to visit large parts of the country, and we were led to believe that had we done so, we would not have seen such a positive picture. The no-go areas are, by definition, unknown, but the implication is that they are receiving no services, or at least no adequate services.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the excellent work that he does as Chairman of the Select Committee. I also congratulate the other members of the Committee, and I welcome the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned human resource. It is, of course, the most important resource in Zimbabwe, but many people have fled Zimbabwe for a variety of reasons. Some have come to the United Kingdom, while others have gone to South Africa, Zambia or other countries in the region. Does he agree that a sign of real political progress and stability in Zimbabwe will be people returning from those countries and others to such places as Harare, so that they can make a real contribution to the country’s future?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The vast majority of Zimbabweans who are not in Zimbabwe would rather be anywhere except where they are. They would like to be back in Zimbabwe, but, for a variety of reasons, it is difficult for them to go back. It is not just a question of whether they are under threat, whether they can return to any assets that they have, or whether those assets are still there; it is a question of whether they can do anything functionally or economically useful.

We found that some doctors and teachers who had left the country had come back, but they were working for a fraction of the money that they could obtain in neighbouring Botswana or South Africa, let alone the United Kingdom. They were returning because they wanted to help, but they were making sacrifices. Perhaps the Minister will say something about that. One of DFID’s activities was trying to supplement those people’s salaries, just to add an extra pull, but that still left them earning well below the market rate for the southern African region.

I have no doubt that if only peace and normality could be returned to Zimbabwe, within a very short time the people would come back, economic activity would return and, indeed—this is what is surely so frustrating for everyone—Zimbabwe could provide a shining example for the rest of Africa. People have the capacity to bring that about, given the chance, but clearly they are not being given that chance.

Obviously I want to focus predominantly on DFID’s activity, but the ambassador has highlighted the difficulties that were apparent in February and are plainly still in existence. There has been very little progress towards any kind of constitutional settlement, and there are mutterings about when an election may take place. The ambassador made it clear unequivocally that

“The constitutional process needs to be completed in an orderly and well-paced way”.

He said that the Zimbabwe electoral commission and the other commissions needed “to be capacitated”, and that

“technical changes need to be made to the voters’ roll”

—and to, for instance, the electoral Acts—

“as well as the putting in place of thorough and comprehensive monitoring arrangements. All this is going to take time if it is going to be held as it should.”

This is the crunch:

“If a poll was held prematurely, it would be most unlikely to be either free or fair”.

It is important for the House to take note of that fresh advice from our ambassador.

We are in a position of compromise—a sort of limbo. The Library note refers to “limping along”. However, the position is better than it was. Few analogies stick for very long, but a slight comparison can be made with some of the hiccups along the way in Northern Ireland. The longer even a small improvement continues, the harder it becomes to go back to the situation as it was previously. There is no guarantee, however, and the big fear is that too many people in powerful positions in Zimbabwe would like to take the country back and they have the capacity to do so. We need to rely on the genuine friends of the people of Zimbabwe, and although the United Kingdom stands among them, I acknowledge that we have a difficult role to play and that we have to play it from a distance. We need to work discreetly and to recognise the legitimate role of the neighbours in Africa, especially South Africa, but also the Southern African Development Community states. In this context, it would be nice if SADC became a more effective and coherent organisation. The fact that the tribunal judgments of SADC have been denounced and ridiculed by Zimbabwe, which says it does not recognise SADC, is clearly a weakness to the south African states in the region.

The continuing situation in Zimbabwe is not only a disaster and a frustration for the people of Zimbabwe; it is a drag anchor for the whole of southern Africa. If the situation is not resolved, the capacity of many other countries in southern Africa to fulfil their potential will be comprehensively weakened. That is perhaps understood more than it was, and the mood is changing, although perhaps too slowly.

We made some specific points in our report, and I would be grateful for an update on them from the Minister. I am sure he will tell us about current DFID activities in the country. The figure was $100 million, much of it spent on health. Has there been any change in that, or any consideration of whether we could, or should, be doing more on education, or do we feel that others are doing that satisfactorily? Also, do we feel we have the capacity to increase funding?

I think the Committee was in agreement that where we saw funds being effectively spent, they were delivering real results. If we could find comparable projects on a wider scale, we would certainly support additional funding. Again, I would appreciate the Minister stating the Department’s view on that. So far as we were able to gauge, the money was going precisely to where it was intended. Great precautions were taken to ensure it did not get into the wrong hands and was not misappropriated, and that it delivered results.

The point about precautions raises the issue of the mechanism or agency used. A number of the partners, both international, local and national, said it led to bureaucratic delays, and to inflexibilities and extra expense, which for some small organisations were disproportionate to what they were trying to achieve. There was an understanding of why the precautions were in place, but if anything can be done to simplify the process and make it more flexible without losing the certainty that money is not being misappropriated, that will be widely appreciated by the partners with whom we are engaging.

There was considerable concern about the extraction of diamonds and the ownership of those diamonds by people very close to the President, and the apparent inability of the Kimberley process to function. One or two of the interlocutors we engaged with said this might be the single issue that would give ZANU-PF the mechanism to destroy the Government of national unity and to re-establish itself as a dominant one party in control, so it is important that they—whoever they may be—are unable to trade illegally in illicit diamonds and thereby secure funding for programmes of expropriation and violence that threaten the state itself. Again, it would be helpful if the Minister could say what action is being taken if not to enforce the Kimberley process, then to isolate the illicit diamonds from Zimbabwe and deny them access to the markets, where they could be used to fund the undermining of the current arrangements.

The House has been done a great service by the Select Committee’s report. What my right hon. Friend has just mentioned raises a dilemma for everyone involved with Zimbabwe. We want to persuade the international community to start to invest in Zimbabwe and to get financial institutions to start to engage with it, but responsible companies, investors and financial institutions are clearly going to be very concerned about engaging with the extractive industries and some of the other key industries in Zimbabwe, for exactly the reasons that he just outlined. How does the Committee see us squaring that circle of encouraging responsible investors to get back into Zimbabwe but doing so in such a way as not to prop up or enrich those who would continue to subjugate Zimbabwe for their own political glory?

That is a very relevant and pertinent question. The practical thing that people can do is talk to our ambassador, because he has both views on this and indications about what to do.

The next item that I was going to discuss was investment and selective sanctions. The first thing to make clear is that it suits the ZANU-PF dimension of the Zimbabwean Government to make out that the economic failures of Zimbabwe are entirely a result of the application of selective sanctions and that they are targeting the poor people of Zimbabwe and preventing economic activity. The point that the ambassador made is that only one in 70,000 Zimbabweans is at all affected by the sanctions. Of course, he also points out in his statement today that the economy of Zimbabwe has been growing since dollarisation was reinstated. So that particular argument has been nailed. I shall return to my hon. Friend’s question, but I just wish to say to the Minister that I understand that some dialogue with the EU is taking place about selective sanctions and it would be helpful if he could update the House on the current position and what the UK’s engagement is. My impression is that there is no general view, apart from among the obvious sources, that those sanctions should or deserve to be lifted. However, to be fair, Morgan Tsvangirai said that they were a constant source of friction when he was trying to engage with his ZANU-PF co-Ministers.

There is no restriction on investment in Zimbabwe. There is nothing to prevent companies from outside Zimbabwe investing, apart from one thing that was introduced earlier in the year: the “indigenisation” of business. Again, it would be helpful if the Minister could update us on the position that has been reached. That measure fundamentally said that people could not do business in Zimbabwe other than through a company that was 51% owned by Zimbabweans—those Zimbabweans would, of course, be those approved by the stronger part of the Government. That may not be a total cast-iron restriction, as there is a Government of national unity and there are Ministers who are trying to offer, with some success, a growth strategy, a development strategy and a rebuilding strategy for Zimbabwe. Businesses may therefore have opportunities to find partners who are not going to subvert the money, but clearly nobody could invest in Zimbabwe without having an assurance. The Minister may be able to provide that or our excellent ambassador may be able to give advice. My instincts are that doing business is difficult, but may not be completely impossible.

That raises an interesting dilemma in the whole issue of development. We engage in states where there is conflict, in post-conflict states and in states with dysfunctional regimes, and the easiest thing is to say, “Let’s have nothing to do with them.” Yet the one thing that might just break the cycle of poverty, repression and tyranny is some kind of economic opportunity. I do not have an answer to that point, but I am sure that we should not say that there should be an absolute block on doing businesses with countries with dubious regimes. We should find out whether there are ways of doing business that are reputable and safe.

Let me make a somewhat exaggerated comparison. People do business in Russia, which has huge question marks over it and vies with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in terms of corruption. There are probably business opportunities in Zimbabwe that have less risk and they might be worth exploring.

I believe that we should ask people to understand that there will not be a quick and easy solution in Zimbabwe. The Committee’s observation was that, imperfect though it is, engagement with the Government of national unity was able to deliver health, education and infrastructure improvements to significant sectors of the people of Zimbabwe who were denied them before. Frankly, that Government are the only thing that stands between Zimbabwe and chaos and we must use whatever influence we have to try to persuade people, wherever they are, that there is a better place for Zimbabwe to head for than back to where it was.

We might need to acknowledge that not everybody in ZANU-PF is entirely self-seeking—we met one or two of them—and that some of them realise that their country has a place to go and that they need to be part of it. That was the other issue that was made quite clear to us. Experience in government, knowledge, contacts, communication and political capacity are mostly controlled by ZANU-PF and not by the MDC. The MDC’s members might have learned something in the past year and a half—I hope and am sure they have—but if Zimbabwe is to have a longer-term future, some of the people who have been part of the problem must be part of the solution.

That point was made to us on a few occasions and at the same time it was pointed out that, for example, every Minister was allocated a 24/7 personal “bodyguard” appointed by the President. I am quite certain that that was not an entirely comfortable experience. Interestingly, one politician said that the funny thing about that was that it created a dialogue between two groups of people who had had no connection or communication with each other before and some started to understand that the other side had a more multidimensional aspect. The avenues of communication are only beginning to open. The report from the ambassador today does not suggest that things have changed very much, and they could get worse.

What is clear is that we should not collude in any early rush to an election. An early election would almost certainly bring the present inadequate partnership to an end in favour of something worse. It could not be free and it could not be fair. The measured words of the ambassador disguise the fact that there is no electoral register, which means that those who control the polling stations can write their own register. That is no basis for any kind of election. It would be a total fiction.

In conclusion, the Committee came away impressed that good things were being done that were bringing real benefits, that it was possible to reach people, that the longer we could create such space the more chance there was of people seeing a better future, and that we had to put up with setbacks, pitfalls and compromises and not walk away. Nothing can be guaranteed, but we must do nothing that allows this troubled partnership to be brought to an end and the re-establishment of a one-party state. That would set back not just Zimbabwe but the whole of southern Africa for another generation.

I, too, thank the House for this brief opportunity to debate some of the International Development Committee’s reflections following our visit to Zimbabwe in February. I endorse what the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) said about it being important that we went. Before we went, there was nervousness in some quarters about whether we would be sending mixed messages simply by going there. We were conscious that if things went wrong our visit could be seen as some kind of endorsement of the Mugabe regime or a weakening of the international community’s resolve; we were firm that we could not let that be the case, and I do not think it was.

It is important that we have a clear position on the gross abuses of human rights that went on there and are still going on, and that we make our position absolutely clear. However, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, and as the report underlines, Zimbabwe has huge potential as a country, but also has huge needs in human terms. In October, the United Nations Development Programme released its annual human development index, which puts the country last on the indices of education, health and the income of nations. According to UNICEF’s mid-year report, which was published in July, Zimbabwe had the most severe health-related emergency of 2010—a major measles outbreak in which there were 7,754 suspected cases and 517 people died. That was reported in 61 of the country’s 62 districts. The report states:

“Basic social services, such as access to safe water and coverage of immunization programmes, remain a cause for concern.”

