HL Deb 25 March 1981 vol 418 cc1255-72

9.38 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what their policy is towards the attempts at greater economic co-operation in East and Southern Africa, as illustrated by the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference and the summit meeting held in Kampala.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. As the noble Lord the Minister knows, I have just returned from the area of Africa about which I am asking the Question tonight. In some ways it gives me a sense of déjà vu to return here. It reminds me very much of the days before the war, returning from the Continent of Europe to this country and finding so many people at the best apathetic and at the worst disinterested in what is happening in the outside world.

The area that I have come from is an area of war—there is simply no other way to describe it. It is a war caused by the last dying spasms of a malformed philosophy from South Africa which regularly causes raids on Mozambique, Angola and Zambia; which has spread throughout Central Africa and indeed, far beyond into our own continent; and the intelligence work of which the "Muldergate" scandal was but the tip of the iceberg. Immediately, and perhaps above all, there is the continued occupation of Namibia. I would suggest to the Government that when they—I think properly—protest against the occupation of Afghanistan, they should also consider that the principle is the same in Namibia.

I regret the cuts that have been made by this Government in overseas aid, particularly the cuts that have been made in the provision for higher education and the increased fees that are being charged to overseas students. Above all, this hits very deeply the technological training of many of the young people of Central Africa. I would echo many of the sentiments that were expressed yesterday in another place by my friends in the Labour Party. But I say to the Minister that this is not what I want to discuss. This is not the channel of argument that I want to follow tonight. Indeed, I would go much further and congratulate the Government on the part that they are playing in the Zimbabwe conference. I am particularly happy to see that the EEC and Britain are allocating a part of their increased aid to the regional development of Central Africa, meagre though that amount may be.

In 1953 this Parliament created the Federation of Central Africa. I believe that that was a great mistake. I believed it at the time and said so at the time. It was a mistake because it was an artificial forcing together against the will of the majority of the people of disparate countries under the control of a minority. In 1980 the same countries, now with the addition of six other countries, began planning and working towards a co-operative agreement which is different from that federation, but which they believe will be closer, more constructive and more productive for the people of that area.

It was less than a month after the Zimbabwe elections last year that the nine countries met together in Lusaka and unanimously agreed that their principle objective in co-operation was to release themselves from the thrall of South African economic domination. Since then there has been a further meeting in Maputo and the seriousness with which this is taken is shown by the very high level of representation at both those meetings.

It is about this form of co-operation and about the British responsibility to assist it that I want to spend the rest of the time that I have tonight. I would just make one reference to the other side of this form of co-operation—the East African side—which began in Kampala a few weeks ago, after the re-election of President Obote, and which brought together, hopefully, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. I believe that this is an extension of the spirit which was initiated in Lusaka 12 months ago. I hope that it will continue and expand, but of course there are special problems in Uganda at the moment.

So far as the nine are concerned, we are talking here about 55 million people. If one includes the South Africans who are intimately concerned and the people of Zaire, who very quickly came to associate themselves with the nine, then we are talking of over 100 million people. We are talking about an area which is extremely rich in minerals, in agricultural produce, in energy, in water supplies and, above all, in its people and in their skills, their tolerance, and their ambitions.

The central difference between the federation formed in 1953 and the co-operative association which came together in 1980 is that the leaders of these countries deliberately concentrated upon a functional approach. This is not a federation. It is not a common market. It is not a free trade area, because it has already been realised that the experience of the East African community has shown that when you get an unbalanced growth between the different countries then you run into difficulties.

I would take just one example; it is the one which is considered at the moment to have top priority, and it is in transport. The transport association has been based in Maputo, and it has already got to work. It is already planning, along with the Canadians, the extension of the railway in Malawi. But here is the very clear case for a vastly improved transport system in the whole of Central Africa. In Zimbabwe there is a bumper harvest of maize this year. It is hoped that it will reach 2 million tonnes. Yet Zimbabwe can mill only 750,000 tonnes of maize. What is going to happen to the 1¼ million tonnes left over?

There are people dying. Fifteen people died of hunger in Zambia itself just before Christmas. There are people dying in Tanzania. Drought has spread, as it always does, and has destroyed crops in many parts of East Africa. So that here you have a granary and you have people not very far away who are dying from starvation. Surely one cannot make a clearer case as to the importance of an immediate and vast improvement in the transport system, in the railways and on the roads. I am happy to see and applaud the initiative taken by Sonny Ramphal, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, in pointing this out and already suggesting a Commonwealth plan which can unite the production of Zimbabwe with the people of the rest of the area who are in such straits.

In all this discussion that is going on, all the planning, all the exchange of views, the country of Zambia is pivotal. Look at a map and you will see that it is geographically pivotal. If you know anything about the politics of the area it is obviously pivotal, as it was throughout the Zimbabwean war. But, and I do not blame the Government for this for one moment, it is a description of the situation in which the Government have to work. There is, I would say, in this country a sense of guilt that is coming through on the media, about the country of Zambia. The country and people of Zambia that are described in the media of this country are certainly not either the people or the country in which I have been living over the past four months. This is not understood by the Zambians, who are puzzled because they always thought they were friends of the British.

