HC Deb 02 November 1973 vol 863 cc17-8W
Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the special steps which he has taken to review British aid and technical assistance programmes in Ethiopia.

Mr. Wood

Her Majesty's Government are at present providing Ethiopia annually with £1 million of capital aid and about £700,000 of technical assistance. Ethiopia has been designated a least developed country, and our development loans are, therefore, on the softest possible terms. I hope substantially to increase the volume of our aid over the next few years. If suitable projects can be identified and implemented I mean to raise the level of our capital aid to more than £3 million by 1975–76.

I am proposing to provide a larger proportion of our funds for the agricultural sector, to which I have for some time thought we should give priority. I think this could make an important contribution to the long-term rehabilitation of the provinces that have suffered famine, and help to prevent these conditions recurring. The Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture came to discuss this subject in London last September. We are studying an extremely large agricultural development project in Tigre and I am sending a team of my officials to Tigre next week.

When reports reached Britain last summer of the full gravity of the effects of the drought in Ethiopia Her Majesty's Government immediately offered funds to support a food-for-work programme which was being mounted in the area most seriously affected by the Ethiopian Meat and Livestock Board under the direction of two British technical assistance officers.

We have also contributed to the relief effort in Ethiopia, which OXFAM is coordinating, by providing supplies of powdered milk and by carrying to Ethiopia additional supplies, including blankets. On 22nd October we flew dried milk and blankets there; on 29th October more dried milk; and this month we shall be flying out consignments of medical supplies, urgently-needed chemicals and other stores for OXFAM, UNICEF and Save the Children Fund.

Recent reports have shown that the extent of the catastrophe is much more serious than it appeared earlier. I told my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine) on 24th October—[Vol. 861, c. 502–3.]—that Her Majesty's Government have now offered the Ethiopian Government up to £100,000 to be spent on immediate famine relief, and we are urgently discussing how these funds can be best used.

In order to support the present efforts of the charitable organisations I have undertaken to give as much help as I can in making available, without cost, transport to get much-needed supplies to Ethiopia without delay.