We spent some time looking at those areas when we were in Zimbabwe in February. The report also notes that although schools remain open, the quality of learning “continues to be compromised”, often by

“teachers’ low morale, lack of teaching and learning material, and the poor infrastructure of most schools.”

In a whole range of areas, it is absolutely clear that the country has considerable needs.

UNICEF projects a final funding gap of $44,260,863, which is 40% of its needs. It states:

“If funding requirements are not met the following critical activities may not take place: improving the management of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children under five years, community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM), nutrition surveillance, emergency safe water and sanitation, life skills for HIV/AIDS prevention and health promotion in schools, and the protection and promotion of the rights of children within IDP and migrant-sending communities.”

Zimbabwe is an area of massive need and the evidence of our eyes suggests that we are right to be in there. We have made some suggestions about how the Department for International Development’s programmes could be improved or tweaked, but by and large the impact there is positive and we are focusing on the right things.

Let me endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the protracted relief programme. We saw various projects for which funding had started through that programme and it is clear that an impact is being made, but a number of interlocutors we came across were clearly concerned about the administration and costs of the programme. They had other concerns too, and this is where our report almost argues against itself. It says that we want to be clear that the audit procedures for the programme are robust enough, but one concern that was raised with us was whether, given the use of intermediary organisations, funding was being mediated in the right way and whether the voices of grass-roots community organisations that really know what needs to be done, and how it should be done, are getting through the bureaucracy so that programmes can be approved and money got to where it is needed. I do not think we have any great pearls of wisdom that enable us to say this or that must be done to the protracted relief programme—overall, I am comfortable with the shape of it—but I hope that DFID looks at whether the mechanisms for operating the programme are as good as they should be and whether they are getting resources to the places they need to go, and in the best way.

I have only just arrived in the Chamber and realise that this issue may already have been addressed. While in Zimbabwe, what information did members of the Committee garner from the ambassador about the potential for the neighbouring states to increase their role in effectively achieving a better solution for Zimbabwe? Those states are nearby and have a deep interest in doing exactly that.

I hope to conclude my remarks by saying something about neighbouring states, because their role is crucial. The hon. Gentleman asks about the ambassador’s views on the matter. He has provided a briefing, but I have to confess that I have not seen it. Perhaps the Minister will give us a few ideas about the ambassador’s views during his winding-up speech. I shall return to some of the issues on the role of neighbouring states.

We need to engage and we are engaging. By and large, the focus of that is positive. However, it absolutely must be accompanied by our ensuring that measures are taken that express the international community’s—I was going to say displeasure, but it sounds a bit weak—views on what the ZANU-PF regime has been doing and continues to do. We must be clear about that.

Again, the right hon. Member for Gordon made it clear that this is an area where Mugabe uses the media inside Zimbabwe completely to distort what the measures that the international community is adopting are all about. While we were there, it was put about time and again that, somehow, the international community is taking action against the people of Zimbabwe. In many ways, the term “sanctions” is a misnomer for what we are doing there. There are targeted measures against individuals and organisations with a direct and responsible role in what goes on. Large amounts of cash and aid go in—probably not enough, as we have heard from UNICEF—that are directed, in the best way we can achieve, to assisting the people of Zimbabwe.

It is important that the measures taken against individuals who are responsible for some quite ghastly acts in that country remain in place and should be removed—indeed, there is an argument that they should be increased—only when we see clear and demonstrable steps towards democracy and respect for human rights. All the indications are that we are a long way from that.

Many of us who had not been to Zimbabwe before were quite surprised that in many ways we did not see the chaos that we perhaps thought we would see. Not only does that country have massive natural resources and massive potential, but we could see in Bulawayo and elsewhere that if the country were able to get itself together, had an economy that worked and had the right kind of governance, it could turn around really quickly.

The infrastructure that had been built up over many years was still there in many instances. There have been major steps forward. Since the dollarisation of the economy, the work of Tendai Biti has been really useful in putting Zimbabwe’s economy on a more rational basis. However, again, there is a dual view of what is going on there: the chaos that perhaps some of us expected to see was not there, yet we could see that the impact of the land seizures had undermined the economy and caused genuine suffering on a scale that is unacceptable. Just before we went to Zimbabwe, some Committee members saw the film “Mugabe and the White African”, which I recommend to hon. Members because it very graphically illustrates the human cost to and, indeed, bravery of some Zimbabweans in standing up to the Mugabe regime.

The land seizures continue, and a recent report by ZimOnline exposes the reality of them. The President and his wife Grace are said to own 14 farms, spanning at least 16,000 hectares. All ZANU-PF’s 56 politburo members, 98 MPs and 35 elected and unelected senators were allegedly allocated farms, and 10 provincial governors have seized farms, with four being multiple owners. Sixteen supreme court and high court judges own farms, too.

Not only is there violence against farmers but all farm workers have been driven away, so there is now almost no production on those farms which, like Zimbabwe, were massively productive. I urge the Government, wherever we can, to help to obtain an audit so that we can get those farms moving. The issue is not only who owns those farms but getting production going, because Zimbabwe should not be starving when it is such a fertile country.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. The way the land seizures have worked is wrong in so many respects. It makes make little economic sense, for the reason that he mentions, and it goes under the title of “land reform”, which is another huge misnomer. It invokes an image of land being taken from people who should not have it, do not use it properly or got it illegitimately and then redistributed to the people of Zimbabwe, but all the evidence is that that has just not happened. It has been redistributed to an elite, who have not used the land’s capacity as they should.

All that does not take away from the fact that land reform is a real issue, and that it needs to be confronted. I suspect that if my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, he will say something about that, because the all-party Africa group has looked in some depth at the complicated questions of what land reform needs to be, and at the challenges that we have to face.

The land seizures are unacceptable, wrong and, as we saw in the film to which I referred, in many ways inhuman both to the owners of the land and, yes, to the workers who owed their livelihood to it. That is a challenge for us in the international community and, to return to the point that the hon. Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) made, to Zimbabwe’s neighbours, in particular. When Mugabe just ignores and cocks a snook at the decisions of the SADC tribunal, that is a problem not just for the people whose farms and livelihoods have been taken away, but for southern Africa as a whole and for the credibility of SADC itself. SADC countries need to face up to that, but most of all South Africa needs to face up to the fact that, in terms of securing leverage and change in Zimbabwe, its role is absolutely crucial. So far, it has not exercised that role as assertively as many of us would like.

Zimbabwe is a country with massive potential, and I endorse what the right hon. Member for Gordon says about elections. I want to see elections in Zimbabwe, but they must be free and fair. We are a long way from that, and it is not always easy for everybody to talk about the impediments to it. In September, an article in The Guardian mentioned how in a recent interview Morgan Tsvangirai seemed to have rather more confidence in the coalition of which he was a part than the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal Democrats has in his. It was quite an amusing article, but it had a serious point, which was that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC have to walk a tightrope. In the ministries for which they are responsible, they must deliver for the people of Zimbabwe as best they can. Walking that tightrope keeps them there and active, and for some of their supporters and members, it keeps them alive. They must work with people who have been responsible for their persecution for many years and, at the same time, they must retain their independence, build their base and try to build a functioning democracy in Zimbabwe. That is a pretty fearsome tightrope to have to walk. They and the people of Zimbabwe need our help to do so.

I am convinced that we must maintain the dual approach that we have adopted of targeted measures that are appropriate and effective against members of the ZANU-PF regime that have brought the country to ruin, combined with an aid and assistance programme that focuses on the real needs of the people. That programme must be responsive to the voices of the people of Zimbabwe and must address their very real humanitarian problems. It must boost the economy of Zimbabwe so that it can achieve its potential. If Zimbabwe achieves that potential, its role in southern Africa will be very positive and it really should have that role. It behoves us all to do what we can to ensure that that happens.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I am delighted to follow two people who have visited Zimbabwe pretty recently and who have guarded optimism about its future, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). It is good to hear from people who have a lot of knowledge of what is happening now.

The attention of the global community has recently been drawn to the forthcoming referendum in Sudan, which in all likelihood will create a new country. However, while the international community looks towards Sudan, the problems faced by other African countries continue. That is particularly true of Zimbabwe.

There is a southern African proverb that states, “Don’t look where you fell, but where you stumbled.” When reviewing the recent tragedy seen in Zimbabwe, it is right that we should look to where the country stumbled, before we look at where it now lies. Disgruntled war veterans invaded a small number of farms in the run-up to 2000, because they were annoyed with Mugabe’s progress towards his promise to redistribute the land back to the people of Zimbabwe. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), not only were white South Africans chucked off the land by Mugabe, but many Zimbabweans lost their jobs. A few months later, Mugabe passed a law to make it legal to take land without compensation.

I believe that it was the violent events at that time that led to Mugabe’s legislation between 2002 and 2006 that entrenched his position. The media were stifled by the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The Opposition were stifled by the Public Order and Security Act, the Criminal Law Act and the Miscellaneous Offences Act, which worked together to curtail the activities of organisations that posed a threat to the President. Most worryingly, that legislation allowed police and persons assisting the police to use all necessary force to stop all unlawful gatherings. Finally, the Private Voluntary Organisations Act impinged on the freedom of domestic and international non-governmental organisations to carry out vital aid work, which led to many NGOs leaving the country.

Since 2000 we have seen the breadbasket of Africa turn into the basket case of Africa. The commercial farming sector and the economy have collapsed, even though Zimbabwe used to export produce all over the world, and to neighbouring countries, as well as feed all its people. It is a tragedy that that situation is not returning at the moment. The lack of food resulted in the spread of chronic poverty, with about 2 million Zimbabweans depending on food aid. At poverty’s highest point, more than 80% of the Zimbabwean population were living on less than $1 a day. With cholera, malaria and HIV/AIDS at the worst level of any country in Africa and on the rise, and with Zimbabwe’s infrastructure on a sharp decline, the country fell into dictatorial despair.

The Movement for Democratic Change has done well in fighting elections against the ZANU-PF Government, despite the unfair playing field and its internal split in 2005. The international community has condemned the Zimbabwean elections as undemocratic, and cited the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s bias in set-up and actions, and we must do more to entrench democracy in Zimbabwe, as we have heard today.

Zimbabwe stumbled in 2000, and for almost a decade it carried on falling. We must hold our hands up and admit that we and the rest of the international community did not do enough to stop it. Even the Zimbabweans’ closest ally, the President of South Africa, achieved very little via his quiet diplomacy.

Thankfully, Zimbabwe has had something of a bounce in recent years, and switching currency has meant goods returning to the shops and the economy making a slight but important step towards recovery. I even note that property prices in Harare are increasing, and many displaced Zimbabweans are returning home.

The global political agreement and the resulting Government of national unity represent a step in the right direction. Some critics have said that the GPA was badly drafted legislation, but the GNU was the only option that offered Zimbabwe a lifeline out of crippling economic and social poverty. The GNU have remained working and—if I may be so bold as to say so—stable for more than a year, and green shoots of recovery really are visible. Schools and hospitals are reopening, and the cholera epidemic that claimed more than 4,000 lives has been brought under some control. Government-led human rights abuses have dramatically reduced, and a new short-term economic recovery programme has been well supported by the international community and the Bretton Woods institutions. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how Britain intends to support that programme, if indeed it intends to do so.

Despite continuing political trouble, including internal power struggles in both ZANU-PF and the MDC, and unemployment that is still at 80%, the creation of the GNU and the change in economic fortunes, although small steps to recovery, are indeed steps. Zimbabwe and the international community must now see what led Zimbabwe to stumble in the past, so that it does not fall again in the future. I am sure that the Department for International Development will play a central part in rebuilding Zimbabwe, and I should like to outline what I see as the key roles that it can play.

It is well documented that President Mugabe loathes Britain. He is documented as having said:

“we must dig a grave not just six feet but 12 feet and bury Mr Blair and the Union Jack”.

