HC Deb 26 February 1963 vol 672 cc1058-9
4. Mr. H. Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what would be the cost of building and maintaining an airport of international standard on the Seychelles.

Mr. Fisher

The cost of building a suitable airfield has been estimated at a little over £2 million, and the cost of operating it at over £25,000 per annum. It has for long been recognised that air service would bring economic advantages to the Seychelles but I am not satisfied that these would be such as to justify so large an investment. In the meantime the available funds for development are urgently needed for other schemes in the territory.

Mr. Clark

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he look into the strategic value of an airport and the possible earnings from international airlines and estimate the amount of the £2 million which would be paid to the local population? Having done so, would not he find that the expenditure was fully justified?

Mr. Fisher

I will consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air about the strategic aspect. As my hon. Friend knows, unemployment is one of the major problems in the Seychelles. Tourism and airports do not provide as much employment as agriculture, and were this sort of money available I should prefer to spend it on improving agricultural schemes.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of local support for this proposition? Can he assure the House that this is not a case of an artificially high figure being quoted in order to discourage a project which might be carried out more economically? With the dwindling in the number of Colonial Territories, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is of importance that the rather forgotten islands of the world, including the Seychelles, should get special attention?

Mr. Fisher

I have no reason to suppose that the figure is inflated. I appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful for his support.

Sir L. Ropner

Although the question relates to all the islands, can my hon. Friend say whether the cost of constructing an airport and running it relates only to the Mahé group?

Mr. Fisher

Yes, this relates to the main islands of Mahé.