HC Deb 29 March 1983 vol 40 cc168-9
4. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many meetings have taken place between officials from his Department and officials representing the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to discuss British military assistance to that country since April 1980; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

We have been providing military assistance to Zimbabwe for the past three years in support of efforts to secure a peaceful and stable future for that country. This has involved frequent contacts with members and representatives of the Zimbabwe Government.

Mr. Proctor

In the light of the attacks in Zimbabwe on the free press, the moves by Mr. Mugabe towards a one party state, and the murderous attempts on Zimbabweans, black and white, in Matabeleland, will my right hon. Friend reconsider giving further British military aid to that country?

Mr. Wiggin

I must say to my hon. Friend that the points that he raises are not for me, but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. With regard to British military aid, the troops that we have been training have not been involved in any of these disgraceful episodes.

Mr. Hooley

Does the Minister agree that as long as there is a serious military threat to Zimbabwe from South Africa it is reasonable that we should give military assistance to that country?

Mr. Wiggin

The object of providing military assistance to Zimbabwe is well known to the hon. Gentleman and has very little to do with his question.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

What serious evidence can my hon. Friend offer the House to show that the provision of either military or economic aid to Zimbabwe is likely to mitigate, or has mitigated in any serious way, the consequences of the rapid retreat from the Lancaster House agreement? If it has not mitigated those consequences, in what way is the continued provision of either military or economic assistance said to be in the interests of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wiggen

I dealt with that in my former answer. The questions that my hon. Friend raises are not for me. The British advisors have competently and capably trained a part of the Zimbabwean army to lead to an orderly future for that country. The problems being encountered are, unfortunately, due to those parts of the army that were trained by the North Koreans.

Mr. McNamara

Is the Minister aware that those of us who have been fortunate enough to see and meet members of the British military mission in Zimbabwe have been impressed by their work and by the obvious support that they have received from the Zimbabwean Government? Is he further aware that anything that can be done to maintain stability in central Africa and provide a buffer against aggression from South Africa, and with which this country can be associated, is to be welcomed?

Mr. Wiggin

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. Of course, we do these jobs extremely well, as the world knows. The hon. Gentleman's congratulations to our forces are well deserved and I shall see that they are drawn to their attention.

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