Despite his reluctance to accept help from the UK, I agree with DFID’s assessment that the formation of the GNU has changed the balance of risk and opportunity and justified a structured and incremental re-engagement with Zimbabwe. I am very happy that the UK continues to be one of the top three donors to Zimbabwe, having donated $89 million in overseas development assistance in 2008, but it is slightly concerning that that is a reduction of almost $5 million on the 2007 commitment, and that there has been a decrease of almost 10% in our commitments to overall donor aid since 2006. I hope that future donations from the UK to Zimbabwe will increase year on year until Zimbabwe’s crisis issues are dealt with. Increasing our commitments to Zimbabwe would demonstrate to its people that although we will not work with Mugabe, we have not forgotten them.

It is not how much money we spend, but how it is spent, that will make a difference. The Secretary of State has said that a lot since taking office. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09 the balance of DFID bilateral aid to Zimbabwe shifted. At the beginning of the period, most aid was delivered by NGOs, but at the end, most was delivered via multilaterals. The optimist in me hopes that that shift was made not out of choice but out of necessity, and that aid spending via NGOs has decreased as a percentage of bilateral aid because more and more NGOs have moved out of Zimbabwe. Will the Minister tell us whether that trend is likely to continue, or whether, as NGOs such as Voluntary Service Overseas, whose first staff will relocate at the end of this year, return to Zimbabwe, DFID will look to spend more via them? NGOs are often better able to access communities on the ground and spend money where it is really needed.

Although I recognise the importance of the co-ordination that multilaterals such as the UN offer, I agree with critics who cite inefficiencies at ground level. I hope that as NGOs move back into Zimbabwe, we will see the role of multilaterals change from humanitarian to crisis management to overall strategic country growth. It is not often that I agree with the TUC, but I concede that as Zimbabwe’s economy grows and the need for humanitarian relief declines, DFID should look to move away from humanitarian relief and towards core development-oriented interventions.

With that in mind, and with the NGO community returning to help to solve Zimbabwe’s humanitarian problems, will DFID consider future engagement with the private sector to help to develop the economy? The Secretary of State has on more than one occasion said that economic growth is the foundation of development. It is a major concern, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon mentioned, that an Act was passed by the President in March that requires white-owned companies with an asset value of more than $500,000 that want to invest in Zimbabwe to surrender 51% of their shareholdings to black Zimbabweans. That is not a great inducement for people to invest. Britain must take an active role in trying to repeal that Act, which was passed without consulting the GNU, because it creates a vacuum of foreign investment. Without that, Zimbabwe’s economy will inevitably falter. The British Government have a big challenge on their hands to promote investment in Zimbabwe to support the work of Britain, civil society and the international community.

At the moment the UK spends 43% of its aid on the provision of basic health programmes, which Zimbabwe desperately needs. I commend that spending and recognise that it has been crucial in the past decade, because the state’s finances could not cope with need. However, I hope that as the overall health of Zimbabwe increases, DFID will move away from health and towards other long-term aspects of development. I also hope that health spending will move from direct health aid to building the capacity of the Zimbabwean health system.

One of the two most important ways in which DFID can help with the redevelopment of Zimbabwe is helping to fund the land audit. The GNU Finance Minister has allocated $30 million for a future audit, but previous Zimbabwe Government land audit findings have not been released, and I am sceptical that without the international community’s involvement, the findings will be unfair. It is not for me to suggest what conditions the international community should impose on funding for the land audit, but as the DFID Minister at the time of the International Development Committee report stated, a land audit would be the first step towards reform, but it cannot be carried with the current President and his cronies blocking international efforts.

Finally, DFID has a role in developing the political system. I understand the view that the inclusive Zimbabwe Government is not yet the partner that we require to sustain a full development relationship. The global political agreement and the resulting GNU are steps in the right direction, but unfortunately, as Tsvangirai pointed out, things have not radically altered, and Mugabe continues to act without consulting other GNU members. As a result, I believe that DFID’s strategy on providing technical assistance and policy support will strengthen the political process in Zimbabwe. I hope that the desired outcome of political change will take place, but if the recent Act concerning white-owned businesses is anything to go by, we have some way to go, as we heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon.

I also applaud the Department’s drive for the GNU to adopt policies in line with The Hague principles. Strengthening democracy in Zimbabwe is the key to getting Zimbabwe back on its feet, but I fear that President Mugabe will fight the changes all the way. In 2008 he was quoted in a paper as stating:

“We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?”

While the President remains in a position of power, I fear that Zimbabwe’s future will remain on the precipice. However, if the political institutions of Zimbabwe are strengthened, I hope that unrestricted democracy can flourish. If this is so, the UK and the international community can take greater strides towards building stronger, more long-term development policies in league with the truly democratically elected Government of Zimbabwe.

The problems of Zimbabwe are so varied and complex, and I shall finish where I started. Since 2008 Zimbabwe has started to pick itself up from where it fell. It is right that we should now take this opportunity to see why Zimbabwe fell in the first place, and ensure that the work carried out on behalf of the UK is channelled into programmes that will help to bring true democracy, a stable and diverse economy and, most importantly, a healthy and poverty-free society to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a long way to go, but I hope our actions can help get it there.

I concur with the comments made about the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) and the excellent work of his Committee, including on its visit to Zimbabwe in February. I have long taken an interest—since my arrival in the House in 2001—in events in the African continent. There is universal good will from political parties across the United Kingdom towards Zimbabwe and a hope that matters will improve there. However, the problems that Mugabe has created in Zimbabwe continue, as he enters his 88th year in a couple of months and shows no sign of being about to release his stranglehold on the Zimbabwean people.

Some of the facts and figures have been outlined by other hon. Members, and the helpful documentation supplied today shows us that while life expectancy is improving generally in sub-Saharan Africa—albeit, of course, from a very low base—it has actually worsened in Zimbabwe in recent years. It is difficult to obtain reliable and well informed statistics, but between 80% and 90% of the citizens of that nation state could be described as being unemployed.

Some comment has been made about what might be regarded as a precipitate move towards elections, which are due to be held at some point in the next six months. A referendum date on the new constitution is scheduled for 30 June next year. However, the portents are not good. We hear that the Commercial Farmers Union in Zimbabwe has said that intimidation is increasing.

I shall just mention a couple of examples from within the past month. A prisoner who spent two months with his intestines hanging out has finally been taken to hospital for treatment. The Harare remand prison superintendent said that the suspected bicycle thief was given medical assistance after his condition was noticed during an appearance in court, and the chief superintendant said that the suspect was shot in the stomach when police tried to arrest him in September. He has been using colostomy bags to cover his intestines, and taking painkillers. His trial has now been postponed. That report is dated November 2010.

Another report—similarly, from within the past eight or nine weeks—suggests that 1,000 adults are newly infected with HIV every week in Zimbabwe. A similar number of people are dying of AIDS. DFID is doing excellent work, particularly in funding the work of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, to reduce transmission from pregnant mothers to their babies, so that children can be born HIV free and can go on to lead healthy lives. The scale of the problem is quite staggering. I have given two examples to demonstrate the massive problems in Zimbabwe and the scale of the task that lies ahead.

We understand that the EU’s restrictive measures come up for renewal in February next year. Various hon. Members have outlined the scale of our assistance to Zimbabwe. It is important that we try to ensure, as far as possible, that the aid is well targeted. It is difficult, if not impossible, to ensure that every last dollar—or every last cent or penny piece—of the $90 million or $100 million of aid to Zimbabwe is not misappropriated by the regime. In so far as practical steps can and have been taken, such an approach needs to be continued to ensure that the regime does not take advantage of the assistance being offered.

Figures show that Zimbabwe is way off target in reducing child and maternal mortality rates. Despite all the efforts of DFID and others internationally to ensure that the carefully targeted assistance reaches those in need, statistics prove that the situation has improved only marginally in the past year or 18 months. I am reminded of an example that was used some time ago in relation to Zimbabwe. If the United Kingdom had an average household debt of £100,000 and it was reduced to £95,000 would it be argued that things were improving or would people say that we had a long way to go? Unfortunately, that appears to illustrate the position in Zimbabwe.

There has been a marginal improvement, but whatever steps and measures we take—at least one, if not two, hon. Members have made this point—neighbouring states can bring considerable influence to bear on Zimbabwe. It is absolutely clear that however much we rail and rage against Mugabe, he is impervious to the protest, the opposition and the condemnation heaped upon his head. There are neighbouring states with which we can have considerable influence, and we need to ensure that such influence is deployed constructively to get a better conclusion.

South Africa bears a considerable responsibility in trying to ensure that Zimbabwe moves in the right direction. We have influence with South Africa and other neighbouring states. I trust that the good work that DFID has been doing—and will continue to do—will receive the widespread endorsement of Members across the Chamber; indeed, I have no doubt that it will. However, we need to remain focused on the fact that the problems in Zimbabwe are monumental. They are of Everest-like proportions, however insignificantly they have been reduced in the past year or two. We must keep the pressure on through those third party nation states that are close to Zimbabwe and that can apply pressure. We must do what we can to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe have a better future than they have had a past.

We have heard a lot this afternoon, and about a number of issues. As the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) said, it is important not to ignore the politics of Zimbabwe in our debate today. The global political agreement—the GPA—was a step in the right direction for Zimbabwe, but, as a number of speakers have acknowledged, it was not ideal. A lot more is required from the Government of Zimbabwe on addressing the health care and education problems that were so eloquently outlined by the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell).

The right hon. Member for Gordon also pointed out that the people of Zimbabwe have a tremendous capacity for resilience. That is absolutely right, and it has already been shown. He mentioned the example of the hospital in Bulawayo, but there is another issue that we have to acknowledge in this debate. The infrastructure of Zimbabwe—a country that had one of the leading economies in southern Africa, boasting some of the best universities and hospitals—has been destroyed and degraded by Mugabe over a number of years. Although we want to see teachers, doctors and nurses returning to Zimbabwe, whatever we do with our aid, the key challenge is to help to rebuild that infrastructure, and particularly that university and hospital infrastructure. We still see a great rural-urban divide in health care—something that I want to talk about a little more—especially in women’s health, which the hon. Member for East Londonderry also mentioned.

Other Members have talked about the need for a southern Africa-based solution to the problems in Zimbabwe, and that is absolutely right. Other countries, particularly South Africa, have a role in addressing the issues in Zimbabwe and taking responsibility for their region. However, we have to be wary of that, given the example of what happened in the Congo. We must ensure that those African countries are not exploitative in their interactions with Zimbabwe. Although it is absolutely right that those countries should take a more active role, there are examples from history, including in the Congo, that indicate that such interest from neighbouring countries is not always benevolent.

One thing that we need to stress is that all the aid to Zimbabwe from DFID needs to be results orientated and target driven. We need to ensure that the aid gets to the people. The right hon. Member for Gordon mentioned Zimbabwe’s indigenisation restrictions, which prevent many companies and organisations from taking an active role in helping to build up the Zimbabwean economy, because of the need for the state to have a 51% share in those companies. That forms an important backdrop to the debate, because the restrictions prevent the engagement and interest of overseas companies in the Zimbabwean economy. When we focus our aid and our attentions through DFID, it is important to look at where that aid can be effectively targeted. A particularly important aspect of that is health, which I want briefly to talk about now.

As Members will be aware, I have a background in obstetrics, and I have always taken a keen interest in improving women’s health, not only in the United Kingdom but overseas. The leading cause of death among women in many countries in Africa is the problems associated with childbirth, including haemorrhage and eclampsia. The single most important focus of intervention in any health care system in many African countries is to ensure that assistance is available at the time of delivery. The World Health Organisation tells us that one of the great problems in Zimbabwe, particularly in rural areas, is the fact that, since the collapse of the health care system, the infrastructure of midwives and obstetricians has been completely degraded and destroyed. If we are going to focus aid effectively, we need to ensure that we provide assistance around the time of childbirth.

