HC Deb 08 May 1978 vol 949 cc769-71
38. Mr. Kinnock

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she proposes to continue with aid to Grenada in view of the fact that police from that country are being trained in Chile.

Mrs. Hart

The Government have taken no decision on whether to commit further capital aid to Grenada, for use when the current commitment has been spent. Before we do so we shall wish to consider a wide range of economic and other factors, including that to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Kinnock

Will my right hon. Friend tell Sir Eric Gairy, when he next makes his aid application, that, whilst no one wants to play Big Brother or, in that context, Papa to the people of Grenada, there is no question of the £500,000 or so which goes to Grenada at the present time being continued if his police forces are, even in small part, being trained in the art of torture by those who have been taught by Nazis in Chile?

Mrs. Hart

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I note what he says.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Does the Minister appreciate that this question goes very far? What is the position about the granting of aid being conditional on the observance of basic human rights, as is mooted in the case of the renegotiation of the LoméConvention?

Mrs. Hart

I cannot give the House much detail about the human rights element of the LoméConvention now, as the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate. We are only barely beginning the renegotiations. However, whether in bilateral aid or in multilateral aid, we are, rightly, anxious that human rights considerations, particularly when there is a gross and persistent violation of human rights, should influence what we do and how our taxpayers' money is spent.

Mr. McNamara

My right hon. Friend has referred to the effect of the proposed Chilean aid to Grenada. Is she in a position to make any comment about the effect of the Government's action with regard to E1 Salvador and Bolivia and say whether that had any good results?

Mrs. Hart

As my hon. Friend is aware, although this was not a matter for me, the Government did not supply arms to E1 Salvador. We have a minute technical assistance programme there, and we have not discontinued it.

In the case of Bolivia, it is difficult to assess the consequence of our actions or those of other countries such as the United States which followed our own. All that one can say as a matter of fact is that there is to be this summer a democratic election in Bolivia which has been brought forward by one or two years.

Mr. Luce

If the Minister suggests that human rights is an important factor in the provision of bilateral aid, how can she justify the provision of nearly £2 million a year to the Ethiopian regime?

Mrs. Hart

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a later Question on Ethiopia on the Order Paper, but clearly we will not reach it. The precise amount of aid is £1.6 million, and most of it relates to a rural water supply project which has been under way for some time. There are tiny bits of technical co-operation. I have looked at this very carefully in the light of the events of the last few months There are questions which relate human rights to the provision of aid. While aid may be cut off completely—and there have been only two such instances under this Government, Uganda and Chile—fortunately, in the case of Cambodia we do not have an active aid programme. In the case of Ethiopia and one or two other countries which are particularly sensitive in terms of human rights, we have to make a judgment as to whether the small amount of aid that we are continuing is likely to benefit the poorest and most humble people—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I had hoped to call another hon. Member to put a question. The answers have been inordinately long. However, I shall call Mr. James Johnson.

Mr. James Johnson

May I revert to the original Question? Does not the Minister think it would be a sad day for this House if she and the Government were to judge the needs of starving people in the Third world on the basis of the behaviour of their leaders?

Mrs. Hart

That is where the delicate balance of judgment has to be exercised. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.