Famine (Ethiopia)

– in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 13th December 1989.

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 6:46 pm, 13th December 1989

I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 7:13 pm, 13th December 1989

I beg to move, That this House deplores the totally inadequate response of Her Majesty's Government to the immediate threat of famine in Ethiopia. I am sorry that the Minister for Overseas Development is not present. I understand that she is ill. On behalf of Opposition Members I send her our good wishes for a speedy recovery.

As I talk, people are dying in Ethiopia. Everyone now recognises that it is possible to save lives if emergency aid is given swiftly and generously. It is in that context that I open the debate. Britain spends far too little on overseas aid. The United Nations asks all developed countries, including Britain, to spend 0·7 per cent. of their gross national product on overseas aid each year. Some countries meet the target. In 1988 the Governments of Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and France all spent more than 0·7 per cent. of their GNP on aid. The previous Labour Government were moving steadily towards that target, despite the international economic circumstances of the late 1970s.

When my party left office, United Kingdom aid as a percentage of GNP was 0·52 per cent. Under this Government, the figure has fallen to a meagre 0·32 per cent., less than half the United Nations target and one of the lowest ever recorded for the United Kingdom. So-called Government wets such as the right hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), for Bath (Mr. Patten) and for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) have been happy to preside as Minister for Overseas Development as the Government have slashed the aid budget as a percentage of GNP year after year since Labour was in office in 1979.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

Does the hon. Lady agree that Labour Governments invariably have a record of increasing GNP very little or not at all, whereas Conservative Governments increase GNP considerably? Is not that a statistical influence on the trend that she suggests? Should we not debate the absolute figures for aid and the direction in which they should go?

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand the points that I make. If I read out the figures, he will find that they are deeply embarrassing for the Government. It would be useful to put them on record. In 1977, under the Labour Government, United Kingdom aid as a percentage of GNP was 0·444 per cent. In 1978, it was 0·46 per cent. In 1979, it was 0·52 per cent. in subsequent years under a Tory Government, it was 0·35 per cent., 0·43 per cent., 0·37 per cent., 0·33 per cent., 0·33 per cent., 0·31 per cent., 0·28 per cent. and 0·32 per cent. That is the position under the Tory Government compared to the position under a Labour Government.

Mrs. Clywd:

No, I shall not give way again.

As a result of the Government's cuts in aid, the Third world has lost at least £6·4 billion of aid. Yet the scale of the problems facing developing countries today is massive. Almost 1 billion people in Africa, Asia and South America —a quarter of the world's population—live in absolute poverty without hope of adequate food or shelter. Millions more face malnutrition, unemployment and disease, often without basic health or social services.

For the poor in the Third world, life is a constant struggle for survival. Third world Governments have had to run to keep up with the need for economic growth. The last few years have not been years of plenty for the Third world but years of suffering and austerity.

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the United Kingdom net aid programme will increase by 6 per cent. in 1990–91, by 6 per cent. the following year and by 4 per cent. the year after that. In real terms that means that the aid programme is likely to decline even further over the next three years. It is unlikely to keep pace with inflation, unless one believes the Treasury's constant optimistic forecasts. Meanwhile Britain continues to pay lip service to the United Nations target of 0·7 per cent. of GNP. During the 1983 general election campaign, the Prime Minister pledged: When economic circumstances permit, we shall move towards the United Nations target of 0·7 per cent. of GNP. Earlier this year, she told the House: we now have a higher standard of living than we have ever known. We have a great budget surplus."—[Official Report; 28 February 1989; Vol. 148, c. 154–55.] It is so great that we have now fallen further and further behind the United Nations target and the levels of aid given by other major industrialised countries. In the league table of all 18 western aid givers, Britain, to its shame, dropped to 14th place last year. As a result, Britain was singled out for criticism by the other western donor countries when a committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development argued: the time has come to reverse the downward trend in the UK's Overseas Development Aid/GNP ratio…and to make sustained progress towards the 0·7 per cent. of GNP, ODA target. In 1988 the Foreign Affairs Select Committee recommended that the aid budget should increase in line with the nation's increasing wealth and that the Government should set a timetable for achieving that target. However, in reply to my question of 7 December, the Secretary of State was extremely coy and referred me to an earlier reply from the Prime Minister dated 6 June. She was asked: when Her Majesty's Government expect to achieve the United Nations target of 0·7 per cent. gross national product for overseas aid. Her reply was: The Government accept this target in principle but like previous Administrations and many other donors are not able to set a date for achieving it. Progress towards it must depend upon developments in the economy and other claims on our resources."—[Official Report, 6 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 129.] I am pleased that aid to eastern Europe has been additional to the aid budget. I hope that the Minister can give us specific assurances tonight that all future aid to eastern Europe will be additional to aid levels currently planned.

The threat of widespread famine is sweeping northern Ethiopia again. It is the third famine in the past 10 years. The average yields from this month's grain harvest in Tigray and Eritrea are only 15 per cent. of the normal level. Grain prices have more than doubled and starvation has already claimed its first victims among small children and the old.

The threat of famine is again the result of droughts in Eritrea, Tigray and Wollo, and the civil war which has been continuing for the past 25 years—exactly the same combination which led to the massive famine of 1984–85 and the near famine of 1987–88. Many people who gave so generously in response to the famine of 1984–85 through Band Aid, Live Aid and Sport Aid must have hoped that such a terrible situation would never happen again. Why is it happening again? The continuing war has devastated food production, dramatically limited long-term agricultural programmes and forced significant migrations of people even in times of good harvests. Failure of the rains in all but three of the past 10 years and a severe drought this year have meant that between 60 and 100 per cent. of crops have been lost in some areas.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee in its excellent report on famine in the Horn of Africa predicted in 1988 that there was a serious danger of a major catastrophe in northern Ethiopia on a far greater scale than the famine of 1984–85. The report stated: An impression may have been created in the donor countries that, since so many lessons have been learnt, the horrors of 1984–85 would not recur. This would be dangerously false optimism…But droughts will occur again —the rains have failed or been inadequate in 3 of the last 4 years—and with a fast-growing population, poor farming techniques, widespread deforestation and land degradation, the consequent famines are likely to be increasingly severe…And by each successive drought the resilence of the people and of the land is diminished. It is a spiral which, if unbroken, must result in tragedy. There is still time to avert that tragedy and ensure that as few people die as possible of the 4 million whom the aid agencies say are now at risk.

Ethiopia needs more than 600,000 tonnes of emergency food over the coming months, on top of the 450,000 tonnes it needs every year to cover its chronic food deficit. The United Nations world food programme, which estimates overall needs, urgently contacted aid agencies on 9 December saying that world donors have pledged only 30 per cent. of the total food requested. In theory, Ethiopia and the international community are both physically better prepared to face the emergency than in 1984, but in practice the awful reality is that thousands could die as the innocent victims of war, famine and indifference.

Although the country's main ports of Assab and Massawa have steadily increased their capacity since 1984–85 and can handle as much as 800,000 tonnes of food a year, the problem is that food shipped to the ports for distribution through Government channels cannot, as things stand at present, reach more than a quarter of the people in need. Outside Government-held areas are 2·5 million people in Tigray which is entirely controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front. A further 1·5 million of those most seriously affected are in Eritrea, mainly in areas held by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front. In both Tigray and Eritrea there are local aid organisations whose track record on distributing food and other aid is acknowledged by Western aid agencies. The two organisations are ERA and REST. This morning I received a telex from REST which states: The latest expatriate monitor to visit the affected areas has reported that some people are already foraging for food, digging up wild bulbs and roots. He has confirmed that individual food stocks are nearly exhausted in many areas and that funds are urgently needed now for internal purchase as the timing is all important. More food shipments are desperately needed as soon as possible. At present several western aid agencies are involved in channelling food through these local agencies from Port Sudan, because it is absolutely imperative that the people most in need must be reached now. Obviously, that can be done best through an open-roads policy, using the northern route of Massawa, which is Government held, in Eritrea to supply a route from Government-held Asmara down the main road to Mekele and Tigray and to Weldiya in Wollo and intermediate points. The Tigray People's Liberation Front is said to he only 90 miles from the capital, Addis. President Mengistu is thought likely to take the view, as he has in the past, that food aid would only strengthen his enemies. While the British Government and others must urgently renew their appeals for an opening up of the supply routes, it must be somewhat unrealistic to expect that to happen quickly.

Reports from Kenya yesterday claim that Ethiopia has agreed to open up the corridors in the north of the country to allow food aid to reach the 4 million people threatened with starvation. But there is no confirmation yet that terms have been agreed. The fear is that hunger will continue to be used as a weapon of war. I should be grateful to the Minister if he could tell us whether he has any news about whether the Ethiopian Government and the rebels have agreed a policy on that. Several calls to the Ethiopian embassy and elsewhere today have failed to obtain official confirmation. According to all the aid agencies, in the event of the Ethiopian Government continuing to refuse access or of the rebel groups refusing to stop fighting, a cross-border operation from the Sudan will be essential.

Some food comes from eastern Sudan and some from abroad through Port Sudan and on to Eritrea and Tigray. As many hon. Members know, that means relying on truck convoys, late at night to escape Government aircraft bombing them, travelling more than 600 miles on rough roads. One accepts that it is politically difficult for donor Governments to bypass the Ethiopian Government in this way, but a cross-border operation from the Sudan must be used as fully as possible. I am glad that the British Government now accept that argument.

What, then, are the needs of the people inside Ethiopia? Everyone agrees that aid is needed now to avoid a repeat of the harrowing scenes of 1984, when hundreds of thousands starved to death and the nightly pictures on television of babies dying in the arms of their widowed mothers brought home the full horror of the tragedy. At least 600,000 tonnes of food and other essential supplies are needed as soon as possible, but already people have begun to emigrate from the areas where there is no food. One lesson that was learned the last time around was that it was uneconomical and socially destructive for people to leave their homes and their land. Thousands of people died on their way to feeding centres or through the spread of contagious diseases in refugee camps and feeding centres.

A doctor responsible for health care in Eritrea came to see me yesterday. He said: Anyone who can walk, walks away from death if they can. The truth is that many people would not have died last time if food had been brought to them in time. It is, therefore, vital to take food to the people as soon as possible.

The war is going badly for the Government. They have been involved in negotiations with the rebels. Jimmy Carter and Julius Nyerere have both become involved in negotiations with the EPLF and the Government. Talks have been held in Atlanta and Nairobi, but as yet have reached no conclusion. The Italian Government are mediating in talks between the TPLF and the Ethiopian Government and one round of talks has taken place in Rome. It is clearly in everyone's interest for a monitored ceasefire to be negotiated as soon as possible. The talks require all the backing that they can get.

What can and should the United Kingdom do now? It can call for a speeding up of peace discussions between the Ethiopian Government, the TPLF and the EPLF. It can press the Ethiopian Government and the rebels to accept an open-roads agreement. The United Nations must play a leading role in negotiating that. It can support the cross-border food and agriculture rehabilitation programme. It can make money available for internal purchase of food where that is possible. It should obtain maximum support from the EEC member states for those objectives.

As a direct result of the famine crisis, the United Kingdom has pledged a meagre £2 million, and that was only the day after the BBC reports on Ethiopia began to appear on television. I raised the matter on a point of order on 27 November and called for a statement from the Government. The fact that the Government have been indifferent and very slow off the mark is illustrated by a letter that the director general of the Save the Children Fund sent to The Independent on 29 November. He said: We welcome the publicity from Michael Buerk on BBC Television on the possibility of famine recurring in parts of northern Ethiopia. A number of voluntary agencies in Britain, including ourselves, have been warning of this problem for the past two months. It is sad, but perhaps not surprising, that it requires dramatic pictures on television to propel our own government into a response. What does that £2 million actually mean? It would not be quite fair to say that the Government do not care tuppence for the starving—they actually care three and a half pence, the amount from each person in the United Kingdom that makes up that £2 million, which itself will buy only I per cent. of the emergency food aid so desperately needed. Yet at the same time, the Government quite easily found £40 million to spend on advertising water privatisation in pursuit of their own dogma.