I want to highlight a few of the problems that exist. The WHO tells us that, in 1997, the maternal mortality rate in Zimbabwe was 700 per 1,000 live births. In 2005-06, it had more than trebled to 2,500. That is a significant increase, and it dramatically demonstrates the degradation of the health care service in Zimbabwe. Rates of HIV are also increasing. The hon. Member for East Londonderry made the point very well that some of the targeted interventions are working when dealing with the vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child. The rate of contraception use, particularly in urban areas of Zimbabwe, is also rising. Having said that, the HIV rate in Zimbabwe is 15.3% at the moment. The life expectancy for women in many parts of Zimbabwe is only 47, and the primary reason for that is HIV and AIDS.

I alluded earlier to the rural-urban divide. The problem is particularly pronounced in many rural areas of Zimbabwe, where women—and people generally—have difficulty accessing health care. Part of the reason for that is the breakdown of the hospital structure, but there is also a need to improve people’s knowledge about health care services through education.

We have seen models of health care developed in many other countries in Africa, such as Rwanda, where maternity and other health care services have been built up. Part of that has involved insurance coupons schemes that people can buy into in order to insure themselves against ill health. Another part of the access to health care involves teaching the population to have an awareness of when someone is ill—for example, in maternity, when someone is having an obstructed or difficult labour—and when they need to go to hospital or seek further help. Even when they do that, however, we need to ensure that the vital expertise that they need is available in hospitals. That involves not only supporting the development of the universities but ensuring that doctors and nurses feel safe enough to travel back to Zimbabwe to work there. At the moment, despite all the efforts, that is not happening.

Although we can agree that the Government in Zimbabwe are better than they were, that having a joint Government is a good thing and that steps are being taken in the right direction, a lot still needs to be done. Having a global political agreement is all very well, and it is good that the economy is improving, but the health and education infrastructure is still very much lacking. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us that the targeted aid that goes into Zimbabwe will be focused on the health infrastructure, and particularly on issues such as maternal mortality and training midwives in rural areas, as they will really make a difference to the people there.

This has been a good debate, with lots of well-informed speeches, but I particularly admire the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), who spoke with a great deal of knowledge as an obstetrician. What struck me most about his speech was his understanding that health problems in Zimbabwe are fundamentally constrained within the political environment, and that unless there is a political solution to the crisis that Zimbabwe faces, basic human needs will continue to be poorly met.

I spent a great deal of my time in the 1970s campaigning for change in southern Africa. I was a member of the executive committee of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. I spent quite a bit of time standing outside Rhodesia House, as it was then called, demanding an end to the unilateral declaration of independence and calling for true independence for the country.

I am delighted that Zimbabwe is free and has been free for 30 years—independence in Zimbabwe gave a significant boost to the momentum for independence in Namibia and South Africa—but I am sad that true freedom, human rights, the rule of law, peace and, above all, prosperity for the people of Zimbabwe are yet to come.

The hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) mentioned a southern African proverb: “Don’t look where you fell, but where you stumbled.” That is good advice. She talked about one stumble being the cave-in by Mugabe to the unreasonable demands of the so-called war veterans and the subsequent land invasions, but we would misunderstand the situation in Zimbabwe if we felt that that was the first stumble that took place.

The British colonial period did not cover our country in glory. The Jameson raid was a putsch by a white colonial adventurer. The independence process in the late 1950s and 1960s was botched and led to UDI in 1963. Then there were 17 years of an illegal regime—in defiance of this country, the legitimate authority. That delayed independence and created very serious problems for an independent Zimbabwe in 1980—not least a legacy of nearly two decades of war.

The problem of human rights abuse in Zimbabwe was clearly illustrated in the remarks of the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell). The country is still plagued by appallingly bad governance and by an absence of the rule of law. When Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister seeks to challenge illegal and unconstitutional appointments to top jobs—for example, the appointment of Gideon Gono as director of the central bank of Zimbabwe—he is unable to use the courts to set them aside and make new appointments, despite the fact that the official procedures should allow that.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is currently about 90%. The country used to be better off than most African countries. The latest figures I have been able to dig out show that gross domestic product per capita stands at some $450. That figure is several years old and it is possible that the position has improved, but that $450 per person in Zimbabwe compared with $618 per person in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.

The HIV infection rate, as we have just heard from the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, is extremely high—one of the highest in Africa and about three times the average for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Some 15% of the population are infected compared with a still appallingly high average for sub-Saharan Africa of 5%. Life expectancy at 44 years has fallen dramatically from more than 60 years, which applied at the time of independence. Again, it compares unfavourably with other sub-Saharan countries, for which the average is 52 years.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Swaziland in the early 1980s the HIV infection rate was about 1%, but by 2000 it was nearly 40%? Although we live in an age when there is better access to HIV drugs, even in many parts of Africa, targeted interventions to deal with HIV—given the high rate in Zimbabwe—should form an important part of any aid strategy for the country.

Yes, I strongly agree with that. During the Committee’s visit to Zimbabwe in February, we spent some time looking at HIV counselling and testing programmes and other measures funded by DFID that were delivered largely by NGOs. Most certainly, we should be providing aid. Even with a framework of poor governance, it is possible for British aid to make a difference. The availability of antiretroviral drugs, for instance, has improved because of the help of outside donors, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Some indicators are good. Health expenditure in Zimbabwe is higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa, as are sanitation rates. In Zimbabwe, 69% of mothers are attended by a skilled childbirth attendant, compared with 46% elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, Zimbabwe has the capacity to recover, when it finds the political leadership to enable it to address problems of catastrophically bad governance. Some of its infrastructure—literacy levels, for instance, are better than in many other countries in Africa—provides the country with the opportunity to bounce back.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and for his work on the all-party Africa group. He talks about the country’s great potential, but the problem is its political system and governance. Unfortunately, the depressing fact is that what comes after Mugabe may be no improvement. Is it not the case that the urgent issue to address is what South Africa and other neighbouring countries can do to deal with the country’s political governance?

That issue must be addressed by all the neighbouring countries—South Africa being the biggest and most powerful and having the most interdependent economy, given that many South African companies still have plant and operations in Zimbabwe. As the country with the greatest number of Zimbabwean refugees on its territory, South Africa also has the most to gain from achieving political progress. We should do everything that we can to encourage and support the South African Government, and the Governments of other neighbouring states, in their efforts.

It would be wrong, however, to make it sound as though nothing has been achieved. After the last election, the global political agreement was brokered and delivered by political pressure from South Africa and neighbouring states.

Several Members have mentioned the catastrophe in agriculture. In 1998, commercial farmers’ output was 2.3 million tonnes of beef, grain, tobacco and other crops. In 2007, after the farm invasions, that had fallen to fewer than 1 million tonnes. Equally important, however, is the collapse of rural peasant agriculture. The staple crop in Zimbabwe is maize, and average production throughout the 1990s was 1.7 million tonnes a year, but in 2007-08 it fell to only a third of that—650,000 tonnes. As the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire and other Members have said, Zimbabwe went from being a food-exporting country to a food-importing country.

The Zimbabwean people show tremendous courage and resilience, as members of the Select Committee saw during our visit. We saw nurses getting on and providing health services in a remarkable way. The hospital that our Committee visited looked and felt better than many hospitals I have seen in Africa. Ultimately, what makes a good hospital is good, well-trained staff who are well managed and well led. Wards are clean, and equipment is repaired.

We also saw good local government officials looking at ways of extending sanitation systems, and brave performers and artists at the Book café in Harare who were prepared to challenge the regime in ways that they could get away with—through culture and music.

The last election was, of course, deeply flawed. Independent observers appointed by other African countries—members of the east African community, the East African Parliament and the African council of churches—reported that it was fundamentally flawed. Morgan Tzvangirai received more votes than Mugabe in the first round, but then the level of intimidation was such that he was driven out of the country and did not compete in the second round. As I said earlier, the global political agreement that was created after the election would not have been created had it not been for pressure from neighbouring African countries.

There is some concern about Mugabe’s appointment of six ambassadors —that is, six tribal leaders—across Rhodesia, which will clearly give him some clout in next year’s election. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with many of us who are present that if that election is to be fair and democratic, and if the democratic process is to be transparent, the leaders appointed by Mugabe must be removed?

I think that there will be an election next year, and the international community needs to prepare for an election next year. I believe that other countries need to put observers in place now, rather than a month or two before the election, to report on what is happening on the ground, and that those observers need to come from Africa. [Interruption.] I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) protesting, but I still think that they need to come from Africa. [Interruption.] No doubt my hon. Friend will have more to say when she makes her own speech.

Those who delivered the damning reports on the intimidation and violence that took place during the last election were, by and large, African observers, because they could get into the country to observe and others could not. If it is possible to obtain a wider range of observers, that is fine: I would strongly support such a development. However, there is clearly more traction politically when Africans from the region blow the whistle than there is for Europeans who do not live in the region year in, year out—notably those in this country—and who have colonial baggage. It is important to ensure that resources are available to enable observers from non-governmental organisations and other bodies in the region to get into the country, get there early, and start giving us their reports.

The global political agreement was a fragile compromise. It was the best that could be delivered after the last election. However, it has provided a window of opportunity. Zimbabwe is not well governed under the unity Government, but it is governed a great deal better than it was under a ZANU-PF Government. The Ministries that are led by MDC Ministers are much better managed than those that are still led by ZANU-PF Ministers. I hope that the people of Zimbabwe will support the parties whose Ministers are delivering palpable improvements, and that they will be allowed to show that support in an election.

Does the hon. Gentleman, who is my colleague on the Select Committee, not recall that Zimbabwe’s Minister for Health and his permanent secretary were from different parties—the MDC and ZANU-PF—but they were working very effectively together as they had gone to the same school? People from the two parties are delivering results in some areas, therefore; it is just unfortunate that that is not apparent in many quarters.

I am glad to be reminded of that; yes, it is true. In order to create a good future for Zimbabwe, every opportunity must be capitalised on, and some people from the ZANU-PF political tradition have a great deal to contribute to the future of Zimbabwe.

The UK has always been a large donor. In 2003, we gave some $59 million to Zimbabwe, and by 2008 that had risen to $89 million, an increase of 50%. The right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the Chairman of the Select Committee, told the House that the figure has now risen to $100 million. When we were in Zimbabwe, we saw that aid being used to good purpose, such as in health care as both I and the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich have mentioned, and in humanitarian relief. A very small amount of aid goes to the Government to support two or three advisers in the office of the Prime Minister, but almost all the aid is channelled through the United Nations or non-governmental organisations as there is still not sufficient confidence to channel it through the Government of Zimbabwe. DFID ought now to be planning for that to change, so as to be ready to provide aid through the Government when conditions allow.

The global political agreement following the last, flawed, election set a timetable for the approval of the new constitution and stated that a fresh set of elections should be held after the constitution had been agreed. The process is behind time; consultation on the new constitution ended behind schedule, in October. The consultation process was flawed—the security forces were intimidating people—yet it provides a platform for elections to take place.

Robert Mugabe is threatening to end the global political agreement in February next year, prior to an election, because that is when it formally comes to an end. Our country, and other countries in the region, should be saying that the unity Government must continue until there has been a referendum on the new constitution, and if the referendum approves the new constitution, until there is an election. Any manoeuvring to force MDC Ministers out of the Government before an election would hinder a process through which a freer and fairer election could take place.

I do not know whether the UK should be optimistic or pessimistic, but DFID and the Foreign Office must act on the assumption that there is an opportunity to make political progress. If we were to do otherwise, it would become a self-fulfilling prophesy and make a setback more likely. To have got to a position, after decades of single-party rule and catastrophically bad governance, where there is a power-sharing arrangement within the Government, provides an opportunity.

We should be using aid to support a process of reform and change. I do not know whether it will work, but we certainly should not pull the plug. I was pleased that the new Government responded to the report that the Select Committee wrote before the general election, and I am glad that they understand and support it very well. We should be planning to expand our programmes of assistance, so that if there are opportunities, following an election, for a different kind of governance in Zimbabwe, we will be in a position to move quickly and show that a different style of government delivers tangible benefits for the people.

