HC Deb 03 June 1954 vol 528 cc1425-6
1. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what arrangements have been made in respect of railway transport connecting Swaziland with the territory of the Union of South Africa, particularly in view of a probable expansion in the export of timber from Swaziland; and what restrictions exist regarding both passengers and freight passing between the Union and Swaziland, Basutoland and Bechuanaland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Foster)

The possibility of constructing a railway from Lothair into the Usutu Forests area of Swaziland has for some time been under examination in consultation with the Government of the Union of South Africa. Any extension beyond that is not at present contemplated.

As regards the second part of the Question put by the hon. Member, the Union transport services are freely available to passengers and freight from the High Commission Territories without any restrictions, other than the normal control of the movement of livestock and agricultural produce.

Mr. Sorensen

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman state when this line is likely to be laid, as it will be of tremendous advantage to any possible expansion of the timber industry in Swaziland?

Mr. Foster

No, Sir. As yet we have reached only an exploratory stage. The difficulty is that the resources of Swaziland are very small and the cost of the railway line is very great.

Mr. Baldwin

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, in view of the developments which are now taking place in Swaziland, an extension of the railway system is essential? It is no good planting trees and developing rice plantations and so on unless facilities are available to take the products out of Swaziland.

Mr. Foster

Expenditure on the railway has to be related to the advantages which it will confer. We are now examining that aspect.