Only last week War on Want applied for £300,000 to buy food inside Tigray. Its application was turned down by the Government because, they said, there was no money in the kitty. That may be true, but the Minister for Overseas Development and the Minister who is here to speak on her behalf tonight must know that if they had the political clout they could obtain the money from the Government's overall contingency fund, which exists for precisely this sort of emergency and which this year stands at more than £2 billion.

Photo of Mr James Lester Mr James Lester , Broxtowe

One of the recommendations of the Select Committee has always been that when there is a disaster the Treasury's contingency fund should be used. Would it not be better if the hon. Lady was fair with her figures? The £2 million is an additional £2 million, and brings the total this year to £13 million, which is a rather more generous figure than that suggested by the hon. Lady.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

The point that the hon. Gentleman obviously missed, even though I stressed it forcefully, was that in direct response to the famine crisis the Government gave only £2 million.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I had intended to respond to this point in my speech. The hon. Lady is digging herself into a pit. The dates will easily show that what the hon. Lady said is not true. The £13 million is a response to the famine, and the Government responded long before she raised her point of order and long before this debate.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to prove his point. A press release from the Overseas Development Administration, in response to the threat of famine in Ethiopia, makes it clear that the £2 million relief aid was a direct response to the worsening position in Ethiopia. The other money would have been given in any event, and was not provided in direct response to the famine crisis.

What sort of world do we live in that we, in the rich developed countries, can turn our faces away from the suffering of the Third world? We spend £500 million each year on special diets to lower our calorie consumption while the world's poorest 400 million people are so undernourished that they are likely to suffer stunted growth, mental retardation or death. As water from a single spring in England is shipped in bottles to the prosperous around the world, 1·9 billion people drink dirty and contaminated water. More than half of humanity lacks sanitary toilets.

Are we again to depend on the generosity of the British people to put their hands in their pockets once more for the starving of Ethiopia? They have already contributed £1 million in response to the television broadcast last week. Is it too much to expect the British Government to make the proper response to the 4 million people who are so desperately crying out for our help? Whatever the Government do or do not do, the next Labour Government will reverse the cuts made in aid spending since 1979. We shall aim to more than double the aid budget to reach the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product within five years, the lifetime of a single Parliament. We shall also review the procedures for emergency relief.

The disastrous famine that hit much of Africa in the early 1980s showed the need for much more effective emergency relief within our programme for aid and development. We shall discuss contingency plans and early warning systems with other donors and the Governments of countries vulnerable to famine and other disasters. Unlike the present Government, we shall also be prepared to use money from outside the aid budget—from the overall contingency reserve—to provide urgent emergency relief during a major crisis such as the Ethiopian famine. That is because we believe that sharing our wealth and feeding hungry people is part of our wider responsibility as citizens of the world. It is a view which we believe is shared by the majority of the British people.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West 7:39 pm, 13th December 1989

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof: 'welcomes the speed and effectiveness with which Her Majesty's Government has responded to the threat of famine in Northern Ethiopia through the provision of food and emergency aid; and strongly endorses its diplomatic action aimed at persuading the parties to the civil wars in Ethiopia to seek a negotiated end to these conflicts and to facilitate the transport of food to those at risk of famine.'. 1 had hoped that on this, of all subjects, we would not go straight into a political argy-bargy. Such points can be easily made. A Labour Government could easily have increased aid as a percentage of GNP simply by making the GNP smaller. However, it is easy to show that in absolute terms the Government have done extremely well.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) for her kind words about my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development and I shall pass those on to her. I found little to disagree with in the hon. Lady's political analysis, but one point on which I shall disagree relates to the local purchase of food in Tigray. However, I am afraid that she was either misled by those who have done her research for her—

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

In that case, the hon. Lady is mistaken about what is happening this year.

We are deeply concerned, with the other donor countries, to prevent a repetition of the appalling suffering that we witnessed five years ago. I had hoped, although it may be impossible with the Leader of the Opposition on the Front Bench, that there would not be any party political point-scoring this evening. Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Cynon Valley, know a great deal about the subject and we had hoped to hear from them positive ideas and practical suggestions to which we could respond.

We welcome the debate for two reasons. First, it enables us to put right some of the misunderstandings in the speech made by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley. Secondly, as the hon. Lady said, the British people will no doubt again wish to respond generously, and this debate, along with the many other activities taking place around the country, will help to focus the nation's attention on the situation. There is nothing wrong with that. As the hon. Lady said, the first £1 million has already been raised. I see nothing to complain about in that. It is admirable.

Let us consider what the Government have been doing. Rather before the hon. Lady took up the subject, we were sending aid, and that is important. About 3 million people in Eritrea and Tigray face the threat of famine over the coming months. The organisations concerned estimate that about 600,000 tonnes of food aid will be needed between now and next October—that is also important to rescue those people. The hon. Lady is incorrect to say that about 30 per cent. of that has been pledged. She may not have noticed that the Americans have added a further 100,000 tonnes, which means that more than 50 per cent. has been pledged. In the immediate situation, that is probably enough because, as I think the hon. Lady will agree, the 600,000 tonnes will be needed between now and next October.

The hon. Lady's analysis rightly focused on the real problem of getting the food to the people who need it against a background of civil war. As she rightly said, at least half the people at risk are in rebel-held areas.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the first calculations of how much aid would be needed during the previous famine were under-estimates and that as the famine developed it became clear that rather more would be needed? Is the Minister satisfied that the estimate that he has given is correct and that the 50 per cent. that he claims has been pledged is 50 per cent. of the amount that is really needed rather than of an initial estimate?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman is right. The estimates will be revised if the situation worsens. I think that he will agree, however, that the last famine was the one that did not happen. As the hon. Member for Cynon Valley rightly said, the international effort three years ago averted a famine. It is worth paying tribute to the aid organisations and to the Governments involved. Since then, the civil war has worsened and created further problems, which we are now trying to address. The rebels —the EPLF and the TPLF—hold a much greater area of country, particularly the TPLF which has much greater control over the roads and, as the hon. Lady said, is 80 or 90 miles from Addis Ababa.

Channels exist for the transport of food into the rebel-held areas of Eritrea and Tigray from Sudan, but, as the hon. Lady recognised, there are formidable logistical problems in view of tonnages and distances involved, the shortage of transport and the bombings. However optimistic one is about the 1,000-mile round trip, it will not be possible to meet all Tigray's needs in that way. We shall have to see what can he done using that route. The hon. Lady will understand if, for obvious reasons, some of the methods and routes used by the international organisations with British Government support are not described in too much detail.

The Government's objective is simple, now as in the last famine—the famine that never was. The objective is to avert the famine. We are taking action on two fronts. We are providing food and relief assistance for the aid programme and we are acting through diplomatic channels in concert with European partners and others to try to ensure that the flow of supplies to those at risk of starvation is not hindered by the continuing war. That is the crucial aspect, as the hon. Lady recognised.

The hon. Lady was unfair, however, when she said that our response was belated or that it came only after television coverage or her points of order on 27 November. If the hon. Lady had listened to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development on 4 December, at column 19 of Hansard, she would know that the £2 million of emergency aid announced at the end of October was by no means our first response to the famine. For example, the allocation of nearly 7,000 tonnes of cereal, which my right hon. Friend approved for Eritrea as early as August when the first signs of impending famine became apparent, was one of the first to arrive in the country—almost the first part of the international response. Since then, we have provided further food aid, bringing our total to more than 27,000 tonnes. Nor is the latest contribution of £2 million likely to be our last. We shall continue to play our part. As the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) rightly said, as the dimensions of the famine and the possibilities of getting food to the people are further assessed, the British Government, along with other Governments, will respond.

Photo of Mr Michael Welsh Mr Michael Welsh , Doncaster North

Getting from A to B in Tigray is difficult. Even money may not achieve that and people may die if something is not done. It may be difficult to get from Sudan. It may take many lorries, but are the lorries there? However much money there is, without lorries the food cannot be taken to those unfortunate people. Are arrangements being made to ensure that lorries will be there to transport food to the people within weeks rather than months?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman is right. Part of the recent extra money went specifically towards trucks and lorries for the cross-border routes, about which we do not want to go into too much detail, and inside the country. That has been a particular part of the British effort.

Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Minister has said that it is unlikely that the last money has been allocated and I, like everybody else, am encouraged by that. In any future expenditure, will money be provided directly to the Relief Society of Tigray and to the Eritrean Relief Association? That may be an unusual action for a Government, but those bodies are best placed to purchase such food surpluses as exist within Eritrea and Tigray and to ensure that the food available in those provinces is allocated in the shortest possible time. Otherwise, people will starve. Will the Minister give an assurance that that difficult but necessary initiative will be taken?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

We certainly do not rule out anything but the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that there are real difficulties. If one provides money for local purchase, particularly in the Tigrayan area, there is the danger that the TPLF, which controls the area, will use it to buy arms. Worse than that, we may create an incentive for the TPLF to obtain local food supplies and then sell them. However, if we can be assured that we are doing good, we do not rule out any mechanism.

Photo of Mr James Lester Mr James Lester , Broxtowe

We have looked at the problem several times in the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. The real difficulty is not just providing the money, but monitoring whether the money provided is used for food and whether that food is then distributed.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

My hon. Friend confirms my point on the basis of his considerable experience. It would be dreadful if we were inadvertently allowing money to go directly or indirectly into the coffers of those whose civil wars are creating a large part of the disaster.

The £13·5 million committed so far this year in Ethiopia includes assistance for refugees and our share of the cost of relief aid provided by the European Community. That shows the other side of the case put by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley. Britain has provided nearly £150 million in aid since the onset of the last major famine in 1984. That includes more than 200,000 tonnes of food aid. The programme is not niggardly.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

Perhaps I had better continue, as this is not a long debate and I have given way many times.

A senior Overseas Development Administration official visited Ethiopia in October to assess the situation at first hand. In the light of the information that he brought back, we took immediate action to alert our European Community partners and others—including the United States and the Soviet Union, which is an important player having at one time or another supported all three of the organisations involved and which still has a close relationship with the Ethiopian Government—to the likely extent of the problem. We urged them to use all possible influence with all the parties in the civil conflict to allow relief supplies across the lines without hindrance.

I was in Addis Ababa on 8 November for a briefing from our excellent ambassador, Mr. Walker. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development gave a detailed account to the House on 4 December of the subsequent steps which she took in Rome, Brussels, Washington and Paris to reinforce the earlier message through the diplomatic channels. Last weekend, at the European Council in Strasbourg, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister joined the other Community Heads of Government in the Community in issuing a clear statement of the Community's deep concern. I am glad to say that that was largely a British initiative.

The Soviet Government were approached in London and Moscow and have also directed the attention of the Ethiopian authorities to the seriousness of the problem. Probably no other Government carry so much weight with the Ethiopians.

