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Rhodesia

Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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7.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what staff will be attached to the Governor of Rhodesia in Salisbury to deal with aid and development planning and co-operation during the transitional period.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Richard Luce)

There are no staff attached to the Governor specifically for this purpose. But senior officials from the Overseas Development Administration visited Salisbury from 8 to 12 January to make a preliminary assessment of Rhodesia's aid requirements.

I am glad that those staff have gone to Rhodesia to take account of the situation there. Will the Minister make an announcement to the House on the level of aid that the Government propose to make available to Zimbabwe following the elections? Will he make that announcement now, or at least before the elections, and give an assurance to the House that the level of aid will not be dependent in any way upon the outcome of the elections in Zimbabwe?

The British Government have already made it plain that they are willing to consider any requests for aid that emanate from a newly formed Government. Obviously, it is too early as yet. Once a Government have been formed in March, and once they form a view that they would like to request aid from the United Kingdom, we shall be very willing to consider that request. In the meantime there are some forms of temporary assistance that the British Government have already given.

While it is not surprising that that represents a change from the policy of the previous Government is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is a serious matter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it had been assumed that a certain amount of money would be available not from the aid budget but the contingency fund for the inevitable and necessary assistance with the economic development of an independent Zimbabwe? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman also knows that there was an effort to elicit the assistance of other countries in forming a Zimbabwe development fund. If he is not able to comment on these matters today, will he undertake to make, very soon, a full statement to the House on the whole issue?

As the right hon. Lady rightly suggests, there have been considerable changes in Rhodesia since the Government assumed office. I do not quite understand what it is that she is getting at when she talks about aid. As she well knows, we provide considerable sums for the education of Rhodesian students, principally in this country. When a newly formed Government emerge in March, we shall be ready to consider any form of assistance that they want. We have already been assured by the United States and by Western European countries that they will be ready to consider forms of assistance.