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Volume 892: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1975

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asked the Prime Minister whether he will make an official visit to Lusaka.

When the Prime Minister last met President Kaunda, will he tell the House whether he discussed the question of compensation to Botswana and Mozambique in the event of their imposing sanctions against Rhodesia? Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on Press reports that Britain has agreed to provide the bulk of the foreign exchange requirements of Mozambique resulting from the imposition of sanctions? Will he state what amount the Government envisage will be required?

In the first place, I reject the phrase that the hon. Gentleman used—I am sure that he did not mean it technically—about compensation. We did not talk about compensation. What we said was that, in the situation which is likely to occur after the last few days of June when the new Government of Mozambique take over, we are prepared as a Government to give aid to the economic position in Mozambique. We are also prepared to consider aid in relation to Botswana and to Zambia. And we discussed the matter with President Kaunda. We are prepared to do that. It is not a question of compensation. We did not say that we would provide the bulk of their foreign exchange. We will do it as part of what I think will be the United Nations programme. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that when we were asked whether we were prepared to provide either arms or money for guerrilla activities, my right hon. Friend and I gave a flat rejection. We said that we would in no circumstances be involved in such activities.

Will my right hon. Friend indicate whether any of the 10 experts indicated in the communiqué have yet been named and what sort of timetable is envisaged for the report of their deliberations on further economic co-operation?

Yes, discussions are going on about the names. We have made suggestions. Certainly Britain will be represented on this very important committee. The chairman has been named. I do not think that the remainder have been named publicly, but the relevant Governments, on a representative basis, are being asked to suggest names. I hope that there will be a statement in the near future. The terms of reference of the committee are set out in the communiqué.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people find it most poignant and astonishing that when they would have expected him to be concentrating the whole of his abilities, such as they are, on constructing a rescue package for the United Kingdom, he seems to have spent much of his time in Jamaica constructing a destructive package for Rhodesia? Surely something better than that should be done.

I think that the hon. Gentleman is out of sympathy with the general position taken by all parties in this House on the importance of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a unique institution which I thought was supported by everyone. I remember the great part played not only by some of our own previous Prime Ministers but by Mr. Harold Macmillan in the creation of the Commonwealth as it is today. It is remarkable that we can still, because of the former British connection, meet and express views representing every region and ocean of the world on every kind of economic development. I am disapopinted that the hon. Gentleman has not realised the importance of this.

This was the best Commonwealth Conference that any of us can remember since the Commonwealth Conferences started. [Interruption.] That is worth saying again so that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) can understand it. I cannot accept the view of the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) about the situation here. That matter will be debated next week and any relevant comments that the hon. Gentleman has, which I very much doubt, will no doubt be taken into account by the House and discounted at their full value.