HC Deb 28 November 1957 vol 578 cc1252-4
4. Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if Her Majesty's Government will reconsider their decision of 27th July, 1956, not to commit themselves to participate in the financing of the Volta River Scheme until a general assessment of the project has been made by the International Bank and agreement of the framework has been reached between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Ghana and the aluminium companies.

6. Mr. Mason

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in view of the urgent necessity to start the Volta River project in Ghana, if he will reconsider his decision of 27th July, 1956, and forthwith intervene in the matter to speed up the decision.

7. Mr. Willey

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if, with a view to accelerating completion of the project, he will reconsider his decision of 27th July, 1956, and commit Her Majesty's Government to participate in the financing of the Volta River scheme.

Mr. Alport

As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to a Question on 27th July, 1956, the report of the Preparatory Commission on the Volta River Project showed that there were certain conditions which would be prerequisite to any decision about the implementation of this project. Some of the major decisions which would be necessary can only be taken by the aluminium companies, whose contributions of capital to the project would be large. The Government of Ghana are in touch with the United Kingdom Government and the aluminium companies about the project. In these circumstances, the United Kingdom Government must await the outcome of the discussions between the Ghana Government and the aluminium companies; the results of these discussions will no doubt be communicated to the United Kingdom Government in due course.

Mr. Mallalieu

Are not the Government aware that this project, though, perhaps, not so attractive from the point of view of commercial investment as it once was, is still very attractive? Somebody must take the initiative at some stage. Is it not much better, rather than to leave it to somebody else, that the Government should take this initiative? Are not the Government aware that there is a very large fund of opinion in this country which wishes to help this new State to diversify its economy? Shall we not risk pushing that new State into, perhaps, unorthodox directions if we are not more forthcoming in this matter?

Mr. Alport

The Government have made quite clear their continuing interest in this project, but it is a highly technical project dependent upon commercial considerations in which the other bodies concerned, the aluminium companies, naturally must have strong and important views.

Mr. Mason

Cannot the hon. Gentleman do something to speed up this decision? Is he aware that this hesitancy and indecision only make it more attractive for Russia to step in and wean these new, independent States from the Commonwealth?

Mr. Alport

I am quite certain from everything that has been said by the Prime Minister of Ghana that he is fully aware of the importance of this scheme and very anxious to go ahead with it as quickly as possible, and the hon. Member can be assured that the Government of Ghana will leave no step untried in order to get a satisfactory result, but I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the points which I made in my original Answer.

Mr. Bottomley

Is not this a case in which the Commonwealth Development Finance Company could provide some help?

Mr. Alport

It is a matter for that company and for the Government of Ghana.