HC Deb 16 December 1987 vol 124 cc1077-9
3. Mr. Key

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what economic assistance the Government have given to the front-line Southern African states.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

We have long been involved in working to strengthen the economies of the front-line states and to reduce their economic and transport dependence on South Africa. Since 1980 we have given £642 million to the front-line states bilaterally and pledged £35 million to projects of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference.

Mr. Key

I thank my right hon. Friend for her full answer and congratulate the Government on the constructive progress that they are making in support of the front-line states. Public attention is naturally focused on the northern end of the continent, Ethiopia, particularly at Christmas with the tragedy that is unfolding there, but what is the refugee position in Mozambique and what are the Government able to do to help?

Mrs. Chalker

During my recent visit to Mozambique and Malawi I announced in Malawi our willingness to provide substantial humanitarian aid for Mozambican refugees in Malawi. My hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is awaiting a detailed breakdown of the food and basic requirements of those refugees from the Malawi Government. Further, we are looking at the needs of Mozambicans who have been forced to flee their homes because of attacks on them.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does the Minister accept that if the constant attempts at destabilisation that are being carried out day by day — including the recent attack in Botswana — are allowed to continue without Her Majesty's Government imposing adequate sanctions against those who permit apartheid, it does not matter how much economic aid is given to the front-line states?

Mrs. Chalker

I have discussed this issue with the President of Mozambique. I should tell the hon. Lady that whatever happens in South Africa—we strongly oppose any form of apartheid, the bandits of RENA RMO, or any other group, who are varied and perpetrating the most awful acts against children and adults across Mozambique— I do not believe that sanctions on South Africa would be of any help whatsoever. President Chissano is seeking to bring about peace between the people of Mozambique. I hope that any country that might be involved in cross-border violations will cease to do so forthwith. There is no reason whatsoever for cross-border violations.

Sir Ian Lloyd

As it has recently been announced that a complete Cuban division has been sent to Angola, and $1 billion has been sent in armament aid by the Soviet Union, will my right hon. Friend assure me that no aid from Great Britain has gone to that country? If it has, surely our ideas are fundamentally wrong.

Mrs. Chalker

I assure my hon. Friend that in no way are we assisting Angola, other than in a humanitarian sense. Some £317,000 has gone to Angola for human, civil projects, and not for any other.

Miss Lestor

Does the right hon. Lady accept that the contribution that the Government have made — on a Government-to-Government basis — to the front-line states since 1980 has declined in real terms, according to 1986 figures, by just under half? Bearing in mind that the Prime Minister has refused to co-operate on sanctions, but has said that she prefers to give help to the front-line states which are being so violated by the apartheid regime, does the Minister not think that more help should be given from now on?

Mrs. Chalker

I must tell the hon. Lady that the help that Britain has given to the front-line states has been universally acclaimed as the right way to gain the economic independence of those front-line states, particularly the land-locked countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. That has been helpful to them and will continue to be so, whatever value is given. In the past year alone, civil aid to the front-line states was over £80 million and a further £4.5 million was provided in military assistance for training.