HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc966-7
2. Mr. Brockway

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what information has been collected by the Admiralty survey vessel H.M.S. "Owen" on the feasibility of loading oil tankers by sea-loading submarine line off the coast of the eastern delta of the River Niger; what quantities of oil have been found at Olvitiri or in other areas of Nigeria; and to what extent the Government of Nigeria are participating in these operations.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Christopher Soames)

Information about the depth of water, the nature of the sea bed, tides and weather has been made available to Shell Tankers Ltd. on whose behalf H.M.S. "Owen" undertook the survey. It is for this firm to assess whether the project is feasible.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary that oil has been found at Oloibiri, but it is not possible to say in what quantities until the results of the production tests are known which are to be undertaken later this year. Oil has also been found at Afam, where preliminary drilling continues.

Vessels of the Federal Government of Nigeria assisted H.M.S. "Owen" with the surveying work, but neither the Federal Government nor the Eastern Regional Government in Nigeria participated in the mining operations.

Mr. Brockway

In welcoming the Minister to his post, may I ask him whether he will, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, very seriously consider this development of oil in West Africa in order to avoid the conditions which have arisen in the Middle East, and will he particularly look at the possibilities of extending the association of the local government and of the co-operative movement with these enterprises?

Mr. Soames

The Admiralty rôle has been limited to the survey of the area, and I know that the Colonial Office has very much in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. J. Griffiths

In view of the fact that Nigeria is the largest British Colony in Africa, with over 30 million people. and is well on the way towards self-government, is it not desirable now, as my hon. Friend has said, that the Government and people of Nigeria should be associated closely with this work, and ought not the Minister to give consideration to that?

Mr. Soames

That is a question for the Colonial Office.