HC Deb 08 March 1966 vol 725 cc1880-1
20. Mr. Cooper

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what is the total cost to date of the oil lift to Zambia; and what is the value of oil uplifted.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

The cost of the British civil and Royal Air Force airlifts of oil into Zambia up to 22nd February, the latest date for which figures are at present available, was about £1.7 million. I regret that I cannot elaborate on this information. The United States and Canadian airlifts are the responsibility of those Governments, and I am not of course in a position to give any information about their cost.

Mr. Cooper

Is not this a disgraceful waste of our national resources? Is it not high time that the Prime Minister overcame his vanity and entered into negotiations with Mr. Smith in order to reach a settlement of this problem?

Mr. Bottomley

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman thinks it is a waste of this country's time and resources to help a fellow member of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

Has my right hon. Friend made any estimate of the economic cost to this country if we had not taken the action which has been taken?

Mr. Bottomley

I cannot answer that without notice.

Mr. Blaker

In view of the aid we are giving to Zambia, is it not extraordinary that she should have chosen this time to abolish our Commonwealth preference? Do I understand from previous Answers this afternoon that the Government are simply accepting this, or are they attempting to obtain a better trading relationship with Zambia?

Mr. Bottomley

It is the policy of the Government to get better trading relations with Commonwealth countries, and the forthcoming Commonwealth Trade Minister's Conference will have that in mind.

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