HC Deb 05 February 1991 vol 185 cc228-58

Order for Second Reading read.

7.47 pm
The Minister for Overseas Development (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to modify existing legislation to place Namibia on an equal footing with other Commonwealth countries for the purposes of United Kingdom law. It is a relatively uncontentious process—at least I hope that it is. However, the Bill gives us an opportunity to consider Namibia's achievements as it approaches the first anniversary of its independence and its membership of the Commonwealth.

For me and many hon. Members on both sides of the House, this is a happy occasion when we can welcome the 50th member of the Commonwealth. It is also probably the best time for me to be involved in such a Bill, as I returned last Saturday from my first visit to Windhoek. I was delighted to meet President Nujoma and present to him the Government's gift to independent Namibia of a parliamentary mace. It was a suitable gift. Namibia has sincerely and enthusiastically embraced the way of parliamentary democracy. It is already demonstrating to other countries in the region that democracy is the best way to stability and prosperity.

Namibia is also determined to end the hostilities that divided the country before independence. It is pursuing a policy of national reconciliation designed to ensure that there is a place in its new society for all Namibians, regardless of their previous loyalties. Those policies are well worthy of support. Therefore, we have built up a sound working relationship with the President and the new Government. Our aid programme is an important element in that relationship. We have pledged £10 million over three years, which is to be devoted to police training, education, health, and, indeed, other projects.

Our assistance is designed to encourage good government, accountability and cost-effective use of resources. At President Nujoma's request, and outside the £10 million package of aid, we are also helping to train the Namibian army, providing vital support to maintain law and order and achieve the stability which is essential for sound development. We can be justly proud of our military training team which is training soldiers in many parts of the country. I was pleased and privileged to meet several members of the British military advisory and training team in Namibia and to talk with Namibian soldiers from all over the country who expressed, with increasing firmness of grasp of the English language, their pleasure and indeed their appreciation of what they were gaining from training with the British Army.

The Bill follows earlier precedents, the most recent of which was the Pakistan Act 1990. It covers Namibia's relationship with the Commonwealth Institute. It provides for Namibian forces to be included in the definition of "Commonwealth forces" so as to define their legal status, for example when training in the United Kingdom. It provides for the exercise of command and discipline when British and Commonwealth forces are serving together and for attachments of members of one force to another.

The Bill also ensures that regulatory powers applying to the whaling industry will not apply to ships registered in Namibia, as it is not appropriate for those powers to extend to the shipping of independent members of the Commonwealth.

Clause 2(2) deems the measure to have come into force on 21 March 1990, the day Namibia achieved independence and became a member of the Commonwealth. There is no technical reason for that, but there is strong symbolic value in deeming the provisions of the measure to come into effect on Namibia's independence day. The immigration and electoral implications of Namibia's admission to the Commonwealth have been dealt with separately by an Order in Council which came into effect on 20 August 1990. That added Namibia to the list of Commonwealth countries in schedule 3 to the British Nationality Act 1981.

My two and a half days in Namibia made me happy because I could see a country coming to grips with many problems and new challenges but with an enthusiasm and willingness to learn that I have rarely seen anywhere before. It is right that we should help Namibia. We are at that vital time when we are sitting down together, with Ministers and with the director of the National Planning Commission, to work out how we can help the people of Namibia best in the way that they agree is what they want.

It is very much a partnership in development in Namibia, with its population of just over 1.6 million people, but a vast country which needs a lot of help from its friends. We are very much a friend of Namibia, and I was a warm friend of the Namibian people last week. They welcome us in every way in helping them along their new path as an independent country and a member of the Commonwealth.

7.52 pm
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

The Minister is right. The Bill is welcomed by hon. Members in all parts of the House. Its details are technical, but it marks an event of great importance. The independence of Namibia, celebrated on 21 March last year, was a great achievement for the international community, particularly for the United Nations and most of all for the Namibian people.

The months since independence have seen a remarkable attempt at reconciliation in a country wounded by years of war and division. The SWAPO Government have been resolutely pragmatic in pursuing their goal of national reconciliation, as the right hon. Lady said. Who would have imagined that a new police training college would be opened last February with 82 new recruits from SWAPO members and 90 former members of the securfity force Koevoet.

The determination with which the Government and people have set about healing divisions and rebuilding the country deserves great praise. But the magnitude of the task cannot be overestimated, as the Minister said. South African rulers have left behind widespread deprivation, gross inequality, unemployment, abysmally inadequate services in black areas, heavy dependence on mining, reliance on South African markets, debt and a massive budget deficit.

Whites represent 7 per cent. of the population yet receive 70 per cent. of the income. For every 1,000 births, 10 times as many black children die before their fifth birthday as white children. Under South African rule, more than half of Namibia's GNP went to foreign companies in the South African administration. Only white children enjoyed free compulsory education. About 70 per cent. of Namibia's teachers lack the necessary basic qualifications to teach.

Now that independence has been achieved, the great potential of the economy must be developed for the benefit of the majority of Namibians. But the economy is distorted and fragile. The exodus of South African and then of the United Nations transition assistance group forces, and the return of 40,000 refugees, are to be welcomed, but they put great strains on Namibia's resources. The Government are aiming for annual economic growth of between 3 and 4 per cent., but current growth is stagnant, if not negative. A report by the International Monetary Fund says: The nation has a strong resource base that offers substantial economic potential. Realising that potential will be difficult. The international community must do everything possible to help with the reconstruction of Namibia, and Walvis bay must be one of the first priorities. The biggest obstacle to revamping Namibia's economy is the continuing occupation by South Africa of Walvis bay. The port is an integral part of the Namibian economy and could be a lifeline for the whole region. Without it, trade cannot flourish.

Namibia's fishing waters are its most valuable asset. According to the World bank, fishing alone could account for a doubling of GNP over the next five to six years. But South Africa's continuing occupation of Walvis bay, Namibia's only deep sea port, is a major impediment to the development of the fishing industry. Uncertainty over the port's future is slowing down investment in that crucial sector, and if the fish are not clearly products of an ACP country and processed on ACP territory, their special access to the EC is in jeopardy.

South Africa's claim to 12 offshore islands means that it claims 15 per cent. of Namibian waters and, therefore, 15 per cent. of the revenues from concessions granted to fishing companies operating in those waters. Other countries, including Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, have expressed keen interest in using Walvis bay as a trade outlet. Plans to export coal from Zimbabwe are already under way. But the opportunity for the port to contribute to regional economic development can be fully realised only once the port is back in Namibia's hands.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Does the hon. Lady believe that, if the scenario that she has painted were to come about, South Africa would have any part to play in the future of Walvis bay, perhaps not on the present lines but in some future trading arrangement?

Mrs. Clwyd

Yes, on the same basis as many other countries would contribute—on proper commercial terms. That is the position that one would expect South Africa to take if it ended its illegal occupation. The United Nations Security Council set May 1975 as the deadline for its withdrawal. The deadline passed and the UN did nothing. In 1978, the Security Council passed resolution 432 calling for the reintegration of Walvis bay into Namibia. Now, strong international pressure—which must include friends of South Africa such as the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle)—is needed to implement that resolution.

I understand that since 1979 the British Government have not once gone on record expressing their concern about South Africa's continuing defiance of the UN. Is the Foreign Office so keen to encourage Pretoria—one could not blame the Foreign Office for wishing to continue to do that—that it will remain silent about Namibia's lifeline? I hope that that is not the case.

Ministers have in the past replied to our concerns about Walvis bay by saying that the Namibian and South African Governments should negotiate the issue bilaterally and are prepared to do so. If that is the case, may we be told what evidence there is that South Africa is prepared to negotiate and what progress is being made?

The Namibian Government are determined to aim for self-reliance and the Minister is well aware of that. They certainly have no intention of becoming dependent on an international begging bowl. The conference for private investors taking place there this week demonstrates the importance attached to private sector growth, joint ventures and foreign investment. Foreign Governments and official donors still have a major role to play, particularly in the first few transitional years.

The population has high hopes and it is crucial that we help the Government to meet some of their expectations as soon as possible. The British Government's immediate contribution of £10 million on independence is, of course, welcome but that cannot be it for the next three years. After all, independent Namibia—a country with which Britain has been closely linked for decades—is now setting out on a bold path of economic and political regeneration and has just joined the Commonwealth. Surely it deserves more than £10 million over three years. After all, we gave Poland £100 million for economic stabilisation, without hesitation.

In practical terms, the ODA's contribution amounts to sending out some experts and to giving advice. The main sector of need identified by the ODA before independence was English language training, yet nearly a year later one would search in vain to find more than two British educationists working on that scheme.