The media attack the President in their headlines and in what they say, whereas many noble Lords will be aware that the President has had a long, close and personal association with this country. Without naming the newspapers concerned, I shall quote a few of the headlines that have appeared: "Kaunda loses his excuse for his nation's ills"; "Poor leadership behind many of Zambia's economic crises"; "Russian advisers help build Zambian jets"; "Budget increase could kill Zambian aid hopes".

Those sorts of headline are being put to the British people daily, and unfortunately it extends beyond the newspapers—and the papers from which I have quoted are what would be considered to be respectable and friendly newspapers. Those of us who live abroad and listen regularly to the World Service of the BBC hear the same sort of things being said by their correspondents.

We in this country owe a great debt to President Kaunda. We asked him only 12 months after independence to apply sanctions to Southern Rhodesia. He put his life, his leadership and his political position on the block by agreeing to the proposals of the British Government, and I am talking about British Governments generally—not the present one, but Governments over the last 16 years. He was asked to apply sanctions against those who had rebelled against the British Crown, not against Zambia, so he was fighting our fight; and his personal position—it is no exaggeration to say his life—was put in jeopardy by those who disagreed with his consent to follow the policy of the British Government.

Have the correspondents who write about Zambia and those who talk on the subject in this country forgotten the history of the last 30 years? Have they forgotten that Zambia was forced against the will of the majority of its people into the Central African Federation, its resources milked to build up the economy of Southern Rhodesia? Have they forgotten the opposition of the British Administration to the nationalist movement in Zambia? Have they forgotten that an independent Zambia was left locked into the Southern Rhodesian economy and then asked to apply sanctions against Southern Rhodesia? Have they forgotten the war against the rebels, those who were rebelling against the British Crown? Have they forgotten the bombings the Zambians suffered and the number of martyred Zambian men, women and children? Have they forgotten the Bingham Report, which showed that British oil companies were supplying the oil to fly those planes? Have they forgotten that Zambia acted as hosts to the freedom fighters who eventually brought about the successful elections in Zimbabwe last year? And have they forgotten the tens of thousands of refugees from countries surrounding Zambia?

Has all that no effect upon the economy of the country? I believe that it has a deeper effect than has yet been realised. I believe that the major effect is to be found not among any of the more obvious impacts on the economy, but rather in the fact that because of sanctions Zambia was forced artificially to industrialise too soon. That was due partly to the influence of the multinational companies which dominate the mineral world in Zambia, and partly to companies in Southern Rhodesia which moved their subsidiaries to Zambia. That meant that Zambia started manufacturing substitute imports; that it became a consumer society; that there was very rapid urbanisation—the fastest urbanisation anywhere in Africa, where half the population lives in the towns, and where there are shanty towns around every town. When one visits the shanty towns, one finds that each household has its little patch of maize, its little groupings of sugar cane. People are building their own houses with bricks made from mud and dried in the sun. The effect of sanctions was to increase the rate of urbanisation, to diminish the planning and development of agriculture, and to destroy a great deal of the transport system and to divert other parts of it.

During the same period—from 1974 to 1979—the terms of trade turned against the Zambians by 50 per cent. That meant that people in this country were benefiting from the exchange of goods between this country and Zambia. We were paying less for our copper and cobalt than the Zambians had to pay for imported machines. When talking about copper and cobalt I hardly need to tell your Lordships' House that these are the two materials on which the foreign trade of Zambia depends almost entirely, and yet copper prices today hardly cover the cost of production. Sometimes they do not cover the cost, sometimes production runs at a loss.

So, yes, there have been intense pressures on the economy of Zambia ever since independence. Those pressures have come from the outside world, and we are partly responsible for the drastic results that have accrued. Yet at the same time President Kaunda and his series of Governments have been able to develop free universal education, build a university, establish a free medical service—how many countries in the world have a free medical service?—and perhaps above all develop a genuine non-racial community, in which no person of any colour need have any fear in any part of Zambia of being insulted or attacked because of the colour of his skin. That, I believe, is a tremendous achievement reached under the most adverse conditions that one can imagine.

Of course the countries that we are talking about were, before independence, ruled by either Britain or Portugal. I want to suggest to the Minister that we should now take some responsibility for assisting the people of these countries back on to the road they were on in the 1960s—when in Zambia the growth rate was 5 per cent. a year—back towards some hope for a decent standard of living in the foreseeable future. I will not again go through the proposals of the Brandt Report, but they all relate directly to Zambia. Indeed, Zambia is taken as a particularly apposite example of what the application of the principles of Brandt could do in a country such as Zambia.

Let me ask the Government to press ahead with what they have started in the Zimbabwean conference on assistance to regional development. I am not asking for a lot of money—I am not asking, necessarily, for more money, even, than the Government have already allocated—but I am asking for the application of that money to the special and constructive needs of this new, infant grouping of the nine states. For example, take the case of the port of Beira. From the beginning of this century the port of Beira has used British materials, British techniques, British equipment. It needs spares to get the port back to where it was before the war, and with some hope of progress. The same could be applied to Maputo; the same could be applied to Nacala. There is a need for spares, above all, with technical assistance to show them how to use those spares as they are needed.

