HL Deb 15 April 1980 vol 408 cc124-33

3.3 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I shall make a Statement on Rhodesia.

Rhodesia will come to independence as Zimbabwe on Friday, 18th April. Her Majesty the Queen will be represented at the independence celebrations by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I shall represent the Government. My noble friend the Governor of Southern Rhodesia will leave Salisbury on Independence Day. Britain is thus about to terminate its constitutional responsibility for Rhodesia and to transfer power to a Government freely elected, under British supervision, by the Rhodesian people. I am sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in wishing the new country every success.

We look forward to working closely with the Government of an independent Zimbabwe headed by Mr. Mugabe. I am pleased to announce that, subject to parliamentary approval, the Government intend to commit over three years aid totalling £75 million to Zimbabwe. The aid to be given within this total commitment includes a £7 million grant for urgent post-war reconstruction; an allocation of £500,000 for joint funding with British voluntary agencies of projects which they undertake in Zimbabwe; contributions to our share of expenditure through any extension of the Lome Convention to Zimbabwe and to the special appeal of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; and further humanitarian assistance.

The bulk of the £75 million will be devoted to a substantial bilateral aid programme which will be allocated in agreement with the Zimbabwe Government. A mission from the Overseas Development Administration will visit Zimbabwe shortly after independence for talks with incoming Ministers to identify projects. At the request of the new Government we are providing assistance with police training, broadcasting, the civil service and the foreign service. We are also providing, separately from the aid programme, assistance with the training of the future Zimbabwe army.

Because of the marked extent to which the aid programme is already committed over the next two years, and in order to minimise the impact of this very substantial pledge to Zimbabwe on the level of United Kingdom assistance to other countries, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed exceptionally that there should be made available from the public expenditure contingency reserve a sum of £8 million in 1980–81 (with consequent adjustment of the cash limit) and of £7 million in 1981–82.

We welcome Zimbabwe's accession to the Commonwealth as the forty-third member. This calls for further legal provisions. An order under the Zimbabwe Act will be laid before Parliament in draft in the next two days for approval by resolution. The principal purposes are to continue the application of certain United Kingdom laws in relation to Zimbabwe notwithstanding its change in status. Similar provision has been made for the application of United Kingdom law in respect of other republics within the Commonwealth.

The Zimbabwe Act 1979 granted an amnesty in United Kingdom law for political offences connected with UDI. A similar amnesty was granted in Rhodesian law, and has subsequently been extended by the Governor in a general pardon covering all political offences up to the elections.

Now that full amnesty has been granted to all those responsible for the situation which led to the imposition of sanctions the Government feel that it would no longer be appropriate for any further prosecutions to be initiated for sanctions offences.

The measures applying sanctions in United Kingdom law have of course been revoked. I am informed by my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney General that only one case, an appeal, is at present before the courts, and that no other prosecutions are pending. The amnesty will not reopen past judgments. An order will be laid before Her Majesty in Council in due course to give effect to this decision.

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, the whole House will warmly welcome the Statement made by the noble Lord, and we thank him for coming to the House to keep us abreast of the situation. I am also sure that the entire House will feel that the choice of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to be one of our principal representatives at the celebrations is most appropriate—an appropriate- ness matched only by the choice of the right honourable and noble Lord himself to represent the Government. There is a sense, of course, in which he will represent this House and a much wider area of consensus in the country as represented by one particular party.

I wish to put one or two questions as to the rest of the Statement. May I say how much we welcome what the noble Lord has just said about the intention of the Government to work closely with the new Government of Zimbabwe headed by Mr Mugabe; and in that connection I should like to say how pleased we all were to hear on the radio this morning the warm and generous references made by the Governor of Zimbabwe, the noble Lord, Lord Soames, to the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. This is a constructive and friendly way in which to launch the new State forward on the path of prosperity, and indeed of friendship with this country.

As to the financial provisions which the noble Lord has announced, is he aware that we shall wish to examine the details which he has given us? It seems that £75 million spread over three years is a substantial sum, especially perhaps—and I am putting this in the form of a question—when it is linked with certain multilateral advances to the new State, possibly from the Community and other offers of financial aid which have been made public by the President of the United States of America in the last day or two. So perhaps the House will join with me in looking at this sum in connection with other sums that other friends of Zimbabwe will be making available.