In the sphere of greatest human need—the impoverished subsistence farming on which 70 per cent. of Namibians depend—it seems that the ODA has done little except to send out one agronomist on an exploratory visit. It is not as though independence came just last month or was an unexpected surprise. It is embarrassing that the official handout from the Namibian Government lists Germany, Sweden, Finland, the United States and Norway as significant donors, but not Britain. Black farmers need support services and infrastructure, but, most of all, they need land. The Namibian Government are holding a conference on that crucial issue in June. Land reform has always been politically explosive, but it is essential if the poorest farmers are to be able to provide for themselves, rural communities are to develop and the grossly skewed economy is to develop in a more balanced way. I hope that the ODA will respond quickly to whatever is decided at the land conference. Namibians have proved themselves willing to put pragmatism before ideology, and I hope that the Government will not allow their ideology to inhibit support for vital land reform, if and when there are reforms in Namibia.

Expanded trade is even more important than aid. Namibia's trade is overwhelmingly dependent on South Africa and a few commodities selling at low and stagnant prices. Diversification into new markets and new goods must be supported. Namibia's accession to the Lome IV treaty is therefore welcomed. The next step should be an EC-Namibia fisheries agreement to promote the development of an indigenous fishing sector. Is the United Kingdom doing anything to secure that? Why have our Government not yet signed Lome IV?

Namibia does not have the crushing debt burden suffered by some of its neighbours, but the justification for debt release is nevertheless overwhelming. Nambia's debt was illegally incurred by the South African regime. I see no reason why the people of Namibia should be expected to repay about £220 million borrowed by their oppressors to exploit them. What is the Government's view, and what action is being taken on what must be considered an illegitimate debt?

Political development in a newly independent Namibia is just as important as economic development. The SWAPO Government are to be congratulated on their commitment, as the Minister said, to multi-party democracy. I expect the international community to give every encouragement and support to its development. However, despite the Government's fine words about human rights and democracy, they do not seem to be seizing the opportunity to establish them firmly in Namibia. Why are they giving only £10 million over three years to Namibia when they can afford to give £40 million, £50 million and even £60 million to Malawi, Kenya and Nigeria each year?

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

I am trying to follow what the hon. Lady is saying, but she is painting a picture as though Namibia were our original responsibility. It was the responsibility, first, of Germany, then of the League of Nations and then it came under the South African mandate. It is basically a German-South African-United Nations problem. What we contribute surely amounts to a generous gesture on the part of our Government.

Mrs. Clwyd

I am surprised that the hon. Lady thinks that only one country should feel any responsibility towards Namibia. I am sure that all hon. Members feel that they have a big responsibility towards Namibia. It is not just a matter for one country.

Mr. John Carlisle


Mrs. Clwyd

If that is not clear to the hon. Gentleman he should ask the South African Government, with whom he is so closely associated.

Namibia has joined the Commonwealth and I think that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) would agree that, in the commonwealth of nations, we all have responsibilities towards each other.

The past abuse of human rights, by both sides fighting the war, has been gruesomely documented by many sources. The new constitution includes important human rights guarantees.

As the main provider of training for the Namibian police and security forces, the British Government have a special obligation to ensure that the new commitment to human rights can be implemented. Amnesty International has called for a theoretical and practical course on human rights to be incorporated into the police and military training programmes run by the British, and I am sure that we wholeheartedly endorse that call. I understand that Namibians are in the United Kingdom now for Ministry of Defence training. Is human rights training included?

The changes in Namibia over the past year have been enormous, but the entire southern Africa region is undergoing a gradual transformation. The human and economic costs of South African aggression and destabilisation have been astronomic. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that southern Africa needs at least $2.5 billion a year, over four years, to repair the economic damage caused by South Africa alone.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Clwyd

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman again. We are well aware of his interests, and I hope he will contribute to the debate at the appropriate time.

Namibia has a key role in southern Africa. Investment in Namibia and in the region must go hand in hand. British aid to SADCC—the Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference—is low compared with other donors. But I am particularly concerned to find that EC aid to SADCC has fallen significantly in real terms from Lome III to Lomé IV, just at a time when SADCC needs additional resources to incorporate Namibia into its programme of action.

New opportunities for democracy and development exist in Namibia and are emerging throughout southern Africa that simply have not been seen before. We must grasp those opportunities and invest in them. Namibia's potential for political and economic success, in a region that has been so riven with strife, and in a continent where so many economies are shrinking and so many dictators remain, is enormous. I urge the Government to realise the magnitude of the task of reconstruction, and to ensure that Britain's contribution matches that task.

8.9 pm

Sir George Gardiner (Reigate)

The Bill is commendably brief and I trust that my speech will be likewise. I join in giving the Bill a warm welcome from the Government Back Benches.

I well remember in November 1989 leading a parliamentary observer mission made up of Members of Parliament from three European countries under the auspices of the International Freedom Foundation to observe the first free elections under United Nations auspices. We were happy to conclude from our observations that the elections were as free and fair as possible in the circumstances and I have followed Namibia's progress ever since.

The immediate gain from those elections, in which the South West Africa People's Organisation got less than two thirds of the votes cast, was that SWAPO came together with old enemies—

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman, perhaps with certain humility, compare in percentage terms the popular support for SWAPO with that for his own party at the last election?

Sir George Gardiner

This is not the right occasion to be drawn into such a comparison. If I were to answer that question, no doubt I would be out of order anyway.

The point that I was trying to make, which Labour Members might listen to and they might even agree with, is that the one gain was that SWAPO came together with its old enemies to draft a constitution—a good constitution—and then to join them in Government. That good start has been maintained and I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development on that.

We have now a Namibia which is a multi-party democracy and that is a gain. It has an entrenched Bill of Rights, which is highly commendable. Despite SWAPO's Marxist past, it has taken a constructive attitude to existing and new businesses and attracting foreign investment.

Despite the points made by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), the Namibian Government has, by contrast, shown some restraint over pressing its claim to Walvis bay and has maintained good relations with South Africa, on which it is to be congratulated.

There are some anxieties. Fusing the armed forces of the two former warring sides into one army, the fighters of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia on one side and Koevoet police members on the other, led to predictable problems, some of which have yet to be resolved. I hope that the provisions of the Bill with regard to visiting forces will help in an integration which must be fair to all parties.

The other anxiety that I encountered when visiting Namibia was on behalf of the bushmen whom I met at Omega. They were concerned about whether their position would be properly protected under the new constitution and I gather that that concern persists. Nevertheless, that does not detract from the fact that we have a new, independent and free Namibia which has got off to a good start and is certainly a worthy member of the commonwealth of nations.

8.13 pm
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I rise briefly to express warm support for the Bill on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. As the Minister for Overseas Development said, as did the hon. Members for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner), Namibia is moving in a positive and constructive way.

During the long period of the war and the agitation few doubted that independence would eventually be achieved, but many feared that the bitterness that would follow would leave suppurating wounds which would last a long time. It is remarkable that that problem seems to have been quickly overcome, and that commands our admiration and support.

I have visited Namibia only once and that was while it was still under the South African mandate. At that time I had a long meeting with Mr. Ahtisaari, the Finnish United Nations representative. This is an opportunity to pay tribute once more to the long involvement of United Nations officials in preparing the way for Namibia's independence and her entry into the Commonwealth.

I had four questions to ask, but three have already been answered by the Minister. One was a question on aid, another on debt—an important matter—and the third a question on Walvis bay. My fourth question results in part from my own curiosity. One of the fascinating things about Namibia is a unique little town called Swakopmund, the majority of whose occupants were Germans.

There was much worry during the war about the Germans' safety and even talk of taking them in jumbo jets back to Germany. I understand that many of those fears and anxieties have been resolved. The Minister mentioned a commitment of the new Namibian open society to the involvement of all its people from whatever background. I would be interested to know how the German element, which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), is fitting into the new independent country.

I end simply by repeating that I warmly welcome the Bill and the way in which the Minister presented it to us. I am sure that there will be no opposition to it from any Bench tonight.

8.16 pm
Sir Anthony Durant (Reading, West)

I welcome the Bill. It is a great step forward that Namibia has become a member of the Commonwealth. It is important to emphasise that it applied to become a member. That is significant for the growth of the Commonwealth.

I have had the privilege of being chairman of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for the past three years and we strongly welcome Namibia's membership of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The British branch of that association is planning to send a seminar on parliamentary democracy to Namibia, and that is a good step forward. Parliamentarians and Officers of the House will present that seminar. Namibia has invited them to do so and has welcomed the prospect of such a seminar.

I am particularly delighted to speak for a few moments on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and to say how much we welcome what has happened in Namibia. Many hon. Members have already said how remarkable it is that a country that went through such a traumatic time has since worked so closely together, healing wounds which many of us thought would take generations to heal.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) was a little niggly in her approach to the debate. One cannot compare loans to Poland with grants to Namibia. They are different things. She was not quite as magnanimous as she might have been.

