HC Deb 25 April 1956 vol 551 cc1755-7
23. Mr. H. Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for, Foreign Affairs why Her Majesty's Government entered into negotiations for the financing of the High Dam at Aswan, which is contrary to the general interests of all the riverine states except Egypt, could endanger British future interests in East Africa, and is economically and hydrologically wasteful compared to alternative projects.

Mr. Nutting

Her Majesty's Government have entered into the international negotiations for financing the Aswan High Dam because after careful study they believe the project to be technically sound and of great importance for the welfare of the Egyptian people. On the safeguarding of British interests in East Africa, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 21st March.

Mr. Fraser

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the interests of the British people in Kenya and elsewhere are more important? Would he not further agree that this £10 million could be well expended on Sir Alexander Gibb's project for irrigation in Kenya? Furthermore, would he not agree that this course will cost £350 million while the alternative proposed by other engineers would cost £150 million? Will not the Government look at the whole matter again?

Mr. Nutting

We are in negotiation with the Egyptian Government and the International Bank on this matter. I think that this is a reasonable project, provided that we can get reasonable terms and the necessary agreement upon it. So far as the protection of British colonial interests is concerned, my hon. Friend can rest assured that the Colonial Secretary's reply to him of 21st March stands.

Mr. Hale

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the Owen Falls scheme was originated in 1946 and passed it was then presented to the House as a part of a very great scheme of development in East Africa, including the reclamation of the mud flats of the Blue Nile, and a large scheme of navigable development towards the Mountains of the Moon, and that it was regarded as one of the greatest schemes of colonial development, which was very much needed in an area suffering accute poverty? Are we to understand that now the Government reject that in favour of a proposal to assist the Egyptians to maintain their standard of life and to establish more power and influence over the people of the Sudan, which they seem anxious to achieve?

Mr. Nutting

No. The hon. Gentleman should suppose no such thing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] An agreement is now being negotiated with the International Bank, and it is dependent on the prior agreement of the Sudanese Government, so far as their interests are concerned.

Captain Waterhouse

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is a rather peculiar thing that the Government should make an agreement with Egypt about these waters without approaching the Sudan first? Is not our responsibility for the welfare of the people of Sudan greater than it is for the welfare of the people of Egypt?

Mr. Nutting

With respect, I would correct my right hon. and gallant Friend, and inform him that we have made no agreement with Egypt. We are negotiating with Egypt, and the result of that negotiation and of the negotiations between the Egyptian Government and the International Bank will depend upon the prior agreement of the Sudanese Government.