HC Deb 08 February 1966 vol 724 cc183-4
13. Mr. Chataway

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what additional help has been offered to India, in view of the famine threatened in that country.

Mr. Greenwood

We have assured the Government of India that we will respond as swiftly and as fully as we can with help in India's present food crisis. As an immediate and interim contribution we have offered an interest-free loan of £7½ million and the Government of India have warmly welcomed our suggestion that this loan should be used towards the foreign exchange costs of shipping emergency supplies of wheat and other food stuffs from Commonwealth countries, the provision of grain handling equipment for Indian ports and the purchase of commodities of immediate value in helping to deal with the emergency, including pesticides, fertilizers and intermediates for the manufacture of vitamin pills.

Mr. Chataway

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that this offer of £7½ million is wholly or almost wholly within the sum already pledged by the British Government to help India? Will he say whether he is satisfied that the desperately few remaining weeks before famine is likely to hit India are being used to maximum effort by us and by other Commonwealth countries to aid India in these very severe difficulties?

Mr. Greenwood

The sum does include £6 million which was available and which would not have been expended. The suggestions we have made have been warmly welcomed by the Indian Government as a contribution towards solving the difficulties that they are facing. We are in consultation with other countries—especially the United States and other members of the Commonwealth—about the possibilities of further help. This is an immediate and interim provision.

Mr. H. Hynd

To the extent that this loan will be used for buying goods for India, is there any stipulation that they will be bought from Britain or other Commonwealth countries?

Mr. Greenwood

Not at the moment, so far as I know, but this is a matter on which we are in consultation with other countries. The important thing is to get the help there as quickly as possible, rather than to worry very much at this stage about where the money is spent.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the prime need is for maize and that, however important it may be to get a certain amount of wheat there, what will prevent absolute starvation in a few weeks' time is the making available of maize, as this is by far the greatest shortage?

Mr. Greenwood

Yes. Other countries have food surpluses available for distribution in this way. The main problem is getting the grain-handling equipment into Indian ports. That is an aspect to which we are paying special attention.