On that note, I welcome the Bill. I hope that Namibia goes from strength to strength. Perhaps one day it will invite me to go there.

8.18 pm
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this relatively short and uncontroversial debate on a Bill which will receive its Second Reading without dissent.

I have always taken an extremely close and positive interest in southern African affairs. I went to Namibia in 1989 during the process which led to independence, at which time I was accompanied by John McDonald, a human rights lawyer, and guided by Alison Harvey of the Namibian Christian Exchange, which sponsored the visit.

When the election process started in April, there were certain difficulties—as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), who was there, can testify. At the time of my visit in May, although there was an air of enthusiasm and a determination to achieve independence, some anxiety remained about the role of Casspirs and Koevoet. In any event, we offered criticism where it was necessary, and gave encouragement where it was due—as well as voicing strong words, when we thought that would be useful.

We have all been greatly encouraged by subsequent events. The Minister referred to Namibia's determination to make democracy work. Everyone whom we met during the pre-election period was obviously committed to that objective. The Minister spoke also of national reconciliation, and we found a great deal of commitment to that as well. The campaign for the three Rs included reconciliation, which was viewed as essential once independence was achieved. Even in the difficult days when many problems remained to be overcome, there was enthusiasm and a determination to achieve independence, and to make it work.

We all welcome Namibia's admission as the 50th member of the commonwealth of nations, for many reasons. South Africa is still undergoing the difficult process of ending apartheid. We applaud the measures that President de Klerk announced last Friday, but we recognise that there may be many obstacles in the way. Nevertheless, the example of Namibia's success on their doorstep must encourage people in South Africa in the belief that change can work. I look forward to the clay —which I hope will be in the not-too-distant future—when the House debates the admission of South Africa as the 51st member of the Commonwealth. Unanimous approval of that by the House would mean that South Africa had done everything that we wanted in ending apartheid, and in making the advances that we all want in that country. The sooner that day comes, the better. I am sure that it will be widely welcomed, even if some right hon. and hon. Members would not be too happy about such a development.

In the case of Namibia's elections, the role specified for the United Nations was of supervising and controlling the elections. That was very different from the monitoring role that the UN has traditionally played and should serve as a lesson to other countries where we want a return to democracy. Token monitoring is not sufficient and we hope that the United Nations will supervise and control future elections, to ensure true democracy in many more countries.

The Minister referred to the fishing industry, whose importance to Namibia is widely recognised. In fact, I raised that matter with the Minister at Question Time yesterday. The fishing industry is important not only in terms of employment but to the nation's economy. We acknowledge the difficult negotiations concerning Walvis bay, but I hope that they will reach a satisfactory conclusion soon. Namibia's fishing industry is important also to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and other countries, which would welcome the opportunity to use Walvis bay for their import and export trade. That would also bring economic advantages to Namibia, at a time when it has financial difficulties.

The Minister referred to Namibia's courageous decision to adopt the English language, although Afrikaans is dominant in many parts of the country, as German is in others. Namibia recognises that if it is to take its place in the modern world, it has to adopt the English language in developing as an international nation, and as a member of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations.

Namibia has gone a long way in a short time. I was in South Africa when the announcement was made that it intended to implement United Nations resolution 435 and start the process of granting independence to Namibia which came as a bombshell after so many years of prevarication and of dodging the issue.

We warmly welcome Namibia's entry into the Commonwealth, which will be backdated in the way that the Bill proposes. We wish that country well in the future. I hope that Namibia will serve as an encouragement to its close neighbour, South Africa, in completing the process of ending apartheid, so that those two nations, side by side, can play a major role in the future of the world. I certainly hope that, one day, we shall welcome a South Africa that has taken all the right decisions as the 51st member of the Commonwealth.

8.27 pm
Mr. Cohn Shepherd (Hereford)

I join my hon. Friends in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister on the sensitivity and the timing of the Bill, and on enabling it to come into effect on the anniversary of Namibia's independence. I also congratulate Namibia on its subsequent decision to join the Commonwealth. It could not have taken a better one.

The Commonwealth is sometimes described by the world's press, and by our own, as being something less than exciting—but those of us who work in the Commonwealth know full well that it is an expanding, energetic and sympathetic forum. It achieves far more, not through controversy, but by working together—which does not lend itself to journalistic exploitation.

As you, Mr. Speaker, are a former governor of the Commonwealth Institute, I am sure that you would want to associate yourself with my next remark. As one of the institute's present governors, I welcome the opportunity that the legislation offers Namibia to participate in the institute's activities and affairs. It is a fine medium for enabling the nature and the shape of a country in the Commonwealth to be understood in Britain, and in other member countries, too. I look forward, on behalf of all the institute's governors, to Namibia's full participation in its activities.

I reinforce the welcome given by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant), who referred to Namibia's relationship with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Those of us fortunate enough to attend the plenary conference this year in Harare will remember for a long time the contribution made by the representatives of Namibia, who attended as observers on that occasion. The speech by the Deputy Speaker was remarkable in its emotion, perception, generosity and understanding. It certainly had to be one of the high points, together with the contribution made by other members of that delegation. They are now full members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and we shall look forward to their full participation in all activities and panels during the plenary conference in Delhi this coming year. It must be an exciting prospect for them, as it is for us.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West mentioned the proposal to develop a parliamentary seminar for Namibia, but I look forward to being able to welcome members of the Namibian House in Westminster at our parliamentary seminars and visits in the near future. I am certain that we both have a lot to give and to receive, and I look forward to a growing relationship and participation in the form of Westminster parliamentary democracy, which is what the Commonwealth is about.

8.30 pm
Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

This is a happy day for Namibia, for the Commonwealth and for the House. Namibia has no greater friends in the House than my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), and for Burnley (Mr. Pike). Indeed, they are to a free, non-racial South Africa, and tonight Namibia, what the hon. Members for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) are to apartheid South Africa—firm friends and advocates. Those hon. Members may well laugh, but they are known in the House as the Castor and Pollux of apologists for apartheid in South Africa. I did say "Pollux"—I do not want to offend the hon. Member for Reigate any more than I intend to. It is refreshing to hear a speech from the hon. Member for Reigate with which one was not totally out of sympathy. The interventions of the hon. Member for Luton, North were entirely in character—unpleasant in the extreme.

I do not want to mar this happy debate by making remarks of a partisan or party political nature because the Minister for Overseas Development, who is sitting on the Government Front Bench, is also a good and firm friend of Namibia, and I well remember a night some time ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—during an Adjournment debate on this subject, when she gave a warm, sensitive speech, which showed that she was especially concerned about the problems that Namibia was facing at that time. Happily, those problems have been overcome. We now look to the right hon. Lady to show what a good and firm friend of Namibia she is by prevailing upon the Treasury and other members of the Cabinet to ensure that she and the Government follow the advice given her by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley about wholehearted support and an aid programme from this country and the European Community, which is vital if this new-found member of the Commonwealth is to get off to the start it deserves.

The decision of the people of Namibia about the use of the English language is important. That language has the capacity to heal some of the wounds that have opened up in that country over the years. It has an important role to play in Namibia's development and in overcoming the appalling education system that existed prior to Namibia's independence.

The British Council must be given all the assistance and support that it needs by the Government so that it can fulfil its important role in Namibia. The British Council has done much to be proud of in Africa. It has contributed much to its development, and to the education of its people. Now it is much needed in Namibia—as it is in South Africa—and it is to be hoped that the right hon. Lady will tell us that she accepts the special role that the British Council has to play in Namibia and will do all she can to further its cause.

So this is a happy night, a night which we shall remember when we look forward to a new member joining the Commonwealth—a multi-party, non-racial state, which is an example to the Commonwealth in general and to South Africa, its neighbour, in particular.

8.35 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I agree with the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) about the English language. I am only thankful that he does not propose to export the Welsh language there, or at least not before he has had some advice on pronuciation from his hon. Friends on the Front Bench.

If Castor and Pollux are on the Conservative side of the House, I suspect that Sagittarius has been trying to fire a few barbs into this debate from the Opposition Benches. There is, however, a real divide in this debate, which is exemplified by some of the hon. Members who have spoken—the divide between those hon. Members who have been to Namibia and those who wish to go.

I must declare that I have been to Namibia, in the run-up to the free and fair elections which we are celebrating. I was not in the same group as my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner), as I went a little before that. So, I celebrate this occasion with a memory full of pictures of that beautiful country, from the Zambezi to Windhoek and the bush in Ovamboland and elsewhere. The country has tremendous charm and potential for tourism, among other things, once it has settled down.

We can also celebrate the way in which Namibia reached independence. It is an enormous credit to the Namibian people and to the many people who went to help them that 40,000 people were brought back into the country—although not the 80,000 expected, according to the United Nations statistics—were resettled in the country and registered for an election. Anyone who has travelled around the bush areas of the Ovamboland and Kavanga will realise that it is incredible that registration for a free and fair democratic election could conceivably have operated there, but it did. I believe that slightly more people registered than had been estimated as the population of the country at the time, but that demonstrates the success of bringing people back into the country, and also the success in the running of the election.

