HL Deb 15 July 1982 vol 433 cc457-9
Lord Oram

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 what provision they are making and propose to make for the education and training in the United Kingdom of Namibian students.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, There are 63 Namibians studying in the United Kingdom in programmes administered by the British Council. Of them, 32 are financed from United Kingdom bilateral technical co-operation funds and 31 under UNESCO, FAO and United Nations Education and Training Programme for Southern Africa arrangements. We will continue to keep our programmes of educational and training assistance for Namibians under careful review.

Lord Oram

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that information, may I ask whether he does not consider that Britain has a special responsibility in helping to prepare Namibia for independence, particularly since English has been chosen as the official language and that there is every hope that an independent Namibia will join the Commonwealth? That being so, ought we not to be providing much more adequate facilities than were indicated in the Answer? Is the noble Lord aware that a number of universities have indicated that they would be prepared to provide suitable courses for educating Namibians, and will the Government respond helpfully to the initiative taken in this matter by the World University Service?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have seen the World University Service's Paper on the subject where they complained that Her Majesty's Government are at present contributing only a quarter of a million pounds a year to the education and training of Namibians. "Only" is a word which I would have left out of that paper. To me it is a considerable sum of money. I know that the House is particularly concerned about the cost of training and how training is arrived at for Commonwealth students and prospective Commonwealth students in this country. I would say that all Namibian students are here on scholarships which are directly funded from the British aid programme or that of international agencies. The noble Lord is correct in that English has been selected as the official language after independence. It is for this reason that we are putting great emphasis on a primary English course for Namibian students when they come over here under the aid programme. But I would say that it is a little premature to do more in this direction until independence is at hand.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether there is a British Council representative in Namibia?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am not sure about that. To the best of my belief, there is one in Windhoek.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, would not the Minister agree that this is an incongruous situation? Is not English to become the official language? Do only 10 per cent. of the people of Namibia know English, and are they not taught Afrikaans in the schools? Could not the Government at least exempt Namibian students from the overseas-student rate so as to encourage more students to come here?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I thought that I had already explained that the charging of full costs fees does not affect the Namibians, because they are already under scholarship arrangements. Nor will it affect future Namibian students unless they come privately to this country.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord two questions? Can he confirm or deny that the British Government give support to the Namibian Institute in Lusaka, and is there any connection between this and what he has been saying about training here? Is there any combination of the two? Secondly, he spoke of bilateral aid. With whom is this bilateral aid negotiated? The reason that I ask is that, presumably, the noble Lord can tell us whether the aid that the British Government provide is provided to the present Namibian Administration—in which case they would select the students who come here.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, as far as the first supplementary question is concerned, the British Government contribute multilaterally to the United Nations for educational purposes, and it is the United Nations which, to a great extent, fund their own organisation, which is the so-called UNION, the United Nations Institute for Namibia, and which, as the noble Lord knows, is centred at Lusaka. As to how the students and the scholarships are organised, I can say that we are ready to consider, and do consider, applications for training awards from Namibians nominated by organisations inside and outside Namibia—which would include UNION. However, we do not acknowledge the status of the institutions set up within Namibia as part of the internal settlement resulting from the elections in December 1978. We grant awards on the basis of educational and developmental criteria and regardless of applicants' political affiliation.

Lord Wynne-Jones

My Lords, does the noble Lord's previous answer mean that Her Majesty's Government are worried only about those students who come on public funds and that they do not worry at all about any who come privately but penalise them by charging heavy additional fees?

Lord Skelmersdale

No, my Lords, it does not mean that. All I said was that the students currently in this country come under scholarship arrangements; therefore the arguments on charging or not charging for university and technical education in this country do not apply.

Baroness David

My Lords, surely there may be others who are not on those scholarship awards and who might be grateful to come if they did not have to pay the full fees for overseas students. As the Government have given—through the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in his Written Answer to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, on 10th June—a welcome to the report of the Overseas Students' Trust, where preferential fees are suggested for certain countries, would not Namibia be a very good candidate for this? How will the Government answer that?

Lord Skelmersdale

That might be the case, but, as I have indicated, all this is conditional upon Namibia reaching full independence.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, is not Government policy about students from underdeveloped countries both ridiculous and short-sighted? Is not the noble Lord aware that the Government's policy is forcing students from this country to go to East Germany, to the Soviet Union, to Poland and to Czechoslovakia? If the Government want a peaceful, democratic world in the future, should we not be doing very much more to encourage far more students to come here from underdeveloped countries?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, although that is a somewhat different question—we are discussing the Namibians in this Question—I would say that the sole responsibility for a peaceful, democratic world is not on the shoulders of the United Kingdom Government. Secondly, the Government are absolutely right in expecting students of those countries who are able to be educated in this country under non-subsidised arrangements to do so.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, we have now had nine minutes on this Question. I think that it is right that we should move on to the next Question.

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