HC Deb 25 February 1985 vol 74 cc15-6
44. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his estimate of total United Kingdom Government aid to Ethiopia since 1982; and how much of that has been since 1 October 1984.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)

Our aid to Ethiopia since 1982 amounts to about £52 million. That includes actual and estimated expenditure and recent commitments which, since 1 October 1984, total about £26.6 million. The figures include our share of European Community aid.

Mr. Chapman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the United Kingdom Government have probably given more aid than any other Government to that unfortunate country, and in particular that they started giving aid before the media reported the extent of the famine? Will he assure the House that sufficient food is available for the needs of the people in Ethiopia, at least for the foreseeable future?

Mr. Raison

It is difficult to draw precise comparisons between different countries, but our record is good. Regarding my hon. Friend's final and important point, Mr. Jansson, the United Nations' co-ordinator, told me on 12 February that shipments are sufficient until the end of May. A further 600,000 tonnes pledged for delivery after that should meet most needs until the end of the year. Clearly, we need to keep in close touch.

Mr. Alton

Has the Minister seen the telex from the Tigré Relief Society, which suggests that 3.8 million people are at risk in that northern province of Ethiopia and that 1,500 people have died there? Will he assure the House that additional aid will be sent there? Is he aware that 750,000 people have signed the Oxfam petition asking for additional aid to sub-Saharan Africa?

Mr. Raison

I am aware that many people are rightly worried about sub-Saharan Africa. There is no doubt that the position in Tigré and Eritrea is difficult, largely because of the civil war and the drought. Substantial food aid is coming from the Ethiopian side. The best way to try to help meet the problem is to work through international and voluntary agencies.

Sir Frederic Bennett

To put into proper perspective the generosity of aid from this and other Western countries, will my right hon. Friend arrange to place in the Library such details as he has available of aid from all sources to Ethiopia, especially those from the Soviet Union, within whose empire Ethiopia presently rests, and whose aid, so far as one's own research shows, seems to be limited to arms and ammunitions to allow the present Government there to continue repressing the people?

Mr. Raison

A later question on the Order Paper will provide some of the facts for which my right hon. Friend asks. It is notoriously difficult to discover the figures for Soviet bloc aid. I have no doubt that in so far as they exist, they show that the record of the Soviet Union is greatly inferior to that of western countries.

Mr. Barnett

The Minister said that he was anxious to work, as far as possible, with and through international agencies. Can he tell the House why he continues to refuse to co-operate fully in contributing to the special fund for sub-saharan Africa?

Mr. Raison

That is a little outside the scope of the question. The fact is that we have offered to make available for exactly the purposes of that special fund £15 million a year for five years. I believe that that will prove to be a valuable contribution towards the objectives that the special facilities seek to achieve.

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