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9.11 p.m.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, would like to hear that my noble friend Lady Chalker is very sad not to be able to be here to comment on this debate.

I am pleased that the House has again turned its attention to developments in southern Africa and I thank the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, for having provided us with this opportunity. This is a region where the woes so often associated with Africa--famine, drought, civil war, displaced people--have given way to the challenges of peace. For the first time in more than a quarter of a century, peace holds throughout southern Africa. Apartheid, repression, military and civil dictatorship have virtually gone.

The region is passing through profound political and economic change. The establishment of a non-racial democracy is South Africa was an historic achievement for its people. In 1994, Mozambique held free and fair elections after years of civil war. With international help, the peace process in Angola is moving slowly forward, with the prospect of UNITA joining a government of unity and national reconciliation this summer. In Malawi the country's first multi-party election in 1994 resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. In the same year, in Lesotho the elected government were restored to power. There have since been elections in Botswana and Namibia. Swaziland is currently experiencing internal division and political uncertainty but we are hopeful that it too will soon find a democratic way forward.

Much has been achieved but much remains to be done. While good governance and economic reform have been widely embraced, decades of ideological confusion and state ownership have yet to be fully shaken off. There is now no argument in the region on the imperative of economic reform. Government recognise that future prosperity lies in the enterprise and initiative of their peoples. They are allowing markets to work, encouraging the private sector, attracting foreign investment, liberalising trade, cutting down bureaucracies and in several countries cutting military expenditure too. Donor governments have helped with those changes in strengthening democratic and state institutions, drawing attention to corruption and financial irregularity and encouraging programmes of economic reform and structural adjustment. We have used our bilateral assistance and, where necessary, withheld it to help bring about those changes.

But aid cannot by itself achieve the economic transformation which will set southern Africa on the path to prosperity. Only sound economic management, large-scale investment and the development of international and regional trade can do that. That is why we support the efforts of the Southern Africa Development Community to enhance regional economic and political co-operation. From having had a wide experience in emerging as well as developed economies we can commend the virtues of a single market to the member states of SADC. We welcome the new enthusiasm in the region to develop cross-border co-operation of every kind.

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It is the transformation in South Africa that has made many of these positive developments possible. Not only has the reconciliation of South Africa's peoples been a shining example, but the Government of National Unity's pursuit of sound economic policies and their evolving support for regional co-operation are having a profound effect on South Africa's neighbours. South Africa has become a regional force for stability. I should add that there is still much to be done in reducing tariffs and working towards open and flexible trade regimes.

But there is one word of warning here. The successes in South Africa must not undermine the economies of her neighbours. Perhaps I may run through a little of the history of SADC and attitudes towards it. SADC's relations with the EU were formalised at the Berlin conference of September 1994. The conference culminated in a declaration in which both sides committed themselves to entering a comprehensive dialogue to further the development of relations between the two regions. Since then, developments have been slow. The next meeting at ministerial level will take place in October in Harare. However, SADC has been successful in mobilising funds from international donors for regional integration projects. More than 3 billion US dollars has been spent on a total of more than 550 projects, programmes and studies. The main project expenditure has been on transport infrastructure, telecommunications, energy transmission and food safety measures. SADC has been less successful in reducing dependence on South Africa and promoting free trade among its members.

The UK has supported SADC projects since the 1980s. The main focus of support is currently the transport sector, worth some £6 million in 1992-93. The northern transport corridor--Dar es Salaam to Malawi--and the Maputo corridor, including projects for both Maputo port and the Limpopo railway, have received capital aid support. More limited support has been given to the Beira corridor, which links Zimbabwe to the sea, and the Nacal line linking Malawi to the sea. In natural resources, our main project is the research programme, carried out jointly with the governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, on fish stocks in Lake Malawi. In the natural resources sector, SADC offers a potentially useful forum for raising awareness on environmental and conservation issues.

For the future, we are phasing out our support for transport projects in line with the declining aid framework for SADC. We expect to focus on technical co-operation projects; for example, on ways to promote regional integration.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and other noble Lords commented on the EU/South Africa trade negotiations. It is well appreciated that throughout negotiations over the EU supplementary mandate for a free trade area with South Africa the British Government have been arguing for the most liberal arrangements possible. We are disappointed that the EU member states did not agree on a better outcome, but there was clearly no point in

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delaying further the start of substantial negotiations with South Africa. The important thing now is for the Commission and the South African Government to take things forward towards an agreement that will be in all our interests; and we shall be pressing for that.