One thing that we should be addressing is the question of land reform. A report by the all-party group on Africa last year went through some of the history and, I hope, challenged some of the myths, which are widely believed in Africa. One such myth is that Britain failed to deliver on promises to pay billions of pounds for land purchases. Such promises were not made, although Britain has put in official development assistance money for land reform. The programmes of land reform that we funded, before the farm invasions made it an impossible thing to do, were relatively effective. Funding land reform cannot be left to Britain alone. We should be talking with other donors, in particular the World Bank. We should encourage it to set up a trust fund especially for this purpose, and we should seek to win support for it from others in the EU and from the donor community more widely. We should do all that we can to remain a good friend of Zimbabwe during its troubled times and to prepare to expand our programmes of assistance as soon as we get signals from the country that the money will be well spent.

It is a great honour to follow the contribution of the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley), who knows so much about this subject, and indeed the many other distinguished contributions from right hon. and hon. Members today.

I wish to speak briefly about agricultural development in Zimbabwe. Many speakers have outlined the political situation, which is obviously critical and indeed is pertinent to agricultural development. However, although agriculture might not have the profile of mining or tourism, it has always been vital, as hon. Members have said, to Zimbabwe’s economy, as a food producer, exporter and employer. I have some personal experience of the very fine quality of Zimbabwean coffee through my employment in the coffee trade over the past 25 years.

I firmly believe that as the political situation is resolved—as it must be—Zimbabwe will begin to resume its place as an agricultural powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa. That it was a powerhouse is beyond doubt. The hon. Member for York Central mentioned the 1980s, throughout which a newly independent Zimbabwe provided food security for the region, regularly exporting its surplus maize to Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Zimbabwe also supplied countries further afield, such as Ethiopia. Indeed, it was the place from which donor agencies bought food supplies to send elsewhere as aid. In 1986, the country had a maize reserve of nearly 2 million tonnes after a record harvest of about 3 million tonnes. To put that into context, as the hon. Gentleman did, the production level in 2008 was about 470,000 tonnes. This year, there has been an improvement and the figure is expected to be 1.3 million tonnes, but that is still less than half the level of production in 1986. So, this year, Zimbabwe will still be dependent on grain imports, although to a lesser extent than in the recent past. The welcome deregulation of the market will make it easier to meet the deficit.

I shall leave it to others to trace the history of that decline—the changes in marketing, an increase in land devoted to cash crops, serious falls in productivity and, in particular, land seizures—as I would like briefly to address the way forward for agriculture. The Select Committee’s report states:

“Land reform in Zimbabwe is a complex issue. It is also a highly-charged political issue between Zimbabwe and the UK. However, resolution is essential for political stability and continued economic”

growth. I certainly do not intend to wade into those deep waters—that is for others with far more specific knowledge of the situation. All I would say is that although I have followed events in Zimbabwe from afar, I have spoken with those who were very closely involved on more than one occasion. They filled me with great sadness about what has happened. Reform was desperately needed, but it could have been achieved in a very different way.

I will offer my personal experience from Tanzania, which might show a way forward for Zimbabwe in certain circumstances. In 1973, many commercial coffee farms in Tanzania that belonged to British, Greek, German and other nationals in the Kilimanjaro region were nationalised. For more than two decades, they were then owned and run by local villages and co-operatives, which were generally unable to invest. Production and quality declined so that by the mid 1990s, production was about 10% of what it had been in the early 1970s.

The Tanzanian Government wanted to see a revival of the farms but were conscious of the vital issue of land ownership. They considered two models: joint ventures and long-term leases. I was somewhat involved in the discussions in my capacity as secretary and then chairman of the Tanzania Coffee Association. We advocated leases and the Tanzanian Government, to their great credit, chose that route. We felt that that was the best way forward because, unlike with joint ventures, ownership of the land remained firmly in the hands of the local people, villages and co-operatives. The lease allowed the investor to develop the farm for the long term, paying a rent to the village or co-operative and employing local people while remaining the tenant.

The leases—I declare an interest, as I am involved in one—have so far worked reasonably well. Previously, the land brought almost no income to the community and little employment, and now it brings a healthy rent that has been used by the local communities to build school classrooms and much else. Many smallholder farmers in the surrounding area can supplement their income through employment.

I do not claim that such a model would work perfectly or that it would work in every situation. I am very much aware that there is justifiable anger over the leasing to new tenants of farms that were seized violently from those who had built them up over decades. By contrast, in Tanzania former owners were often encouraged to lease back their former properties and the ownership was in the hands of community groups, not powerful individuals. Such leasing arrangements are a way to put land ownership and its use to work for the benefit of the whole community while attracting investment and skilled management.

One objective of the Zimbabwean Government in recent years has been to transfer land to small-scale farmers. I welcome the objective, although not the manner in which it has often been carried out. My experience of smallholder agriculture, however, is that without good infrastructure to support it, it will be at best subsistence farming and certainly will not fulfil its potential. The infrastructure needed is physical—rural roads, storage, equipment, seeds and fertilizers—and, just as importantly, it involves training.

The hon. Gentleman has not at any stage indicated that out of the 4,000 farms that were seized from white farmers, 2,000 are lying destitute and in ruins. Does he see a role for those white farmers who have had their land seized in perhaps looking after that land again or does he see that land being reinstated to them? I would like to hear his ideas, because their expertise and energy could rejuvenate those farms.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman; in fact, in the example in Tanzania that I gave, two or three of the farms were taken back on long leases by the farmers who had developed them in the first place.

The need to improve the ailing infrastructure for water and sanitation is referred to frequently, as it has been in this debate, in relation to the need to provide clean water to prevent disease. My hon. Friend makes a good point about infrastructure: we need to invest in it to support the nation’s agriculture. I hope that DFID will consider how to promote the development of infrastructure in a way that involves good governance and accountability, thereby instilling confidence in the partners who need to involve themselves in such large infrastructure projects.

I entirely agree. DFID and aid agencies that give bilateral and multilateral support can play an important role in supporting infrastructure. I have discussed infrastructure in relation to agriculture, and I would add irrigation to that, but infrastructure for sanitation, health and education is also important.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although it is good to get land into small farms and perhaps to start up the co-operatives again, it is vital to have an incentive on pricing? The prices of products must be right so that those people can make a living and so that things do not fall apart again. DFID needs to consider that aspect and to ensure that there are returns on products, many of which, as he will know from his experience, are excellent.

That is why I welcome the opening up of agricultural markets in Zimbabwe, which has been one of the most important Government reforms.

The need for rural infrastructure is shown by the figures on maize yields. The area planted to maize in Zimbabwe this year is 1.8 million hectares, which compares with 1.37 million hectares in 2000, but 300,000 fewer tonnes of maize will be produced as yields decline from 1.18 tonnes to 0.74 tonnes per hectare. How can yields be improved? The Select Committee report discusses conservation agriculture, which is supported by the protracted relief programme that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) mentioned. As the report states, Christian Aid recognises that

“DFID’s consistent support to this area despite initial reluctance by other key stakeholders”

has been vital, highlighting that it

“had been particularly beneficial to vulnerable communities”

and that it was

“proven to lift households out of subsistence poverty”.

I congratulate DFID on its support for that programme under both the previous and current Governments and on taking the lead on it.

Conservation agriculture teaches people how better to manage their land and how to get a profitable harvest. According to Christian Aid, it enables households to get at least two, three, five or, in many cases—I could hardly believe this—10 tonnes of maize per hectare. That is quite incredible and I welcome the Select Committee’s recommendation that DFID should explore how conservation agriculture could be extended to other parts of sub-Saharan Africa where it could be used. I also welcome the Government’s positive response to that suggestion and I ask the Minister to ensure that that support continues.

The ordinary people of Zimbabwe have suffered grievously over the years, but they have shown, as many speakers have said, extraordinary resilience and courage. There is no doubt that the country can once again become the agricultural powerhouse that it should be. Proper land reform, not arbitrary seizure and settlement, is an essential part of that, as is effective support to the growing number of smallholder farmers. I welcome the Committee’s report, DFID’s response and the Government’s continuing commitment to the people of Zimbabwe.

Order. I intend to call the wind-ups at half-past 6 and about four Members wish to participate in the debate. If hon. Members show some self-restraint on time, that will be very useful and will allow more Members to get in.

I apologise for having had to leave the debate for a short while. I had an 88-year-old constituent, Mary Gentry, coming up today and I had to have a cup of tea with her.

I welcome the report very much. The right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) persevered although I know there were times when he felt that he would perhaps never get the Committee to Zimbabwe. That was due not necessarily to what was happening in Zimbabwe, but to things at this end. I welcome the fact that he was able to go and welcome in particular the fact that the report highlights the generous assistance given—quite rightly, in my view—by the people of the United Kingdom to the people of Zimbabwe, despite all the lies and the venom that Mugabe and ZANU-PF have directed at us.

As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, I am glad that we were able to give some little help to the inquiry and to members of the Committee in planning the programme for their visit to Zimbabwe. As the House knows, during the period when it was almost impossible for UK parliamentarians to visit Zimbabwe, I undertook several undercover visits to that country to see at first hand what was happening on the ground. Things have improved, because on my last visit I was able to go in bona fide as Kate Hoey, Member of Parliament, which was quite nice. However, it is sad that, despite the resilience of those pressing for reform in Zimbabwe, there is still some way to go before conditions will be right for normal engagement by the UK in rebuilding the infrastructure, economy and institutions of Zimbabwe.

Just last week, on 29 and 30 November, our Minister for Africa, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham), represented Her Majesty’s Government in Tripoli at the third EU-Africa summit. Six topics were dealt with at plenary sessions. Of those topics, two in particular were relevant to creating the right conditions for engagement and progress towards development in Zimbabwe. Topic No. 4 covered peace and security, while topic No. 5 looked at governance and human rights. I very much hope that the Minister here tonight will give us details of commitments made and undertakings given on specific human rights issues by participants at the summit. I am sure he will have been briefed by the Minister for Africa and hope he can mention those subjects.

Unfortunately, Mugabe attended that summit, which in itself is rather outrageous and has been a cause for concern. I hope the Minister can tell us that Mugabe’s own record of political violence and human rights abuse was raised during discussions in Tripoli. In February 2002, the European Council imposed restrictive measures on named Zimbabwean individuals, following the expulsion of the head of the EU observer team covering the presidential elections. The Council said at that time that the

“EU remained profoundly concerned at the continuing political violence, the serious violations of human rights and the restrictions on the media in Zimbabwe.”

The specific reference to restrictions on the media was significant. Now, nearly nine years later, there is still grave cause for concern—not only at the lack of progress towards freedom of the press, but because there is still no genuinely open and depoliticised state broadcasting network. People could watch a television news bulletin in Zimbabwe and think that the Movement for Democratic Change and Morgan Tsvangirai did not exist.

Recently, the all-party group on Zimbabwe was addressed by Foster Dongozi. Foster is secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and president of the Southern Africa Journalists Association. He gave a very sobering account of the continuing difficulties facing members of his profession in Zimbabwe and a bleak assessment of the general political environment in the country, rather similar to our ambassador’s report.

Dongozi gave examples of abuses of human rights, which sadly continue to be very widespread. Relentless harassment and political persecution are meted out to those who campaign for reform and stand up to the political and economic bullies of the ZANU-PF elite and, increasingly importantly, the military high command.