I have stressed the importance—as did the hon. Member for Cynon Valley—of access across the lines for relief supplies if food in the amounts required is to reach those who need it in the rebel-held areas. Hon. Members will have seen reports, to which the hon. Member for Cynon Valley referred, that President Moi of Kenya told an independence rally in Nairobi yesterday that President Mengistu had agreed to open the roads. We have been in close touch with Nairobi and Addis Ababa to see whether that is so. However, like the hon. Lady, we have not secured clear confirmation of it yet, although we have indications that it is under serious and genuine consideration in Addis Ababa. If it is, let us take this opportunity for the House to add to the international pressure and say to the Ethiopians that it is essential that they should open the roads. I am sure that hon. Members from both sides of the House will say that with all the passion at our disposal. In the pressing time scale and because of the logistical difficulties of the cross-border routes, that is the only way to bring real hope to the large numbers of people involved.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

My right hon. Friend is an expert.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Surely it would be much easier to give a strong message to the Ethiopians and others concerned if the House did not have to have a Division on a foolish motion. Will my hon. Friend tell the House what the European Community is doing in terms of food provisions as it has enormous stocks and its role is essential?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I hinted that I agreed with my right hon. Friend in what I said earlier. If the non-governmental organisations had a genuine case showing that the Government were failing disastrously, it would be legitimate for the Opposition to press us, but that is not the case. We have had meetings today—which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development would have chaired if she had been well but which were chaired by an official—with all the principal NGOs, and they are not saying that there is something dramatically wrong with the Government's programme. They welcome the steps that we have taken and we are working closely with them.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

Does the Minister not think it unusual for the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) to complain about the Opposition's view on this when in his open letter to his successor—now the Secretary of State for the Environment—he said that the only discussion that he had with the Prime Minister on these issues was on the day she sacked him? Surely it is appropriate that when there are clear divisions in the House they should be expressed.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

There are bound to be arguments about the total level of the aid programme. On this programme, as on every other, the Opposition will say that they would spend more. Over the past few years, however, there has been no serious criticism from the experts about the organisation of emergency relief. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for the Environment and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development have so improved the arrangements for emergency relief that that area of criticism is not the right one on which to launch a division in the House. However, I would not say that there are not areas in which any Government could do better.

The ODA is in regular daily contact with the main British voluntary agencies working in Ethiopia. I have reported on the meeting that took place today. The NGOs were appreciative of the Government's efforts so far. The voluntary agencies have a vital role to play in channeling emergency aid—that which we provide and the funds that they raise—to the hungry. Their expertise and experience are vital. They are an asset to which hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in paying tribute.

I have spoken of what the Government have done and are doing. I offer no apologies for our record of response to the intense danger of famine which we hope can still be averted. We have done what I am sure the hon. Member for Cynon Valley would have done if she stood in the place of my right hon. Friend the Minister. We have acted promptly and effectively in response to the signals of approaching famine and it did not require television pictures or public pressure to stir us into action.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

I read the letter from the director general of the Save the Children Fund in which he specifically argued that the Government's response had not been prompt and that they had responded only after the BBC films by Michael Buerk. Does the Minister have an answer to that? Surely it is not correct to say that the aid agencies are happy with the speed and quantity of the Government's response.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Lady has perhaps not read the response given by my right hon. Friend the Minister on 4 December. She was prevented from being at the meeting today and although I was not there I have had reports from the officials who were. The attempts to allege that there is a campaign by the NGOs against the Government will not run. It is not commensurate with the scale of events to try to make them run.

The hon. Lady's main point, although she spoiled it a little by her factionalism, was that we in this House passionately wish to do all that we can to avoid the threat of widespread famine and starvation in Ethopia. She made a good point—that it is essential to try to prevent people from moving. There is an additional reason for that, which the hon. Lady did not mention—that if people move they do not sow crops for next year in places where they may grow, thus possibly creating a further cycle of crop failure.

The immense generosity of people in the West, the British people among them and the formidable response of Western Governments, who succeeded in averting the last threatened famine and, pray God, will do so this time as well, must not disguise the fact that the key to the problem lies in the hands of the Ethopians, on both the Government and the rebel side. Civil war does not cause drought and crop failure, hut it is a serious and unnecessary obstacle to efforts to alleviate the effects of natural disasters.

Bob Geldof was right when he said that if there is a famine this year, it will be man made. In the long term, the civil war is a drain on the country's meagre resources of money, energy and talent which would be far better devoted to the task of working to provide the infrastructure and conditions necessary to break the cycle of famine.

We therefore welcome the opening of talks between the Government and the two main rebel groups. Peace is still beyond the horizon and the process is a fragile one. We, on both sides of the House, can but urge the parties to the talks to persevere, to be flexible and, above all, to keep talking in a way which leads to action. Lives—millions of them—ultimately depend on that.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West 8:01 pm, 13th December 1989

It is difficult to believe that it is five years since famine in Ethiopia first hit world headlines. At that time I went to Sudan and Ethiopia with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. Despite the fact that the Committee had, and still has, a Conservative majority, our report was very critical of the Government's inadequate response to the famine in Ethiopia. We referred to the generous response of the British people, which was due to people such as Bob Geldof and the public appeals that were made by non-governmental organisations and other voluntary organisations. However, our report stated clearly that, sad to say, the generosity of the British people had not been matched by the British Government.

The Committee went to Ethiopia again last year. In our updated report on famine in the Horn of Africa, we said that there was serious danger of a major catastrophe in northern Ethiopia and that it would be on a far greater scale than that in 1984–85. The Government and the House cannot, therefore, claim that they were not warned, yet in Tigray alone approximately 2·5 million people are threatened with famine.

Many people who put their hands into their pockets five years ago and gave generously deserve an answer to the question, why are people still starving? Some people have attempted to blame it on the weather. There are many climatic problems in that part of the world, but we cannot hold up our hands in horror and blame it all on the weather, as though famine were an act of God. It is not. It is a consequence of man's inhumanity to man. It is up to us to find a solution. The developed countries have a particular responsibility to find a solution. The many climatic difficulties in that part of the world could and should have been overcome had the developed countries invested more money in long-term agricultural projects to regenerate the economy.

The Relief Society of Tigray said that it received only 6·2 per cent. of the budget that it requested for agricultural programmes. Wars continue in Ethiopia as a whole. They have reached the stage where Mengistu, backed by the Soviet Union and, apparently, by Israel and North Korea, is spending over 50 per cent. of his national budget on military and related expenditure. Even worse, he is apparently using famine as a weapon of war. He is trying to starve the people into submission. His forces are in control of the Red sea ports of Assab and Massawa, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for food to reach the people who are most in need. The only reasonable alternative is to use the Relief Society of Tigray to get food into Ethiopia from Sudan by means of a cross-border operation.

What can the British Government do? I understand that there are those in Government circles, including Ministers, who believe that for diplomatic reasons it is difficult, if not impossible, for the British Government to become over-involved in Ethiopia's internal affairs. That is a strange position for the Government and the Prime Minister to be in. It would be ironic if the iron lady, the erstwhile scourge of Communism, was prepared to stand by while people starved to death because she was afraid of causing offence to a discredited, self-styled Marxist regime.

It is about time that a tougher line was taken in public against the Ethiopian Government. Mengistu should be told bluntly that we are not prepared to stand idly by while thousands of people die. We should get off the fence. We should give financial help and all the other assistance that we can give to the Relief Society of Tigray's cross-border operation from Sudan.

I accept entirely the point about the need to monitor the exercise. There is no hard evidence that the Relief Society of Tigray is using money to buy armaments. If, however, it is feared that the money that has been given to alleviate starvation is being misdirected towards the purchase of arms, efficient monitoring would help to alleviate that fear. It seems to me from our contact with the Relief Society of Tigray, through the Select Committee and personally, that REST has the organisation, the track record and the proven experience to carry that out. Since 1984–85 REST has been involved in the repatriation of 170,000 people from Sudan to their homes in Tigray. It achieved that without riot police with riot helmets, riot gear, truncheons and everything else we have seen in Hong Kong recently under the auspices of the British Government who are treating people like caged animals,

Once again Christmas is approaching and the Prime Minister would have us believe that we are living in a Christian country. Given recent events, it appears that Britain's reputation throughout the world is heading for the gutter. Perhaps we should try to salvage something of that reputation by showing a more humane attitude in our treatment of people elsewhere in the world, particularly in Ethiopia where they are starving. I hope that the message that comes from tonight's debate is that the whole House demands urgent and firmer action from the British Government.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley , Tonbridge and Malling 8:11 pm, 13th December 1989

I suppose that for all of us occasional sights are so etched in our memories that they will remain with us for the rest of our lives. One such sight for me is the visit I made almost exactly five years ago as Minister for the Armed Forces to the children's hospital at Mekele in Ethiopia at the height of the famine. The press dubbed the children there as the "Belsen babes". For once the press may have indulged in understatement. I suspect that at Belsen the SS, with their grim attention to efficiency, would have ensured that the children there did not suffer malnutrition to the point at which they were no longer able to walk to their deaths.

The children that I saw in Mekele had long since lost the capacity to walk. The malnutrition that they suffered had resulted in the total wastage of their body muscles to the point at which they could no longer move. The worst cases lay there unable to turn over, raise an arm or a hand or even move their heads. Children of 10 and 11 lay there with faces of 70 or 80-year-olds. They were living, inert skeletons. One wondered at the appalling pain and agony that they must have suffered to reach that state of total body decay yet still be alive.

Happily, during the same visit, I saw many other children in a very different condition. Those were the children in the food distribution centres. They ran about, shouted, jostled and played and they had laughter instead of agony in their eyes. For those children relief had come in time. In 1984–85, when the relief arrived, the distribution was carried out extremely well and eventually the food arrived in abundance. I do not accept the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) about the scale of the British contribution when the relief arrived five years ago. Our operation was carried out with conspicuous skill and efficiency by our armed services.

The inescapable fact was, however, that five years ago our contribution and that of every other western developed country came too late for the many who died and for the very many who will suffer permanent handicaps in their bones and joints for the rest of their lives as a result of serious malnutrition in childhood.

What will be the outlook for the children and adults of Ethiopia in the weeks and months ahead? In the early months of 1990, will we see large numbers of so-called "Belsen babes" as I saw at Mekele hospital five years ago, or will we see children who have been spared the ravages of malnutrition as a result of a satisfactory programme of food aid? Hon. Members on both sides of the House fervently trust that we will see only the latter group of children and adults.

I urge Ministers to make every possible effort to ensure that the British contribution is sufficient and do everything in their power to ensure that it gets through. In our modern world of affluence in Europe, North America and Australasia, with speedy delivery of food supplies, there should be no question but that famine should be part of the history books. There should be no place for mass famine in the modern world. It is unacceptable and intolerable that any group of people in any country should be allowed to starve to death.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber 8:17 pm, 13th December 1989

The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir J. Stanley) made an extremely moving speech which was compelling in its honesty and force. I have not seen the sights that he described, except on television, but I can well believe that they must leave a deep scar which nothing can remove. If the right hon. Gentleman had been talking with the authority of a Minister, I would not be contemplating voting for the official Opposition motion tonight.

I understand that a fair estimate of the position in Ethiopia is that some 4 million people are at risk of starvation between now and the end of March, and, more urgently, between 800,000 and 850,000 are at risk of starvation between now and the end of January. That is the scale and proportion of the problem. As a number of hon. Members have said, that is pretty horrific.

What can we effectively do? The Minister referred to an article in The Independent today about the statement by President Moi of Kenya that he had asked President Mengistu … of Ethiopia to accept opening the corridors … He has accepted. The Minister said that the Government have no firm confirmation of that. Obviously, it is difficult to press the Minister further. As an opposition Member, I find it difficult to understand how the Kenyan head of state can be reported as making that categorical statement without our Government being able to confirm whether it is true. Obviously, if it is true, it is excellent news.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

As I understood the reports, it was a question of its being conditional on other things happening. The problem is whether those conditions are being met.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

The report, which inevitably has been abbreviated, said that President Moi had asked the "rebel" leaders in Tigray and Eritrea to do the same—whether one should call them rebels is a matter for discussion. In other words, there would be a ceasefire, as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said. The overland routes can be opened without a ceasefire.

