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Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 13 February 1980

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If the elected Government seek assistance, we shall play our part and shall encourage the international community to do likewise.

Is the Minister aware that there will be considerable disappointment in the House that he is unable to make a statement now on the level of assistance that will be required for Zimbabwe? The election is getting very close and the time has come when that country will need a lot of assistance. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the House would be grateful if he could say now what that level of assistance is and not leave it to the future?

I cannot say what that level of assistance is until the new, independent Government are duly elected. Research has been carried out both by the United Nations and by ourselves. However, until we have had talks with the newly-elected Government, it is impossible to say what precisely they will want and what we would agree to give.

Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in any discussions within the Council of Ministers, aid to Zimbabwe will be in the forefront of his thinking? Will he impress that fact on the Commissioners who may be influenced in other directions, depending on the Government who come into office in Zimbabwe?

Yes; that will certainly come up in discussions within the Community. I cannot say whether it will be in the forefront, but I take the other point at which my hon. Friend hinted.

W ill the Minister comment on the fact that we currently subsidise the six richest countries of Western Europe by a sum twice as large—[Hon. Members: "Three times."]—as we give to 127 of the poorest countries in the world?

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, but my comment is that, if it is true, it is an absurd situation.

Will the Minister authorise the Commonwealth Development Corporation immediately to continue or to resume its activities in Zimbabwe, and will he increase its financial provision to ensure that sufficient capital is available to invest in Zimbabwe?

The question of the financial position and the capital of the corporation has not been finally decided, but every reasonable opportunity that there is for it to invest in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia will be examined.

If the hon. Gentleman cannot make a statement about general aid to Zimbabwe, will he accept that it is this country's responsibility to see that adequate funds are available to allow refugees to return as soon as possible, bearing in mind that they will not all be back, even after the elections have taken place?

We are doing a great deal on behalf of the refugees who are returning to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Earlier this week I saw Mr. Hay of ICRC and discussed that matter with him.

Order. As I promised, I shall add an extra two minutes to Question Time because of earlier slippage.