HC Deb 07 November 1966 vol 735 cc979-80
Mr. Dalyell

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his offer of help to the Italian Government in relation to flood disasters.

Mr. George Brown

I am sure the whole House will join with me in expressing the utmost sympathy to our Italian friends in the national disaster which has overtaken them. I have instructed our Ambassador to find out how best we can help. As soon as we have his report, we shall gladly do whatever lies in our power.

Mr. Dalyell

As a member representing thousands of constituents who work in Edinburgh, which has a twin-city relationship with Florence, may I, on behalf of my constituents, offer their sympathy to the people in the Italian river valleys? Does not this tragic situation once again underline the widely-argued case for a national disaster unit, inside the British Armed Forces, to meet catastrophes both at home and abroad? Secondly, while recognising——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a speech on a supplementary question.

Mr. Dalyell

Then I will leave it at that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Brown

I have some doubts about that, but it is really a question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that we are grateful to him for the statement he has made that he will consider what help can be given?

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend consult the Home Secretary in order to see whether certain civil defence units can be sent to Italy to help?

Mr. Brown

When I asked the Ambassador to find out, as a matter of urgency, what we could do to help, I had all kinds of forces, as well as other forms of help, in mind.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the right hon. Gentleman include in any scheme that he proposes a provision which will enable voluntary contributions to be made from the many lovers of Italy in this country?

Mr. Brown

Yes. One of the things that we wish to do is to make a monetary contribution, if our Italian friends are agreeable. But it is best for us to find out from them what they would like us to do. There will be tremendous opportunities for those of us who have been to Italy and who like the place and the people to make our private contributions.