The Minister of State said, as has the Minister for Overseas Development previously—I hope that the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) will soon recover from her flu—that the Government had been using a lot of diplomatic pressure. On 4 December 1989, the Minister for Overseas Development said that Britain was stepping up our continuing diplomatic efforts with the United States, the Soviet Union, our European Community partners, certain Arab countries."—[Official Report, 4 December 1989: Vol. 163, c. 19.] and so on. How seriously are the Government pursuing those efforts? Are they simply official-to-official talks or are they Minister-to-Minister talks? What is the objective of this pressure? The Minister was right to say that the Soviet Union was central to the matter. The Soviet Union is in a much more responsive mood than she has been since perhaps the war.

Photo of Mr James Lester Mr James Lester , Broxtowe

When the four of us visited Ethiopia to produce the report, which has been widely quoted, we talked to the Soviet ambassador in Addis Ababa and made the same remarks that had been made consistently year in, year out, about applying pressure to all three protagonists. The ambassador said, "We do all that we can, but you must remember that the Ethiopians are a proud people." No one can instruct a sovereign Government to do what we want, even though all of us are willing these changes to happen.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I take that point. The Ethiopians are a proud people and it is not possible to instruct them on what to do. But we can turn off the weapons tap. President Mengistu needs the weapons and he gets them from the Soviet Union. We should remember the involvement of other eastern European countries. As I understand it, the police services are run by the Bulgarians and military intelligence by the East Germans. Other eastern European peoples are involved. The Saudis are the essential people to the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Eritreans. It is a matter not just of having discussions with the individual Governments involved but of finding a way to bring them together. The British Government would make a valuable contribution if they tried to get the interested parties together—the Russians, the eastern Europeans, the Saudis and the European Community—to offer a guarantee on the movement of food into these areas. One should not forget that in 1984 or 1985 a United Nations convoy was blown up by the Tigray forces because they suspected that it was an armed convoy, although it was not.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

I am sorry—that happened in 1987–88. Although inevitably we are concentrating on President Mengistu, free movement depends not just on him but on the co-operation of others, as the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) said. Obviously, a monitored ceasefire would be much better, but a solution can be found in other ways.

The hon. Members for Cynon Valley and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) said that people were determined that the famine would not return after 1984–85, but that it has. The civil war is the main reason—if it is a civil war, because it can be argued that it is a liberation war—but there are other contributory factors, one of which is the British Government's reluctance to use the internal distribution system in Tigray and Eritrea. It has been argued that the money could be used for other purposes and the food used in the wrong way, but the circumstances are such that risk should be taken. Indeed, it should have been taken.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West said that there was insufficient investment following the 1984–85 famine. Rehabilitation of the areas was inadequate. There was no proper replenishiment of, for example, the oxen stock. I am told—I do not know whether it is right or wrong—that one reason was that the Overseas Development Administration persuaded the European Community not to back any such scheme. If that is true, I should like confirmation.

I believe that refugees are pouring into the eastern region of the Sudan and that the Sudanese commission for refugees believes that 2,000 people have crossed during the past I 1 days. There are supposed to be 1 million refugees in the region, which has a total population of only 4 million. Although aid agencies are helping, United Nations aid has been cut dramatically from £52 million in 1985 to £8 million this year. Are the Government apprised of the situation and what are they doing to alleviate the problem?

I am not saying that the British Government have done nothing—that is untrue. In many areas, they have done a great deal. Nevertheless, their response has been inadequate in both financial and political pressure terms—1 suppose for all the reasons of the heart which were expressed so vividly by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing. For that reason, we will support the motion.

Photo of Mr James Lester Mr James Lester , Broxtowe 8:26 pm, 13th December 1989

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), and I echo every sentiment that he expressed. Some of us have had the sad opportunity to follow the subject of famine in Ethiopia since the first famine there. I well remember scenes similar to those that my right hon. Friend described. I remember the way in which the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs first drafted its report. It is not fair to say that we criticised the amount of money that the Government gave or the way in which they gave it. Our principal criticism of the Government was that that £90 million came from the ODA's contingency fund. We recommended that it should have come from the Government's contingency fund.

We criticised the speed of operation, the inability to co-ordinate, and the European Community's long-winded procedures. I am satisfied that, as a result of those criticisms, we now have a much better system. The report from which the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) quoted referred to the way in which famine was averted because things had changed and the delivery systems worked.

Until recently, all four members of the group who went to the area were in the Chamber. The hon. Members for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh), my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) and I travelled widely in Tigray and Eritrea. We saw how a food distribution system can work on a sensible basis. People were encouraged to collect food on a once-a-month basis and stay in their villages, so that they could take advantage of the upturn when it came. As the hon. Member for Cynon Valley quoted, we warned in stark terms that this was only a temporary position and that it could only be a temporary position. We also warned that another famine would occur because of the reasons that we spelled out in that telling paragraph.

As the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) said, we use the relief organisations of both the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front. They are the people who receive the food that comes down the route from Port Sudan. We are talking not about the fact that they have food to distribute, but about the fact that we are not giving them money to buy food within their own communities unless we can monitor it satisfactorily. It would be wrong, therefore, to say that we do not use every possible method to meet the need.

In our first report, we gave the greatest credit to the Overseas Development Administration, and especially to its disaster relief operation, because of its knowledge and its ability to move quickly. I am sure that that ability has become greater rather than less recently. I reject the criticism that we are not competent, that the ODA cannot move quickly enough and that we do not care. We care enormously about ensuring that the mistakes of the past have been learnt and that we can operate quickly and efficiently.

We saw food distribution as it should be carried out in 1987–88, but we warned that nothing had changed basically and that if nothing changed, there would be a greater famine in future years. It is a great tragedy that we now see that prospect. However, some things have changed. There has been an overall change in the strategic position, as other hon. Members have mentioned, and the rains have failed for three years out of the past four. However, in Tigray and Eritrea, one basic element has not changed. I want to draw the attention of the House to our last report in which we said that the three protagonists made the relief operation second to their military and political objectives. That remains the most critical matter. However much the world bleeds and however much we try to find ways to get food to distribute, until that is changed we are doomed to difficulty.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West and I travelled on the aeroplane from Mekele to Asmara. There was an available road and there was food in store coming from Massawa to Asmara, but the last bit of road was part of the war zone. The international community mounted at enormous cost—with money that could far better have been spent in rehabilitation, in building micro dams and in helping the local community to grow food—a massive airlift. We sat on the aeroplane that was bringing food down so that Mekele would not starve. Mekele is now part of the TPLF territory, as is the whole area. It is not possible to mount such an operation again.

We are all anxious to know whether there has been a breakthrough as a result of the efforts of President Moi. I want to pay a special tribute to the President of Kenya and to his officials who have done a great deal of background work to try to bring the talks in Nairobi to a successful conclusion. We should try to do everything we can to assist and to build on what President Moi said, so that we can see whether corridors can be created through which to bring food. From what has been said already, I understand that none of us has up-to-date information, but I am sure that President Moi would not have made a statement if he had not achieved something.

I talked to representatives of the EPLF yesterday. It was a difficult interview because of the suspicions, the qualifications and the issuing of counter-reports, which are always in their minds, and the situation is still fraught with suspicion. We have only to consider the efforts of ex-President Carter in Nairobi. He achieved a declaration, the establishment of a co-chairman and the establishment of seven observers, but immediately after he had achieved all that and made an announcement, one of the protagonists issued a counter-statement saying that he did not agree with everything that he had just signed with ex-President Carter. I use that example to show how fraught with difficulty the problem is and how the suspicions run deep among the three protagonists.

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber mentioned the convoy. We saw the convoy that was supposed to be being used by the Ethiopian Government as a military convoy. The convoy consisted of white lorries with the United Nations flag painted on the doors. The convoy could not have been used—or even been seen to have been used—for military purposes, yet it was shot up and the food was burnt for purely military, tactical reasons. Nobody can claim that that was a mistake or that the Mengistu Government were using those lorries for false purposes. I use those examples to show that, however much we care and however much money we vote, the position on the ground, the degradation and the problems of the infrastructure are still the major difficulties in solving the problem.

I suggest to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that one of the ways in which we might make progress is to use the International Red Cross, which has done sterling work in Ethiopia. If it was not for its efforts, the problems of the first famine in Eritrea and Tigray would never have been met. The International Red Cross was quiet about it and we still have to be careful about such sensitive matters, but it carried the principal weight and fed the cross-border operation.

The irony is that in the potential second famine, which was averted, the International Red Cross saw that the best place from which to operate to feed the people was on the other side of the border. As a result, it was immediately called a traitor and condemned. How can anyone say that of the International Red Cross? It has done a marvellous job in the Sudan in a similar civil war, with the help of James Grant. I hope that if we cannot bring about a ceasefire, which is a dream in a sense, we can at least, following the initiative of President Moi, achieve an agreement on food corridors and for food to be carried by the International Red Cross. No one in the world could imagine that the International Red Cross would be allowed to be used for tactical or military advantage.

I am sure that the Government and my right hon. and hon. Friends the Ministers, whom I recognise to be involved and caring people, will do all that is necessary to match the British effort to the need. I am sure that the fact that our own ambassador in Addis Ababa co-ordinates the European effort is important. He has been there a long time and he is incredibly knowledgeable. I am sure that we shall meet the need in every possible way that we can within the physical limitations.

However, we must bring home clearly the fact that, however much we realise, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing said, that nobody should starve in our world of plenty, we cannot rely consistently on the most costly form of relief which is, of course, the cross-border operation involving bringing food into Port Sudan, shipping it down through the Sudan and carrying it over the most immensely difficult terrain that anyone can imagine. If any hon. Member had seen the Mercedes lorries that had been driven for only six months in the relief operation, he would have thought that they had been driven for 600 years as a result of the battering in the terrible terrain which they had to cross.

We cannot rely consistently on providing the most costly form of relief while the protagonists carry out an internecine war with military objectives that override their people's welfare. That is the real message of the Select Committee report, and that is the real message that we should still pass on to the three protagonists, whatever and from wherever the diplomatic effort.

I know that, as a result of our previous report, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent out about 35 telegrams to try to mobilise all possible international diplomatic effort to bring the three groups together, as we now know, in two separate parties. When we were in Rome only 10 days ago, one of the major subjects that we discussed with Senator Agnelli, who is responsible for this area, was how the talks would be conducted in Rome between the TPLF and the Mengistu Government.

We have seen a change in the British aid effort as a result of our report. Until we went in 1987–88, we had a firm policy of giving no assistance other than humanitarian relief. Our report suggested that that was a nonsensical approach. The lack of water was the main reason why agricultural communities could not grow food. We said that, if we could guarantee that the money would not go to the Government or to the protagonists, it made a lot of sense to support non-governmental organisations in building micro-dams and in small projects to bring relief to communities. I am happy to say that the Minister accepted that argument and we have been pursuing that policy ever since—subject, of course, to the overall military consequences of bombing and fighting, which undo the work of the communities, who build the dams themselves, realising that it is in their interests to do so.

There are two other causes for concern in Ethiopia. The first is the situation of the Somali refugees in Hararghe in the south-east. Their circumstances have become increasingly difficult and their state increasingly unsatisfactory. The second is the plight of the Sudanese refugees in the south-west. Some of us have visited the camps there and have been greatly disturbed to find 350,000 people living in such inadequate conditions.

This is an important debate, and its message is a good message—that we are genuinely concerned. I do not join the hon. Member for Cynon Valley in her criticism of the Government and their operation. I am sure that they have learnt a great deal and that this debate will ensure that they are very much on their toes as events unfold.

I have one last message to leave with the House. One of Ethiopia's tragedies is that is has remained one of the five poorest countries in the world, just as it was one of the five poorest countries in the world in 1960. Yet, given a civilised Government with the desire to liberate the talents of their people, Ethiopia would have tremendous potential. In spite of deforestation and the terrible problems in the north, 82 per cent. of Ethiopia is capable of profitable and full development. It is on such development—and away from the internecine war—that we should try to focus the Ethiopians' attention.

