HC Deb 24 May 1950 vol 475 cc2032-3
9. Mr. Baldwin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the break-down of negotiations with the Portuguese Government for the development of the port of Beira, he will consider proceeding with the development of a transcontinental railway, which would give an outlet to the Atlantic for the products of Southern Rhodesia and east and central African colonies and, at the same time, be of value to our defence system.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I cannot accept the hon. Gentlemen's contention that negotiations with the Portuguese Government for the development of the Port of Beira have broken down. They are still continuing and it is the hope of His Majesty's Government that they will result in the early signature of an agreement. The second part of the Question, therefore, does not arise.

Mr. Baldwin

Is the Minister aware that an answer was given quite recently stating that these negotiations were tending to breakdown? In view of the fact that Beira will always be a bottleneck, is he aware it is about time that the recommendation of the Development Commission, presided over by Sir Miles Thomas, to set up an investigating committee on this particular problem was carried out?

Mr. Davies

There are two steps which are being taken, of which the hon. Gentleman may not be aware. One is that a transport conference is to take place at Johannesburg, probably in October, where the whole question of railway communication with the hinterland will be discussed. The other is that His Majesty's Government and the Portuguese Government have made joint application to the Economic Co-operation Administration for technical assistance in carrying out a survey of the various methods of relieving the pressure on the port of Beira.

General Sir George Jeffreys

Can the Minister give an assurance to the House that His Majesty's Government realise that this is a matter of very great urgency—this development of railway communication and the facilitating of east to west rail communications through Rhodesia?

Mr. Davies


Mr. G. B. Craddock

Will the Minister also bear in mind that in a short time there may be a change of ownership in the Suez Canal? Would it not be prudent to ensure that British shipping will not be held up to ransom for canal dues?