HC Deb 14 February 1979 vol 962 cc1116-7
5. Mr. Bulmer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress he has made in obtaining the consent of the Zambian Government to the repatriation by British nationals of such bank balances as they may hold in that country.

Mr. Rowlands

My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the Zambian Government are doing their best to speed up the grant of permission in these cases. But they are handicapped by the continuing scarcity of available foreign exchange. They are fully aware of the Government's concern about this matter.

Mr. Bulmer

Will the Minister confirm that a significant number of Britons have been recruited by the Zambian High Commission without it being made clear to them that they would not be able to bring home their savings? Will he see that any Britons thinking of going out there do not labour under any such illusion in future? Will he also recognise that Britons returning to this country, some in straitened circumstances, find it difficult to accept that they, as taxpayers, should be giving money to Zambia when their savings cannot be repatriated? Will he discuss the problem with his right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Overseas Development?

Mr. Rowlands

I cannot confirm the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall make inquiries about it. I accept that it is important that people should realise the foreign exchange problems besetting Zambia and the problems of remitting money home. I also appreciate the hardships, because I deal with a large number of letters from hon. Members on behalf of their constituents. I also appreciate why people do not understand the support that we are giving, but if it were not for that support the situation would be that much worse. One aspect of the £20 million copper purchase arrangement that we had with Zambia was that the Zambians agreed to use part of that money to reduce the backlog of British individual's funds.

Mr. Brooke

I recognise the difficulties of Zambia, but will the Minister convey to the Zambian Government that the chances of further investment in that country will be greatly enhanced by a resolution of the present problems?

Mr. Rowlands

I am sure that the Zambian Government fully appreciate that point. We shall press them again to see whether anything can be done to relieve the hardship caused by the delays and the consequential bad impression that they give.

Mr. Luce

Since thousands of British subjects and many British companies have their funds frozen in Zambia, and since the British Government have, through the provision of aid and assistance with the IMF loans to Zambia, facilitated the provision of foreign exchange to that country, does the Minister agree that there sould be a clear understanding with the Zambian Government that they should give the highest priority to the repatriation of those funds?

Mr. Rowlands

The Zambian authorities understand the genuine problems of hardship that have arisen as a result of the failure to allow remittances and the consequences for individuals and the impression created on people who would like to work in Zambia. As part of the recent £20 million copper agreement, we have reached agreement with the Zambian authorities that they will use part of that money to reduce the backlog of British individuals' funds.

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