Let me refer the Minister to railway engines. There is an important number of steam railway engines in the southern part of Zambia—built, I believe, in Doncaster. They are off the rails; they have not been used for years. They could very easily be put back into use with the help of a handful of technicians and, again, with the spares. Let me say at this point that the British High Commissioner in Lusaka and the overseas development administration representatives for that area are doing all they can. They and the new High Commissioner have made a great start. They are doing all they can to assist the local people to look to Britain for assistance in this way; and they are assisted by the interests of the OAU and by the Economic Commission for Africa. Prime Minister Mugabe and President Stevens of the OAU were in Lusaka within the last two weeks.

Finally, I believe that the Government and the House should take extremely seriously the proposition that the co-operation and healthy development of these nine countries—none of which has any intention whatever of attacking anybody—provides the only alternative (if there is an alternative) to war with South Africa. Beyond economic co-operation I believe they need a military alliance, because they are all of them subject to attack; and the war that is apparently coming is a war in which Zimbabwe and Namibia are only on the periphery. But here there is a very great danger, and the danger comes largely from the United States. The sentiments as expressed by President Reagan, by his security adviser, Mr. Allen, and by the United Nations' Ambassador, Mrs. Fitzgerald—all give hope to the South African Government: Hope that now they can begin to consider that they will not have to give up Namibia; that the northern boundary of Namibia can now become their front line; that now they can start again to support the organisation known as Unita in order to accomplish the destabilisation of Angola, in order to bring the cold war into this area—which would be disastrous to what is at the moment a very promising and constructive prospect. And the Americans do not understand that a non-aligned country is not a Communist country, that a non-aligned country looks to the interests of the third world and the non-aligned group and its own people on each issue; and that this does not make it into a Communist country. I believe that the British Government can do a great deal to explain this and to persuade Washington that this is the case and this must be the basis of the political, economic and military policy of the West. When the Americans tell us that President Kaunda gets his arms from the Soviet Union, let us remember that President Kaunda looked all over the West, right across the Atlantic, for arms to defend Lusaka, to defend the copper belt against South African attack before he finally had to turn to the Soviet Union.

In other words, the time for sitting on the fence on the great issue of Africa has gone. Apartheid, which is universally condemned, can never reform itself. There is no such thing as a reformed apartheid. The principle of colour discrimination lies at the heart of apartheid. Do not take my word for it but that of the honoured guest of the Government last week, President Shagari. Look at the figures and tell the Americans the figures; tell the Americans that they are importing nearly four times as much from Nigeria as they are from South Africa; and remember that we in Britain are exporting considerably more to Nigeria than we are to South Africa and that, following the visit of the President last week, there is hope that these export figures to Nigeria will increase. It was President Shagari who, I understand, last week begged Britain to stop supporting and strengthening the South African economy. I suggest that this—added to pressure on Pretoria, to all the leverage that the Government can muster both on Pretoria and Washington, together with the support of regional planning—may give just the chance that the South Africans will come to their senses before disaster strikes. This cannot be left merely to the businessman's judgment. This is crucial and is seen as crucial, not just in Africa, but in Asia, in Latin America and in all parts of the world. It is crucial to the future of British influence in the world and it brings together in happy marriage international morality and British self-interest.

10.10 p.m.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, after the comprehensive speech of my noble friend I shall be brief. I regret that there were not more here to listen to my noble friend's speech. The remarkable knowledge which it expressed, the passionate sincerity which was behind it, almost made us forgive the fact that the noble Lord has been away for four months.

I want to raise some quite concrete questions. It is recognised now that most of the territories which we are discussing have unbalanced economies. Historically that was due to Imperial economic policy. I want to acknowledge that one has been disappointed that more has not been done since independence has been gained by many of these countries.

However, since Lusaka, followed by the recent conference at Kampala, great hope has emerged. The proposal that nine countries should co-ordinate their economies in a development plan, carrying out the urging by President Julius Nyerere at Lusaka for self-reliance, indicates the new mood that is in Africa today. This development among these nine nations shows that if their plans were fulfilled they would not only be able to meet the needs of their people, but would end hunger there and also end the dependence which now exists on external multinational companies and South Africa.

I want to take the situation in Zimbabwe (to which my noble friend referred) as an example of this. They have now a surplus of maize. In their neighbouring countries of Zambia and Tanzania people are dying from hunger for want of that maize. The difficulty is in developing the plan of distribution and the plan of transport. The first suggestion that I want to make to the Government is this: They should give the fullest support to the proposal by Mr. Ramphal of the Commonwealth Secretariat which suggests that there could be, by proper aid, a meeting of the problems that are involved.

The second concrete matter to which I want to refer is the proposal by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in what has been picturesquely termed a triangular fairy godmother system. That is a system by which a developed country should provide cash to buy grain from a second country to relieve hunger in a third country. I am asking that the Government should give the utmost support to that proposal by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The third quite concrete point I want to raise is this. The Food and Agriculture Organisation recently called a meeting of 38 potential donor countries to Southern Africa and at that meeting 12 countries announced increased donations. Those 12 even included the United States of America (despite its recent announcements of policy), Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and, subsequently, Italy. They did not include the United Kingdom, and I am asking the Government whether, since that gathering, the United Kingdom has agreed to co-operate with these other Governments in that support.

