HL Deb 18 December 1989 vol 514 cc4-5

2.44 p.m.

Lord John-Mackie asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arms are being supplied by this country to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Lord Reay

None, my Lords.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that satisfactory Answer. However, is he aware of the background to the Question? It was at a meeting at the kirk door of a small church, near where I lived in Scotland, when the sermon was being discussed —the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will know the situation pretty well. The preacher had asked for help for Ethiopia. My brother-in-law, who was one of the farmers present, offered to send 30 tonnes of wheat to the country. However, someone said to him, "Well, it may go on the same boat carrying arms to the Ethiopian Government who are shooting up the lorries which are delivering that wheat to the areas where the starving people are".

I am glad that we are not supplying arms to the country. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord is correct in his Answer.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that we are not supplying arms to either side in the conflict. Moreover, we have not been doing so since the late 1970s.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, while we are grateful to the noble Lord for his assurances, is it not the case that arms are being supplied to both sides —that is, to the government by the Soviet Union and to those who are waging the civil war against them by Israel and the Gulf States? These are all countries with which Her Majesty's Government have good relations. Therefore, can he say what representations the Government are making to those who are supplying arms to a country which is on the verge of an appalling famine and which is in the middle of a wicked civil war?

Lord Reay

My Lords, the Ethiopian Government continues to be supplied by the Soviet Union, and by various other Eastern European and communist countries. The Soviet Union has supplied over £4 billion-worth of arms since 1977. However, the Soviet Union has said that it will not renew its bilateral arms agreement on its expiry in 1991. It has also withdrawn its military advisers. We strongly welcome that change of approach.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I too was happy to hear the Minister's Answer. However, can he say whether he has any information about the Ethiopian Government allowing relief aid to be transported to rebel-held territories?

Lord Reay

My Lords, in our view, one of the most important issues at present is the very great need for an agreement which enables access for relief supplies to get through to those who need them in the rebel territories. In fact, there are conflicting indications of what are the intentions of the Ethiopian Government, but until now they have not agreed to the various proposals put to them as regards allowing supplies to go to the rebel areas.