HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc13-4
11. Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the successful road building operations for civilian purposes of British troops in Thailand, carried out in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Overseas Development, he will seek to ensure that comparable teams are available for similar aid elsewhere.

Mr. William Rodgers

Yes, Sir. Army teams are carrying out similar projects in the British Virgin Islands and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A further party is leaving shortly for Malta.

Requests for help of this nature will continue to be dealt with sympathetically within the limitations of the Army's strategic commitments and training programme.

Mr. Lyon

Are the requests dealt with through the Minister of Overseas Development or the Ministry of Defence? Would it not be welcome if schemes of this kind could be expanded at a time when the ceiling for overseas aid has been fixed for the next two years?

Mr. Rodgers

We have to consider here the total ceiling for aid of any kind whatever agency is used, but it is certainly the case that there is full co-ordination of the Foreign Office with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Overseas Development to ensure that where a job is to be done it is done in the quickest and most effective way.

Sir Frank Pearson

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that the use of British Forces for this purpose can be only limited and that if we carry it too far we will soon find that we have no British troops left?

Mr. Rodgers

I think there is some misunderstanding of the attitude of the Army to this sort of work. I want to make clear that it has been widely welcomed by the Army and the road building operation in Thailand has been a most useful training exercise.

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