Tribute must be paid to the people of Namibia and also to two individuals, one of whom has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston)—Maarti Ahtisaari, whose role is greatly to be admired. He must also be admired for fending off some of the pressures behind him from the United Nations, and showing his independence as the special representative. Tribute must also be paid to Mr. Jan Pienaar, the South African administrator general, who fended off some of the pressure from behind him from South Africa. Between them they brought this process to a happy conclusion.

Now Namibia is a new independent country with enormous opportunities which have been listed. The opportunities for the fishing industry have been mentioned. I agree with the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), but the British Government acknowledge that Walvis Bay is part of Namibia. We have accepted that. It is in the constitution and has been accepted by South Africa. The question is how we bring those two independent nations together to try to resolve any outstanding differences. That question is based On the fact—a constitutional fact—that the territory concerned is deemed by the international community, and certainly by this country, to be part of independent Namibia.

Fish, minerals and other natural resources are assets and there is considerable optimism. The white population —civil servants, for instance—stayed when the new Government came in; so did business men and there are enormous opportunities for industrial investment.

The election has overcome the challenges that resulted from the domination of the Ovambo people, which amounts to 40 per cent. of the population—comparable to the domination of the Serbs in Yugoslavia. It was, perhaps, helpful that SWAPO did not achieve the two-thirds majority that could have given it control of the constitution; the resulting brake has been used sensibly, achieving a compromise that has led not only to the initial stages of constitutional rearrangement but to subsequent compromises, such as the acceptance of the executive president and—I say this in hushed tones—the introduction of proportional representation. Perhaps most important was the agreement that there should be no detention without trial. All that gives us confidence in the future of the country.

There is, however, a debit side. I hope that, through the good offices of my right hon. Friend the Minister and, indeed, all hon. Members, the European Community will not forget southern Africa while it gives support to eastern Europe, and will ensure that countries such as Namibia receive their fair share of development aid. Debt is a great problem, as is drought.

We return again and again, however, to the question of education. As the hon. Member for Brent, South pointed out, one of the greatest gifts that this country can give Namibia is the English language. It was tragic, in a sense, to see the newly returned politicians of Namibia trying to make themselves understood—politically and in every other way—in Afrikaans, which was the only language common to their audience. I hope that English will be the symbol of the country's new independence.

The Bill is simple, but it symbolises an enormous achievement on the part of this country. In welcoming it, we are highlighting both the possibilities revealed for the United Nations and perhaps, in a future debate, we shall consider how that could relate to other countries, such as Cambodia—and the example that Namibia is setting its neighbour, South Africa, and many other countries in independent Africa.

8.42 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

As others have said, this is a happy occasion: almost a year has passed since Namibian independence. It was certainly one of the happiest days of my life when I was invited, as chairman of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to join in the celebrations of the constituency assembly that was making the arrangements for independence day.

Although this is not the time to indulge in bad memories of the past, we must remember the many years of sacrifice on the part of the Namibian people in their fight for independence. That started much earlier than the elections. We must record the fact that the United Nations was somewhat dilatory; but, because this is a happy occasion, we must set all that aside for the moment.

Much has changed. One of the most heartening aspects, which will greatly benefit the future of South Africa, is the spirit of reconciliation that has been abroad. Namibian people of all races have said that what happened in the past is past. When a country achieves independence, astonishing things happen: perhaps one of the most astonishing was my being chided in the House by the Foreign Secretary, and reminded that I should be as moderate as Sam Njomo. That was really something, in view of what had been said about him over the years! It certainly startled me.

Mrs. Chalker

Did the hon. Gentleman accept that advice?

Mr. Hughes

Not quite. I expect to be told at any moment that I should be as moderate as Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo; that would complete the trio. Anyway, a great deal has happened, and I feel that we should recognise how much was done, remembering those who died, those who lived and the great prospects for Namibia.

We must also reflect that the future depends considerably on us and our good will. It is interesting to note the different perceptions of Africa, and the way in which our own perceptions of that country become lost in time. From about 4 pm on independence day, the rain was teeming down in torrents; most of us Europeans apologised to the Namibians for the fact that it should rain on independence day, but they replied, "It is great: it is a good omen. You have brought us good luck—we are desperate for rain." That, I think, illustrates the difference between us. No matter how well we think that we understand Africa, unless we have lived there for a long period—as I did—we may forget that rain is welcomed.

Namibia—all of it—is a rich country, with great potential. The question is whether that potential can be realised. I had an odd experience. A number of South African and Namibian exiles—I suppose that I could be described as a part-exile—travelled to Namibia. The only way in which we could travel was with South African Airways. We all shuffled reluctantly on to the Frankfurt-Namibia plane, and felt extremely guilty as we sat in a nice hotel gorging ourselves on the South African food and wine that we had spent so many years boycotting and urging others to boycott. It was an odd mixture of pleasure and remorse.

There is a point to this anecdote. Windhoek is a marvellous old German city, beautifully laid out, with wide avenues and streets and lovely houses. One could almost imagine oneself in Utopia. To set ourselves to rights, and to help ourselves to remember the difficulties that the future would entail, we travelled about a mile and a half to the African township of Katatura. Visitors to Katatura see the desperate poverty in which Africans live. I know that this applies to hundreds, if not thousands, of places in southern Africa—and, indeed, South Africa itself—but if an alien from outer space were to ask, "What is this apartheid?", it would know the real and desperate meaning of the word if someone took it from Windhoek to Katatura.

I have spent 35 years campaigning on South Africa—not only for theoretical reasons, although the theory of democracy is important. The campaign has as much to do with people's lives as it has to do with theoretical democracy. We have a tremendous duty to ensure that the spirit of reconciliation that has been abroad before and since independence day, as well as on that day, is not dissipated because we have not done enough to try to resolve the problems.

The two main outstanding issues have already been mentioned, but they need to be reaffirmed. Those issues are Walvis bay—which, for geographical and historical reasons, and because of the United Nations resolutions, is an integral part of Namibia and should be recognised as such by the South African Government—and the enormous debt that has built up in Namibia. President de Klerk, in his valedictory speech—surprisingly well received at the hand-over ceremony on independence day, although a gasp went around the stadium when he spoke of "us Africans"; that set him back a bit—pointed out that South Africa had left Namibia a marvellous infrastructure.

There are many good roads in the country, but they were not built for the good of the Namibians. They were built for the same reasons for which the Romans built the roads here and in Scotland—for the easy mobility of the army. It seems inconceivable that Namibia should be asked to bear the cost of the war machine that kept it down for so long. So I think that the South Africans must do something about the debt.

I had a talk some two months ago with a member of the United States Department of State. We were discussing what President de Klerk might say at the opening of the South African Parliament. He was quite enthusiastic. He believed that President de Klerk would say in his opening speech to Parliament that he was ceding—if that is the right word—Walvis bay and that, if he would not write off the whole debt, he would write off part of it. Many other things were missing from that speech. I do not want to go into that, except to say that nothing was mentioned, so far as I am aware, about these two subjects. It is not good enough, in my view, for hon. Members to say that the European Community should help to pay the debt. I think that the South Africans should pay the debt and we must continue to press them along those lines.

Namibia, during the elections and since it achieved independence, has put the scars behind it. Some are unwilling to put the scars behind them. I raised with SWAPO the issue of detainees, or however one describes them, during the period before independence. They admitted that there were things done on the SWAPO side which they would rather had not been done. There were things that the South Africans did which some South Africans, I believe, would rather had not been done. Some people are unwilling to put the past behind them, but I believe that there is a good chance of all that being set behind them.

The Namibians offer an opportunity to those whites in South Africa who are afraid for the future and afraid that the pace of development in South Africa is too fast. My own view—and I hope that at a later stage we shall have a chance to debate this thoroughly—is that the pace of events in South Africa is still too slow. The people in the townships and elsewhere are getting fractious and hesitant about the pace of developemnt. Therefore, we must make sure that development continues in South Africa. We must tell President de Klerk quite clearly that he should not be mesmerised by events in the Gulf and think that those who are desperately concerned about the Gulf will forget South Africa, the major wrongs that still have to be righted and the way in which democracy must come to South Africa.

I wish this Bill, as I think we all do, a very fair wind. We wish the Namibian people every possible success, every one of them, irrespective of race, creed or colour. We believe that their example in the last 12 months should put South Africa to shame and make South Africans realise that there is a future of great benefit post apartheid for all the people of South Africa. I hope that it will not be too long before we have a Bill before us that welcomes South Africa back into the Commonwealth where it arid its people really belong.