Photo of George Galloway George Galloway , Glasgow Hillhead 8:42 pm, 13th December 1989

I sympathise with the Minister of State, who is not in his place at the moment, because this is the second time in just a few weeks that he has been dragged to the House to defend the indefensible. On the first ocasion he sought to defend the Government's policy in Cambodia, which we regard as beyond belief. On this occasion, he is defending the Government's response to the famine, which could be described as "too little, too slow." I shall deal in detail with the extent to which it is too little and too slow, but first I give the Minister my sympathy, because his is one of the more acceptable faces in this hard-faced Government. That is why he is dragged out to do the dirty work, in the hope that he may be able to place some kind of gloss on the situation.

In response to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), let me say that this is in no sense a criticism, of the Minister for Overseas Development, still less of the officials at the Overseas Development Administration. The Minister and her officials do their very best within the prison of parsimony in which the Government's hard-faced approach has them well and truly incarcerated. Let no one say that we are criticising the fine officials in the ODA who are doing their best within severe limitations to put all hands on deck.

Like the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), I am a veteran of the previous famine in Ethiopia. I went to the Library to dig out some articles that I wrote for the Spectator and The Sunday Times on my return from a visit to Ethiopia. Only then did it strike me that it is virtually five years to the day since I walked among the carnage that that famine visited on those in the killing fields not only of Ethiopia but of Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Mali and other countries in the belt of Africa that suffered the drought of 1984–85. The memory of those events is seared on the mind of anyone who has stooped and held the hands of children who have died for want of a crust of bread a matter of hours later. It is a greatly humbling experience.

Let me make a positive point. I hope that one of the effects of this debate will be to concentrate the minds of the British public and the media on the desperate need to give in this Christmas period. Whatever the Government's response may be, we shall need the public to dig as deeply into their pockets as they have in the past if we are to ensure the necessary response.

As I reread the articles that I had written, I was struck by the dreadful and grim familiarity of the events that are now unfolding. We have the same place names, the same dreadful routes down which aid lorries have to trundle in the night to avoid the bombing and strafing that the war involves. We have the same numbers of people, and we hear of the same crops being necessary. There is a grim sense of deja vu for anyone who was involved in 1984–85.

There seems to be some surprise—I suspect that it is feigned—from Conservative Members at the fact that the Opposition have tabled a motion that is critical of the Government. I believe that that motion should be supported because it is fully justified. The Minister made much of the figures—whether £2 million extra or £13 million—and of what had been done in a particular week after a particular point of order had been raised. The Government say that they have presided over what the former Chancellor used to call an economic miracle. A Government who make such a claim must find it difficult to come to the House and justify a steady reduction in the percentage of our GNP that we are giving in oveseas aid. Any Government who seek to pay off the national debt and give tax handouts to the best-off in our society, as this Government have, must find it difficult to justify giving such small sums—whether £2 million or £13 million—when millions of people are in danger of dying of starvation.

It is useful to look at the figures. Last year Ethiopia received a grand total of $15 per head of population in development assistance from the world community. Compare that with Botswana, for example, which received $92 per head of population and Somalia, which received $94 per head. Yet those countries can hardly be regarded as rolling in money or as being over-generously treated.

Ethiopia is a special case in a number of ways, one of which is the abysmally low level of development assistance that it has received from the international community. The Minister rightly praised the response of the public to the previous famine. It is true that people voted with their cheque books for Africa and Ethiopia during that famine—in unprecedented numbers and to an unprecedented extent. But, at the same time, the Government voted with their parliamentary majority steadily to reduce the percentage of gross national product that goes in overseas aid. That is a disgrace.

Other hon. Members have sketched the scale of the danger, and I shall not reiterate their remarks except to say that it is estimated that by January—only a few short weeks from now—4 million people will be in need of emergency food. Some 600,000 tonnes of food aid is required, but only a third of that has been pledged. Wealth and food in abundance exists in the North and West and the situation must be tackled urgently.

The need for trucks has been mentioned. Some 700 trucks will be needed to carry food, and I hope that the British can do something about that. In the past, they have been generous. I hope that we can step up that aid.

Above all, we must stop the flight away from the land, over the borders and into refugee camps. One of the worst scenes that I have ever witnessed was at the refugee camp at Wad Kowli in Ethiopia, near the Sudanese border. I visited the camp twice in 1985. Some 40,000 people were living and many were dying there. It was a sea of tuberculosis, coughing, disease, malnutrition and death. When people fled from their land in the hope of receiving some meagre relief in such camps, the seeds were sown for such disasters, or rather the seeds were not sown, because they had fled from the land. If water came, nothing could be done with it because the people who husbanded the land had been forced to flee to survive.

During the last famine, I was the general secretary of War on Want. That organisation was one of the most strident voices in the whole world, saying that we should lay a substantial proportion of the responsibility for those events at the door of the Mengistu regime. That remains true today. The disastrous policies of the Dergue and its failure to resolve the outstanding questions of nationalities and the Eritrean people are a major cause of the problem. However, the Dergue is not the only cause.

I should like to disabuse some of my hon. Friends, because the columns advancing on Addis Ababa under the banner of the TPLF are not knights on white chargers who will radically alter the course of events in Ethiopia for the better. The political programme of the TPLF is, if anything, worse than that of the Ethiopian Government.

In an excellent report in The Independent on 28 November 1989, Richard Dowden was told by the chairman of the TPLF that the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries have never been truly Socialist: The nearest any country comes to being socialist as far as we are concerned is Albania". Anyone who thinks of swapping the Stalinist school of agriculture of President Mengistu for the Albanian school of agriculture and economics of the TPLF is making a serious mistake. Peace and negotiations are needed in Ethiopia. No one should be giving blank cheques of any kind to the TPLF.

The Eritrean case is different, as it is not a civil war. Ethiopia is occupying the territory of Eritrea and it should be given independence as soon as possible.

I am conscious of the need to be brief, so I shall bring my speech to a close with a couple of reflections. While Mengistu and drought are major problems, the fundamental cause of the famine, as in the rest of the Third world, is not dictatorships or the weather, but grinding poverty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) said, one quarter of the world's population is afflicted by what the United Nations describes as absolute poverty. I read a striking article in The Guardian entitled "Children 'die as money goes on debt and arms'", which said that, in its annual statement on the world's children, UNICEF—the United Nations Children's Fund—reported: 40,000 children are dying each day—nearly one every two seconds. Of those, nearly 8,000 die because they have not been immunised, nearly 7,000 from dehydration caused by diarrhoea, and nearly as many again from pneumonia. At the same time Third world countries are paying out enormous sums of money on armaments to fight petty grim little wars, which are often fuelled by the superpowers—or less than superpowers like us—who sell them the armaments and on debt payments.

It is worth remembering that in the year of Band Aid Third world countries paid back more in interest than they received in total overseas aid from all the Governments and all the people of the world.

Grim, unrelenting fatally desperate poverty afflicts Ethiopia and is a fundamental problem in the Third world. Until we solve that problem we shall return to debates like this time and again.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry , Banbury 8:55 pm, 13th December 1989

This debate has been characterised by the fact that almost everyone who has taken part has spoken with real knowledge of the subject and some first-hand experience of Ethiopia. I welcome the opportunity to take part as I went to Ethiopia in 1985 with the hon. Members for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) and for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood). We went under the auspices of the Save the Children Fund and Oxfam. Like anyone who visited Ethiopia that year, and like my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), I was struck by the need to express the dimensions of the catastrophe which faces thousands of people in Ethiopia. However, I am not confident that we can find the right words to express the disaster that they face.

Anyone who visited Ethiopia during the last famine has memories that are for ever etched on their minds. For me, the picture that almost gives me nightmares is a plain which, as far as the eye can see, is brown and arid, covered with rocks rather than green and verdant. The plain is not empty but full of people who are literally bones and rags. Thousands of them were camped out on the plain at Mekele with little or no food or shelter. During the day, the sun beats down remorselessly, but at night it is near freezing. There is an even more poignant and horrific memory. UNICEF has had a feeding programme in Mekele for a long time. It had enough food only for a limited number of children, who were kept in a compound and fed daily. Outside a large number of children looked over the wall, watching the children who were part of the feeding programme. The children outside the wall were without food, shelter or comfort. That memory was not a nightmare—unfortunately, it was the truth, and it was called Mekele.

As we have heard today, those circumstances will almost certainly return, and thousands of men, women and children will die unnecessarily of starvation. When we went to Mekele, Cardinal Hume by chance was with us, and I remember him, or perhaps someone else, saying as we looked numbly at that plain full of people: The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but these people have absolutely nothing. Some two million people are again threatened with famine. It would be comforting to be able to assert that the problems could be solved by a massive injection of food aid in the short term, and by further increases in development aid in the longer term. Heaven knows, Ethiopia's problems are bad enough when the harvest does not fail—even in a year of good harvest there is a substantial food shortfall. Per capita food production has declined steadily as the rate of population growth has substantially outpaced improvements in agriculture. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, if not the poorest. Food production lags further behind food needs. Even when the harvest succeeds, Ethiopia has problems. Worse than that, not only is Ethiopia gripped by famine, but it is gripped by civil war, and by a cruel twist of fate the area where the civil conflict is worst is the area where the drought is most intense. There have been total crop failures in large parts of Eritrea and Tigray this year.

It would be comforting in such circumstances to look for heroes and villains. Mengistu is a tyrant who has spent more than 80 per cent. of his country's pitiful income on ever more arms to prosecute civil wars. Some £3 billion worth of arms has been bought from the Soviet Union in the past few years. It is worth contemplating that figure. Insanely, ports such as Massawa and Assab, which could be used to import food, are closed on Mengistu's orders. The Ethiopian air force Mig fighters regularly bomb and strafe the roads to Tigray and Eritrea—the very roads on which the relief convoys should be travelling. This is not a story of villains and heroes because, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) said, the other protagonists in these conflicts are not completely innocent. Tragically, all the protagonists in the internal conflict have used food aid as a military and political weapon.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs produced an excellent report which I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will read. It went to Ethiopia in 1988 and reported 1,500 men of the EPLF attacking a United Nations convoy carrying food supplies on the road from Asmara. The trucks were clearly marked and painted white, but they were destroyed by grenades and rockets and the food was burnt. That and other attacks were clearly carried out to tie the Ethiopian army to protecting the roads and to attempt to force the United Nations and other relief agencies to accept the EPLF's proposals for carrying out relief work in Eritrea. The same can be said for the TPLF, which wants to demonstrate de facto control over certain areas by the use of food aid, just as the Ethiopian Government want to use hunger to force people out of what they regard as rebel-held areas.

No headway can be made until the civil wars come to an end. No side can hope to achieve military victory. Using food as a political weapon will not provide any solutions. Tragically, the Ethiopian army, the EPLF and the TPLF have all put politics before relief, and the prospect of military advantage ahead of the lives of their own people. It is time to end that insanity.

All possible civilised international, diplomatic and political pressure must be brought to bear, through the United Nations, from the Soviet Union and from the European Community, to prevent further arms sales to the protagonists in Ethiopia, to persuade the Ethiopians to open their ports and adapt an open-roads policy which would allow the free passage of food throughout Ethiopia, and to enable the United Nations world food programme and the relief agencies to get food as urgently as possible to those who need it.

