HC Deb 02 March 1955 vol 537 cc2063-5
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I will, with permission, make a short statement.

The reports which have now been received show that the floods in New South Wales are the worst in the history of Australia. The deep sympathy which everyone in this country feels for the victims of this disaster was voiced by the Prime Minister yesterday. Her Majesty's Government are sure that it would be the wish of everyone in this country that our sympathy should be expressed in a practical form. We all remember the generous help which the Government and people of Australia gave us in our disasters in recent years.

As my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has already announced in another place, Her Majesty's Government have informed the Australian Government that it is their desire to contribute a sum of £250,000 towards the flood relief in New South Wales. We are asking the Australian authorities what is the most effective way in which this sum should be made available. It may be that there is an urgent need for special medical supplies or other commodities not immediately available in sufficient quantities in Australia. If that should be so, the United Kingdom Government will do their best to help with such supplies. We shall thus be able to make our contribution in whatever way is most helpful to New South Wales.

Mr. Attlee

May I associate hon. Members on this side of the House with the sympathy that all feel with our Australian friends who have suffered in this great disaster and say how glad we are that the Government are making a contribution?

Mr. Clement Davies

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, when he is communicating with the Australian Government, he will assure them that his expressions of sympathy are the expressions of every Member of this House in regard to the people of Australia at the present moment? As it is almost certain that medical supplies will be needed and that the kind of medical supplies must be known, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether preparations will be put in hand straight away so that these supplies can be flown out as soon as the message arrives?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that the expressions of opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) will give great satisfaction to the Government and the people of Australia. In reply to the second part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks, arrangements have already been put in hand to see that the most practical measures are taken, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman can rest assured, because of the gravity of the situation which is still developing, that we have not been resting on this matter.