My next concrete suggestion is this. There has been a meeting in Kampala where co-ordination has been proposed between Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania; but the great obstacle to co-operation between those three nations is the closed frontier between Tanzania and Kenya. Will the Government do their utmost to try to bring about a solution to that problem, which has meant economic difficulties for Tanzania? Could not the Commonwealth Secretariat or the OAU be asked to initiate negotiations to end that difficulty? I have satisfied myself with raising those concrete points, but I do ask Her Majesty's Government to give the utmost assistance to these new regional plans in Africa—self-reliance by the African countries themselves—and to encourage them to fulfil their hopes by giving them the fullest aid that is possible.

10.17 p.m.

Lord Gifford

My Lords, the peoples of Southern Africa will, I know, be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Hatch for, by his Question, drawing attention to one area of Government policy and one element of what the Government's responsibilities should be at what is a critical period in the history of Southern Africa. We hold this debate within two months of military raids being carried out by the South African forces into the heart of Mozambique. We hold this debate within a month of gross threats of interference in the internal affairs of Angola being made by the new Reagan Administration.

It is against that background that this Question spotlights part of what the Government's response should be. So far as the whole question of Southern Africa is concerned we need a wider debate, and I think we should have one in the very near future. But this Question raises what our response should be to the demands of the independent states of Africa: those that have won their freedom, often after a bitter struggle, and are now faced with desperate problems of economic weakness and dependence, the legacy of their colonial past—dependence on an economic power, the Republic of South Africa, whose political interests are fundamentally opposed to their own.

Like my noble friend Lord Hatch in Zambia, I have seen concrete examples of this weakness and this dependence in Mozambique. I have seen some of the railways; for instance, the railway that leads from the port of Nacala, the lifeline for Malawi and for North-Western Mozambique, where the trains can go at only 40 kilometres an hour because of the weakness of the track, leaving those areas unsustained because of the paucity of the trains that can go week by week. I have seen the ports—ports which are rich in natural resources, but which are run-down, ill-equipped and left quite inadequate to supply the needs not only of Mozambique, but of the landlocked countries.

So far as dependence on South Africa is concerned, I have seen, perhaps most strikingly, the Cabora Bassa dam, where a whole hydro-electric complex is built to channel electricity, not to the surrounding poor countries that need it badly, but direct to Johannesburg, where it is fed into the South African grid, without any possibility of direct use for Mozambique and its neighbours. It is in the face of that, that a determined initiative has been made by the nine front line states.

At Lusaka, they put the challenge in graphic terms. After stating that Southern Africa is a focal point of conflict, they said this in the declaration made there on 1st April 1980 about the context of that conflict: It is not the quest for liberation, but the entrenched racism, exploitation and oppression which is the cause of conflict in Southern Africa. The power behind this is in large measure economic. Economic liberation is, therefore, as vital as political freedom ". It is in that spirit that they first made the declaration of Lusaka, and then followed it up by concrete programmes worked out at the Maputo Conference.

There is a quotation from the strategy paper presented to the Maputo Conference that deserves our attention, and it is this: This is the beginning of a movement which will stretch far into the future, affecting the lives of all of us in Southern Africa and all who have interests here. We seek at the Maputo Conference to know who stands with us. We seek therefore from our friends clear statements of their political and national support for the objectives, programmes and policies of SADCC.". In response to that, our policy should be clear. There should be a commitment to back, generously and promptly, with all the resources that we can spare, the demands which come from these nine countries. But so far the response from Britain has been grievously disappointing. At the Maputo Conference itself, there were pledges from a wide spectrum of Western countries. In addition to a substantial pledge from the EEC, there were pledges from particular member states and Western countries—Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, West Germany, Denmark and Belgium, but not Great Britain. The Foreign Minister of Mozambique, Mr. Chissano, came to this country in January this year. He was received with great respect by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary—respect justly due, having regard, in particular, to the part played by President Machel in the Lancaster House talks for the obtaining of independence for Zimbabwe. But when it came to the commitments for which he was asking as a member of the nine SADCC states, there was none. He was told that the requests were being processed. I fear that he was being fobbed off.

So what is the answer to the Question posed by my noble friend? What is the Government's policy? There will be many in Southern Africa, in all the countries, who will read the reply with intense interest. The very worst response, the very worst attitude, would be to hold back because of misguided political motivations, because of the fear of loosening the economic ties that bind this country to the apartheid Government of South Africa.

As President Shagari of Nigeria said during his state visit, the countries of Africa are the countries with a future. They are rich in resources. They are anxious to remain non-aligned, to receive aid, to welcome investment, to make honest bargains with countries and with businesses. So often British policy in Africa is based on ignorance and prejudice. Only 18 months ago substantial sections of the party opposite were branding Mr. Mugabe as a Communist and as a dangerous tool of the Soviet Union. We now respect him as the responsible political leader which he always has been.

