HC Deb 31 March 1976 vol 908 cc1294-7
7. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give an estimate of the number and location of Cuban regular soldiers on the African continent, apart from those in Angola.

Mr. Ennals

Cuban regular soldiers are employed mainly in advisory and training rôles in Guinea, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia. It is also possible that there are small detachments similarly employed in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and the Western Sahara. We estimate they amount to about 500 men in all.

Mr. Townsend

I thank the Minister for that reply. However, what further action will the Government take to obtain the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Southern Africa? Secondly, what consideration have the Government given to the possibility of international economic action against Cuba?

Mr. Ennals

There is a debate now proceeding in the United Nations, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government's representative will state quite clearly that it is our view that all foreign forces ought to be withdrawn. Secondly, fears of further intervention elsewhere in Africa by Communist forces were stressed by my right hon. Friend in his meetings with Mr. Gromyko a few days ago. As for any further Cuban intervention in Africa, the Cubans are in Angola by the invitation of that Government and there is at present no sign of such intent to intervene elsewhere, but we have made it clear that if there were it would create a serious situation.

Mr. Lawrence

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the strength of feeling in my constituency about the fact that we should be giving money or aid to Mozambique which might be used by a country which gives succour to Cuban or other guerrillas? Will the Minister say how much has been given in recent months to Mozambique, how much it is proposed to give, and what restrictions, if any, the British Government are proposing to place upon grants of aid to Mozambique?

Mr. Ennals

First, there are no Cuban guerrillas in Mozambique. British assistance to Mozambique is given as part of the guarantee that we made to the United Nations, which was agreed unanimously by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, when Mozambique fell into line—which we welcomed—with almost all other countries in imposing sanctions against the illegal régime.

We have indicated that over a period of years we are prepared to contribute from our aid funds up to a total of £15 million. Initially, an offer of £5 million has been made available, and a British aid team will, we hope, soon be in Maputo in order to discuss the details of the offer, and I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that it will be entirely for peaceful purposes. We are quite satisfied that we shall be able to supervise our aid programme.

Mr. Maudling

What guarantee can the Minister give to the House that this British money will not be used, directly or indirectly, to sustain and encourage the guerrillas?

Mr. Ennals

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary are satisfied that our methods of administering aid funds are such that we can be satisfied that they are and will be used for the purposes for which they are given. This is a principle to which we adhere very strongly, and this is an assurance that I have received from the Foreign Minister of Mozambique, and I have no reason to doubt it.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend recall the grossly exaggerated stories of a month ago and six weeks ago saying that the Cuban forces were in Angola for the precise purpose of rolling into South-West Africa and carrying on a war against South Africa itself? Have not events shown that the Angolans have made it perfectly clear and were correct in saying that the presence of Cuban troops was because Angola was invaded in the first instance by South Africa?

Mr. Ennals

I do not want to get involved in arguments about which external intervention came first, whether it was from Cuba or South Africa. My right hon. Friend and I have condemned external intervention from both sides, including the very large presence of Cuban troops on Angolan terrirtory, so I cannot support my hon. Friend to that extent.

If it is true that there will be no further extension, it may be that the representations that have been made by the United States, ourselves and many other countries, incuding African countries, about the dangers of foreign forces on African territory have had their effect. That certainly is our hope, and we shall continue with those pressures.

Mr. Evelyn King

If Her Majesty's Government are saying "No independence before majority rule", as I understand they are saying, would it not be a logical corollary, upon the assumption that no African nationals can wish to exchange what they regard as one form of imperialism for another that is even worse, for Her Majesty's Government to say to all surrounding African countries "No independence before Cuban withdrawal"?

Mr. Ennals

That is not something that we can lay down. We can argue, we can make representations and we can urge, but basically at this stage it is for the Angolan Government to decide whether there should be foreign troops on their territory, as it is the right of other countries to decide. However, our views will continue to be clearly known. I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the discussions that I shall be having in the next few days, the views of Her Majesty's Government will be very clearly presented.