The country-wide process of consultation on constitutional reform, which should have started but had not done so when the Committee visited, has been severely impaired by violence. There has been a deliberate intimidation programme throughout the country, very carefully planned by those who see reform as a threat to all their entrenched political and economic privilege. That intimidation is reinforced by the many repressive laws that remain on the statute book. They deny Zimbabweans freedom of association and freedom of expression. Foster Dongozi mentioned a number of statutes that particularly need to be repealed or radically amended: the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act and so on. He drew attention to the recent detention of Dumisani Sibanda for reporting that the police force was recruiting Mugabe loyalists, so-called war veterans, in preparation for elections next year, which it is. Mr Sibanda is president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and works for Zimbabwe’s Newsday and The Standard. Earlier this month, the freelance journalist Sydney Saize was beaten up in Mutare, and on the same day in Harare two other freelance journalists, Nkosana Dlamini and Anderson Manyere, were arrested, detained and then charged with “criminal nuisance”.

Roy Bennett, whom we all know very well in this Parliament, a very brave Zimbabwean whose great-grandfather, interestingly enough, came from Coleraine in the constituency of the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell), has had to leave Zimbabwe again and go to South Africa, because he has been told very clearly that the police are after him. He spent many months in prison. There is even a warrant out for the arrest of Wilf Mbanga, who edits The Zimbabwean from exile here in the UK, so I hope that the European arrest warrant does not apply. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government use every opportunity to raise those cases directly with the Government of Zimbabwe and with other Southern African Development Community Governments, who stood as guarantors of the global political agreement.

The International Development Committee’s report makes one reference to the worrying developments surrounding the recent discovery of diamond deposits in Zimbabwe. Since the Committee’s visit, the impact in terms of human rights abuses against those engaged in mining has been widely reported and become a huge issue. The wider impact in terms of corruption and a distortion of the political landscape should not be underestimated, either. It will have a direct effect by undermining efforts towards economic and social development.

The Kimberley process group, at its recent meeting in Jerusalem, could not reach agreement over whether Zimbabwe had complied with the conditions to allow diamonds from Marange to be certified for sale. Despite the deadlock, and in what seemed to be a rather irregular intervention, however, Abbey Chikane, the Kimberley process monitor for Zimbabwe, intervened personally to certify rough diamonds from Marange for sale. The auction raised $160 million, but when the sale came to light Mr Chikane’s actions were overruled by the Kimberley process chairman, Boaz Hirsch.

I have expressed my concern before to the UK Government about the behaviour of Mr Chikane, and I hope that in responding to this debate the Minister will be able to say something more about that important issue. The Kimberley process group is currently chaired by the European Union, so we as an EU member state have some traction and a real responsibility to ensure that the key commitments in the agreed joint work plan are met by Zimbabwe—perhaps even more so, given that the Zimbabwean Minister for Mines and Mining Development announced that Zimbabwe would boycott the most recent meeting of the working group on monitoring in Brussels. From what I have said on press freedom, intimidation over the constitution outreach programme, elections preparation and diamond mining, it is clear that in many areas human rights violations continue.

Paragraph 64 of the Committee’s report points out that international donor re-engagement will be determined by two key benchmarks: the extent to which the global political agreement is implemented in Zimbabwe, and progress towards The Hague principles. Owing to the lack of time, I shall not go through those principles, but they clearly state that several things must happen, so I urge the Minister to do all he can to ensure that the UK brings the issue to the attention of our EU partners, because, importantly, in February they will consider the renewal of restrictive measures on certain named Zimbabweans.

My hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) quite rightly said that those are not sanctions but restrictive measures, and, although the restrictions, including a travel ban and assets freeze, have been widely misrepresented in Africa, the measures are targeted only at those closely associated with the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe. It would be foolhardy to lift them on the promise of good behaviour in future, but I worry that behind the scenes somewhere in the European Union people might well be discussing that.

The restrictions must be lifted only once reforms have been implemented on the basis of the undertakings that Mugabe made when he signed the global political agreement. I am sure that ministerial discussions are already under way, because I know that these things take time, and I hope that the Minister takes from this debate a clear message to our EU partners that the targeted measures must be maintained against those who still impede reform in Zimbabwe. I cannot stress how important that is. It is absolutely crucial, because those restrictions continue to play an important part in supporting those who struggle for human rights.

Finally, we all know what an amazing country Zimbabwe is, particularly those hon. Members who have just visited it for the first time. It is a country full of resilient people. It is a country that was once very prosperous and could be prosperous again. The people just need the opportunity to elect, in free and fair elections, a Government who respect the rule of law and the human rights of every Zimbabwean. There cannot be free and fair elections without a new voting roll, a new constitution and genuinely independent election observers. If, along with the EU, we donate to and help Zimbabwe, there must be monitoring of its elections beyond that of the African Union. The Commonwealth must be involved and there must be commitments from all the countries that have been so supportive. Our new Government, who I am pleased are sticking to what the previous Government did, must keep reminding the Zimbabwean Government, South Africa and the African Union of their responsibilities. South Africa said formally that it would endorse, support and monitor the global political agreement. That must be done, and Parliament will continue to give as much support as possible.

I support what the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) said. In 2000, I was an election observer in Zimbabwe. I was banned by Mugabe because I was so critical of the regime—I said that it was destroying democracy and the country.

Regardless of the good or bad of the colonial past, Mugabe is now a dictator, and as such, he needs something to attack. He has therefore attacked white Zimbabweans. Like other hon. Members, while I was there I noted how much respect there was between white Zimbabweans and black Zimbabweans. The issue is a political one that was brought about by ZANU-PF and Mugabe. That concentrates the mind on how he has destroyed the country.

I endorse the Minister’s view that the issue is one of governance. Whatever we do in Zimbabwe, unless we get the governance right, most of the money will be frittered away.

As many hon. Members have said, Zimbabwe is not a country that is poor in resources. Speaking as a farmer, I know that it has some of the most benign and beautiful land anywhere in the world. When it was settled many years ago, two crops of wheat could be grown a year. The resources are therefore there. This was not only about sharing out land, but about having commercial farming so that Zimbabwe can produce real resource.

The way in which Mugabe and the ZANU-PF regime destroyed the farms in Zimbabwe did not affect only the people who owned the farms; there were medical centres and schools on the farms, so as the farms were destroyed, the infrastructure was destroyed along with them. Those things must be rebuilt.

The regime now wants to take control of all white-owned businesses. What Zimbabwe actually needs is internal investment. It is good that we can provide investment, but if we could get the political situation right, investment would come to Zimbabwe because it has the potential to build its economy quickly, as many hon. Members have said.

Zimbabwe is an interesting country, because it is—or certainly was—one of the most educated countries in Africa. For a man who wants to run a dictatorship, perhaps that was the greatest mistake: Mugabe educated the people of Zimbabwe so that they could see a better way and a better future. That is what brought about the MDC.

As we help and support Zimbabwe, we must ensure that we do not further the regime of Mugabe and ZANU-PF and that we see real change. It was with great sadness that I and many hon. Members watched that great country being destroyed. It can rise again, and I believe that it will. As the Minister considers support for Zimbabwe, I hope he will bring about real change, and I am sure he will. We must not forget that ZANU-PF and Mugabe do not believe in democracy and do not understand it as we understand it; they just believe in intimidating and persecuting people and ensuring that they vote for them. Anything that we can do to bring about democratic change will also bring about economic change and a prosperous Zimbabwe in future.

I should like to bring to the House’s attention the plight of former public sector workers in Zimbabwe, when it was Southern Rhodesia. Their pensions have not been paid for some considerable time—almost eight years, since 2003. Today I ask the Minister to consider what he can do for the aid fund to help those individuals, UK citizens among them, to regain their pensions.

The Minister will be familiar with the history of the case. Between 12 December 1979 and 17 April 1980, Southern Rhodesia was ruled directly by the UK. The pension fund that then existed was a consolidated revenue fund with no trustees. That meant that Her Majesty’s Government, who effectively took on responsibility for the fund when they were in government in Southern Rhodesia for that very short period, had a duty of care. On Zimbabwe’s independence, the UK Government were concerned to ensure that appropriate provisions were made, and they believed that there were full safeguards in the new constitution for the pension arrangements of former public sector workers. The reality, however, was rather different.

In February 2003, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe failed to make foreign currency available for those pension payments, which was in breach of paragraph 2(1) of schedule 6 and section 112 of the constitution. A number of requests have been made to secure the restarting of the pension payments and, as I understand it, in September 2009 the director of the Zimbabwean Government’s pensions office indicated that $3.5 million might be available and asked for applications from previous public sector workers now living in South Africa, Australia or the UK. So far, 850 applications have been received from those now living in South Africa and 350 from individuals in the UK. They are represented by a body called the Overseas Service Pensioners Association, which for many years has been championing the cause of getting the pensions payments started again.

OSPA has tried to establish how many individuals are affected across the world, and the best estimate is 1,200. There are different estimates, but OSPA believes that that is the right figure. That is relevant because until we understand how many people are affected, it is hard to quantify the figures that we are talking about and therefore reach a ballpark estimate of how much help we are seeking from the Minister and his aid budget.

Having reached that number and examined the applications already received, OSPA has calculated that if it allows for a reduction of one third for options of commutation, which most pensioners have taken up, and then uprates the figure to reflect the increase in the retail prices index, the appropriate annual figure to cover all individuals affected would be £4 million. It has made the same calculation for the back payment, which comes to £26 million. OSPA is realistic and recognises that there is no real chance of getting the back payment, but it would like some support from the Government to help it at least to reinstate the old pension amount.

OSPA would like the Government to work with the Zimbabwean Government to identify whether they really do now intend to make sums available, and to consider setting up a review of what the Department for International Development can do, using its aid budget or any other source of funds, to put the individuals affected back in pocket. They are ageing, so if we do not do something shortly, the money will not have the value to them that it should.

I should like to make three points to the House in the closing moments of the debate. First, it was extraordinarily helpful that the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the Chair of the International Development Committee, brought the House up to date with the views of our ambassador in Harare. That is a good precedent. Some time has passed since the Committee visited Zimbabwe in February, and it would be helpful if in future ambassadors or high commissioners shared with the House an open letter or report to bring the House up to date on their views before such debates. We are now much more used to open diplomacy, and I would have thought that that would be a genuine benefit to the House.

Secondly, the views of the three members of the Committee who went to Zimbabwe were also a great benefit to the debate. Sections of the Poujadist press seek to portray any overseas visit by right hon. and hon. Members as some sort of a jolly, but having spent a Parliament chairing the International Development Committee, I must say that there is nothing jolly about witnessing other people’s chronic and enduring poverty, or seeing people suffering from HIV/AIDS, or talking to people about the deplorable conditions in which they live because of poverty. The House benefits enormously from the first-hand experience and testament of those who have witnessed—in this case—Zimbabwe. The work done by members of the Committee is much to be appreciated, because when they go to places such as Zimbabwe they spend a week away from the House and are unable to do their constituency work, so when they return, the burden on them is even greater.

My third point has not been touched on in the debate, which is why I am keen to make it. I suspect that many right hon. and hon. Members have not insignificant Zimbabwean communities in their constituencies. Many of those people have for some time been in limbo. Comparatively few of them were granted refugee status, but for perfectly understandable reasons, successive Home Secretaries decided not to order those who were refused refugee or asylum status to return to Zimbabwe. Those people have therefore been here in limbo, and many have been unable to take up work.

I am sure that other hon. Members know of people in the same situation. I am talking about teachers, trade unionists and farmers—people who have real skills. One tragedy of conflict-affected countries is the flight of intellect, as much as the flight of capital. Such people could make a real contribution to life in Zimbabwe again. I therefore hope that Ministers will consider this proposal. There will come a time—hopefully—when those people will increasingly want to return to Zimbabwe. I do not think that we should look at my proposal in terms of giving people money to go home, because those people have real skills. Given that the total aid budget for Zimbabwe is $100 million, will my hon. Friend the Minister consider the possibility of an endowment fund, whereby talented Zimbabweans resident in the UK could apply to DFID for an endowment to return to undertake a specific project or work, whether health care for nurses, teaching for teachers, or farming for those with farming skills? That would be a positive encouragement to people. Their talents could be acknowledged and recognised, and they could go back to Zimbabwe with the finances first to give them the confidence to return, and secondly, to make a real difference.

