HC Deb 08 February 1966 vol 724 cc203-5
Q4. Mr. Braine

asked the Prime Minister what further developments there have been in the Commonwealth famine relief operation announced on 8th January; how many tons of food have been earmarked for the operation and by which countries; how many tons of food have now been moved; and to what destinations.

Q13. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister what progress has now been made in the Commonwealth project for the relief of drought in Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

I would refer hon. Members to the Answers I gave on 3rd February to Questions by the hon. Members for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker).

Mr. Braine

Is the Prime Minister aware that last week he made no reference at all to famine conditions in East Africa, where they have been as bad as, if not worse than, anywhere else in the Continent? Will he say how much food has been earmarked by other Commonwealth countries and ourselves further to the operations announced early in January, how much has been moved, and to what destination?

The Prime Minister

I agree that I failed to mention East Africa last week. After the statement was made the Kenya Government said that they thought they would probably need food, but our High Commissioner in Nairobi now tells us, after discussion with the Kenya Government, that food supplies and prospects in Kenya are now adequate and that the local shortages earlier in the year were met by maize imports from the United States. In regard to the second part of the supplementary question, as I explained last week in every case we have studied with the Governments concerned what is required so that we can mobilise Commonwealth assistance in meeting any requirement. As to where it is most urgent, in the case of Bechuanaland and Basutoland there have been very considerable figures—which I shall give to the hon. Member if he asks for them. In regard to the others they are being organised.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Are not the false hopes raised in Rhodesia by the Prime Minister's proposal mocking the hunger of thousands of Africans? Would it not have been perhaps more helpful in the relief of drought if oil sanctions had not been applied, thus impeding the movement of cattle and grain?

The Prime Minister

We made quite plain from the beginning that we would deal with any figures supplied to us of Rhodesian requirements. Mr. Smith treated this proposal of ours very scornfully and we had to rely on what information we could get from the Governor. I gave a summary of that information last week. With the recent rains there is less fear of shortage of food for human beings, but the situation will have to be reviewed very carefully in two or three months' time.

Mr. Heath

The authorities in Australia House and Canada House have stated publicly that after a month they have not been invited to any meetings and not asked to provide relief. They are waiting to hear what they are to do after the Prime Minister's telephone calls to Mr. Menzies and Mr. Pearson. When will the Prime Minister take action on this if this is a genuine attempt to help famine relief?

The Prime Minister

Of course it is a genuine attempt. Perhaps in his research the right hon. Member missed out the fact that there was a talk with the Prime Minister of Canada at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Lagos. We have first to discover the requirements—

Mr. Blaker

Why was that not done first?

The Prime Minister

Because it was first essential to know whether we would be able to meet the supplies and not just ask for statistics. We are talking here about food for human beings and the first thing is to find what the requirements are. Some Governments have been a bit slow. Then we shall mobilise whatever help is needed.

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