The mandate that was agreed at the Foreign Affairs Committee on 25th March includes a list of agricultural products, as detailed, which will at the insistence of certain member states be excluded from the negotiations for a free trade area. We had consistently opposed any list excluding products from the scope of negotiations. We believe that the list annexed to the supplementary negotiating directives may well make it impossible to negotiate a satisfactory agreement which is compatible with WTO rules. For that reason we abstained from voting on the mandate. The EU mandate was formally presented to the South African authorities in Brussels on 29th March, and we await the formal reaction of the South African Government.

Our policy of promoting good government is a constant theme in our relations with southern African countries. The Commonwealth, following the admission of South Africa and Mozambique, is a valuable instrument in support of this. Along with sound economic policies, good government is a force for development and progress. A well-governed country is a stable country and is much less likely to threaten its neighbours and the international order.

I shall now make a brief comment on the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The South African Government continue to make sound progress in the process of economic and political reform after the 1994 transition. President Mandela has followed the path of reconciliation. While the programme has not been as successful as hoped, a major effort is under way, through the Government's RDP programme, to redress the inequities created by apartheid. At the same time, South Africa has pursued fiscally prudent policies. That was reaffirmed by the recent budget of 13th March. The local elections of last November bring South Africa another step closer to completing the transition to democracy. We have every confidence in South Africa's ability to find solutions to the immense challenges which it faces.

I shall speak briefly on education, which the noble Earl, Lord Kintore, and others emphasised. Our support to education has always been an important component of our aid programme to South Africa. We are delighted now to be extending that co-operation direct to government. Education reform is one of the major challenges facing the new Government and one of the major building blocks for the creation of a democratic and non-racial society. It is an agreed priority area for our aid programme to South Africa. Our aim is to support the new Government in their task of reconstructing education on a sound, professional, equitable and affordable basis. We work in close consultation with a wide variety of partners in the field of education in South Africa to determine how we can best help. We have agreed that we shall focus on improvements in the content and quality of education at school level, the development and implementation of education policy and basic education.

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An example of British assistance is the Soweto Skills Initiative launched in 1994 by the President of the Board of Trade. The scheme brings young entrepreneurs to the UK on attachment to British companies. The ODA administers the programme and finds British companies to sponsor candidates. Fourteen black South Africans have so far benefited from this programme and a further two are currently in the UK.

On KwaZulu Natal, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was concerned about the high levels of violence which concern everyone there. However, he seeks international mediation. That question must be for the parties themselves. We cannot impose it from outside. We are very doubtful that President Mandela would accept international mediation in this situation.

The right reverend Prelate and many other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Redesdale, mentioned the problem of land-mines. The ODA has provided some £2.8 million in support of de-mining in Angola. That includes the provision of key staff for the United Nations Central Mines Action Office and funding for the humanitarian de-mining programmes of the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group. Further possible future involvement in the de-mining section of Angola is currently under review by the ODA.

As regards the support or non-support of international land-mines, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, put it correctly. Britain has not produced or exported anti-personnel land-mines for several years. We have a comprehensive ban on the export of non-self-destructing and non-detectable anti-personnel landmines, as well as a total ban on the export of all types of anti-personnel mines to any country which has not accepted the constraints of the United Nations weaponry convention. That is the attitude of this Government. We would obviously support other governments taking the same attitude.

The right reverend Prelate also referred to the UN Weaponry Convention. We are at the forefront of international efforts to strengthen the convention and introduce tight international specifications for self-destructing and detectable anti-personnel mines, as well as other important provisions. We are therefore particularly disappointed that the Vienna review conference in September/October last year was unable to reach agreement on the tighter restrictions for which we were pressing.

There are considerable grounds for hope in the important recent developments in southern Africa. We shall maintain our involvement in the region. It needs our support. In particular, we shall continue to seek ways of helping those countries along the path of democracy and good government and, with the judicious use of our aid programme and with the support of British trade and investment, we shall encourage sustained growth, which can alone lessen inequalities and improve living conditions for all southern African peoples.

Finally, very kind remarks have been expressed this evening about my noble friend Lady Chalker. I shall make absolutely certain that they are brought to her attention.


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