Otherwise, we—the NHS and so on—will benefit from their talent, skills and education, but for a generation all that talent, knowledge and expertise has effectively been stolen from Zimbabwe. That is another piece of collateral damage inflicted upon Zimbabwe by its political situation. I suspect that many of those who are here—especially as they have not been granted refugee status, and given the continued unsettled nature of their lives here—would welcome the opportunity to make a contribution in their own country. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister and colleagues in the Home Office will give some creative thought to how we can enable Zimbabweans to return to Zimbabwe to make a positive contribution, rather than feel that they have to cling on here because they have no future back home.

I join the hon. Members who have thanked the Committee for this excellent report. It has given us a good foundation for our debate today, and I am sure that the House will agree that we have had a particularly well-informed debate because of the expertise shown by many hon. Members across the House, both from their work on the Committee and from previous work experience in Africa and elsewhere.

The key question which faces the Government, and which faced the previous Government, was how we can provide development assistance to Zimbabwe and support for reform and a return to democracy while at the same time ensuring that we do not provide succour for the hard-line repressive elements of the regime. That is a delicate path to tread, but it is our view that the only way forward is to pursue that twin-track approach. We must seek to help the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered so much in recent years, but at the same time we must maintain the pressure for reform, democratisation and an end to brutality and terror by those in the Government who want to maintain their power and corrupt rule.

In the debate, hon. Members have spoken about the poverty, the degradation of the health service, the state of the economy and the political repression in Zimbabwe. The hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) spoke about the repressive legislation over many years. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) reminded us that the UN human development report placed Zimbabwe last out of 169 countries in its most recent index. The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) reminded us that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is between 80% and 90%. The hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), using his experience and expertise, told us of the collapse of the health infrastructure, which has caused a massive increase in the maternal mortality rate. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) reminded us of the continuing intimidation of the opposition media in Zimbabwe despite the global political agreement.

As several hon. Members have said, Zimbabwe did not need to be in its present position. The cause of the people’s suffering is the actions—and sometimes the inaction—of the regime. The country still has the potential to be one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, as the hon. Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) reminded us. It is because of the magnitude of the problem that the Labour Government instituted a substantial programme of assistance to Zimbabwe. In 2009 UK aid was worth £60 million, the largest ever programme of UK aid to Zimbabwe. As the right hon. Member for Gordon, (Malcom Bruce) who chairs the Select Committee, reminds us, that assistance and those programmes of assistance from other countries have produced results. He told us of his visit to a hospital that had begun to operate very effectively as a result of the assistance given under the programmes. My hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) also reminded us that with investment and improvements in the infrastructure, the education and health systems could once again provide an effective service in many parts of the country.

The Committee report refers to the protracted relief programme supported by DFID, which—it points out—has already reached millions of vulnerable people in Zimbabwe and has been praised by the NGOs who take part as an “innovative flagship programme” of which DFID should be proud. The Committee recommends that the Department explore the option of scaling up the programme in Zimbabwe, and we support that recommendation.

The report also raises some questions about the operation of the protracted relief programme and makes some recommendations to make it even more effective. I note that that Government’s response says that they will consider those issues in their annual review of the programme, and we support that, but it should not be taken as detracting in any way from the overall achievements of that successful programme.

Alongside direct development assistance, the UK has also provided support to the office of the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, to enable him and his office to fulfil the functions set out in the global political agreement on policy design and implementation. Again, the Select Committee proposes that such support should continue, and we agree with the recommendation. We also agree with the recommendation that such support should be offered to other reforming ministries in the Government.

There are, of course, many question marks over the future of a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe, not least because ZANU-PF has substantially retained much of its hold on power. The Select Committee report points out that Mr Mugabe and ZANU-PF have not fulfilled their undertaking and have sought to undermine the MDC’s ability to deliver even in its limited areas of Government. Nevertheless, as the report also points out—and as has been made clear by a number of hon. Members—there has been some progress since the agreement. That is one of the reasons why it is right to continue with the DFID programme of assistance in Zimbabwe. That programme should be along the general lines of the existing programme, although we could make changes to it to draw upon the experience of the programme to date.

I note, for example, that the Select Committee raises the issues of maternal and child health, and suggests that the Government should consider the need and the opportunity for more support to rebuild the health system to provide improved quality of care, especially for pregnant women and children under five. That support would certainly be most welcome. It would be useful to hear from the Minister how the Government will consider implementing the recommendation relating to that aspect of the Select Committee report.

One suggestion that I would certainly commend to the Government is that DFID should commit itself to help to fund the removal of user fees for health services in Zimbabwe. That has produced amazing results in places such as Sierra Leone. We must also consider ways of supporting civil society organisations more directly, particularly in the run-up to the planned referendum on a new constitution. It must be emphasised that there has to be real progress towards that constitution, which was a crucial element of a global political agreement. A new constitution should have been adopted before new elections were held, and that should certainly still be our objective.

One other question that the Minister might be able to answer is that raised by the Select Committee about the Multi-Donor Trust Fund. Again, that has been widely recognised as providing a way of giving assistance without the risk of funds being diverted away from their intended purpose. The Government do not say anything specific about their attitude to the future of the fund in their response to the Committee’s report. I hope that the Minister will confirm the UK’s continued support for that type of initiative.

In my opening remarks I said that there must be a twin-track approach. The first track is to provide direct assistance to benefit the people of Zimbabwe and to ensure that that does not in any way provide sustenance to the hard-line repressive elements in the regime. That type of direct assistance must continue, and we endorse the Select Committee’s recommendation that the UK should give a high priority to Zimbabwe not only through the work of DFID but through that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and other Departments where relevant.

Given the obvious reluctance—to put it mildly—of ZANU-PF to share power in a genuine way, the second track is to ensure that pressure for change is maintained. As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, a key role has to be played by Zimbabwe’s neighbours. The Zimbabwean Government must comply with the rulings of the Southern Africa Development Community tribunal. The economic decline and instability in Zimbabwe has damaged all its neighbours in southern Africa, and we hope that those neighbours will continue their efforts to bring about reform and the full implementation of a power-sharing agreement. I would be interested to hear the Minister say, if he can, what recent contacts he has had with SADC tribunal members to make the point about the need to provide continued pressure on the Zimbabwe regime.

The entire world community must also play its part. We certainly endorse the recommendation of the Select Committee that

“progress on human rights and democracy must be demonstrated before all the EU’s restrictive measures placed on named individuals and organisations…can be lifted.”

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall said about that. There needs to be a flexible approach to the application of such measures, and they need to be kept under review to ensure that they are targeted most effectively. One example concerns the export of diamonds. Hon. Members have raised concerns that the proceeds have been diverted into the pockets of leading figures in ZANU-PF. That situation, and the evidence of forced labour and of the torture and harassment of miners, means that it is right that Zimbabwe should not be allowed a full resumption of the export of diamonds at this stage.

As I have said, ordinary Zimbabweans have suffered awfully over the past decade. We know that not just from what we see in the media or from the conclusions of reports such as the one that we are discussing today, but from speaking to Zimbabweans who have come to the UK. Like most Members, I meet them in my constituency. The hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) made some important points about the role that they could play while they are resident in the UK. Zimbabwe has all the potential to become once again an economic and agricultural powerhouse for southern Africa. We believe it right for the UK not just to provide humanitarian assistance in the short term, but to assist with the reconstruction of the country. However, that can be achieved only once there is genuine political reform—a democracy in which all parties compete on a level playing field, a free press, an end to the abuse of power and to violence, and the firm establishment of the rule of law.

I extend my thanks and congratulations to the Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), on arranging this debate, which allows the Committee’s excellent report on its important visit to Zimbabwe earlier this year to gain wider exposure in the House. The visit was extremely welcome, and was regarded as an important and excellently conducted process, not least by the Chairman. That was the feedback that we received from all those who came into contact with him and his Committee. It is unquestionably the case that he set the right tone, so ably and so sensitively, in leading this debate, on a country where we all want to see great improvements for the people, while also recognising that there are great sensitivities that we have to respect and therefore work our way around. It was absolutely right that the Committee should have gone to Zimbabwe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) said. Such visits count enormously in ensuring that we are well informed in this House and as part of the decision-making process.

I wish to place on record my admiration for those, from all parts of the House, who have made such thoughtful contributions to this debate, including those who sit on the International Development Committee, and in particular those who sat on it in advance of the general election. I am grateful both to the Committee, for the time and effort that it has put into reviewing my Department’s assistance to Zimbabwe, and, similarly, to the all-party Africa group, of which I was formerly a member, for its insightful and authoritative report on land in Zimbabwe earlier this year, which was debated in Westminster Hall. That debate was notably led by the hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley), who spoke knowledgably, passionately and pragmatically.

I need to declare a sort of interest. Although I was born up the road from Zimbabwe, in Tanzania, and was raised there and in Kenya, my parents lived in Harare in Zimbabwe in the mid-1980s.

The Committee’s inquiry into the DFID programme came at an opportune time. It was published about 15 months after the inception of the global political agreement and nearly a year after the formation of the inclusive Government—the Government of national unity. The GPA created the necessary space, as it has rightly been defined, to allow that necessary, but admittedly not perfect, situation to arise. I welcome the report and thank the Committee for its understanding not only of the challenges that Zimbabwe unquestionably faces, but of the significant potential to rebuild the country. The Government, and my Department in particular, greatly appreciate the fact that the report roundly endorsed the UK’s work in Zimbabwe and commended many of our programmes.

I am also pleased that the Committee acknowledged that DFID spending—about $100 million—is effective and reaches the intended beneficiaries, and that we have therefore helped to reassure hon. Members and others who may have had questions about taxpayers’ money being well spent. DFID, along with its donor partners, is effective in Zimbabwe at reaching the poorest and most vulnerable people. UK support saves lives, builds livelihoods, helps to restore the foundations for future growth and provides basic services. As has been mentioned, it is equally important to recognise that private sector development activity, both internally and through foreign investment, can help towards achieving the critical aim of generating the necessary conditions for confidence. I should add that the report has been helpful in informing the ongoing bilateral aid review that my Department is undertaking. All the spending plans for each country, including Zimbabwe, are under active consideration, and as the ministerial team member covering Africa, I can testify that this has been an incredibly time-consuming, intense, detailed and rigorous process, but also a very rewarding one.

Since the formation of the inclusive Government, our programme has shifted from one primarily focused on humanitarian support to one focused on the provision of basic services, especially in health, education, water supply and livelihoods, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) pointed out. This evolution towards longer-term programmes that tackle the underlying causes of poverty and vulnerability was endorsed by the International Development Committee.

DFID has a high-quality, professional team on the ground, led by the DFID head of office, Dave Fish, and I pay a very warm and respectful tribute to him and his team. I note with genuine respect and gratitude the Committee’s conclusion that the DFID team has played an important leadership role in creating opportunities for joint efforts by like-minded donors. I am also pleased to note how the various parts of Her Majesty’s Government are working extremely well together in Zimbabwe, co-ordinating, collaborating and complementing each other. Tributes have already been paid to Her Majesty’s ambassador in Zimbabwe, Mark Canning, who continues to play an absolutely critical role.

The UK led the establishment of the educational transition fund, managed by UNICEF, which will provide a set of core textbooks to every state primary school student in Zimbabwe this year. The UK also led the negotiations leading to the creation of a multi-donor trust fund that will provide funding to meet critical infrastructure needs, which partly answers the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz). UK aid to Zimbabwe has achieved substantial results and brought real benefits to Zimbabwe’s people, particularly some of its poorest and most vulnerable and the hardest to reach. It operates without political prejudice, with beneficiaries selected solely on the ground of need, not of political affiliation. One point that came out of the debate was how we need to respond to the demand that is coming up from the people of Zimbabwe, rather than looking at the matter from the top down. The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) rightly pointed out that the needs of those people are monumental.

