HL Deb 06 April 1981 vol 419 cc361-3
Lord Brockway

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what conclusions were reached at the Aid Donors' Conference at Salisbury, Zimbabwe.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, before I answer this Question, may I say that my noble friend Lord Soames had intended to answer this Question himself, and indeed the following one, but he is unfortunately indisposed and therefore unable to do so.

The Zimbabwe Government's conclusion, with which we agree, was that this was an outstandingly successful conference. According to the figures released by the Zimbabwe Government, total international aid pledged to Zimbabwe before and during the conference now stands at about £890 million, of which more than half was pledged at the conference itself by a large number of countries and agencies.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I should like to express my sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Soames. Is the Minister aware that we shall want to congratulate the Zimbabwe Government and all concerned, including especially the noble Lord, Lord Soames, for the success of this conference? Is it not the case that this is a remarkable result and that the figure will be increased by donors still to make their contributions? Does the Minister agree that the purpose of the conference was rural development? Can he say how much of the British contribution which we welcome, and which was increased by £25 million amounting now to £140 million, is for rural development and how much is for the writing off of debts for loans for railway expansion and for grants to students in this country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that, as I said, the conference was indeed a great success. With regard to the additional £25 million which my noble friend Lord Soames was able to announce at the conference as coming from the British Government, £10 million of that will be used for land settlement in Zimbabwe; £5 million will be used for Zimbabwean trainees both in the United Kingdom and in Zimbabwe; and the remaining £10 million will be used for regional projects particularly those discussed at the SADCC Conference which was held at Maputo recently.

Lord Alport

My Lords, during the conference what consideration was given to the financing of the surplus maize crop in Zimbabwe in order to ensure that it is available for sale and purchase by neighbouring countries which are at present facing a very serious shortage of foodstuffs? Also, can my noble friend say whether some consideration has been given to make it possible for this crop to be transported to those countries concerned?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend has indeed lighted upon a very important matter which was certainly raised at the Aid Donors' Conference. However, the financing of purchases of that maize for other countries would, of course, relate to the aid allocations to those other countries. As for the transportation arrangements to which my noble friend referred, it is certainly true that the transport infrastructure in that part of the world does need some development and that, indeed, is likely to be the purpose for which the final £10 million of our new £25 million, to which I referred, will be used.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, may we then take it that the bulk of the £890 million pledged by various countries at this conference will be devoted to capital developments in Zimbabwe, but that the question of extra aid to contiguous countries, arising from their difficulties with food supply, will be looked at with a view to enabling them to take from Zimbabwe the very heavy surplus of maize, among other things, which it is already producing?

Secondly, would the noble Lord consider letting the House have these figures in a categorical manner, possibly by way of a Written Answer, grouping the amounts under various countries and certainly under various regions; that is, the United States, Africa itself, Western Europe and Eastern Europe?

Finally, will the noble Lord convey to his noble friend our deep sympathy with him in his indisposition and that we hope that his wonted influence will substitute itself for his temporary influenza?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I shall certainly convey those sentiments to my noble friend and I shall also consider what can be done to give the House additional details of the various pledges that were made at the Salisbury conference. The noble Lord referred to the various other countries that were there, in particular the Eastern bloc countries. I have to tell the noble Lord that the Eastern bloc was conspicuous by its absence from this conference. So far as I know, not a single penny was pledged by the Eastern bloc countries during the course of the conference, although one Eastern nation was, I think, present.

Lord Ritchie-Calder

My Lords, will the Government please encourage the six oil companies to contribute, in view of the letters which have been sent to them from Church leaders in Britain, America, France and the Netherlands by way of compensation for the breach of sanctions during the illegal régime?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not sure that I ought to rise to that bait. If the noble Lord is referring to the Bingham Report, for example, which referred to these matters, then I must remind him that the report itself, while interesting and valuable, did not in fact lead to prosecutions in this matter, and I would not want, therefore, to follow the noble Lord along the line which he is suggesting.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that those of us who have been most critical of the present Government's attitude towards Zimbabwe are filled with admiration for the stand which the noble Lord, Lord Soames, has made in persuading his less enlightened colleagues to support him on this issue? Will the noble Lord convey that to the noble Lord, Lord Soames?

I should like to refer to the debate on an Unstarred Question that we had about 10 days ago. Can the Minister tell the House what was the amount that was set aside by Britain at this conference for regional development? Will he agree that Zimbabwe is in a pivotal position as regards Southern Africa, and that the expenditure of money and resources on its part on regional development is all-important as a consequence of this conference?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord is right when he says that, of course, regional projects are important, if not essential, for that part of the world. Indeed, that was the reason why £10 million of the £25 million, which my noble friend announced at the recent conference, will be devoted to those purposes.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, can the Minister give some explanation of the representation at that conference?—for most of the 267 delegates were from the West and neutral countries. Is it not a fact that only three countries of Eastern Europe were represented; namely, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia? Why was not the Soviet Union represented, even when its ambassador was in the hotel where the conference was taking place?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have not the slightest idea why the Soviet Union was not represented at the conference. I understand that only one Eastern bloc country was represented; namely, Bulgaria.

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