In the same way there is a danger of isolating Mozambique and Angola because they, as is their right, as is their people's need, are pursuing a socialist path of development. We must not follow the wild prejudices of the new men in Washington. If we do, we bring about the very polarisation which we claim to deplore. The idea that any of the Governments, particularly the Governments of Mozambique and Angola, are in any way the puppets or the tools of any other power is an insult to them and is belied by a determined history of advancing the interests of their people against enormous odds: in these countries, as in Zambia, they are now building up programmes of health, of education, of popular participation in the running of the country.

I trust that that sort of motive will not be and is not the reason for what seems to be tardiness on the Government's part in responding to the Maputo Conference. On this question of economic liberation, as well as the question of political liberation, it is time a British Government expressed themselves as firmly on the side of those who are struggling to be free.

10.28 p.m.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, may I apologise for not putting my name down to speak? However, I thought that I ought to add my pennyworth to this debate and support my noble friend. Although the situation so far as South Africa is concerned may provide the political motivation for the coming together of the nine, the co-ordination of their development is right in itself. Because it is right in itself and because it is important in world terms, we ought to give it every support.

We have many discussions, not always in this House but outside, about the North-South dialogue and its importance. I am not sure to what extent Her Majesty's Government have in fact understood the importance of the North-South dialogue. However, on this occasion we are talking of an important South-South dialogue, an important getting-together of countries that are regarded as part of the South. But they are countries with resources which, if pooled together, can make them very rich. This is the important point. If the resources are pooled together, they can provide a very good life for their people. They can, for example, feed themselves. A fair amount of energy will be available: hydro-electric and of course, coal. They are full of minerals which are important to the world. With these resources they can provide a good life for their people. By co-ordinating and bringing together these resources they can be used for the common good.

Their problem at this moment, as has been mentioned before by the previous speakers, concerns communications, road and rail transport and their ports. What they need at this moment is what I would call the "priming of the pump", by helping them, financially and with technical help, to increase and improve their communications, because once that is done the community—I will call it that, although they have not yet called it that—will rise and will be able to be a community about which the whole world can be proud.

The OAU has set AD 2000 as the date by which they hope to achieve an African common market. One does not know whether they will achieve that aim, but what one can say about this regional co-operation is that with proper support this regional co-operation can, in a few years, become an area of wealth, an area in which people will live well and comfortably, an area about which not only Africa but Europe as well could be proud.

What I am hoping is that the Minister will reply in a manner which will give us encouragement, because so far the Government have been tardy in their response. I hope that the Minister will give us the hope and the encouragement that we need.

10.32 p.m.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, the hour is late, but this is a very important matter and I hope not to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. However, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby for the comprehensive speech that he has made about Central and Southern Africa. He has very considerable first-hand knowledge of this vast area, and I am sure the Minister has listened with close attention to what he said. There were many important points, some of them disquieting, which he so graphically put to the House.

There are of course two outstanding facts about this huge area. It is an area where hostility and suspi- cion between whites and non-whites is an ever-present threat to its stability and prospects of peace. But it is also a region, as my noble friend Lord Pitt reminded us, very rich in minerals, many of them essential to Western industry and with an enormous agricultural potential. The whole purpose of the Lusaka Conference, carried on in Kampala—the whole objective of the Lusaka Nine—is somehow to intensify economic co-operation and development in this area. Surely this is a purpose which the United Kingdom and like-minded countries should actively support, not only because it is morally right but also because it is in our clear interests to do so.

As the Nigerian President reminded us last week, Central and Southern Africa is the United Kingdom's third largest trading partner, and certainly our trade, to our mutual benefit, with this enormous area could be doubled or trebled in a few years, if the resources of the area were enabled, through aid from the North and West, to promote the co-operation and development that the nine countries are seeking. But of course to do this they must have the technical assistance in men, money and machinery, and the developed countries of the West have been rather slow to grasp the need for this, although there are now signs that we are beginning to learn the facts of life as between North and South, that there is no future, certainly no prosperity, for either in isolation. The Brandt Commission has conclusively demonstrated that massive aid by the North to the South is at once a moral imperative on the North and an investment in friendship and prosperity between the two regions.

My noble friend rightly asked what our Government are doing about this, and I strongly reinforce his question. The other place had a most instructive debate yesterday about these matters. I do not know whether the Minister can confirm the figures given by my honourable friend Mr. Guy Barnett in an excellent speech, that the United Kingdom has cut its aid by 18 per cent. since 1979; that is about four or five times the cut it has imposed upon itself in its own public expenditure. By 1983 a further cut of 15.3 per cent. will have been effected in the somewhat inadequate aid we make available from our GNP. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how far short we are falling of the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP to be devoted to overseas aid. Two years ago we were within striking distance of that target; we had achieved 0.51 per cent. and 0.7 per cent. looked attainable, but by 1980 we had fallen back and fallen behind other countries in our overseas aid. We had fallen back to 0.34 per cent. which is less than half the United Nations target.

Our record in helping Zimbabwe is better—£75 million over three years and the prospect of a further substantial sum to be announced by the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Soames, at the donors conference in Salisbury. Perhaps the Minister can give us details of this.