May I say how glad we are to see that the bulk of the £75 million over three years will be devoted to bilateral aid programmes in agreement with the Zimbabwe Government. There is of course anxiety here and there that when we do extend this aid we may perhaps be tempted to over-advise the new Government as to how they should spend it. I do not think we should worry too much about this. The whole tone and tenor of the new Government and of the new Prime Minister in particular is to turn to this country as a friend and equal and to consult with us. I am sure that the exchanges as to how best to dispose of this substantial sum over the next three years will be in that spirit.

May I in this connection ask the noble Lord to note that we welcome very much the fact that the new Government of Zimbabwe have themselves asked this country to help them in cash and kind, in advances and advice, in very important sectors of the new country's life—in police training, broadcasting, the civil service, the foreign service, as well as in the training of the future Zimbabwe army. This is most acceptably significant in regard to the attitude of the new Prime Minister and his Government, and indeed of the Rhodesian peoples, as to which way their country wishes to go in the future. As to drawing on the contingency reserve, I take it that these two sums, £8 million next year and £7 million the year after, are to be drawn from the contingency reserve because the aid programme is already bespoken, as it were. In that sense Zimbabwe has led to a substantial increase in commitments for the aid programme over the next two years.

Finally, may I join with the noble Lord in emphasising the fact that Zimbabwe is the forty-third member of the Commonwealth. As one who has played some little part in constitutional discussions of this kind, though not of this complexity of course, leading to independence, I can testify to the fact that never at any time in these discussions does this country, through its representatives, press upon any dependency when advising on independence the need, or even the advisability, for it to join the Commonwealth. Always they raise the point and say they want to join the Commonwealth. It is most reassuring. It gives one a warm feeling of confidence in the future of the Commonwealth, which, incidentally, has done so much to contribute to the solution of this long-standing and difficult question of Rhodesia. It gives us all great satisfaction that Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe has itself, on obtaining independence, opted to become a member of the Commonwealth.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, we from these Benches would certainly wish to be associated with the expression of good wishes to Zimbabwe on assuming independence. We certainly welcome the decision made by the Government to grant this amount of aid to a country which will certainly need it. May I ask the noble Lord two questions. Will any of these funds be available to pay for teams of teachers and instructors from this country to go out to Zimbabwe to train the people on the spot, so that they can raise standards, academically, industrially, agriculturally; and if aid is to be used partly in that way, can we make quite sure, together with the Zimbabwean Government, that there is a minimum of red tape, which in so many countries has held up the necessary equipment and materials needed urgently by the people who are to receive instruction? Secondly, may I ask the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary whether any specific aid is being granted by the EEC? Would this not be an opportunity for using some of our food surpluses in the Community to combat the malnutrition which I understand is rampant in Zimbabwe?


My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the remarks they have made. Perhaps I should have said in the Statement that, of course, both the other parties in this I-louse will be represented at the independence celebrations. I am not quite sure whether it is Mr. Callaghan or Mr. Shore who will be going from the party opposite, and Mr. Steel will be going for the Liberals. So it will be an all-party delegation to the independence celebrations.

I thought there was perhaps a slight suggestion in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that £75 million might be rather a lot of aid because there would be aid from other countries which will add up to a considerable figure. I hope that there will be, and certainly there have been some generous pledges by other countries for aid. But I hope your Lordships will remember that the war in Rhodesia caused enormous damage and there really is a very great deal of damage to be made good before any aid can be spent on productivity and production. One thing is quite certain. Provided that Zimbabwe is administered effectively and efficiently, as I am sure it will be, Zimbabwe is certainly one of the African countries which can stand on their own feet. Its economy is perfectly viable. So there is no reason to suppose that the money we are providing will go down the drain; it certainly will not do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Byers, asked about training for teachers. We are, of course, doing a certain amount of it already, but there is no reason why, if Mr. Mugabe wants money to be spent in that way, we should not help him in every way we can. Already Mr. Cheysson from the EEC has been in Zimbabwe and has had a talk with Mr. Mugabe about Community aid, so there is no doubt whatsoever about that. In common with both noble Lords, I welcome Zimbabwe as the forty-third member of the Commonwealth. I would only reflect that perhaps the birth was a little more difficult than some.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he will bear in mind, in the allocation of grants to Zimbabwe, the needs of the University College of what was Rhodesia and Nyasaland and presumably on Friday will be the University of Zimbabwe, which under the very courageous leadership of the Reverend Dr. Craig has played a very important part in preparing the Zimbabwean people for the responsibilities of independence?