8.52 pm
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

To judge from the number of people who have either overtly or covertly suggested that they might like a trip to Namibia, I imagine that the Government will be getting on as quickly as possible with drawing up their tourist brochure. But I do not think that they will be asking the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) to write it for them, because the picture that she painted of Namibia is not one that I recognise. I may be one of the few people in the Chamber tonight who has paid her fare to go to Namibia. I have visited the Etosha game park, which is one of the wonders of the world, and many other natural history areas of the country. I have also been on a general political tour of the country. To me it is potentially one of the best capitalist development countries in the whole of Africa, and I have visited practically every country in Africa.

For the past 20 years I have run a business dealing with teaching equipment, through which I have had the opportunity and good fortune to talk to the departments of education in almost every country, including Namibia. I know from personal experience that Namibia, manifested by the spirit of the people who live there, has a terrific future as a capitalist country. It has one of the best, finest and most successful uranium mining features, the Rossing mines; there are diamond mining areas; and there are excellent resorts along the coast. It also has, potentially, one of the best fishing industries in the world. The only problem at the moment is that the Namibians do not have a fleet with which to police it and there is a great deal of poaching. But once they get the resources to control that, it will bring them enormous wealth. So that country, perhaps more than any other African country, has the prospect of a bright free-enterprise future.

I am as delighted as are all hon. Members with the Bill and with the multinational nature of the Namibian Parliament. I hope that it remains a multi-party country and does not, like Zambia and some other countries of Africa, go down the road to single-party government, thus frightening away all the capitalist enterprises which are the backbone of its support.

All developing countries have problems of poverty. People in country districts move towards towns such as Windhoek where they set up suburbs which are much less pleasing than people would like them to be. The only way in which we can improve life for those people is by helping in the development of capitalist industries that will increase the wealth of the country and make those people prosperous.

I would like to leave those who bother to read Hansard tomorrow with my view that Namibia is a terrific country, with delightful people, wonderful natural history and terrific industrial and commercial potential. I know that many African countries have failed to achieve this, but if it keeps its political act open, with an all-party state, I think Namibia has a wonderful future.

8.56 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

It would be somewhat churlish of me not to join in the general welcome for this Bill and the implications of a new, independent and free Namibia. However, I believe that it needs to be said that, in the spirit of reconciliation shown on both sides of the House, certain things said earlier, particularly by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), were, to say the least, unfortunate and somewhat misinformed and misguided.

I say to the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), whose views on South Africa are almost as well known as mine, that had it not been for the cajoling, persuading and constant co-operation with the present South African Government that I and my hon. Friends—in particular, the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner)—have pursued over the years, we might not have been in this position this evening. Carping though he is about this relationship and the discussions over many years of the many and varied problems of South Africa, I suggest to him that it is the influence of British friends, and British friends in the House among others, that has helped South Africa along the road to realisation that the United Nations resolution has to be implemented. Because of people like us, they took that decision. By his constant carping and criticism the hon. Gentleman has, I think, delayed the process—I see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) shaking his head—in very much the same way as one of his former colleagues, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), did when he was Foreign Secretary, and Mr. Andrew Young, the American ambassador to the United Nations, did in the 1970s. It looked as though a settlement could be reached, but that was scuppered, of course, by Mr. Young and the then Foreign Secretary.

It must be noted that whatever the future of Namibia is to be—obviously, we all wish it well—it is somewhat foolish and naive, particularly as outlined by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley, totally to ignore the obviously old dependence that it had on South Africa and the new dependence that it is bound to have on it as a major trading capital nation of that continent. If misfortune ever struck this country and there was a Labour Government, I hope that the hon. Lady, in her attitude towards that country and to the whole of southern Africa, would perhaps be a little more magnanimous in accepting the reality that South Africa is there and is a major trading partner. The hon. Lady mentioned several other trading nations in and around southern Africa. Many of them are totally dependent on South Africa. Whether that is right or wrong is not the argument. That is a fact and a reality which it is foolish to ignore. Namibia will certainly be economically dependent in many ways on South Africa and the South African market.

It is a pity that on a day when our Prime Minister recognised, after President de Klerk's remarkable speech last Friday, that sanctions should be lifted fast, there is still talk in this place, particularly among Opposition Members —although some of them are beginning to change their ways—that we should continue to impose trading sanctions. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North, for whose views on southern African affairs I have the greatest respect, was right to say that South Africa should take some responsibility for Namibia's debt. A buoyant South African economy would be able to help to pay that debt if sanctions were withdrawn.

South Africa's attitude to the Walvis bay issue is not cast in concrete. It is, as it was in the past, an enormous asset to South Africa. It will also be an enormous asset to the region. My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) referred to the expertise that will be needed to improve Namibia's fishing industry. Expertise will also be required if Namibia is to improve its technology. South African co-operation will almost certainly be needed. The future of Walvis bay must be settled by means of partnership and co-operation between the two countries rather than by the complete handing over of that facility.

So far, so good. Multi-party democracy is working. We applaud that. The majority of Namibians have put behind them the old bitterness which, regrettably, was evident in the speech of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley. All that has gone. There is a new spirit in the country. I have not accepted a free trip to Namibia, although I have accepted several to South Africa. I have been invited several times to Namibia, particularly for sporting events. It is a country that I should certainly like to visit one day. I do not speak with any particular bias. If the tone set by certain Opposition Members—with some honourable exceptions —were to continue, as my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay warned, the likelihood is that democracy in Namibia will not remain as it is but will, sadly, go the way of democracy in so many other countries in southern Africa.

Of course, we welcome the Bill. I wish Namibia a fair wind in the exciting times that lie ahead. As the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) said, I hope that one day we shall debate a similar motion on South Africa.

9.2 pm

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

History will now be able to record the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Carlisle), together with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), Trevor Huddleston and many others as having invited South Africa to do what eventually it got around to doing. How good it would have been if South Africa had listened to my hon. Friend at the time that the United Nations said that South Africa should obey the terms of the mandate and leave Namibia.

The advantage of one person, one vote and a flexible economic process can deliver great benefits. First, it delivers people from war. In far too many countries people are still denied the vote, or their vote is not carried into effect.

I should like Burma to beat South Africa back into the Commonwealth. Burma gained its independence but did not join the Commonwealth. Burma had an election but the results have not been implemented.

We ought to learn the lessons of Zimbabwe and Namibia. I am sure that they will be learnt in South Africa —I hope as soon as possible. They are that to give a person the vote should lead to that vote being used, to competing candidates and, preferably, to competing parties. The Commonwealth countries have more competing candidates than most other countries in the world, though not always with competing parties. Then there would be less starvation, fewer deaths and more people who were willing to accept that resignation or retirement is honourable, having led their country, rather than waiting until, having formed a dynasty, they are forced out at the point of a gun.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Tell that to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Mr. Bottomley

I was just about to come to my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). At the beginning of her term as Prime Minister we saw the advent of freedom for Zimbabwe. That was a great triumph for her and for Lord Carrington, which I do not think anyone else could have pulled off. A great deal of help was forthcoming from within the Commonwealth also.

At the Lusaka Heads of Government meeting the Prime Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of Jamaica and, I suspect, the Queen—of course, I am not supposed to bring the monarch into a political discussion—combined to help bring about the Lancaster house conference. That conference and the persistence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley produced a result far better than anyone had expected. Towards the end of my right hon. Friend's term as Prime Minister, Namibia became independent. When the 30-year rule has been satisfied, we may find out that some communication between my right hon. Friend and the South Africans had as much influence as did the communications from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle).

If I were to offer a suggestion for the "Thatcher foundation", it would be that it should be dedicated to trying to spread democracy round the world. The reputation of the Commonwealth and of other bodies for encouraging people to get away from subjugation to minority groups could be a great advantage, as we have seen in places like Iraq, where the richness of the ruler contrasts with the poverty of the ruled.

I suspect that one could use that advantage in terms of flexible economic systems and flexible fiscal systems. My right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley may go down in history as one of the people who helped to carry through a change such as we have seen in fits and starts since the war.

Let me explain why I am speaking for the second time in two days. When I was first elected to this House—in 1975—the leader of the Conservative party asked me what subjects I was interested in. I replied that two of the things I was interested in were family policy and southern Africa. It struck me that the Conservatives ought to be making sure that people like Ian Smith and others in southern Africa did not think that the Tories supported white-minority rule. It would be well that people should realise that that sort of approach was morally wrong and eventually a military loser.

Many Tory Members should pay tribute to people like the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North who has consistently pointed out how wrong apartheid is. I do not go along with all that the anti-apartheid people have stood for. However, that is a detail. I am thinking of the symbolism of opposition to apartheid. I am thinking of the ability to have been to Friends house on the Euston road and heard very significant speeches by ANC and SWAPO leaders and by people from various Zimbabwe opposition parties, often in exile.