I appreciate that it is the role of the Opposition to oppose, but by tabling the motion that they put down for this debate they have chosen the wrong target and the wrong arguments. Through bilateral and Community channels, Britain's emergency food aid to Ethiopia has totalled more than £54 million since January 1987 and more than £138 million since January 1985. So far this year, 17,000 tonnes of food aid have been pledged. In opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Minister confirmed that further emergency contributions would be made in response to the worsening situation.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) sought to make play of a letter published in The Independent from the director of the Save the Children Fund. I am president of the Banbury branch of the Save the Children Fund and a keen supporter of its work. When I read that letter in The Independent I was disappointed because, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development made clear to the House on 4 December, it was in the offices of the Save the Children Fund that she and representatives of other non-governmental organisations drew up their contingency plans for how the Save the Children Fund and other members of the Disaster Emergency Committee could help in the unfolding situation in Ethiopia. I recently met the secretary of the Disaster Emergency Committee at the annual meeting of the Anglo-Ethiopian Society and there was no scintilla of criticism about the way in which my right hon. Friend the Minister and the Overseas Development Administration had been handling the situation so far.

As my right hon. Friend made clear on 4 December, Britain has been at the forefront of numerous diplomatic initiatives to improve the situation in Ethiopia. My right hon. Friend has clearly taken every opportunity here, in Rome, in Washington, in Brussels and in Paris to seek to persuade the international community to act together. That was reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the recent summit in Strasbourg where the Community Heads of Government made it clear in their communiqué to the Soviet Union that they very much hoped that the Soviet Union would use all its power and influence and apply pressure in Addis Ababa to help to end the civil conflict and to stem the flow of arms to the protagonists.

The problem cannot be solved by Britain or any one country alone. It has to be solved by the whole international community. I very much hope that, having heard the debate, the Opposition will decide not to divide the House because this is not a subject upon which we should be divided. The subject is so tragic and horrific that the House should be united. If the House is united, the various diplomatic and other initiatives that this country takes will have a far greater chance of succeeding. If we are seen to be divided, it will be far easier for those in Ethiopia and elsewhere who choose to be deaf to what we say to turn a deaf ear to what we want to tell them. We want to tell them and the world that there is no reason on God's earth why, in the latter part of the 20th century, millions of people should face starvation.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 9:10 pm, 13th December 1989

I shall try to be brief, because I realise that several other Members wish to speak in this short debate.

I cannot go along with the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) in his defence of the Government. It seems indefensible for the Government to have been cutting the proportion of our gross domestic product that goes in overseas aid. I find it extremely difficult to justify that to my constituents or to anyone else in the civilised world. If the Government want us to have any sympathy with their problems, they should take the earliest possible opportunity to restore the proportion of our aid at least to its 1979 level, and should steadily aim towards the United Nations' target.

I accept that the hon. Member for Banbury was in Ethiopia at the same time as me. I recognise the pictures that he has recounted to the House, as I did those drawn by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway). I still have nightmares about the scenes I saw in Ethiopia at the height of the famine.

I have another memory. I also went to Ethiopia in 1981. I went up to the north, in Karin, and visited the British war graves there. Like most war graves, they reminded me of those who lost their lives in the second world war. I was struck by the fact that they were scarred by bullets from further conflicts. Since 1981, those graveyards in Karin have been fought over another four times.

Ethiopia has suffered 60 years of almost continuous conflict. It is scarred by famine, but it is also scarred by those 60 years of war. Almost all those wars have been not totally Ethiopian affairs but affairs encouraged by people outside Ethiopia. Large world powers have fought out their battles in Ethiopia. It is one of the tragedies of Ethiopia that so often the wars fought there have been fought either directly by world powers or in proxy for them.

I hope that we can bring some relief to the people in Ethiopia. However, the only possible relief for Ethiopia will be if we can bring peace to that country. When a war is being fought, it is impossible to persuade people to fight nicely so that they do not use starvation as one of the weapons. Starvation is just another nasty example of the weapons of war.

My message is firm: the only way to improve the position in Ethiopia is to achieve peace. I would argue strongly that the Government should place much more emphasis on diplomatic efforts to bring about peace in Ethiopia. We should try to ensure that there is an arms embargo. No country should be prepared to supply arms to any of the protagonists.

We cannot apportion blame or virtue to any of the people in Ethiopia. They are all to blame, because at some point each group of people in Ethiopia has had the opportunity to negotiate for peace. However, almost every time, some group has felt that it was on the verge of outright victory and has therefore been reluctant to participate in negotiations. Then the tide of war has swung against it, and it has been in no position to negotiate.

We must find a solution in Ethiopia which produces some federal forum to give all groups the opportunity for independence and self-government for their part of the country, but also gives them an overall pattern to establish a position in which the three or four major groups can live peacefully without resorting to conflict, and without people from outside encouraging conflict. I hope that the Government will use all their powers to encourage an arms embargo and will encourage in every possible way the talks that are taking place between the three protagonists to bring about a lasting peace.

If the open-road initiative that was announced by the President of Kenya is embarked upon, we must see it only as the first step to a lasting peace. If that open-road policy is accepted by all the parties, it must be backed by getting food through quickly. As my hon. Friends have said, it is important to encourage people to stay in their own villages and not to go to camps or elsewhere in search of food. The only way to encourage people to stay in their villages is to convince them that food will arrive. The only way to do that is for people to see the food being moved quickly. If the open-road policy is implemented, it should be possible to move food quickly by road. The world powers will also have to look at the possibility of an air lift, at least in the short term, in order to convince people that food will arrive.

Ethiopia is a beautiful country; as Conservative Members have said, it has great potential; but while it suffers from war and famine, there will be no opportunity to realise that potential. The first priority is to stop the war. When that is done, there will be a chance to tackle the famine in the short term. After that, we must look at long-term aid which can release the potential of the country.

Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon 9:16 pm, 13th December 1989

I must declare an interest in this sad project. I was director of fund raising for the Save the Children Fund in the last major famine in 1984–85. My brother-in-law is the overseas director of Oxfam, and my father-in-law is generally credited with having founded the Overseas Development Administration.

The Government have given generously so far in this latest Ethiopian crisis, but whether the amount is £2 million or £13 million, more is needed. Of that £2 million, £800,000 went to Oxfam and I think that a bit more went to the Save the Children Fund. However, in the next three months Oxfam has budgeted to spend £5 million and the Save the Children Fund budgets to spend approximately the same. Those are the largest United Kingdom agencies in Ethiopia at the moment, but of course there is also Christian Aid, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and the Co-operative for American Relief Everywhere. Other tiny agencies are also putting in the largest amounts that they can. That, of course, is linked to the enormous expenditure of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

The public response in Britain to the latest appeal is fascinating. It is the most generous response ever to the Disasters Emergency Committee. In the first seven days of the appeal, £1·3 million has been counted and that is the largest amount ever raised by the committee. Much of that came by way of credit card donations. The Save the Children Fund is the co-ordinator and there are sacks of cash waiting to be counted. That means that the total for the first seven days will be much larger than £1·3 million.

The generosity of the public is amazing, especially in the light of the huge response to the recent BBC Children in Need appeal and, of course, the phrase, "Charity begins at home" is very compelling. In addition, there are all the normal Christmas appeals that occur in mid and late December. It is worth remembering that British people are the second or third most generous individual donors in the world, beaten only by people in the Netherlands and the United States of America.

Raising money always seems difficult at the beginning, but the generosity of the British people makes it relatively easy. However, spending it is a truly difficult task. In the 1984–85 famine 60 per cent. of the European Community grain donation rotted on the docks in Djibouti. Food aid is notorious for devastating local farming. That is why our simple method of teaching Ethiopian farmers how to alter the plough to use one ox instead of two, which was a British innovation, may mean more in the long run than any great tonnage of food.

Food aid is also notorious for encouraging people to flee from their homes to where the food is being distributed. At present people are not in camps in northern Ethiopia, but they certainly were during the previous famine and a cholera epidemic started as a result. Afterwards they do not return home or they return to untilled land. It is worth remembering that two thirds of the fertile land in Ethiopia is not farmed at all due to the political problems.

Also food aid irrevocably alters people's dietary tastes. Ethiopians have gained a taste for wheat which is far more nutritious than the grain that they previously ate. Wheat is contra-indicated in high, wet areas such as Ethiopia, which is mountainous, too. That is why the Israelis and the Weissmann institute have developed a grain which will grow in those climatic conditions.

Food aid is difficult to manage in a way that is helpful to the people at whom it is aimed. A country at war offers irrevocable logistical difficulties.

It was said earlier that the British people had been generous in giving to Band Aid, but Band Aid expenditure—and that is what matters—was immensely difficult to organise. Hon. Members will recall the pictures of rusting trucks. Where did that money go? Was it honestly well spent as the Ethiopian people would see it? Hon. Members will recall that even non-governmental organisations have not been effective spenders. Why is War on Want no longer a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee? The answer is that it, too, had massive difficulties in managing good expenditure of Disasters Emergency Committee funds.

The political difficulties are seemingly impassable. I suggest that unless the Soviet glasnost effort is extended to eradicating Mr. Mengistu from the Ethiopian Government, there will be no open road. It will remain as mythical as the golden road to Samarkand. Between 40 and 60 Save the Children and Oxfam trucks waiting to use those open roads will still be waiting.

Nothing that the Ethiopian Government have done since the first famine of 1973–74 has helped. Each time the effect of the famine on people worsens. This time the famine is worse than in 1987 but not as bad as 1984. It enters a country that has suffered centuries of land neglect and where the drought is worse each time against a particularly impoverished environmental backdrop. People's resistance is lower each time and their response to starvation is more feeble. All that is in the context of a gross national product for all black African countries south of the Sahara which is identical to that of Belgium. Spending wisely in that context of total poverty is not easy.

The Government are to be congratulated on their intelligent application of funds. It has started well. The Overseas Development Administration is an extremely efficient, world-renowned organisation. We are most fortunate in the tremendous service that is given by that part of the Government.

The Government must now adopt a Morton's fork approach. On the political front they must pursue an open-roads policy by all the means available. I suggest that they get in touch with the Soviet Government as fast as possible. However, on the practical side they must recognise that it is unlikely that the open-roads policy will come about. The cross-border tactics that NGOs have had to use so often in these recent miserable years will once more be the only way to get food to Ethiopia. The Sudan offers a poor, dangerous, expensive and inappropriate route for the Government to use. That must mean more funding of agency work through the large voluntary organisations in the United Kingdom which can achieve it and less bilateral aid. The British Government cannot spend through the Ethiopian Government in their current political circumstances.

It is easy to stir consciences. Britain has a great history of generosity. But it is difficult to walk the tight rope of combining our outpourings of comparative wealth with care and appropriate expenditure, and with personal sensitivity to the great suffering that we continually witness in Ethiopia. We must allow these unfortunate people, who are crippled by warfare, to keep their dignity. Do not let us become vultures of compassion, peering at poverty on the small screen from comfortable armchairs. That is the challenge.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability) 9:24 pm, 13th December 1989

Comfortable armchairs and the opinions expressed from them may not always be acceptable, but the same is true of comfortable debates in this Chamber. When the reality of famine in Ethiopia faces us, it is absolutely right for my right hon. and hon. Friends to table motions such as this one. I proudly support it.

Christian Aid, not a politically motivated body, recently published a pamphlet in which it said: For the last ten years official aid has been consistently lower in real terms than the level achieved in 1979. What loyal Opposition could possibly accept that, pretend that there is consensus and do nothing? Problems of infrastructure undoubtedly exist, the war in Ethiopia is undoubtedly a great scar and the problems of food distribution undoubtedly exist, but we cannot allow the Government to get away with a fairly miserable contribution. We cannot endorse that.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) is no longer in his place. I was more than surprised by his intervention. After all, it was he who argued in his famous open letter that time after time his Department was in opposition to the Treasury which, he gave the impression, was mean-minded and at one with the Prime Minister. I should have thought that he would welcome this opportunity to criticise constructively the limited contribution that the Government are making.

