HC Deb 11 April 1968 vol 762 cc1555-7
1. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether he will take an initiative in the formation of an international consortium to offer aid to Zambia for the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia railway.

The Minister of Overseas Development (Mr. Reg Prentice)

No, Sir. I do not think that this would be appropriate.

Mr. Fisher

That surprises me very much. Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this project would be most effective in reducing Zambia's dependence on communications to the south, which we are very anxious to do, and that it is, therefore, of great political importance, and if we took the initiative, would do a tremendous amount to improve our relations with Zambia?

Mr. Prentice

There are two main points to bear in mind. One is that the economic viability of the project has not yet been proved and a great deal more work needs to be done on it. The other is that our available aid, in view of the present restrictions on the amount that we can spare, would not enable us to do anything substantial in relation to this project, which would, of course, be very expensive.

6. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what plans he has for increasing financial aid to Zambia, in view of the hardship created there by the sanctions policy against Rhodesia.

Mr. Prentice

I have no plans for increasing financial aid beyond that already promised.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that we have a very special obligation to Zambia in view of the effect on Zambia of the sanctions policy against Rhodesia? What is the difference between what Zambia is requesting and what the Government are giving? Will that be discussed when—which I hope will be very soon—the Prime Minister meets President Kaunda?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend is slightly confusing two problems. First, there is development aid, which comes under my Department, in which respect our main effort is in the form of technical assistance. In fact, 2,000 British personnel are working in Zambia. That is the most important need from the development point of view. But, secondly, there is also contingency aid related to the illegal declaration of independence. That is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary, who answered a Question on that subject on 26th March.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does the Minister realise that even those of us who oppose sanctions sympathise with Zambia in her plight resulting from sanctions? As the Government are prepared to discuss aid and co-operation with such Governments as that of the South Yemen, will they discuss aid and co-operation even with the Government of Rhodesia in order to see whether we can restore economic cooperation in Central Africa?

Mr. Prentice

I am surprised to hear any hon. Member refer to the Government of Rhodesia in those terms. I have said that aid for Zambia related to the illegal declaration of independence is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary.

Sir H. Harrison

Bearing in mind the Government's declared intention of not using force in any way against Rhodesia, will the Minister take into account in any aid given to Zambia that force must not be used by Zambia in the way of terrorists being trained in Zambia and going through Zambia into Rhodesia?

Mr. Prentice

Normally, when the aid to Zambia which falls within the responsibility of my Department is being decided, we take a number of factors into account. Zambia has given assurances on that point on many occasions.

Mr. Jopling

Is the Minister aware of the great susceptibility of the Zambian economy to the price of copper, which is extremely volatile? If a deterioration should occur in that respect in the next few years, will he be prepared to take a much more generous view?

Mr. Prentice

The figures which I quoted of personnel serving in Zambia show that we are taking a fairly generous view in relation to what we can afford and to what we manage for other countries. The price of copper has been in favour of the Zambian economy on the whole, and the growth of the Zambian economy in the last two years has been considerably above that of most other African countries. Their greatest need is for skilled personnel, and we are doing a considerable amount to help them meet it.