I truncate my remarks and put the final and substantial point I wanted to bring to the Minister and your Lordships. Economic aid is, of course, vital to the future development of regions like Central and Southern Africa, not only that of Zimbabwe, but Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and the others. But, vital as economic aid is, it cannot be truly effective unless the region achieves political stability. This is an area of racial tension erupting into actual armed conflict; the fact of war is already in Southern Africa. The provision of aid cannot be fully effective unless conditions of stability are also promoted at the same time as the aid is extended.

The principal cause of this political instability—it must be said and repeated—is the apartheid policy of the South African Republic. There are signs that there is a toughening of their attitude due to their, I hope, misreading of American policy. I hope that our Government—and I speak as a pro-American, a firm believer in the alliance and the special relationship—will speak with clarity in Washington. Namibia is a key country in Southern Africa whose resources are vital to the interests of the West, indeed to the survival of the West. Unless you have an independent successor state which has reason to be grateful to the West and reason to co-operate with it, then the consequences for the West will be dire indeed. So it is time to speak with clarity to our friends in Washington about the way in which their policy towards Namibia is proceeding at present.

I should like briefly to put three points to the Minister to convey to his colleagues and to think over himself. First, with like-minded countries in Western Europe, North America and certainly in the Commonwealth—and the Commonwealth showed last year what it could do in Africa; indeed, in Lusaka it achieved a historic U-turn in the way in which it dealt with what used to be called the "Rhodesian problem"—we should support morally and practically the efforts of the Lusaka Nine to achieve a comprehensive programme of development. It is their right that we should take the lead in this as the premier post-colonial power in the world. It is in our enlightened self-interest that we should do this.

Secondly, we should redouble our efforts to obtain a much more speedy programme of reform in race relations in South Africa—in the Republic—with the early total abandonment of apartheid. Apartheid has no future; its dissolution can only be marginally postponed. We used to say about Rhodesia that there was no future for the Smith idea of running the country. It would only postpone the inevitable—the desirably inevitable—for a year or two at a time. The end is clear. Let them make a virtue of necessity—a humane virtue of an imperative necessity, and institute the reforms at a fast pace so that the millions of deprived and underprivileged black Africans can see for themselves that the white man is in earnest about extending equal rights to them. That would be an investment that would pay in peace and friendship far beyond even the material aid that we have been talking about tonight.

Thirdly—and material aid is important, of course, for the reasons already given—we should really look again at our overseas aid programme. It has been reduced at a fast rate, as I have tried to show, and this is a moral reproach to us as the premier post colonial power, and a political and economic error of the first magnitude. There is a blindness about this, about reducing overseas aid—a blindness about the consequences in terms of forcing these new countries to turn to totalitarian sources for the necessities of development. Every penny that we can make available to these countries, positioned as they are and full of important resources as they are, will be an investment not only economically, but strategically and politically.

This has been a useful debate. I wish that it could have been held under more suitable conditions. But I am grateful to my noble friend for having persisted in his intention to raise this matter. It is one of the most important matters that this House can possibly discuss. I would say that, with the Middle East, Cent ral and Southern Africa is the most important area in the world not only in terms of its own stability and peace, but also in terms of the implications of getting this wrong for the rest of the world. I hope that this short but useful debate will spur on the Government to do in Central Africa as a whole what they have commendably begun to do in Zimbabwe. They have given themselves a reasonably good example in doing what they have done in Zimbabwe. Let them carry on in the same way in the rest of Africa.

10.45 p.m.

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

My Lords, at the outset may I say that I am a little croaky this evening and if I finally give up halfway through my speech, my noble friend Lord Avon has kindly agreed to take over, though I hope that that will not be necessary.

This has been a most interesting and wide-ranging debate. I am very glad to have this opportunity to set out the Government's policy on the issues which have been raised and where possible to answer questions and clarify some apparent misconceptions which I fear the debate has revealed.

Southern Africa has suffered greatly both in human and economic terms from the devastating war in Zimbabwe. But the Lancaster House settlement, followed closely by Zimbabwe's independence, have helped us to bring greater stability to the region. If this stability is to continue, however, it is essential that the countries concerned have a sound economic base on which to formulate their policies.

As your Lordships will know, this Government attach great importance to increased economic cooperation between the individual states of Africa and particularly so in the East and Southern region of that continent. Moreover, the interdependence of their economics and the need for greater co-operation is fully recognised by the states themselves. In November last year, nine of them—Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique—held a conference in Maputo, the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference. There they met a large number of mainly Western and multilateral donor organisations to discuss ways of strengthening their regional economic links.

This initiative was warmly welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, who were represented at the conference by my honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development. He expressed Britain's strong support for the conference's aim of identifying practical means of increasing regional co-operation for the economic benefit of the region as a whole. For it is certainly this Government's view that if increased economic co-operation within the region is to lead to a real improvement in living standards, to increased productivity and to increased prosperity, the benefits of this will be felt not only in East and Southern Africa but in the world beyond, and particularly in the countries with which this part of Africa trades. So it is very much in our own interests, as well as those of the African countries concerned, to encourage further moves towards economic integration in the region.