Obviously, there have been harvest failures, droughts and war. Alas, they are not new. They were both predictable and predicted. Although I do not expect my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) to remember my speech, he will recall that in 1984 he and many other hon. Members drew attention to the appalling problems which then existed in Ethiopia. Since then the problems have scarcely changed. People, including those who were so generous and who will continue to be generous, must be asking why they are seeing on their television screens in 1989 the pictures which besmirched the international community in 1984. I was delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) repeated the need for a successful appeal.

We in the Labour party cannot go along with the Government's attitude. Spending cuts in the Department, reflecting Government policy, have been even more severe than elsewhere. We cannot pretend that the Prime Minister's attitude, popularly known as Thatcherism, is being applied to every Department except overseas aid, especially when the reality suggests that that is not the case.

The narrow political approach—which I regret is the attitude, although we would all wish otherwise—is evidenced by, for example, the figures that show that we give 40p per head to the people of Bangladesh as against £2,000 per head to people who happen to live in the Falklands. How can the Opposition accept those priorities? The Minister said that the gross national product was small under the Labour Government. We are entitled to argue that as the wealth of the nation grows, and as the GNP increases the national cake—and no one would dispute the fact that the standard of living has, on average, increased since 1984—it is reasonable in a caring society that a larger amount of that cake should be given to the millions of people in need.

The Henley Centre says such is the thrust of Government leadership in these matters that in its recent survey only 10 per cent. of people viewed world poverty as one of the major issues being faced today. Many view green environmental issues, important and profound as they are, as transcending other issues. Surely it is possible for all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, to have a well-based concern for the future of the planet while also being concerned to show commitment to the millions of people already living on this planet who are suffering from malnutrition, poverty and disease to an unacceptable extent in the modern world.

Some 750 million people experience absolute poverty, illiteracy, disease and malnutrition to an extent well beyond any standards of human decency acceptable to the British public. Therein lie the seeds of hatred and wars that could contaminate the future and which I believe could be so easily avoided. We are seeing on television the starving Eritreans, the ghost of Christmas present, but that need not be the case. It could be avoided and it represents a challenge to the consciences of all those in this modern world. It has been predicted; it can be dealt with.

I do not believe that apathy need always triumph. Starvation in Ethiopia represents the sort of lifestyle that, sadly, so many of our fellow citizens in this universe are now experiencing. We know of the unspeakable misery in the south China seas. We know that by 1992 the number of infants infected by AIDS in the sub-Saharan region will rise to 250,000. We know that now; there are things that we can do now. We should reflect the spirit and the generosity that I believe is shared by the British people.

Because I am passionately convinced that the Government, in their rather squalid approach to these matters, do not reflect the views of the people in this country or those of the international community towards international poverty, I shall vote against their amendment and, with pride, support the motion in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 9:34 pm, 13th December 1989

My hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) has struck the right sombre and challenging note, as so many other hon. Members have done today. The debate has been based on the deep concern at the scale of the mounting tragedy in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia in particular, with some poignant speeches, particularly from the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley), the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), and my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) and for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett).

There has been frustration at the lack of progress and at the fact that after the awful experiences of 1984 and 1985 yet another famine is looming in that sad part of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) expressed so well the anger felt at the human reasons for the tragedy—the scale of the armed conflict, the civil wars that seem to go among elites over the great mass of the people, the victims of the tragedy in the area. There has also been perplexity at the way forward because of the multiplicity of problems in the area, natural and man-made.

If we are tempted to switch off and say that we are fed up with the fact that the tragedy is likely to recur, how much more reason do the victims of that tragedy have to be fed up with the fact that famine is with them yet again?

We cannot discount the fact that the problems in Ethiopia are now taking place in a harsher international context, with some evidence of compassion fatigue, despite what was said by the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) about her experience and the evidence of the generosity of the British public in their response to the current appeal. I think not only of the recent UNICEF report mentioned by some hon. Members but also of the World Bank report with Mr. Conable's speech, not just drawing attention to the collective breast beating of the western community, saying that it is all our fault as a result of past colonialism, but pointing out factors relating to the countries themselves such as the vast expenditure on arms. For example, Ethiopia owes the Soviet Union in excess of $3 billion for arms purchases. In addition, there were rumours in the press on Sunday that, because of a deal on the Falashas, Israel may well be ready to replace the Soviet Union as a major arms supplier of that sad country. I hope that the Minister will say whether that rumour has any basis.

The World Bank report in September criticised what it elegantly called the "governance" of the countries of the Third world. But who can doubt that in Ethiopia, in addition to the natural problems of drought, so much blames lies at the door of Mr. Mengistu—a point made so graphically by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West? Equally, my hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead pointed out that the leaders of the TPLF are no great exemplars of human rights and the wish for democracy.

The basic facts are well known. They include the climatic factors, the erratic rainfall in the area, the increasing population, which adds to the pressure on land, the increase in soil degradation and the deforestation which has gathered pace since the turn of the century so that now Ethiopia's forest cover has been reduced from 40 per cent. at the turn of the century to 14 per cent. in 1970 and to but 4 per cent. today. In addition, there are the great sociological factors—the danger of community disintegration as people go to the food centres and farmers are unable to plant for the next year. There is an ever-increasing frequency of famine to the point where famine is not a cyclical problem but part of the chronic condition of that sad country.

We have heard the World Food Programme's estimate that 4 million people are threatened with famine by the end of January. I understand that the Minister suggested that there might be a large time scale, but if anything like that is threatened by the end of January, when we work back from January and look at the lead times in terms of procurement and delivery, we must surely recognise that the problem is with us now. If we are to make a serious impact on that problem, we must make the relevant decisions now.

The World Bank figures for 1987 show that Ethiopia is possibly the poorest country in the world. Clearly, long-term work needs to be done and that was shown in the Select Committee report last year. It is well known that work needs to be done on food security and storage, an improved distribution system, reforestation and water conservation. The key factors of time scale and transport were highlighted by the Minister. Knowing that people are facing almost immediate famine, how are we to get the necessary foodstuffs to them in the relevant time scale?

Will the Minister comment on the rumours over the past 24 hours or so about the open routes and the alleged speech by President Moi of Kenya? If President Moi is confident that there has been a substantial change by the Mengistu Government, it is puzzling that in the 24 hours that have elapsed the Government have not used the available communications to Nairobi to obtain further particulars for today's debate. Did President Moi make that speech, and what, if anything, was said about the small print and conditions? Given the track record of President Mengistu and the leaders of the rebels, can we believe that this is not just a stalling tactic in the civil war programme? I hope that the Minister who replies will tell us a little more about the speech of President Moi as it is fundamental to the possibility of getting food speedily to those in need.

We accept that as a country our leverage is relatively limited in that area. However, there is a widespread feeling that in this conflict, as in others in the Horn of Africa, the Government are being too traditional and are working only through the Governments of the day and in this instance through Addis Ababa. Surely, if the aim is to help those in dire need now, we have to use less orthodox methods and be prepared to take all the risks that the Minister pointed out. We have to be prepared to work through the Relief Society for Tigray and the Eritrean Relief Association—the agencies on the spot with a good track record. We have to be prepared to work through the British agencies—the non-governmental organisations—which have such a good record on reaching those in need.

Hon. Members have already pointed out the difference historically and in terms of need of Eritrea, Tigray and to a lesser extent Wollo. They have pointed out that Eritrea can be reached through cross-border routes and that Tigray needs a more adventurous policy and the co-operation of the Governments concerned. The question is whether the food will get to those areas on time.

We have no doubt about the Minister's commitment and we regret that because of flu she is unable to be here today. We know that she is working within a cage imposed on her by the Prime Minister's policies over the past decade. Ministers for Overseas Development may have pressed at the bars, but the bars have been set by the Government's policies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) pointed out that the figures on the reduction of aid over the decade are well documented. They were given by my hon. Friend and speak for themselves as a measure of the reduction in the Government's commitment. The aid budget has been consistently sidelined at a time when the Government have been indulging in economic triumphalism and talking about economic miracles. Perhaps the new Chancellor of the Exchequer is less prone to indulge in talk of economic miracles, but that was his predecessor's theme.

We do not criticise the Government as strongly as we did in 1984–85. So much depended then on the generosity of the British people. It shamed the Government's niggardly response. However, what is beng done has to be set against a reduction in the overall aid budget. Hungry people need to be fed now if another major human tragedy in Ethiopia is to be averted.

We hope that the Government will follow a several-track policy and say something about what is being done by the Soviet Union. President Mengistu's position has been weakened. Is there evidence of pressure being exerted on President Mengistu by the Soviet Union? We have to work through our non-governmental organisations. We remain to be convinced that the Government will be able to respond in time and according to the scale of the need in that area.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove 9:46 pm, 13th December 1989

The debate has highlighted the deep concern of all hon. Members about the threat of famine in Ethiopia. The contributions to the debate have been of a high quality, accompanied by a remarkable degree of personal knowledge of the area and its problems.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) asked a question that many people in the country are asking: why is it happening again? It was a powerful question. Subsequent contributors to the debate sought to provide an answer to it. However, as the hon. Gentleman recognises, it is not easy to find the right answer to that question. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Sir J. Stanley) spoke movingly of his visit to Mekele in 1984 when, as he so poignantly pointed out, the relief arrived too late. It was a stern reminder to us all of our duty to ensure that that does not happen again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), who also has great knowledg of the area, referred to the fact that the three protagonists in the major civil wars, who believe that relief is secondary to their military aims, make it more difficult to find a solution to the problem. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), who has direct personal knowledge of the problems in the area, made important points about the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front and its likely effect on the food and relief programmes. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), who also knows the area, referred to his terrible memories of 1984. He said that it will be difficult to make the kind of headway that we need to make if that tragedy is not to be repeated. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson), who is a former director of fund raising for the Save the Children Fund, spoke with great knowledge of the valuable work being done by the voluntary organisations. I was glad that she referred to the Government's intelligent use of funds. She also drew attention to the great importance of teaching people how to make better use of their resources of land and food to solve the problems.

The House has shown a common determination that the threat of famine referred to in the motion and in the amendment must be averted. We must not allow a repeat of the tragic events of 1984. That concern and that determination are, I am sure, an accurate reflection of the way in which people all over Britain are already responding to appeals for assistance to the region. The Government welcome the fact that today's debate will have helped to focus public attention even more closely on the problem, as the hon. Member for Hillhead said.

I hope that this debate will also have shown clearly that the Government have already done and are continuing to do a great deal to alleviate suffering. We are determined to make sure that it does not get worse. The general public may understand this better than some Opposition Members. A humanitarian problem of this nature should not be addressed on purely party lines. A number of my right hon. and hon. Friends made that point strongly. I accept that all right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are sincere in their concern, but I stress that the Government are also sincere.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

May I ask the Minister a very simple question? To his knowledge, is any REST transport available in the Sudan to carry famine relief food supplies to Ethiopia? Does the Minister know whether any trucks are available right now?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

As has been mentioned in the debate, there are a very large number of trucks in the region. The problem is not so much trucks as opening the corridors to the food convoys. That it the key issue.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I am sorry, but we have a very limited amount of time.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. If the Minister does not give way the hon. Gentleman must not persist.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

No one should be in any doubt about the scale of the problem. As hon. Members have pointed out, the risk of famine is compounded and complicated by a web of related factors. First, there is not one but two civil wars. In Eritrea, the conflict has been in progress for 27 years. In Tigray, a hard-line Marxist regime is opposed by rebels who believe that Albania is the ideal to which their citizens should aspire. Incessant fighting would challenge any Government's ability to run the country. Secondly, misguided economic policies, particularly in the agricultural sector, have reduced the country's ability to feed itself even in non-drought years.

