HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1322-4
11. Mr. Butcher

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relationship with Angola.

Mr. Luce

Britain enjoys normal diplomatic relations with the Angolan Government and a British Ambassador has been resident in Luanda since 1978. I visited Angola in October and the Angolan Minister of Petroleum visited this country in January.

Mr. Butcher

Can my hon. Friend tell the House how many Cuban troops are currently deployed in Angola and how does he define their role?

Mr. Luce

The estimate is that there are about 20,000 Cuban troops in Angola. It is not for me to interfere in the internal affairs of Angola, but no doubt the whole world will note the sharp contrast between the Cuban role in Africa and the British role in bringing about a negotiated settlement and democratic elections in Rhodesia.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable destabilising activity of the South African Government in their repeated military incursions across the border into Angola? Will not the hon. Gentleman say to the South Africans that the lesson of the recent elections in Rhodesia is that people are willing to fight until they gain their freedom and that South Africa will need to take that into account in relation to Namibia and to its own affairs?

Mr. Luce

Undoubtedly all the parties will be reflecting carefully on the lessons of Rhodesia. I believe that in the long term it is in the interests of South Africa and Angola to reach a negotiated settlement on Namibia. That, in turn, will have a healthy effect on their relations with each other.

Mr. Stokes

Would it be possible for the British Government to seek the help of Mr. Mugabe in influencing the Angolan Government to rid themselves of Cuban troops?

Mr. Luce

I do not doubt that Mr. Mugabe is preoccupied at present with his important duties in Rhodesia. I think that the whole House welcomes the way in which Mr. Mugabe has set about effecting a reconciliation of the communities in Zimbabwe. Perhaps there is an example there to be learnt elsewhere.

Mr. Rowlands

Since the Government have full diplomatic relations with the Government of Angola will they ensure that they are not involved, directly or indirectly, with any of the forces within Angola that are presently attempting to overthrow a Government whom we recognise? Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the high-level economic mission led by the Bank of England that went to Angola and identified a number of areas of economic co-operation and development between our two countries? Does the hon. Gentleman fully support that mission?

Mr. Luce

On the latter point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I must say that we attach great importance to increasing the economic ties between Angola and Britain and it is the wish of the Angolan Government that that should be so. Our exports to Angola went up by no less than 30 per cent. last year. A seminar was held recently in which 250 British business men participated and demonstrated their interest in Angola. In the first part of his supplementary question I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the differences between UNITA and the Angolan Government. I hope that the example set elsewhere will be followed in Angola. Perhaps the lesson to be learnt in Angola is that a negotiated settlement might be the best way of bringing about peace.

Forward to