South Africa

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 3rd May 1995.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons) 2:18 pm, 3rd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the frequency and subject matter of current Government contacts with the Government of South Africa. [20437]

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We maintain close and frequent contact with the Government of South Africa, at all levels and on a wide range of subjects.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

I congratulate the South African Government on their first year of democratic all-party government, and celebrate that. Will Her Majesty's Government make it clear, however, that the worst possible scenario during the next few years—while the new constitution is worked out—would involve the coalition parties not only not speaking to each other but reaching such difficulties in their internal relationships that we would risk the breaking up of South Africa as a result of the intransigence of either the Inkatha Freedom party or any of the coalition parties? That is now an increasing possibility.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Clearly, the people of South Africa must make their democratic institutions work, and, clearly, there will be difficulties from time to time. We must trust the maturity of the elected representatives in South Africa, and their determination to make democracy work, to see them through occasional sticky patches in the first few years of democracy. By and large, the maturity that they have shown so far bodes well.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

Will my hon. Friend remind the House of what the British Government are doing to help the various communities in South Africa build a team spirit and work together for the future of their country?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We are devoting £100 million of development aid to South Africa—£60 million bilaterally, and £40 through the European Union. We are supporting education projects, small-enterprise business development and sport. On Monday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hosted an event at Downing street for an impressive range of United Kingdom companies and others, specifically to sponsor sport and sporting activities in South Africa. Across the board, we are supporting the new, emerging South Africa. We are the largest investor in new business and trade in the country, and we are determined for it to enter the 21st century as strong and self-confident nation.

Mr. Robert Hughes:

The Government know full well that the development and sustaining of democracy in South Africa depends largely on the development of its economy, and that of neighbouring countries. Why, then, are they cutting their contribution to the European development fund by 30 per cent., thereby putting at risk the prospect of development in which the Minister says he believes?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

First, the hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to my earlier answer. Secondly, he does not seem to appreciate that the Lomé agreement does not cover South Africa. As I have said, we are giving £100 million in aid to South Africa, £60 million of which comes from our bilateral budget. If we devoted more aid to multilateral spending, by definition that would mean that less could be spent from our bilateral budget: less could be spent on countries such as South Africa. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman and many of his hon. Friends completely misunderstand the way in which the Lomé and EDF operate.