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Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement about aid for Zimbabwe.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what provision he has made in expenditure in the aid programme for 1980–81 for assistance to Zimbabwe.

As an initial commitment we have announced grants, subject to parliamentary approval, of £7 million for immediate reconstruction assistance, £500,000 for joint funding with voluntary agencies and £1 million for UNHCR's refugee repatriation programme These amounts are additional to the £9·2 million being sought in the 1980–81 estimates to continue the existing programme of training for Zimbabweans. We are considering the extent of the further assistance to be provided over the next few years, and will make an announcement as soon as possible.

May we have an assurance that, despite the cuts in overseas aid expenditure announced in the White Paper last week, the Government will be as generous as possible in agricultural, industrial and educational programmes, which will help the people of Zimbabwe? Will the Minister ignore the squeals of protest coming from some of the Smith supporters in this country, who for years were just lining their own pockets out of the exploitation of the people of Zimbabwe?

I confirm as strongly as I can to the hon. Gentleman that we will do our utmost, within our economic circumstances, to assist Zimbabwe, so that it can be helped to get off to a good course after independence. In addition to the reconstruction that we have announced initially—it is only £7 million—we shall shortly be announcing our programme for the next three or four years.

Can the Minister confirm that the sum of £8 million, I think he said, is part of the grants not yet allocated in the current Estimates? Since the overseas aid development fund has gone down by £148 million, is he not saying in effect that it has gone down by £148 million because somebody will have to take that extra cut?

The hon. Gentleman leaves me totally baffled. I think that the hon. Gentleman will get a clearer picture when he hears our full statement, which we hope to make shortly, about the programme for Zimbabwe in the next three or four years. When he sees that, he will get the matter into context.

What action has the Foreign Office taken to further the approval given by the Prime Minister to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Honiton that Britain should take a lead in setting up a world development fund to help Zimbabwe, contributed to by the EEC, the Americans and other nations?

I would say to my hon. Friend, who knows a great deal about Zimbabwe, that Britain has made contact with all the countries in the Commonwealth and the Western world with a view to urging them to make the best possible contribution towards that country's de- velopment. It is not for Britain to preempt whatever decisions Mr. Mugabe and his Government may make after independence. It is up to them to make their proposals known to us, but we are certainly expressing the hope that our friends in the EEC, the United States and elsewhere will respond as well as we shall.

In giving aid to Zimbabwe—cerainly much more than £7 million is required—will the Government also take into account the grave economic position of Zambia, where, because of the blowing up of bridges by Rhodesian forces, things are very grave?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that, over the last few years, Zambia has suffered the consequences of the war, as have other countries bordering Zimbabwe. Our programme for this financial year amounts to £30 million, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree is not insubstantial; we shall also have a substantial programme for the coming financial year.