But clearly, words, resolutions and conferences are not enough by themselves to achieve the economic progress that everyone agrees is desirable and necessary. The objective must be to seek practical measures contributing towards the important goal of regional co-operation. Projects must be economically sound and defensible in themselves. It is not enough, for example—as some might think—for projects to be justified purely or even primarily on the contribution that they might make to reducing the dependence on South Africa of the African states that surround it. Whatever they and we might think of apartheid, in pure economic terms there are obvious overriding practical limits on the ability of the states surrounding South Africa to reduce their economic dependence on the republic. Conversely, there are equally obvious economic benefits in these states maintaining commercial and physical links with all countries of the region. Far better, therefore, for the countries of Central and Southern Africa to identify achievable plans which if successful will bring to the region prosperity, independence and the ability to choose to trade, or not to trade, on the basis of equal partnerships and from a position of economic strength.

The conference at Maputo identified three main areas—transport, agriculture and manpower—where the need for economic progress in the region is pressing. We are sure that this emphasis is right. The development of transport and communication links is a particular priority; and with many of the states concerned landlocked, it offers the most critical and tangible example of interstate co-operation.

In 1979, the last year for which we have full statistics, we spent some £140 million on aid to the nine Maputo Conference countries, plus Kenya and Uganda. Provisional figures indicate that we spent at least that amount in 1980 as well. I would ask those who are always ready to criticise the Government's performance in development matters to reflect a while on these impressive figures: they are worth more I think than expressions of solidarity, which is about all they get from the Eastern bloc.

A considerable proportion of these funds has gone to the transport and communications sector. For example: the Songea/Makambako Road in Tanzania, which is our biggest single aid project in the region; planning assistance for the development of Botswana Railways; rehabilitation of the railway track to Malawi's southern border with Mozambique; and in Mozambique itself, the construction of roads in Gaza and Cabo Delgado provinces. In Kenya, too, we are providing equipment to improve handling capacity at Mombasa port and we have allocated some £13 million to the building of the Embu—Meru road.

We already have plans to continue to help with the improvement of communications in the region. In Zambia we shall soon discuss how we might assist with the rehabilitation or replacement of the Kafue Rail Bridge. In Lesotho we have offered to provide funds for road construction. In Zimbabwe we have agreed to some £7 million for a major railway electrification project and should be happy to consider using funds for other transport projects should the Zimbabwe Government so wish. The Zimbabwe Donors' Conference is of course now in progress in Salisbury. It is too early to say what the final result of the conference will be, but we are very hopeful that it will be an important success with substantial pledges of aid being made by donor countries.

I am pleased to be able to tell the House tonight of the substantial aid pledged on behalf of the United Kingdom by my noble friend the Lord President. In addition to our existing bilateral aid to Zimbabwe of £96 million we have offered a further £10 million for land settlement, £5 million for training Zimbabweans in Britain, and £10 million for regional projects in the Southern African area. This is in addition to our military assistance to Zimbabwe and to £22 million of debts which we have written off. I suggest that these are figures of which the Government can be proud.

The exact use to which the new £10 million for regional projects will be put is not yet finally decided. But because of its central importance to communications in the area, it is expected that a substantial proportion of the funds will go to transport and communications projects in Mozambique. My noble friend has already mentioned at the Zimbabwe Conference that we have in mind in particular the improvement of the rail link from Salisbury to Beira; and the improvements to Beira Port. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, mentioned those points specifically.

Such projects will not only be of assistance to Mozambique itself; they will also be of direct benefit to countries on or near its borders. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Botswana—all landlocked states—acknowledge that their economic prospects would be greatly improved if they were able to import and export their goods quickly and efficiently through Mozambique.

We will be moving as quickly as possible to reach decisions on how this new aid will be allocated; preliminary discussions on possible new projects are scheduled for early next month in Maputo. It is of course not only in the transport sector that we have been—and will continue to be—of help. Agriculture is clearly vital to the region. We are already providing substantial assistance for agriculture and rural development generally in many of the states of Southern and Eastern Africa. More initiatives are being planned, but perhaps our most significant contribution of all in this part of Africa is the provision of skilled personnel. Well over 2,000 experts in the region are partly or wholly financed from British aid, and are located as far as possible in key posts where skills can readily be passed on.

I have spoken so far of activities under our bilateral aid programmes. But let us not forget our substantial contributions to the multilateral bodies which are also assisting the economic development of the countries of East and Southern Africa. Nor should we ignore the significant benefits of membership of the Lomé Convention for these countries. Of course, not quite all of them are members. The two that are not, Angola and Mozambique, would stand to gain much from membership, which in view of their important harbour and rail facilities would in turn benefit neighbouring states.

I would add that Britain's role in the development of the region is not confined to aid, whether provided direct or through multilateral aid bodies. British companies have played an important part in the development of this part of Africa and there is much they can do in the future.

I have given particular attention so far to the outcome of and the initiatives arising from the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, which is the subject of the Question. But the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has referred specifically to East Africa as well. I am pleased to say that recent developments in that region have given rise to hopes for greater political stability and economic co-operation. President Obote has taken the initiative to restore Uganda's good relations with its neighbours. This has given impetus to the series of meetings this year between Government Ministers of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and other neighbouring countries. The Kampala Summit on 17th January is a tangible example of improved relations and has led to an agreement to hold further meetings at regular intervals to review the possibilities for greater regional co-operation.