The audiences at such meetings were British, but not those who throw sticks at anti-poll-tax demonstrations in Trafalgar square. I am referring to people who have shown a consistent interest in human rights and who believe that what we think is good for us is good for people in other countries also. Namibia's joining the Commonwealth is an illustration of the fact that that approach is right.

In the past I have been a patron of the defence aid fund for most of my years in this House. Although I did not do as much as I ought to have done, I can say that help for people who have been imprisoned, people who have no one else to speak for them, is important. We should riot be dealing just with the big questions like Walvis bay; we ought to be asking, "What can we do to provide the help that is needed by ordinary individuals suffering oppression?"

I hope that this country will continue to provide aid. This may be a matter for another debate, but I have to say that we must continue to try to increase this country's contribution towards 0.7 per cent. Perhaps we could do that and, at the same time, create greater trust in South Africa by helping to relieve Namibia of its debts.

I hope that that will result in a rise in the public expenditure line for the Foreign Office, including the ODA. I hope that by the time those debts are written off we shall have moved towards the 0.7 per cent. Sadly, in recent years the trend has been in the opposite direction.

There are several ways in which we could deal with the voluntary agencies. I hope on another occasion to be able to deal with the work of VSO. My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad), who is a returned volunteer, is not present, so I shall leave that subject for the time being. We can favour providing assistance for, and giving prominence to, such projects as the Ranfurley library scheme, which was doing work in Namibia when I was there in the early 1980s. We might also recognise that the movement towards English in Namibia began not on independence but when the people of Namibia revolted against the Afrikaans language in the early 1980s. Whatever one may want to say about the South African defence forces, they tried to help with the teaching of English.

As we move into what I suspect might be called a recession, we might find ways of getting people with technical and English skills into Namibia on a short-term basis, because their knowledge and skills will be of much value in the next few months and years.

I want to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North by not going back into the atrocities and tragedies which were Namibia's lot and which spread into Angola. I should like to mention the role of the Namibian Council of Churches and Namibian National Front during the years of agony in Namibia. The people stuck in the middle, who were signed up not with SWAPO—that was not such a bad body as many led us to believe—but with the Namibian Council of Churches and the Namibian National Front, were squeezed from both sides. I pay tribute to the dignity and honourable way in which many of them behaved for such a long time.

The Lutheran churches, and most of the other churches, came out of the years towards independence with honour. Others were in contact with them, and I should not want the debate to pass without again paying tribute to the Catholic Institute for International Relations. Its briefings are a model of the information that such organisations can offer. How nice it was that the European Community sent as its representative to Windhoek someone who had worked in the Catholic Institute for International Relations. I am pleased that the European Commission has decided to move that person on to South Africa.

Independence for Namibia shows the way forward for South Africa. The strong will learn from the weak, which will be important for southern Africa and, I hope, will spread through the middle of Africa and central Africa as other countries learn that food must be produced, that one must get the best from people and that that cannot be achieved with out-of-date ideologies. Being practical is one of the lessons that SWAPO can offer.

In the early 1980s, at about the time of independence for Zimbabwe, we had in Lusaka one of the strongest high commissions, in terms of dedication and competence of its staff, which was led by Sir John Johnson. When I visited the country, he made it possible for me to go to parties with the Pan-African Congress, the ANC and at the United Nations institute for Namibia, which provided some link and showed that Members of Parliament are interested in the rights and wrongs; the facts rather than the fantasies.

More hon. Members should visit countries that are holding elections, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner), who attended the Namibian elections, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and others. If we can get into the habit of sharing each other's election processes, we shall become more knowledgeable and more of us will be able to appeal through a network of politicians around the world so that few people's agonies go unrecognised by others.

We rely on contacts and on facts. That is where the work of the CIIR and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office matters. It is often necessary to have dirty hands. It is not always easy for a Minister, especially a Conservative Minister, to tell the House what the truth is. One or two Ministers for Sport have become ex-Ministers for Sport because of the South African sports issue. Not all of us can feel pride about our lack of support for Ministers at times when it might have been more useful.

The dramatic change in South Africa must be recognised. It is not happening fully yet. We have not heard explicitly about one person, one vote, or when that will come, but if we do not provide more of a reward I suspect that a provincial caucus in the Transvaal National party may seriously delay free and full elections in South Africa. That is why I argue for the dropping of unimportant sanctions. Sporting sanctions should be reconsidered. I hope that the governing bodies internationally will do that.

We can go on to see prosperity in Namibia. It will not be perfect but it will be much better than anything else that could have happened. I hope that what is happening there will spread into South Africa itself.

The point in the Bill that matters most to the House is the admission of Namibia to the Commonwealth. People are willing to work together and to learn together. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd), governor of the Commonwealth Institute said, they are learning from each other. We have a great deal to offer and we have a great deal to learn as well.

I make a penultimate plea. There is a country beyond Burma which has not yet joined the Commonwealth. I look on the United States as becoming the 53rd country because it has not bothered to join the rest who have been affected by our influence.

My more local plea is that all schools in Eltham, my constituency, and every constituency should use the Commonwealth Institute. It is an unusual place which can provide much meaning to the history of the last 50 years or, indeed, the last 250 years. It will give children an idea that they are citizens of the world, something which we tend to forget in our education system.

9.15 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The number and the range of contributions to the debate, including the remarkable speech by the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), indicate clearly to me that our decision to press for the debate to be held on the Floor of the House rather than in Committee was justified. I have learnt a great deal. For example, I have learnt from the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that the real division is between those who have been to Namibia and those who want to go, and from the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) of a division even within those who have gone, between those whose trips were paid for by various institutions and those who have gone with business expenses. Certainly she gave a very good Tory plug for the new Namibia.

I hope that the Overseas Development Administration will consider tourism as a major area for foreign exchange for the new country, with the Etosha pan, with the savage scenery, with the marvellous restaurants in Windhoek itself, with the Skeleton coast and with the marvellous range of landscapes—

Mrs. Gorman

And the wild animals.

Mr. Anderson

—and, indeed, the wild animals, which are all part of Namibia.

This has been an excellent debate, technical in form because it is a relatively small, technical Bill, but it has been an opportunity for hon. Members of all parties to give a collective blessing to the new Namibia and an opportunity too to review the role which we in Britain, and Britain as part of the Commonwealth, can play in responding to the needs of the new Namibia.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said so well, reconciliation is part of the recent history of Namibia. Those of us who have been brought up in the European tradition stand amazed at the readiness of people in southern Africa to take part in reconciliation. Experience in Zimbabwe shows that people who were imprisoned for long years during the independence struggle were willing to work together; one sees equal willingness in Namibia. I recall, as did the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd), the Namibian delegation at the CPA conference last October, led by the Deputy Speaker, Dr. Kameeta. The fact that it was a mixed party delegation boded well for knitting together and national reconciliation within Namibia.

There has been a proper welcome to Namibia as the 50th member of the Commonwealth, and, happily, the tenth member of the Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference. The hon. Members for Reading, West (Sir A. Durant) and for Hereford referred to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The association has much to offer, such as seminars and visits—not, I hope, merely from a British perspective. The neighbouring African countries, especially Botswana, which is a model of democracy, can play a significant role as models and friends to the newly emerging, newly independent Namibia.

Today, I discussed with the Commonwealth secretariat its own enhanced programme of technical assistance for Namibia. We are pleased that the British Government and the Overseas Development Administration have pledged their full proportion of support to that enhanced programme of technical co-operation under the auspices of the Commonwealth secretariat.

My first visit to Namibia in 1985 was sponsored by the Council of Churches of Namibia. The churches there saw their role as similar to that of the churches in Poland at the time—as a beacon of light and as a progressive opposition to a totalitarian, authoritarian oppressor. They were able to keep alight the hopes of the people of Namibia at a very difficult time.

With the passing of Security Council resolution 435 in 1978, hopes were raised, yet our overriding impression in 1985 was of a sense of gloom and despair, and of frustration at the lack of progress since the 1978 resolution, at the collusion between the United States and South Africa in terms of linkage and at the fear of the churches and others that the independence promised in 1978 was receding into an ever-distant future.

Today, I learned of the sterling role played by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) in that independence process. I confess that I was unaware of the persuation that he brought to bear on the powers that be in South Africa. When we come to rewrite the history books on the motive behind the independence of Namibia, we shall not think of the battle of Cuito Canavale, of the effect of sanctions or of the internal economic pressures on South Africa. They can be assigned to a footnote in the history books. We shall think of the pressures applied by the progressive hon. Member for Luton, North when we recall our history.

I revisited Namibia in August 1989 and saw the return of the exiles. That visit was made under the auspices of the West European Parliamentarians for Action against Apartheid which has had a particularly close interest in Namibia. I had the honour to be its senior vice-president. We organised a conference in November of last year on aid and co-operation with the new Namibia, and we look forward to being in Windhoek in April.

