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Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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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.