HC Deb 10 June 1953 vol 516 cc219-21
53. Mr. R. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in view of the fact that the Colonial Development Corporation's Tanganyika Coalfields Investigation has now proved reserves of over 200 million tons of coal in the Mchuchuma, Mbalawala and Mbuyura areas, what plans are being prepared to construct a railway to those areas; and how it is hoped to finance such plans.

Mr. Lyttelton

A survey has been made of two possible routes from the coast. It is estimated that the more direct line would cost £10 million, the other £20 million. Both would take six years to construct. The next step is to show whether the export prospects for the coal, and other products from this zone of Tanganyika, can sustain this investment. This is being studied by the Tanganyika Government and I await their views.

Mr. Robinson

In view of the importance of the mineral development of Tanganyika, will my right hon. Friend do all he can to stimulate the opening of communications to those areas?

Mr. Lyttelton

These two subjects are interlocked. It is highly desirable that this coal should be exploited but that will depend economically on whether we can find a sufficiently large market for exports.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is it not true that the discovery of this coal, which can be and will be of very great importance to this territory, was one of the fruits of the Colonial Development Corporation under the late Administration?

Mr. Lyttelton

Certainly it was, and it is a most unfortunate piece of bad luck that this very important deposit should be rather inaccessible. That is the only thing which is holding back its development, and we must always examine that point when we are trying to exploit it. I am far from saying that the Colonial Development Corporation had no successes. Unfortunately Questions are generally addressed to me on their failures.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the analogy of the Wakkie coalfield in Southern Rhodesia where development of the whole of the minerals in that part of Africa has been retarded by the absence of any form of rail communications other than through Portuguese territory? If the railway is built first, should we not get the coal out very much more quickly than through relying on present facilities?

Mr. Lyttelton

The problems which have to be studied will be clear to all hon. Members.

Mr. Snow

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the development of coal deposits in Tanganyika has been frustrated for many years—I think I am right in saying from 1925 or 1926—and that the economy of Tanganyika has thereby been jeopardised. Is he satisfied that the Development Corporation or the Welfare Fund are the appropriate bodies to finance this possible development?

Mr. Lyttelton

When the hon. Gentleman says "frustrated," I think he should bear in mind that this development is inaccessible, and that is causing the frustration. I do not think the Colonial Development Corporation or the C.D. and W. Fund are necessarily the only ways to be able to finance the railways. I think that is a matter more appropriate for a loan, if the position warrants it.

Mr. Woodburn

Would the Government not lose their sense of proportion in this matter but keep in mind that in Fife and the Lothians there is great possibility of development of coal resources which might require development at much less expense?