HC Deb 29 June 1967 vol 749 cc717-8
2. Mr. William Price

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what aid the Government will give to the State of Bihar.

The Minister of Overseas Development (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)

British aid is not given to individual Indian States. But because of India's special difficulties, particularly the need for foreign exchange to import food, we have offered to relieve India of debt payments of £11.5 million currently due to us. We are urging other countries to follow our example by untying aid in this way.

Mr. Price

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that that Answer will give some satisfaction to those of us who feel deeply about the tragedy of Bihar? Will he keep under consideration any practical help which can be given in the way of food direct to these tragic people?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes, but we are not a food-exporting nation and, therefore, the aid that we give in the form of industrial equipment and such things, by saving the Indians from spending foreign exchange in other ways, helps to provide food for the Indians.

Mr. Tilney

Has not the water-table in Bihar fallen by about 30 ft.? Has not the whole situation in Bihar been greatly aggravated by the closure of the Suez Canal?

Mr. Bottomley

That is a point of view which can be put forward.