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Aid To Bolivia

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1977

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their present policy governing aid to Bolivia.

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Overseas Development is exploring the possibilities of providing capital aid to Bolivia for health projects. This would be aimed at supplying the needs of the poorest sectors of the community. We are continuing to provide an important programme of technical co-operation to Bolivia.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Can Her Majesty's Government say upon what grounds the £19 million project for aid to the Bolivian mining industry was cancelled?

Yes, my Lords. I know of the noble Lord's special interest in Latin America. As the House knows, I answered this question fairly fully previously. Always on questions of aid the Government take into account, as one of the factors in their decision, the question of human rights; and this project was in the end decided against because of the human rights position of the Bolivian tin miners.

My Lords, arising out of that, may I ask the noble Baroness a question? While it is understood that the global amount of aid to be given is determined, can she indicate how intermittent amounts to particular countries, reported from time to time in the papers, receive any review, and in what way and by whom?

My Lords, by whom: originally by the Minister for Overseas Development, and of course ultimately by the whole Cabinet. We keep these matters under constant and very careful review, and in my view Her Majesty's Government succeed extremely well.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us appreciate the fact that aid is continued for health in Bolivia but denied where human rights are denied in the mining industry?

My Lords, would not the noble Baroness agree that projects should also be considered which have ultimate benefit for United Kingdom trade and therefore for employment in this country?

Yes, indeed, my Lords. Capital aid of the kind which I have suggested for health projects would be tied to British goods and services.

My Lords, I do not want to continue this discussion too long, but may I ask the Government what was the major evidence upon which they decided that human rights in the mines in Bolivia were being denied by the Bolivian Government? From where did that evidence come?

My Lords, without making too detailed a reply, it came from many sources, including the Churches, and there was all sorts of evidence including, of course, the report of which the noble Lord will have heard, by the National Union of Mineworkers.