The meeting in Dar es Salaam on 13th March shows the progress that is being made. If these meetings result in a strengthening of economic ties between the countries concerned and the amicable settlement of problems arising from the break-up of the East African Community in 1977, then we would regard them as a most welcome initiative.

Economic imperatives dictate that there must be some measure of regional economic co-operation in East Africa. The landlocked countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia require access to the sea for their exports, and their economies and markets are interdependent. Moreover, economically, all three major East African countries, like most of the world, are going through difficult times. Tanzania suffers severe balance of payments problems. Uganda has suffered much from a lack of political stability and her economic and administrative infrastructure is in dire straits. Kenya, though stronger economically, nevertheless has increasingly been affected by adverse terms of trade and a high population growth rate. All to a greater or lesser extent have suffered from the rise in oil prices, the fluctuation of the world commodity market and the problem of drought and food shortage.

Ideally, therefore, the economic interests of the East African countries should coincide, particularly as regards trade and transportation. The road and rail link with Mombasa is vitally important for the economic health of the region, as are the port facilities at Dar es Salaam. Finance is available for regional projects from the European Development Fund, and I know that the European Commission would be particularly receptive to East African proposals for the abolition of trade barriers and the improvement of transportation links. Certainly we would encourage investment of this sort from the European Development Fund to which, of course, we contribute a substantial 18 per cent.

Much can be done to reduce the economic problems facing East Africa at the moment and, with Kenya soon to take up the chairmanship of the Organisation of African Unity, I hope the opportunity for promoting greater regional co-operation in the area will be taken. For, in East Africa, as in Southern Africa, the assistance that we and other donors can provide will be of real and lasting value only if it is matched by the genuine efforts of the recipient countries to work closely with each other for the greater economic good of the region as a whole.

I turn to some of the points that have been raised in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, was of course particularly concerned about the position of Zambia and referred to critical reports about Zambia in the United Kingdom press. No matter what may be written in the British press, over which of course the Government have no control, our relations with Zambia are in fact most cordial. We have a substantial aid programme there; indeed, our recently announced £10,000 allocation for the SADCC projects would greatly benefit Zambia indirectly. And, as an example of our continuing close relations, we are sponsoring visits to this country by a group of officials and MPs from the United National Independence Party of Zambia and the editor of The Times of Zambia.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and other noble Lords also referred to the food surplus in Zimbabwe and to what might possibly be done with it. We have already offered to provide 14,000 tonnes of food aid to Mozambique and Zambia this year, and we have proposed that this food be purchased in and provided from Zimbabwe, which, as the noble Lord has rightly pointed out, is enjoying an impressive food surplus this year. That I think somewhat pre-empts Mr. Ramphal's ideas, which were referred to by both the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. It is hoped that other donor countries will be able to make similar or parallel arrangements.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, also referred to the Kenya—Tanzania border. Closure of the border between Kenya and Tanzania was one of the unhappy consequences of the break-up of the East African community. We should welcome any progress towards its reopening, but we understand the difficulties. In the first instance, it must of course be a matter for the two countries involved, but I hope that the current discussions between them, borne out by the new spirit of co-operation to which I have referred, will lead to an amicable agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to the United States' policy, in particular towards Angola. I imagine that he was referring to the possible appeal of the Clark amendment which, if it is carried through, will allow the United States Government to provide additional new aid for the Unita group in Angola. This is of course primarily a matter for the United States Government and Congress. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, we are of course in normal cordial relationship with the Government of Angola and there can therefore be no question of our supporting any dissident group in that country.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, too, referred to United States' policy more generally in the area of Southern Africa. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my noble friend the Foreign Secretary discussed Namibia with President Reagan and Mr. Haig on the occasion of their recent visit to Washington. They expressed the hope that the United States Administration would work with all those involved in the negotiations for an internationally-recognised settlement there. We understand that the new United States Administration are reviewing the complex of Southern African problems and intend to consult other Governments mainly concerned before formulating specific policies or taking policy decisions.

We are coming to the end of a most interesting and constructive debate. Many noble Lords have given us the benefit of their advice, and indeed expert knowledge, and I thank them for that. I would express the hope that in turn I have been able to apprise your Lordships of the Government's positive and substantial response to the economic needs of East and Southern Africa.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him to expand on just one point in his speech? I thank him for his very full and courteous reply. I hope that his voice will improve; perhaps a visit to Zambia would do his throat good. The noble Lord spoke, quite correctly, about the importance of skilled technicians being made available to the area that we have been considering. But can he give some advice to the vice-chancellor of the University of Zambia, for example? The vice-chancellor is now faced with a drastic cut, causing great dismay, in the British Government's support for members of staff that he and the administration would like to recruit in this country.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not of course have in front of me the details of the matter to which the noble Lord refers. All I can do is to make the general point that I have made to your Lordships on many occasions: we regret any cuts that may be necessary in our aid budget, but if we do not make our dispositions in accordance with the resources available, then in due course we shall have no resources at all.