In order to update the House and the Committee on progress, I shall give a few examples of the impact we have had. In 12 months, the UK, focusing very much on results and outcomes, has helped to provide essential medicines to 1,300 primary care clinics and rural hospitals. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) made some important points about that. We have also distributed 43 million condoms and delivered 41,000 antiretroviral treatments. About two thirds of ARVs go to female beneficiaries, and about one third to men. The important work in this area was also mentioned by the hon. Member for East Londonderry.

The UK has refurbished infrastructure in six key public hospitals in cities and large towns across the country: Harare, Mpilo, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru and Masvingo. We have supported 256,000 smallholder farmer households, covering about 1 million people, with seeds and fertilisers in a flagship livelihoods programme, and helped 20 urban councils to provide their residents with access to clean water, reducing the impact of cholera and other water-borne diseases. We have also supported the Ministry of Finance to produce a cash budget for 2010—the first credible budget in years. It is vital to recognise that the health element is a key lever in what we are trying to achieve, along with livelihood programmes in the rural areas.

As all this suggests, the UK has played a leading role in restoring essential health and other services to the people of Zimbabwe, which had collapsed almost completely by late 2008. DFID’s support is provided through the most effective mechanisms available in any given sector, and our work with UNICEF and others played a major role in addressing the cholera outbreak in 2008-09.

Phase 2 of the protracted relief programme was mentioned; the PRP is now reaching about 2 million people. It is effective, and we hope that, with gradual economic recovery, PRP beneficiaries will start to be able to meet their own needs and graduate from donor support. We have a series of refreshed and innovative monitoring and evaluation processes in Zimbabwe. We recognise the concerns of some non-governmental organisations about the scale of the PRP, and we have met them regularly, including through issuing open invitations to quarterly meetings with the head of the DFID office. The vast majority of PRP funds go to the recipients on the ground, and to help to keep local NGOs running and operational.

Following the establishment of our coalition Government here in the UK, the Secretary of State initiated a thorough review of all bilateral aid programmes. As this process is not yet complete, it would be inappropriate for me to pre-empt it by anticipating the final conclusion. However, for as long as the UK is able to achieve results and value for money in Zimbabwe, I would anticipate continuing to provide it with substantial support, given the scale of ongoing need and growing demand. This is in line with the conclusions of the International Development Committee inquiry across a number of its recommendations.

For example, the IDC has tasked DFID with doing even more on maternal and child health—a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich—and I am pleased to say that this chimes well with the development priorities of the coalition Government. I simply ask the House to be a bit patient and await the outcome of the review; we can aim for more precision at the end of that process.

Although the revenue of the Government of Zimbabwe is increasing, little money is available for recurrent or development activities once the public service wage bill has been met. The finance Minister there is conscious of the need to maximise Government revenue, particularly from mining. Clearly, all the people of Zimbabwe, not just a corrupt few, should benefit from rich resources.

The issue of diamonds was raised by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and others, not least the right hon. Member for Gordon. Zimbabwe will not be able to export diamonds legally from Murange under the Kimberley process. We and our EU partners have put measures in place to prevent non-Kimberley-process-compliant diamonds from entering our markets, but we call on Zimbabwe to maintain a firm commitment to the process and to continue to take action to bring all operations into compliance with it. That would facilitate contributions to Zimbabwe’s economic development. We note with disappointment that the Zimbabwe Minister for mines, Mpofu, declined to attend the Brussels meeting on 23 November. The Brussels working group on the Kimberley process permits exports from compliant mines—Mbada and Canadile—and ensures that exports from mines that are not compliant do not enter EU markets.

Zimbabwe’s inclusive Government, which took office in February 2009, have made considerable progress since they started stabilising the economy. The economy is growing for the first time since 1997—by 7% in 2010 and by an anticipated 8% in 2011. Inflation is low and basic education and health services have been pulled back from the brink of collapse. It is fragile and complex, however; it is certainly not quick and easy.

Returnees—whether they be from South Africa or, indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury urged, from the United Kingdom—are an important potential source of the consolidation of the economic reforms. I point out to my hon. Friend that the international health partnerships provide a significant opportunity and that those Zimbabweans without legal status in the UK who decide to return to Zimbabwe voluntarily are already entitled to a package of financial assistance from the Home Office. I hope that provides him with some encouragement. Clearly, the skills are necessary to ensure the economic underpinning.

The same applies to workers who were driven off farms. Another important aspect of our debate has been the importance of underpinning the economic confidence that we require and hope to see develop, which comes from the sensitive complexities of the land reform process.

I was asked what we are doing, above all, to help UK or other businesses to invest in Zimbabwe. Confidence is all, given the real difficulties that exist, not least in the agriculture sector. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) raised that issue and he was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). Confidence about land tenure is important, and can be achieved either through licensing or by ensuring access to infrastructural developments, whether they relate to irrigation, storage or distribution through transport networks. The fund that we discussed earlier is important and we need to give a cautious welcome to the inclusive Government’s decision to review the indigenisation process. It at least sends out a signal in respect of businesses with a 51% so-called indigenous ownership. That is now being reviewed, which we welcome, and it is an important part of the context of the points raised in debate.

Nothing will move in Zimbabwe without recognition of the political context. Progress in stabilising the economy still leaves power in the hands of hard-liners, whether in the military, the police or the intelligence services. With an unequal power-sharing agreement, things are difficult. Many Members were right to raise the issue of how neighbouring states, and especially South Africa and the Southern African Development Community, have a genuine opportunity and responsibility to lead engagement with Zimbabwe, hopefully resulting in the brokering of an agreement, which we anticipate will benefit the greatest possible number of people in Zimbabwe. That was the main point made by the hon. Member for York Central. As guarantors of the global political agreement, South Africa and SADC are in an important position, which we wish to support. We stand ready to do what we can to support that process.

I will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) about the pensions issue. I must declare an interest, as my father is in a similar position, having been denied much of his pension from his overseas civil service career.

To give time to the Chairman of the Select Committee to reply to the debate, I will finish my remarks by reminding Members of the House that Zimbabwe was brought to its knees in 2008, as a result of years of economic mismanagement and a complete disregard for the rule of law and the well-being of the majority of the people. However, the potential for the country to bounce back quickly is significant. The economic prospects, notably in agriculture, minerals and tourism, are such that if the business climate improved, there should be no shortage of investors. The country’s natural assets, combined with the outstanding human capital, even after millions have left the country in recent years, still set Zimbabwe apart from much of Africa. In my belief, the creation of such organically driven conditions is in Zimbabwe’s DNA, and its potential can be unlocked once again. As a landlocked country, however, Zimbabwe and its neighbours are interdependent. In that regard, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford drew on the Tanzanian example, which is extremely important.

So much hinges on the politics and on putting in place a system of governance and accountability that allows the economy and people to thrive. I confirm that the UK is committed to continuing to be involved in a partnership in supporting Zimbabwe and its people to recover and grow. My Department stands ready to continue to play its leading role, as part of a cross-Government approach, in helping to bring that about.

I am pleased that you are in the chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I wish to put it on record that you were a member of the Committee that took part in the visit to Zimbabwe. You will therefore have had a personal interest in the debate.

The debate has been extremely valuable, and it has been well informed by Members on both sides of the House who brought a variety of expertise and special interest to bear on the matter. It is also timely, because the next few months will see developments that could take Zimbabwe in a number of directions, not all of which are good, but I hope that some will have positive outcomes. I endorse the thanks not only to our ambassador, but to Dave Fish, whom I should have mentioned in my opening speech. He and his team gave us a huge amount of support and are doing a fantastic job in Zimbabwe.

I want to make two points. On farming, agriculture and land ownership, the tragedy is that the SADC tribunal has identified a way forward, and it has deemed that the regulations being applied by the Government of Zimbabwe are racist, as is the indigenisation legislation, which defines Zimbabweans not as citizens of Zimbabwe, but as black citizens of Zimbabwe, excluding a whole section of the community by their racial origin, not their citizenship. Clearly, it is unsatisfactory that SADC’s position is unenforceable in one of its own member states, and that must be addressed in the longer term.

My final point is that however difficult the situation is, the MDC has control of finance through Tendai Biti, and has produced a cash-positive budget—

Debate interrupted, and Question deferred (Standing Order No. 54(4).

The Deputy Speaker put the deferred Questions (Standing Order No. 54(5)).

vote on account, 2011-12

Home Office


That, for the year ending with 31 March 2012, for expenditure by the Home Office—

(1) resources, not exceeding £4,490,851,000, be authorised, on account, for use for current purposes as set out in HC 593,

(2) resources, not exceeding £225,450,000, be authorised, on account, for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a sum, not exceeding £4,601,101,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.

Department for International Development


That, for the year ending with 31 March 2012, for expenditure by the Department for International Development—

(1) resources, not exceeding £2,498,978,000, be authorised, on account, for use for current purposes as set out in HC 593,

(2) resources, not exceeding £700,200,000, be authorised, on account, for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a sum, not exceeding £2,962,928,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.

The Deputy Speaker then put the Questions on the outstanding Estimates (Standing Order No.55).

supplementary estimates, 2010-11


That, for the year ending with 31 March 2011—

(1) further resources, not exceeding £5,776,805,000, be authorised for use for defence and civil services as set out in HC 536,

(2) a further sum, not exceeding £5,707,827,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, to meet the costs of defence and civil services as so set out, and

(3) limits as so set out be set on appropriations in aid.—(James Duddridge.)

estimates, 2011-12 (vote on account)


That, for the year ending with 31 March 2012—

(1) resources, not exceeding £215,642,558,000, be authorised, on account, for use for current purposes as set out in HC 589, HC 593, HC 596, HC 604, HC 613 and HC 621,

(2) resources, not exceeding £21,660,305,000, be authorised, on account, for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a sum, not exceeding £195,788,281,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.—(James Duddridge)

Ordered, That a Bill be brought in upon the foregoing Resolutions;

That the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Danny Alexander, Mark Hoban, David Gauke and Justine Greening bring in the Bill.

Consolidated Fund Bill

Presentation and First Reading

Mark Hoban accordingly presented a Bill to authorise the use of resources for the service of the year ending with 31 March 2011 and to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year ending with 31 March 2011, and to authorise the use of resources for the year ending with 31 March 2012, and the issue of sums out of the Consolidated Fund for the year ending with 31 March 2012.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 111).

Business of the House (Today)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, (Standing Order No. 15),

That, at this day’s sitting, proceedings on the Motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to Business of the House (Thursday) may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—(James Duddridge.)

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to Business of the House (Thursday)—(Mr Vara.)

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Have you had any indication of a further Government statement on changes to their plans to treble student fees? I ask because the Institute for Fiscal Studies has brought out today a report in which it confirms that graduates from the poorest 30% of households would pay back more than under the current system—a point seemingly lost on the Prime Minister today—and that the new system will generate perverse incentives for universities charging more than £6,000 to turn away students from poorer backgrounds. Given that it is now clear that the Government’s proposals for student support seem to have been written on the back of the Deputy Prime Minister’s fag packet, do we not need a statement to clarify things once and for all?

Just to assist the House, I have not been given any indication that there is likely to be a statement today on that or, indeed, any other issue.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The House will know that many Members from all parts of the country have been struggling to get here, and that last Thursday they faced very long journeys back to their constituencies throughout the United Kingdom. Have either yourself or the Speaker had an opportunity to discuss with the two Front-Bench teams and, in particular, the Leader of the House whether it might be appropriate, given the very severe weather conditions and the fact that, for example, the Army has been called out in parts of the United Kingdom, to cancel tomorrow’s sitting so that we can reconvene when all Members are able to take part?

If there is likely to be any change to the business of the House tomorrow, the House will be told in the usual manner.

We shall now move on to the motion on the business of the House for Thursday. Before we do so, I ask hon. Members to look at the motion and to see how tight it is. I do not expect tomorrow’s debate to take place today; nor do I expect a rehearsal of it.