In November 1989, I also had the privilege to be part of a three-person Inter-Parliamentary Union team monitoring the election. We were delighted to see the eagerness of the people of Namibia for democracy, as were other hon. Members who have been there. I recall being woken at dawn with a Pakistani senator, Javed Jabbar, and seeing a trail of people already queueing, eager to vote in that election, which we did not hesitate to confirm as free and fair. It has indeed been a success story.

From the time of the 1978 resolution, and indeed before, Namibia has been the child of the international community. Our task now is to ensure that the international community—including Britain, the Commonwealth and the European Community—respond properly so that democracy can flourish.

There were high expectations at the time of independence, but for many Namibians, such as subsistence farmers, democracy and expectations will mean a new waterhole and the provision of drinking water and aid—not so much the grand gestures, but the micro-projects that bring proper relief to villages in those areas. I hope that the ODA will look properly at those matters and will try to harness the enormous skills in this country, in particular the skills of some professional people who have taken early retirement, such as doctors, engineers and others, and look again at educational institutions in the United Kingdom that can twin with appropriate schools in Namibia, as education has properly been stressed as the great underpinning of the needs of the new Namibia.

In some ways, independence came at a difficult time, because Africa has been somewhat marginalised in aid terms. The counter attractions of east and central Europe, the retreat from lending by the private banks, and now the Gulf war are bound to affect the economy of the country, which has no indigenous oil resources. However, there is much in favour of Namibia. I remind the House of the conclusions of the International Monetary Fund survey in January this year, which was extremely optimistic about the future, and which stated: Overall, Namibia is well placed for economic development, in part because of the extensive infrastructure that it has inherited. The nation also has a strong resource base that offers substantial economic potential. The lifting of economic sanctions after Namibia became independent also provides important new growth opportunities. At the same time, prudent fiscal policies and policies conducive to boosting investment will be critical to the nation's aim of reactivating its economy. I hope that that will be reflected in the current three-day seminar on private sector investment in that country.

I have mentioned national reconciliation. Obviously, there is also the need for external assistance if democracy is to flourish and if the grand human rights provisions in the constitution, which go far beyond that which is basic in international conventions, are able properly to be implemented. The economy of Namibia is still very skewed. There is an enormous disproportion in income, which must make democracy in the western Sense extremely difficult. For example, the whites, who comprise 5 per cent. of the population, have a personal gross domestic product of about $16,500. Non-whites in economic urban sectors have a personal GDP of about $750 per annum, and most subsistence farmers have an annual gross domestic product of about $85. That gives some idea of the problems and disparities in trying to provide adequate democracy in a developing country in which there are such gross disproportions in income.

I hope that we shall do what we can to bring together what is now in one country the first and third worlds, side by side. The problems, as related to me by Namibian friends, include the fact that the country is still largely relying on the old pre-independence administrative personnel who have constitutional guarantees to remain. The new Namibia needs enormous training and help in administration. Is the Minister for Overseas Development satisfied with the adequacy of aid from external donors? Is the co-ordination adequate?

On education, 60 per cent. of the people are illiterate. The problem of English language teaching has already been mentioned, but it has repercussions in two sectors. First, staff in the current teacher force are mostly under-trained for its needs. There must be continuous in-service training for the teacher force. Secondly, there is the problem that the young people coming into education do not speak English. That poses the problem of deciding when they should begin to learn the English language. I trust that, in view of our special contribution, we shall look into that. The British Council published a report in April 1989 on the problems of Namibian education. I fear that the British Government have been somewhat slow off the starting block, but I look forward to a major contribution in that sector, particularly in subjects such as maths, which is affected by the legacy of apartheid when black pupils were assigned a low status.

It was not only expenditure on the road infrastructure which led to Namibia's indebtedness, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North suggested. The cause was also the apartheid education structure, which had 11 administrations and the duplication of administration and teaching effort which derived from it.

Fishing has been mentioned this evening. I understand that the Government are awaiting a response from the Namibian authorities. Fishing is basic to the economy. It is necessary to patrol the 200-mile zone and enforce the fishing regulations. I am told that Spanish vessels, for example, are particularly notorious for entering the waters, and Namibia needs assistance in that matter.

Security Council resolution 432, which our Government supported, calls for the early reintegration of Walvis bay into Namibia. Yet we are now a year on from independence and there has been no progress. The Government talk of a softly, softly approach. It would be helpful to know what the pressures are, and how intense and at what level they are being exerted.

What are the prospects? The Namibian of 27 January this year said that the Afrikaans press in South Africa had suggested that there should be some Hong Kong-type solution or that there should be some joint administration between the Namibians and the South Africans. It is claimed that in a weekly Afrikaans newspaper Pik Botha said that there was no possibility of reintegration of Walvis bay into Namibia in the near future. That may or may not be an exact quotation, but it would be helpful to know from the Government whether they believe that there is a real threat from the South African authorities.

To turn to the broader political considerations, clearly the whole sub-region of southern Africa has a stake in Namibia's success. Will it be a negative or a positive model? I am sure that if independence had gone wrong, if the whites had been driven out of Namibia, and if there had been an economic disaster, Namibia would have been headline news in Britain and elsewhere. Part of the success story is that Namibia has not been in the headlines. Namibians have got on with the job of building their new country. It has been a model of prudent nation-building for South Africa and anyone else who cares to examine it.

Our Namibian friends and Commonwealth colleagues should be assured that there is enormous cross-party good will in Britain. We should all be ready to respond sensitively and in appropriate measure to the developing needs of our newly independent country.

9.35 pm
Mrs. Chalker

With the leave of the House, I will respond to what hon. Members will agree has been an excellent debate. We may not have agreed 100 per cent. with everything that has been said from either side, but there has been a greater degree of unanimity, for all the right reasons, in this debate than I can recall seeing for a long time. That has been a most welcome aspect of our proceedings because not only has it been an ambition of mine to see the end of apartheid while I was serving in the Foreign Office, but I know that it has been the lifetime work of many hon. Members.

For many years, hon. Members on both sides have believed that apartheid was wrong and should go as soon as possible. I include among those my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who said so, sometimes defiantly, and who worked to ensure that changes would come about. I refer, of course, to the sort of changes that were heralded in an outstanding speech at the opening of the South African Parliament last Friday by President de Klerk.

The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), who has worked assiduously for Namibian independence, said that the United Nations role had been much more than monitoring, and he was right. The United Kingdom played a major role in the UNTAG performance, which was perhaps towards the end of the process. At first, the western contact group drew up the settlement plan, and the United Nations then came into its role. I have a personal friend who worked on that group back in the 1970s. I am sure that she and many like her longed for that day in March last year, which at long last came.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

There has been an omission from the debate. Credit should be paid to the late Bernot Carlsson for the part he played in the process. I hope that the right hon. Lady will agree about that and will put the record right.

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman gives me new information, and I am sure he is right. Had he been trying to catch me out, he would have sat on the Opposition Front Bench to make that comment. I gladly join him in paying that tribute, although there are many, too numerous to mention, to whom tribute should be paid.

The major contribution that we were able to make to UNTAG was timely, and I refer not only to our £17 million financial contribution. It was, as a Namibian told me last week, what people on the ground did in the signals unit that we sent to Namibia. There were 150 people—149 men and one woman—55 election monitors and a team of fingerprint experts. They were praised not only for the work that they went to Namibia to do but for the extra that they gave in the whole process leading up to independence.

Independence has succeeded and tonight we are discussing the Bill which extends the Commonwealth provisions to Namibia. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), my hon. Friends and Opposition Members referred in particular to the two outstanding problems that must be tackled—Walvis bay and debt repayment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said, rightly, that discussions are proceeding between the Governments of Namibia and of the Republic of South Africa about Walvis bay. Those discussions have been on a sensible, low-key, bilateral basis and we have not sought to play a role in them. We have asked what I hope have been helpful questions and made points, but we have not played a direct role. Such a role is not ours to play.

Resolution 432 talked about early reintegration, and that we fully support. But in wishing to see that occur, we must proceed by way of encouragement. I believe that prospects exist for a solution. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) questioned me about that. I shall check on the quotation that he said was attributed to the South African Foreign Minister when I am in South Africa next week visiting projects there. We are keen to see the problem resolved, as I believe are many members of the South African Government. There must be sensible discussions about all the elements of Walvis bay and, until that problem is resolved, I well understand that people will feel that Namibia's complete independence has not been achieved.

It is interesting to note that the Namibian Government have said that they accept the inherited debt as a sovereign obligation. Throughout the time that I have been dealing with the matter, I have been impressed by the number of times members of the Namibian Government and other Namibians have told me how determined that country is to stand on its own feet—that includes dealing with its debt. It has provided, in its 1990 budget, for servicing the debt and for repayment of it, but I am sure that the Namibians, who are fully prepared to negotiate with South Africa over the debt that they inherited from the former South African Administration, will find ready listeners in the international community and in South Africa in dealing with this. We must work on tackling that problem.

