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21 Jan 2003 : Column 162continued
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): We welcomed the election of President Kibaki on 27 December, and we are looking forward to meeting new Ministers to discuss their priorities. The Secretary of State for International Development is visiting Nairobi today, and Baroness Amos will have meetings there on 28 January. We expect the new Kenyan Vice-President, Michael Kijana Wamalwa, to be in London from 22 to 25 January.
Peter Bradley : I am sure that the whole House welcomes the recent elections in Kenya, the country's return to democracy and in particular its commitment to eradicating corruption. Is the Minister aware, however, that many British citizens, including constituents of mine, have unfinished business with the previous Kenyan regime? I am thinking especially of those whose assets, property and land have been withheld. Will the Minister give an undertaking that when Ministers and officials meet their Kenyan counterparts they will impress on them, as a matter of urgency, the need to resolve those outstanding cases at last, equitably and justly?
Mr. Rammell: I am happy to give that assurance. I am aware of the constituency case that my hon. Friend is pursuing. Let me repeat what I have already told him: I shall be more than happy to arrange a meeting between Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, him and the Kenyan high commission to see how we can press the new Kenyan Government on the issue. I think the situation is positive at the moment; we must take the opportunity that it offers.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): Let me add my congratulations to the people of Kenya on their return to democracy with a convincing win by President Kibaki and the National Alliance Rainbow coalition. Will the British Government offer every assistance to the new Kenyan Government in their pursuit of corruption? Will they also provide any assistance they are called on to provide in pursuing anyone who has misappropriated funds from Kenya in the past before any more money is advanced by the International Monetary Fund?
Mr. Rammell: We certainly welcome the fact that a key plank of President Kibaki's campaign was the commitment to root out corruption, and we will certainly seek to support him in whatever way we can, specifically in relation to the international financial institutions. Assuming that the Kenyan Government govern on the basis on which they campaigneda commitment to good governance and rooting out corruptionwe will seek to re-establish contact with those institutions.
Hugh Bayley (City of York): Does the Minister agree that the successful implementation of a new partnership for Africa's development will depend on the principle of reciprocity? That is to say that when an African country complies with its obligations under NEPADthe New Partnership for Africa's Developmentas Kenya has done in terms of good governance, a peaceful transition from one governing party to another, and tackling corruption by appointing the chairman of Kenya's chapter of Transparency International to the office of the anti-corruption commissioner, it should see demonstrable benefits coming from our side of the partnership through trade liberalisation and development assistance.
Mr. Rammell: My hon. Friend makes a reasonable point. It is a two-way street. We are at a critical juncture. If the new Kenyan Government act in the way in which they are committed to act, it is important that we look to restore the aid programme and particularly that we use our best efforts with the international financial institutions to get progress on that issue, too.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the election last month in Kenya contrasts dramatically in its free and fair character with that in Zimbabwe? Given the clear pledge and immediate actions taken by President Kibaki, whose election we greatly welcome, to tackle the cancer of corruption that has bedevilled Kenya, does the hon. Gentleman welcome the indications of an early-stage meeting with the International Monetary Fund and of a positive dialogue with Kenya to help it to return to being one of the success stories of the African continent?
Mr. Rammell: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The contrast with Zimbabwe in terms of free and fair elections could not be more significant. We are in a positive situation at the moment in Kenya and I think all of us have a responsibility to build on the peaceful transition to move that process forward. We will certainly look to work with the IMF to take that process forward.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): Greece has identified five main priorities for its presidency: enlargement; taking forward the Lisbon agenda of economic and social reform; asylum and immigration; the debate on the future of Europe; and external relations.
Mr. Bryant : Clearly, one of the major issues facing the Greek presidency is the next steps involved in the Convention on the Future of Europe. Now that the French and German Governments are finally succumbing to British pressure and are supporting the British Government's suggestion of a permanent president for the European Council of Ministers, does the Minister think that it may be possible to persuade the French and the Germans to abandon the ludicrous caravanserai between Brussels and Strasbourg and to have a permanent site for the European Union?