Yes, my Lords, I will certainly remember that.


My Lords, do the arrangements relating to the welcome proposal of Zimbabwe to join the Commonwealth include provisions for recourse to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council?


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has torpedoed me. I am afraid I do not know the answer.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether, from the sums that he reported as being made available or from any other source, adequate provision for pensions has been made on a scale which has been suggested as equitable by the bodies concerned with the civil service and others in Rhodesia?


My Lords, it was not intended that this sum of aid should be used for that purpose, because, as my noble friend knows, the pension rights of public servants are fully guaranteed under the Zimbabwe constitution and Mr. Mugabe has made specific commitments to respect its provisions.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Foreign Secretary, if he is able to give this confirmation, for what purpose the financial assistance is being given to the civil service in Rhodesia?


My Lords, I did not say that it was. I do not quite follow my noble friend's question.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, when we give aid to Zimbabwe can the noble Lord possibly bear in mind that the aid should be concentrated not on large projects but on small items like water pumps and simple things for a relatively simple high labour content economy? I would suggest that we avoid the trap of building large and expensive projects which suck in high technology from outside and do not provide jobs, and raise the standard of living for a vastly educated urban and rural population.


My Lords, I am sure my noble friend is right when he says that money should be spent on productive enterprise which employs the people of Zimbabwe. I think on the whole smaller schemes probably do more than big ones, but I think it would be a mistake to exclude all big schemes from the programme.


My Lords, I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether he is aware that we all recognise the momentous event which the independence of Zimbabwe will be and that, despite any criticisms which have been made, we want to congratulate him on the part that he has taken? Britain, the United States of America and the European Community have already indicated that they will give considerable financial contributions towards the development of Zimbabwe. Is it possible, by some means, to make a broader appeal to the world? What has happened in Zimbabwe is of international importance and of enormous importance to Africa, and especially the problems of Southern Africa. The whole world ought to be involved. Would it be possible to ask the Secretary General of the United Nations to make an appeal for assistance as well? There are also the unaligned nations, which include the wealthy oil countries of the Middle East; there is the Commonwealth itself which initiated this movement at Lusaka, and even COMECON—the Communist countries and China. Is it not possible now to make a world appeal for assistance so that Zimbabwe can recover from the appalling conditions that now exist?


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government have already addressed an appeal to all countries that are likely to give aid. As I said in a previous answer, there has already been an extremely generous response and I do not think that we have heard from everyone yet. So I think that what the noble Lord wants has, to a very large extent, already happened.

I am very grateful to him for his generous remarks. At one time I was rather worried that the absence of Rhodesia as a quarry for Questions would cause the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, some difficulty as regards finding material for Questions in this House. I am glad to say that I have been proved wrong.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that, in some respects, the whole world has already been asked to give assistance to Rhodesia? I am referring to the International Labour Organisation. Is the noble Lord aware that the Government of Norway have placed a considerable sum of money at the disposal of the International Labour Organisation so that some research can be done in Zimbabwe as to which Acts need to be repealed in order to bring about some measure of equality? Will the noble Lord keep in close contact with the International Labour Organisation which is expecting to provide a great deal of training and material help for Zimbabwe?


Yes, my Lords.


My Lords, I do not know whether it is in order for me to add, from these Benches, our congratulations to the noble Lord for the very happy solution which he has brought about. It has not been an easy row to hoe and I think that we all admire, in particular, the way in which he handled the conferences at Lancaster House. The result justifies everything that he has done.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord and I must only apologise to your Lordships for having deprived your Lordships of your Leader for four months.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, as no one has congratulated the noble Lord from this side of the House today, perhaps I might just be allowed to do so.

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