None of Namibia's requirements, with a new Government facing a difficult challenge, will succeed unless Namibia achieves growth. Namibia wants to create growth for itself and it wants to achieve that through investment. That is why I was particularly pleased last Friday to sign, on behalf of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, and with the chairman of the National Planning Commission, Dr. "Z", the agreement for the CDC to invest in Namibia. We signed that code because we wanted to give the CDC the freedom to invest in the sort of projects that everyone knows will bring employment and prosperity to the people of Namibia. It was the first of its kind for Namibia. As the hon. Member for Swansea, East remarked, an investment seminar began yesterday that will attract many people to invest in a country that wants to thrive by its own efforts—investment is necessary for that.

I was asked during the debate about other ways in which Namibia could get itself on its feet. Tourism is one. I was most impressed by the way in which Namibia, hosting SADCC for the first time since it became a member, put up displays in the hall, not only of the places that one might expect to see and of wild animals in the bush, but of the quite fantastic Skeleton coast. Without wishing to sound like a travel agent for Namibia, I can say that there will be plenty for all to enjoy in a country that welcomes visitors and makes them happy while they are there. Tourism is, therefore, an industry from which perhaps the CDC and certainly others will find a ready return on investment.

Education is a fundamental aspect of our training programme, not only in English, but in other subjects, too. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley referred to two specialists in the Ministry of Education. I assure her that that is not all that we are doing. The Namibian Government asked us to focus on English language education and wanted the advisers in the Ministry of Education. This year we are also granting 21 awards for English teachers and we shall be doing more next year. We are helping with education planning, teacher training, the reform of the examination system, and the higher education commission. We have been training students at Moray house and Selly Oak college in this country. We are now considering what to do with the resources to fit in with the Namibian Government's plans. One should never forget that they have inherited 11 different education systems which have to be bound together to form just one. That is a major problem to tackle.

I have arranged that the ODA's chief education adviser will lead the sector mission to Namibia planned for April this year to programme the further educational assistance.

Finally, in this current financial year we are spending approaching £1 million on more than 140 training awards for Namibians studying in Britain. Therefore, a great deal is already being done in the education sector.

Mr. Anderson

The Minister may be aware that, in addition to that which is being done formally by the British Government, a number of private agencies are equally involved. Moray house has been mentioned and Sheena Johnston is currently in Namibia preparing a report on pre-school education. There is a great range of private and public effort in this area.

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman anticipates my remarks about the private educational effort. I could fill the remaining 15 minutes of the debate talking about education in Namibia and some of the ways in which different groups are trying to meet the complicated educational needs of the increasing young population there.

I also pay tribute to the work of the British Council in Namibia which the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) mentioned and which I visited on Friday. It has a real role to play which is increasing fast. I am sure that its contribution will be second to none in helping Namibians to broaden their experience of the English language, through culture and music in particular, and in other ways which will add to their life. Many native languages are spoken in that country and the binding nature of the English language, through culture and music, is important.

There are many other ways in which we wish to help Namibia. We already have the police training programme and the public service reforms which I have mentioned. We are helping, through Christian Aid, some projects run by the repatriation, resettlement and reconstruction committee which helps the returnees to reintegrate into Namibian life.

At the end of last year we had a health identification mission in Namibia and we shall be getting involved in primary health care training, working with Oxfam and the CIIR. We are currently at the design stage.

There is no doubt that there are other areas in which we need to assist. We have already financed an initial study on fisheries management to which I referred briefly yesterday in answer to the hon. Member for Burnley. We have offered to provide further assistance in fisheries, but we are awaiting a response from the Namibian Government. I asked them last week to let us know kow that consideration was proceeding.

We are considering particular opportunities to assist the agricultural sector. I hope to arrange a further visit by an agriculture expert to take that forward in the next couple of months.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley rather pooh-poohed the fact that we must send people to Namibia to find out what needs to be done, but to meet the requirements and wishes of the Namibian Government much consultation is needed. By the end of March we shall have spent £2 million during the first year of the programme. We have more to do, but we have tried to lay the foundation for each of the projects thoroughly by sending our advisers out, discussing with the Government of Namibia and now pushing projects forward through the national planning commission. That commission will need help from us, but much basic training is needed on agriculture methodology if the people, particularly those in the northern part of Ovamboland, are to realise their ambition—to get a secure living from the land.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East was right about the importance of irrigation and we are looking with the Namibians at their irrigation needs. I cannot yet tell the House whether that will result in projects, but we have told the Namibian Government that we are ready to help. In that way, we may do some good work in irrigation and agriculture for 1.6 million people.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley asked about a Community fisheries agreement with Namibia. We have lent our weight to such a proposal, but have only just received the Commission's first draft. Nevertheless, we shall give it urgent consideration. Namibia's fisheries programme is of great importance because it will provide a major source of income, as long as the fish are not stolen. Devising the fisheries protection area for the Namibian coast will be complicated, and the area will then need the policing that it has not enjoyed until now. The income that Namibia will derive from that sector will be enhanced once a fisheries agreement is reached with the European Community.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley suggested that £10 million of funding over three years is not enough. It is easy to make such a comment, but also inaccurate. Namibia is still assessing its own priorities. We are willing to spend money there, because we want to help, but there is no way that we will impose upon Namibia assistance that it does not want, or ideas and priorities of our own. Namibia must decide its own priorities and devise its own ideas. We will help, but we must not impose our own concepts on that country. That is why our programme of assistance must he given a proper basis and be properly organised.

Given the size and spread of Namibia's population, we must give careful thought to how best to spend money. It would not be sensible, in view of the scattered population, to build schools across the country—but it would be sensible to invest in educational broadcasting, which would cover areas that teachers cannot normally reach. That £10 million will be well spent.

The hon. Lady referred also to a reduction in European Community aid for the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, but she probably has not studied the figures in detail. In fact, it was at the SADCC that I met so many Namibians last week, both at the conference and in their own offices. A larger element of funds for regional projects has been kept in reserve by the Community for SADCC. The director-general of DGVIII was present at that conference and there were constructive discussions with the national planning commission and with European Commission representatives about how Namibia wants to spend the resources available to it. There is also a special budget line, in addition to the funds available from the European development fund.

It is important to ensure the most efficient use of regional funds. There is no intention to downgrade the importance of SADCC in Community spending, and certainly not when that spending relates to the newest member of both SADCC and the Commonwealth.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley referred to the fourth Lomé convention. The order that allows the United Kingdom to ratify that measure was laid before the House last month and no doubt we will debate it soon. We cannot sign the convention before the House gives its approval. I would have been quite wrong to do otherwise.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) made a very interesting speech tonight, which had breadth, depth and vision. One aspect of his speech which struck me was what he said about the importance of developing democracy. Namibia gives us a new opportunity. Democracy is about people's lives, as is the development of Namibia.

While I was in Namibia last week I studied some of the Namibian Government's undertakings and I was interested to find out how they were working forward under the independence constitution. The Namibian Government have begun work on devising boundaries for regional and local government. They have appointed a commission to determine constituencies for future regional and national elections, and an Overseas Development Administration finance adviser has assisted the commission.

The regions will elect representatives to a second Chamber of the National Assembly during 1991 or 1992 and the elected representatives will then replace the 13 temporary regional commissioners, who have been appointed by the Government. This is a good development in the process of democracy and one which other countries, inside and outside the Commonwealth, that are looking for greater democracy would do well to copy.

During the debate I was asked about human rights, which are an essential part of the democracy which Namibia is seeking to achieve. That is why we have made it clear, during police training given in Namibia, that all police forces should operate on the basis of full respect for human rights and the rule of law. That is a basic objective of all our police training programmes throughout Africa and especially with the Namibian police.

We have had a good debate tonight, and it has also been interesting and thoughtful. Namibia is a most welcome new member of the Commonwealth. It is seeking to overcome some enormous problems, has to face serious financial problems, and has a large bureaucracy which, as it freely admits, is not efficient. We are seeking to help Namibia to face those problems and deal with them. That is why a permanent secretary from the former Department of Health and Social Security—now retired—has spent a considerable time helping to achieve the civil service reforms which Namibia needs if it is to have the sound independence that it is seeking.

From all that I have seen and heard about the newest member of the Commonwealth, I am confident that it is working its way towards a truly successful end to the long process of independence. We wish Namibia well and I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading tonight and allow it to proceed swiftly on to the statute book so that Namibia, our 50th member of the Commonwealth, is fully covered by all the provisions which our law should provide for it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.— [Mr. Wood.]

Committee tomorrow.