HC Deb 02 July 1979 vol 969 cc889-90
10. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make an official visit to Nigeria.

Mr. Nott

I have no plans to visit Nigeria in the immediate future.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Minister accept that our trade with Nigeria is extremely important, particularly in oil? Will he agree that nothing is more certain, if the Government recognise the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Government, than that trade will be seriously in jeopardy?

Mr. Nott

I recognise that our trade with Nigeria is of considerable importance to this country. Lord Harlech discussed Rhodesia with the Nigerian Government the other day, and I hope that Nigeria and other African countries will appreciate our objective of bringing Rhodesia back to legality with the widest possible international recognition.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind the need to look at the whole of southern Africa in the context of trade? Will he also bear in mind, before hon. Members on the Labour Benches become too hypocritical, that the previous Government traded with southern Africa and encouraged such trade?

Mr. Nott

The peace and security of southern Africa are of crucial importance to this country and also to all African countries.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The Conservative Party has always argued that we must protect British interests. The balance of British interests is in favour of considering the reaction of Nigeria rather than that of Bishop Muzorewa. Why do the Government now dispense with that argument?

Mr. Nott

The Government are determined to encourage trade with African countries in general. We are doing our utmost to that end. The Nigerian economy has had difficulties in the past 15 months, resulting from a downturn in economic activities. Those have reflected themselves in our exports to that country. Our exports have also been affected adversely by the lorry drivers' strike and a host of other special circumstances. We are doing our best to encourage trade with Africa, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the recognition of the Government of another country should depend solely on whether that Government have control of the territory and should not imply moral or political approval of the internal arrangements in that country?

Mr. Nott

I cannot dictate to or patronise the Nigerian Government in their attitudes to the Rhodesian question. That is for the Nigerians. In so far as our relations with Nigeria are strained by that question, I hope that they will see that it is unnecessary for them to take that attitude. Lord Harlech has been to Nigeria and has discussed the matter. I hope that normal trade relations will be resumed.

Mr. John Smith

Is the Secretary of State aware that if the Government decide to end sanctions against Zimbabwe-Rhodesia the result will be an immediate and adverse effect on Britain's trading relations, not only with Nigeria but with many other African countries? Will he put these British economic interests to the forefront, even though the Prime Minister seems, unfortunately, to have decided this matter already?

Mr. Nott

I do not understand that at all.