Mr. MacShane: There is a permanent site for the European Parliament and that is enshrined in treaties: it is in Strasbourg. I sometimes wonder whether the European Parliament could win more friends if it met occasionally in other great cities of Europe but that is a matter to address to the European Parliament. The permanent site remains Strasbourg.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney): When the Minister meets with the Greek presidency, can he discuss EU directive 2000/68, which states that every horse, donkey and pony in the European Union will have to carry a passport, I quote, "at all times"? Is the Minister aware that that has come about because of French concerns about equine drugs entering the food system? Does he not think that it is ridiculous that horse owners should have to carry extra paperwork just to satisfy those deeply unsatisfactory French eating habits, and will he reflect on the fact that while the Government seem to be going to vast efforts to stop horses that are crossing continents from coming to this country, the asylum system is still in a shambles?
Mr. MacShane: I was not sure when the hon. Gentleman was referring to horses, ponies and donkeys whether he was referring to his own Benches, but the transporting of animals is a serious problem in Europe and the hon. Gentleman, representing a farming constituency, should have some mind to that. Knowing the origin of animals and having them properly marked and logged is of deep importance to the farming community in this and other countries. The hon. Gentleman should not make light of or mock the need to defend our farmers by ensuring that they know where animals have come from and where they go.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The political, economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is of grave concern to the UK Government and the wider international community. The leadership's policies have contributed to a situation where the country can no longer feed its people. We have increased our humanitarian assistance in response to the current crisis. We are also continuing to work closely with our EU and Commonwealth partners, along with other countries in the southern Africa region, to encourage the early restoration of good governance and sound economic management in Zimbabwe.
Mr. Allen: As a member of that diminishing band of masochistsa supporter of the England cricket teamI nonetheless commend the Government for trying to persuade that team not to go to Zimbabwe. Just in case on future occasions there might be some confusion about doing too little too late in similar circumstances, may I urge my hon. Friend to obtain from the cricketing authorities an England fixtures card for the next 10 years?
Mr. Rammell: As a fellow member of the all-party group and a passionate England cricket fan, I am well aware of the fixtures listas all of us are. I simply reiterate the point that we have made on a number of occasions, going back to last July. Given the appalling circumstances in Zimbabwe, we do not believe that the England cricket team should play in Zimbabwe. We cannot order them but we do not believe that participation is in anyone's interestleast of all that of English cricket.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): While agreeing with that, the question should be answered by the Foreign Secretary. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to his earlier replies. There is a case for indicting the Zimbabwe Government for policies akin to genocide. Has he seen the paper sent to him by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, produced by a delegation from Matabeleland, that indicates that a particular race group or tribe is being singled out in a way that amounts to genocide?
Tony Cunningham (Workington): Does my hon. Friend agree that the leaders of African countriesparticularly those in the regionhave a vital role to play in restoring the democracy that was stolen from the people of Zimbabwe by Mugabe?
Mr. Rammell: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. We are in constant dialogue with all the African states and frequently stress the importance of them pressing the Mugabe regime. We emphasise also that it is a regional problem, not just a problem for Zimbabwe.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): The Minister fails to understand the history of Zimbabwe. There is absolutely no doubt in the eyes of the majority of people in the civilised world that Mr. Mugabe and his Government carried out genocide against the Matabele people in the early 1980s. In 1983, thousands of Matabeles were slaughtered by the Korean-trained brigade in Zimbabwe. Is it not possible even at this stage to bring a charge of genocide against Mr. Mugabe, to prevent what he is planning nowfurther genocide against the Matabele people?
Mr. Rammell: With regard to the incidents in the early 1980s, I am aware of the honourable role that the hon. Gentleman played in bringing them to public notice. Nevertheless, action was not taken at that stage. As to the current debate about whether it is possible to take legal action for genocide under the auspices of the ICC, that would only be possible from the date at which the court's statute came into beingwhich was 1 July 2002. I reiterate that while I would like to stand here and say that it would be reasonable to pursue a legal action for genocide, I do not believe that is the case.
Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): Does the Foreign Office view the refusal of President Mugabe to go into exile as a snub to an initiative of President Mbeki of South Africa, and if so, is this likely to make South Africa more ready to bring pressure to bear on Zimbabwe, since it is the only country in the region that has the leverage to effect change?
Mr. Rammell: We certainly hope that President Mugabe accepts the wise counsel of President Mbeki. We are also conscious that the suggestion of a possible arrangement has been denied on all sides, but I believe that discussions between those parties will continue.