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Overseas Emergencies (Commonwealth Assistance)

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what is his policy on whether to seek assistance from other Commonwealth countries when emergencies occur in a colony or dependency.

It is the policy of the British Government to seek assistance from Commonwealth or any other countries on such occasions as are deemed appropriate.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the strengthening of our Commonwealth links is important in order to facilitate help when circumstances demand it?

The Government have made it clear that they are fervent supporters of the Commonwealth. We had considerable success in rallying the Commonwealth in connection with Zimbabwe. My hon. Friend will recall that the Commonwealth played a valuable role there.

In view of the evidence of extreme starvation in Sudan, Ethiopia and other parts of the Horn of Africa, and of the worsening situation in Kampuchea, do the British Government intend to offer further assistance?

That is a question for my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development. He is about to go to a conference in Sudan dealing with that subject.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it was only because of the wish of the Australian Government that we got embroiled in the New Hebrides because, for consitutional reasons, it was not able to sign a treaty with France?

My hon. Friend is well informed about the history of the New Hebrides. The situation in the New Hebrides is of considerable interest to South Pacific countries, many of which are Commonwealth countries. They have made it clear that they support the British Government in sending the Marines.

Is it not also true that the Australian Government have reminded both the British and the French Government of their joint responsibility to leave the territory in a proper state when it is given independence at the end of July?

That is correct. I am in close touch with the Australian High Comissioner in London. We need no reminding about our responsibilities to the New Hebrides.