HC Deb 15 June 1994 vol 244 cc616-7
6. Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with South Africa.

Mr. Hurd

We will continue to give full support to President Mandela and his transitional Government of National Unity as they consolidate a stable democracy in South Africa. We should develop and expand our political, economic and commercial relations with South Africa to the benefit of both countries.

Mr. Spring

Given the considerable opening up of opportunities following the cessation of sanctions against South Africa, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that all help and encouragement will be given to British exporters to access that growing and important market in order to capitalise on the excellent relations that exist between the United Kingdom and South Africa?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, indeed. Our exports to South Africa were £1 billion last year and £295 million in the first quarter of this year: it is still an expanding trend. We warmly encourage that. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will go to South Africa next month with a large party of senior business men to urge that expansion forward.

Sir David Steel

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, following the formation of the new Government in South Africa, we should look forward not only to their full participation in the Commonwealth but to their playing a leading role in the South Africa Development Coordination Conference, where they will be joined by the new democratically elected Government of Malawi whose President will be visiting London for the first time tomorrow? Is not southern Africa, in contrast to some other parts of the continent, becoming a new region of hope?

Mr. Hurd

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. There is a long way to go in countries such as Angola and Mozambique, but we certainly warmly welcome the return of South Africa to the Commonwealth on the first day of this month.

Dr. Howells

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that during his recent visit to this country, Vice-President de Klerk expressed concern that South Africa should not now be treated as a former trouble spot but should be left well alone to get on and solve its problems? The economic future of South Africa will be tied up with those of half a dozen nations to the north of it and South Africa requires the maximum amount of help from the United Kingdom and the European Union. Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that the European Union is made aware of the importance of helping South Africa to sort out its economy and the economies of the countries that lie to the north of it?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, indeed. We and the forthcoming German presidency have already laid plans for that. The Germans are to take various initiatives on behalf of the European Union during the second half of this year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman—one of the most important ways is trade and I look forward to the initiatives very much. We have been urging a new agreement between the European Union and South Africa to facilitate trade.

Sir Jim Spicer

My right hon. Friend has already said that one of the major problems about deploying troops in Rwanda is the lack of logistical support. Would not it be appropriate for South Africa to be approached, as a country which will be coming back into the Commonwealth in the very near future, and asked to provide that logistical support, which it could do far more easily than almost any other country in the world?

Mr. Hurd

I am happy to say that South Africa is already back in the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend made an important suggestion and I will see that the Secretary-General of the United Nations considers whether there are requests that he could make to South Africa that he has not already made. We are helping the South Africans in one of their main tasks, which is bringing the different armed forces in the country together into a more united national army. A British military assistance and training team, made up of 31 people with a brigadier, is established there for that purpose.

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