HC Deb 07 May 1951 vol 487 cc1585-6
40. Mr. Leslie Hale

asked the Minister of Food whether he will now make a full statement of the steps taken by his Department, by diversion of supplies and otherwise, to relieve the threatened famine in the Province of Bihar.

Mr. F. Willey

I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the hon. Members for Hornsey (Mr Gammans) and Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) on 5th and 19th April. The Government of India have since been informed that, notwithstanding our own need, we are prepared to agree to the deferment of repayment for the time being of the loan of 43,000 tons of wheat that we made in November last. We share in the feeling of sympathy for the people of India in their difficulty and would like to give more assistance if that were possible; but we are dependent for the greater part of our grain upon imported supplies, and the prospects for home-grown wheat this year are not good.

Mr. Hale

The answer was not very clearly audible. I understood my hon. Friend to say that every effort had been made, and I also understood him to refer me to a previous answer to two hon. Members. Would my hon. Friend realise that this effort the Government have made to assist in relieving famine is one which ought to have the widest possible publicity that the person who drafted this answer might have given all the information for publication in the Press, and the fullest news about the effort we have made, which has impaired, to some extent, our own economy? Would my hon. Friend accept the assurance that any further effort we can make will receive the fullest support of all hon. Members on this side?

Mr. Nicholson

Do I understand that the sum total of the help this country is able to give to India is to forgo the repayment of this loan of grain?

Mr. Willey

The help we gave was both the grain we diverted to India and the shipping we placed at India's disposal to ensure that other grain reached her in time.

Captain Duncan

I understood the hon. Gentleman to say we had lent 43,000 tons of wheat to India. Is the repayment of that loan to be in kind or in cash?