HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc609-10
54. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are Her Majesty's Government's plans for long-term development aid to Ethiopia.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)

I consider that the World Bank and the European Community, to whose aid funds we contribute largely, are in the best position to provide appropriate long-term development aid to Ethiopia. We shall also be considering what we can do bilaterally, but meanwhile we shall constinue our plans to support education and training.

Mr. Chapman

In view of the still urgent need for immediate help to Ethiopia, does my right hon. Friend agree that long-term funding and sustained aid to that country must remain a foremost priority of our overseas aid programme? Essential to the success of such aid must be the co-operation of the Ethiopian Government. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the Ethiopian Government are providing the necessary co-operation?

Mr. Raison

No one can doubt the need for long-term development in Ethiopia. However, we must recognise that it will not be easy to achieve, partly because of the raging civil war in that country, and partly because the Ethiopian regime has collectivist ideas about agriculture and other matters, alongside which it may be difficult to work.

Mr. Barnett

Does the Minister recognise that often in the wake of famine people who are directly affected are much more likely to listen sympathetically and encouragingly to the idea of development on new lines that will make their position more secure? Therefore, in view of British expertise in tropical agriculture, will the Minister consider seriously the possibility of a well-mounted bilateral programme?

Mr. Raison

Under the pressure of the appalling circumstances in Ethiopia, a more open-minded and receptive approach may develop in its Government. I hope that that will be so. But we must consider carefully how much of our effort can be done bilaterally and how much of it through the multilateral agencies. A large proportion of our aid programme goes to those multilateral agencies.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there is to be long-term development in Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa the co-ordination of all aid givers will be essential, together with political and economic reform? In that case, does he agree that the World Bank and the special fund for Africa are the obvious means with which to effect that objective? How then can he defend Britain's position in Paris on Friday in not contributing to the special fund?

Mr. Raison

I fully agree that co-ordination and policy reform are essential. We have told the World Bank that we shall make available £15 million a year for five years, which will be used to work closely with its special facility and with exactly the same objectives as the World Bank has.

Mr. Alton

What best estimates can the Minister give about the numbers of refugees who are likely to be in danger of their lives as a result of the continued famine in Ethiopia? What representations have Her Majesty's Government made to the Ethiopian authorities about the firing of shots at refugees trying to flee the country?

Mr. Raison

It is difficult to give figures about the numbers of refugees who might leave Ethiopia in the coming months. When I was in Ethiopia I made it clear to the Ethiopian Government that we believe that they must do all that they can to allow food to reach those who need it. We are also talking to the International Red Cross to see whether it can take steps to bring about some further relaxation of the hostilities which are making the transmission of food more difficult than it need be.