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Overseas Development

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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British Council


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied that he is getting value for money for the contribution made by the Overseas Development Administration to the British Council.

Yes, Sir. I believe that we are.

Will the Minister accept the thanks of the Cowley Hill school, the Hard Lane section of the famous Cowley school, St. Helens, which has turned out some of the finest pupils and academics in the world? Is he aware that, despite that gratitude, the school regrets that the officials and staff of the British Council responsible for dealing with correspondence and telephone calls have failed to even acknowledge communications?

Is my hon. Friend aware of the widespread acceptance of the outstanding work done by the British Council over many years? Will he do everything possible to ensure that it is able to continue.



asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on his discussions with Prime Minister Mugabe during his visit to London on 9 May which concerned the aid needs of Zim babwe.

In the discussions which Mr. Mugabe had with the Prime Minister on 9 May he expressed his gratitude for the advisory teams that we had already supplied and urged us to provide generous help in following up their recommendations, particularly as regards the public service. In addition, he sought our assistance in persuading other aid donors to make generous allocations for Zimbabwe. We undertook to do all that we could.

Did the Minister discuss with President Mugabe the report that, unless aid is forthcoming by the end of the year, people in some rural areas of Zimbabwe will suffer severe starvation? What additional aid is being considered in that eventuality?

I did not have direct discussions with Mr. Mugabe, but rural development has been discussed. The ODA mission that returned this weekend has been discussing just that subject with the Zimbabwe Government.

What is the latest status of the Zimbabwe debt to the United Kingdom Government? Can my hon. Friend confirm that the £75 million aid that he announced in the House some weeks ago is to be grant aid and not related to the repayment of that debt?

The first part of my hon. Friend's question is for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The negotiations that have taken place with the Zimbabwe Government are ad referendum to the Zimbabwe Government. Therefore it would be discourteous of me to answer that question.

Will the Minister accept that rescheduling of debts, terms of grants, loans and consideration of debts are for him and not the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

With regard to the £7 million emergency aid, which is part of the £75 million, how much has been spent, how much is planned to be spent and how far will it meet Zimbabwe's emergency food needs?

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Lady's question is "No." In the discussions that have just taken place I believe that agreement was reached on how to spend that £7 million. We are ready to disburse that sum when Zimbabwe is ready to spend it.

That will be up to the Zimbabwe Government and will be contained in their agreement with us on how to spend the emergency aid.

United Nations (Contributions)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what were the annual contributions made by Her Majesty's Government to the United Nations international children's emergency fund and the United National refugee programme, respectively, in the years 1974 to 1979; and what contribution is to be made in the current year.

Subject to parliamentary approval, in 1980 Her Majesty's Government will contribute £4·3 million and £5 million to the regular programmes of the United Nations international children's emergency fund and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees respectively.

Tables of contributions in the years 1974 to 1979, together with those to special appears and special projects of the two agencies, will, with permission, be published in the Official Report.

Bearing in mind the extreme poverty and social distress under which millions of people are living is the Minister satisfied that he is bringing to bear on that problem the vision and idealism that it deserves if we are to honour our obligations and commitments? Will the hon. Gentleman accept that it is a great shame to talk of cuts in the allocation to UNICEF, for instance? Will he take steps to increase the allocations so that we, may be proud to be British and continue our commitment to deprived people throughout the world?

It is not for me to say whether I have the idealism. That is for others. With regard to our UNICEF contribution, 1979 was an exceptional year, and our contribution was in support of the international year of the child, organised by UNICEF. In 1978, we gave £4·5 million, and the figure for 1980 is £4·3 million. That is a slight reduction, but it is not a figure of which we need be ashamed. As a nation we should be proud of what we do for developing countries.

Will my hon. Friend press the United Nations to give more support to Thailand, which at present has a particular problem with Cambodian refugees?

Certainly I shall. However, we are already giving considerable aid to Thailand and Cambodia to help with the refugee problem.

Following is the information :


Regular programme

Special appeals and specific projects

£ million£ million


Reqular programme

Special appeals

£ million£ million

* Unaudited.

The European Community also makes significant contribution to UNHCR's regular programme and special appeals, parts of which are provided from United Kingdom subscriptions to Community resources.

European Community (Aid To Non-Associates)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what British proposals have been put forward to the development council of the European Economic Community concerning aid to non-associates.

We have supported proposals for a total programme of 130 million units of account of aid to non-associates in 1980, and we have put forward for consideration projects in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Yemen Arab Republic, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Will the Minister accept that I consider it right steadily to increase the sum of approximately £90 million over the coming years? Is the Minister aware that the Commission is looking for projects to keep in hand and use when appropriate? Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that we shall be submitting projects to the Commission, and that such projects will be made known to the House or placed in the Library?

Does Zimbabwe feature in any project that we have submitted? If not, why not, bearing in mind that, for the first time in its recent history, Zimbabwe is having to import maize and considerable starvation is likely to occur in rural areas?

Zimbabwe has applied for membership under the Lome convention and it will come in under that, and not under the non-associates, which is the subject of the question.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was hoping that the Secretary of State for Trade might be able to answer question No. 22, which was not reached. I made a request to the right hon. Gentleman to deal with that question. Would it be in order for him to answer it now?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I, too, was hoping that we would reach question No. 22, but we just failed to do so. The right hon. Gentleman wrote a public letter to me and I have recently released a public letter to him replying to his remarks. I am sure that he will find an opportunity of raising the matter again in the House and I shall be pleased to have an opportunity to respond at the appropriate moment.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be in order for the Secretary of State to answer the question now?

If a Minister wishes to answer a question at the end of Question Time, it is customary for me to have notice before Question Time. There are two other statements to be made shortly.