HL Deb 25 March 1981 vol 418 cc1159-60

2.44 p.m.

The Marquess of Ailsa

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the simultaneous appeals from Somalia and Ethiopia, at a time of growing tension in the Gulf/Indian Ocean region, any initiative could be taken by Great Britain to promote talks between the Governments of Somalia and Ethiopia, aimed at resolving the refugee and other mutual problems which continue to destabilise the Horn of Africa.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the Government are concerned at the continuing tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia and would welcome a return to stability in the Horn. We regard the Organisation of African Unity as the body best suited to resolve disputes between African states. We are anxious to see early progress in alleviating the region's tragic refugee problem, and will be represented at the International Conference on Assistance to Refugees in Africa, to be held in Geneva in April.

The Marquess of Ailsa

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, while aid has been given in respect of refugees from Somalia, whose problem is very serious, would not the Minister feel that, in view of our long-standing responsibilities for Somalia, a larger amount of aid for the refugees from there would be more justified than aid which has been given in many other directions?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, we have donated £1 million towards refugee relief in Somalia during 1980–81. That comprised 5,000 tonnes of food aid and the balance in cash. We have also recently decided to offer a further 11,000 tonnes of cereal worth over £1 million and some £30,000 to finance the Save the Children Fund medical team in Somalia. In addition there is, of course, our European Community commitment.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there are in that part of Somalia bordering on the Ogaden, something in the neighbourhood of 1½ million refugees or displaced persons, Somalis, who represent a great problem both financially and materially to the Somali Government?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I can agree with my noble friend. We estimate there are about 800,000 Ethiopian refugees in camps in Somalia and up to another 600,000 outside the camps.

Lord Young of Dartington

My Lords, the noble Minister has referred to the aid the Government have agreed should be sent to this stricken part of Africa. May I ask whether he feels that in all the circumstances the aid that is being sent is adequate, or anywhere near adequate, to the need?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, we think it is a very sizeable contribution on our behalf. May I remind the noble Lord that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is introducing a debate later this evening on the same subject?