HC Deb 02 February 1987 vol 109 cc686-7
47. Mr. Stuart Holland

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he intends to increase aid to the front line states which are members of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Chris Patten)

We are already giving substantial bilateral aid to the front-line states which are members of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference. This amounted to £86 million in the last financial year. We have pledged £25 million so far to SADCC for regional projects. I shall make a statement on our future aid to SADCC at the organisation's annual meeting later this week.

Mr. Holland

We understand that the Minister is going to Mozambique. We hope that he will be able to come back and make commitments to provide assistance to Mozambique, granted the key role that it plays among the SADCC countries. Will he also accept the invitation to the Government from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to join India and other developing countries in financing the Africa fund for the front line states as a short term emergency complement to SADCC's longer term programme? India has pledged $50 million over three years to the Africa fund. How much will the Minister pledge?

Mr. Patten

We think that we can best help both through our bilateral programme, which will be increased for the region in the next financial year, and through our commitments to SADCC—an existing institution which works particularly well. I too, hope that I shall return and that when I am in Mozambique I shall be able to make additional commitments to our aid programme to that country.

Sir Ian Lloyd

Is it not almost as ludicrous to suggest that Sub-Saharan African economies can be developed without proper recognition of the enormous role played by South Africa as it would be to suggest that the continent of North America could be developed without proper recognition of the place of the United States in its development? If, as my hon. Friend doubtless wishes to say, we intend properly to pursue the twin goals of multiracialism and economic development throughout sub- Saharan Africa, should not those twin goals be supported by western European and North American resources, wherever they may be found, instead of being confined in some extraordinary and ludicrous way to what is almost indefinable—that is, the boundary of the so-called frontline states?

Mr. Patten

I agree with my hon. Friend that the region would develop best if it were able to do so in peace.

Mr. Kirkwood

While the Minister is considering what assistance to give to the front-line states, will he assure the House that he understands that Commonwealth countries such as Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland are potentially in the front line of economic difficulties if economic sanctions are eventually applied against South Africa? Is his Department giving serious consideration to developing contingency plans in that event?

Mr. Patten

Our aim is to strengthen the economies of the countries in the region so as to reduce their dependence on South Africa. That is why we have invested so much in transport and infrastructure projects.