There are, however, some signs of hope. Peace talks aimed at ending the civil wars are now taking place. We continue to urge all parties to keep the process going in a spirit of compromise and flexibility. We shall do all that we can, in association with our European Community partners and through direct and indirect contact with all the parties concerned, to give those talks the best chance of success. There are also signs that the Ethiopian Government have begun to moderate the worst aspects of their economic policies. That is a result of representations made to them by the donor community, including the EC and the World Bank.

The conflict obviously has a direct bearing on the success of the aid effort. Convoys must be able to get through. As hon. Members have pointed out, the logistical problems are enormous. The tonnages of food required and the distances over which they have to be moved are very great, particularly in Tigray. There is a shortage of transport and a fuel problem, particularly in Sudan, which means that it has to be imported at great expense and difficulty. The terrain is particularly problematical and there is a constant threat of bombing of the food corridors. Some food certainly can be moved through Sudan and into the areas of need. If free access across the lines cannot be agreed, it will be necessary to move as much as possible through that channel, but it certainly will not be possible to meet all the requirements.

That is why it remains vital that food corridors should be opened to allow relief supplies through the ports of Massawa and Assab, which are controlled by the Ethiopian Government. If confirmed, President Moi's announcement that President Mengistu has agreed to this is welcome. We can confirm that President Moi made the speech in the terms quoted, but we cannot confirm independently that President Mengistu has specifically agreed to the proposal. As I am sure that the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) will appreciate, the key to progress is not President Moi's announcing an agreement but the protagonists accepting and adhering to that agreement.

The recurrent droughts affecting the Horn of Africa are the prime cause of famine, and they are beyond anyone's control. The effects are worsened, notably in northern Ethiopia, by over-grazing, poor agricultural techniques and deforestation, to which the hon. Member for Swansea, East referred. All of this causes great environmental damage and weakens Ethopia's long-term capacity to feed itself. Those are problems which can be tackled in the longer term. We are helping to do that under our technical co-operation programme, as are the multilateral donors such as the European Community and the World Bank.

The hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) referred to the need for developmental aid, and that is certainly recognised.

There are further important steps that the Government of Ethiopia can take. First, they can negotiate an end to the fighting—a number of hon. Members have recognised that as the prime task—thereby releasing the resources needed to tackle the problems of drought and under-development. Secondly, they can move further towards more liberal and market-oriented policies, particularly in the agricultural sector. This will do much to increase food production and enhance the security of food supplies, even in years of drought.

The scale and complexity of the problem are daunting. I hope that we would all accept that humanitarian issues such as this must be dealt with on a non-party basis. I echo my hon. Friends' call. It is not a matter of accepting the motion or the amendment—it would be much better if both were withdrawn and the House could agree with one united voice on the need for help. I assure the House that we work closely with all the NGOs, although I find that expression a little off-putting—I refer to the voluntary organisations and charities which do such excellent work. They have a tremendously important role to play in the relief operation and we shall stay in close touch with them. The voluntary agencies have long experience in ensuring that aid reaches those who need it on the ground as quickly and effectively as possible. That is why we channel the bulk of our emergency aid through them. The European Community has already committed significant contributions of emergency relief aid. We fully support that and our share of that assistance is substantial. The United Nations' role, too, is vital.

The United Nations emergency planning and preparedness group in Addis Ababa, which the United Kingdom helped to establish, co-ordinates the efforts of the various United Nations agencies, such as the World Food Programme, in coping with the emergency. It is a mechanism which has worked extremely effectively. We should very much like to see the International Committee of the Red Cross resuming a fully active humanitarian role in Ethiopia, as it did before April 1988, when it was asked to leave the country. I understand that negotiations are in hand and I wish them well.

I pay tribute again to the response of the British public. Their typical generosity was no doubt given an additional spur by the distressing and disturbing television reports transmitted last month. The Opposition have suggested that what we offered was a wholly inadequate response to a tragic situation, but my hon. Friend the Minister of State has made it clear that that is totally unjustified and wrong. We have been aware of the risk of famine in northern Ethiopia for some time, and we have been working to prevent it. This year we have given nearly £13·5 million to Ethiopia. We have given £67 million since 1987 and £150 million since 1984.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 262.

Division No. 18][10 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeArcher, Rt Hon Peter
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Armstrong, Hilary
Allen, GrahamAshdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Alton, DavidAshley, Rt Hon Jack
Anderson, DonaldAshton, Joe
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Gordon, Mildred
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Gould, Bryan
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Graham, Thomas
Barron, KevinGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Battle, JohnGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Beckett, MargaretGrocott, Bruce
Beith, A. J.Hardy, Peter
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHarman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Haynes, Frank
Bermingham, GeraldHenderson, Doug
Bidwell, SydneyHinchliffe, David
Blair, TonyHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Blunkett, DavidHome Robertson, John
Boateng, PaulHood, Jimmy
Boyes, RolandHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bradley, KeithHowells, Geraint
Bray, Dr JeremyHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hoyle, Doug
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hume, John
Buchan, NormanIllsley, Eric
Buckley, George J.Ingram, Adam
Caborn, RichardJohnston, Sir Russell
Callaghan, JimJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Lambie, David
Canavan, DennisLamond, James
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Leadbitter, Ted
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Leighton, Ron
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Litherland, Robert
Clay, BobLivingstone, Ken
Clelland, DavidLivsey, Richard
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cohen, HarryLoyden, Eddie
Coleman, DonaldMcAllion, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)McCartney, Ian
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Macdonald, Calum A.
Corbett, RobinMcFall, John
Corbyn, JeremyMcGrady, Eddie
Cox, TomMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Crowther, StanMcLeish, Henry
Cryer, BobMcNamara, Kevin
Cunliffe, LawrenceMadden, Max
Cunningham, Dr JohnMahon, Mrs Alice
Dalyell, TarnMallon, Seamus
Darling, AlistairMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Martlew, Eric
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Meacher, Michael
Dewar, DonaldMeale, Alan
Dixon, DonMichael, Alun
Doran, FrankMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Douglas, DickMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Duffy, A. E. P.Moonie, Dr Lewis
Dunnachie, JimmyMorgan, Rhodri
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMorley, Elliot
Eadie, AlexanderMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Evans, John (St Helens N)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Mowlam, Marjorie
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Mullin, Chris
Fatchett, DerekMurphy, Paul
Faulds, AndrewNellist, Dave
Fearn, RonaldOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)O'Neill, Martin
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fisher, MarkPaisley, Rev Ian
Flannery, MartinPatchett, Terry
Flynn, PaulPike, Peter L.
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPrimarolo, Dawn
Foster, DerekQuin, Ms Joyce
Fraser, JohnRadice, Giles
Fyfe, MariaRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Galloway, GeorgeReid, Dr John
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
George, BruceRobertson, George
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRogers, Allan
Godman, Dr Norman A.Rooker, Jeff
Golding, Mrs LlinRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, TedTurner, Dennis
Ruddock, JoanVaz, Keith
Salmond, AlexWall, Pat
Sedgemore, BrianWallace, James
Sheerman, BarryWalley, Joan
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Shore, Rt Hon PeterWareing, Robert N.
Short, ClareWatson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Skinner, DennisWelsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Snape, PeterWinnick, David
Soley, CliveWise, Mrs Audrey
Spearing, NigelWorthington, Tony
Steinberg, GerryWray, Jimmy
Stott, RogerYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Straw, Jack
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)Mr. Ken Eastham and
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)Mr. Ray Powell.
NOES
Alexander, RichardCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Amess, DavidCormack, Patrick
Amos, AlanCouchman, James
Arbuthnot, JamesCran, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Currie, Mrs Edwina
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Ashby, DavidDavis, David (Boothferry)
Aspinwall, JackDay, Stephen
Atkins, RobertDevlin, Tim
Atkinson, DavidDorrell, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baldry, TonyDover, Den
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDunn, Bob
Bellingham, HenryDurant, Tony
Bendall, VivianDykes, Hugh
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Fallon, Michael
Benyon, W.Favell, Tony
Bevan, David GilroyFenner, Dame Peggy
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFishburn, John Dudley
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterFookes, Dame Janet
Body, Sir RichardForman, Nigel
Bonsor, Sir NicholasGarel-Jones, Tristan
Boswell, TimGill, Christopher
Bottomley, PeterGlyn, Dr Alan
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGoodhart, Sir Philip
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Goodlad, Alastair
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowis, JohnGow, Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGrist, Ian
Brandon-Bravo, MartinGrylls, Michael
Brazier, JulianGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Bright, GrahamHampson, Dr Keith
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHanley, Jeremy
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hannam, John
Browne, John (Winchester)Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Buck, Sir AntonyHarris, David
Budgen, NicholasHaselhurst, Alan
Burns, SimonHawkins, Christopher
Burt, AlistairHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Butcher, JohnHayward, Robert
Butler, ChrisHeathcoat-Amory, David
Butterfill, JohnHeddle, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Carrington, MatthewHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carttiss, MichaelHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Cash, WilliamHind, Kenneth
Chope, ChristopherHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Churchill, MrHolt, Richard
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Colvin, MichaelHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, AndrewPortillo, Michael
Jack, MichaelRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Janman, TimRedwood, John
Jessel, TobyRenton, Rt Hon Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRhodes James, Robert
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRidsdale, Sir Julian
Key, RobertRossi, Sir Hugh
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Rost, Peter
Kirkhope, TimothyRowe, Andrew
Knapman, RogerSainsbury, Hon Tim
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Shaw, David (Dover)
Knowles, MichaelShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knox, DavidShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lamont, Rt Hon NormanShelton, Sir William
Lawrence, IvanShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lee, John (Pendle)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSkeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lightbown, DavidSpeed, Keith
Lilley, PeterSpeller, Tony
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lord, MichaelSquire, Robin
Lyell, Sir NicholasStanbrook, Ivor
Macfarlane, Sir NeilStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Steen, Anthony
Maclean, DavidStern, Michael
McLoughlin, PatrickStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McNair-Wilson, Sir MichaelStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickStradling Thomas, Sir John
Madel, DavidSumberg, David
Malins, HumfreySummerson, Hugo
Mans, KeithTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Maples, JohnTaylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Marlow, TonyTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Temple-Morris, Peter
Maude, Hon FrancisThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mawhinney, Dr BrianThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinThornton, Malcolm
Mellor, DavidThurnham, Peter
Meyer, Sir AnthonyTownend, John (Bridlington)
Miller, Sir HalTredinnick, David
Mills, IainTrippier, David
Miscampbell, NormanVaughan, Sir Gerard
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Viggers, Peter
Mitchell, Sir DavidWakeham, Rt Hon John
Moate, RogerWaldegrave, Hon William
Monro, Sir HectorWalden, George
Montgomery, Sir FergusWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Moore, Rt Hon JohnWaller, Gary
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Ward, John
Morrison, Sir CharlesWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Moss, MalcolmWarren, Kenneth
Moynihan, Hon ColinWatts, John
Mudd, DavidWells, Bowen
Neale, GerrardWheeler, John
Nelson, AnthonyWhitney, Ray
Neubert, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWiggin, Jerry
Nicholls, PatrickWilshire, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Winterton, Nicholas
Oppenheim, PhillipWolfson, Mark
Page, RichardWood, Timothy
Paice, JamesYeo, Tim
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Patnick, Irvine
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)Tellers for the Noes:
Patten, John (Oxford W)Mr. Tom Sackville and
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyMr. Sydney Chapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to he agreed to.

Resolved,That this House welcomes the speed and effectiveness with which Her Majesty's Government has responded to the threat of famine in Northern Ethiopia through the provision of food and emergency aid; and strongly endorses its diplomatic action aimed at persuading the parties to the civil wars in Ethiopia to seek a negotiated end to these conflicts and to facilitate the transport of food to those at risk of famine.