HC Deb 16 December 1968 vol 775 cc859-61
21. Mr. Turton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response he has made to the appeal from the Government of Antigua for assistance on the occasion of the break-down of their electrical power plant on 22nd November.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Her Majesty's Government immediately responded to the Government of Antigua's request for interim help in this internal emergency by using their friendly offices in neighbouring countries. The nearest source of suitable and readily available equipment was Canada and generators were flown from there to operate in a temporary capacity. We explored the possibility of Her Majesty's Forces in the area providing emergency equipment, but this did not prove possible.

Mr. Turton

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that what Canada sent amounted to 0. 3 megawatt, and that what is required is over 6 megawatts? Is he aware that this grave emergency has continued for 24 days, and that, following the survey by Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, Hawker Siddeley have informed the Antigua Government that it could rapidly restore a major part of the power station if the money were forthcoming? Will the British Government help?

Mr. Roberts

We are extremely anxious to help in every possible way, but I do not know whether it would be feasible to extend financial aid in this case. I should like to discuss the matter with representatives of this highly reputable firm, and arrangements are being made for such a discussion to take place at my office.

Mr. Braine

This is not a very satis factory state of affairs. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Board of Trade is sympathetic to the idea of giving help now, for good commercial reasons? Can he give the House an assurance that this will be discussed straight away?

Mr. Roberts

Indeed. Since I was given notice that the Question was raised, I have done my best to look into the details. It is an emergency. It is not a simple situation, but I am anxious that every thing possible should be done, by Government agency if that proves right, to help this excellent firm, which is anxious to put the matter right.