HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc371-2
56 . Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement on the latest British aid to the Sahel countries of Africa.

58 . Sir D. Dodds-Parker

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what aid has now been given to the drought-affected countries of the Sahel; and what further help is proposed.

60 . Mr. Blaker

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what further proposals she has for aid to the Sahel countries affected by drought; and if she will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development (Mr. William Price)

Her Majesty's Government have just completed airlifting 20 vehicles and medical supplies to Chad and Niger. These are in addition to the 20 vehicles which the voluntary organisations with Government assistance sent to Niger recently. The total aid we have so far committed this year is now about £5.2 million compared with £2 million last year. We shall continue to do our utmost to assist in the relief measures.

Mr. Dalyell

What other developed countries have sent Ministers to the Sahel? Have any lessons been learnt about co-ordination of the response of rich countries?

Mr. Price

I am not aware of any other Minister being in the region in recent months. I learnt a good deal about some of the problems that have arisen and about some of the delays. We are now working to ensure that everything is done not only for this year but for any future years when aid may be necessary.

Sir D. Dodds-Parker

Will the Minister convey to those concerned—the Service personnel—the thanks of all those in the European Community and in the Sahel for taking the vehicles out recently and for the help they have given locally? Can he say anything further about possible aid by the RAF in the form of an airlift in the next few critical weeks?

Mr. Price

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said at the beginning of his supplementary question. We shall certainly convey that message to those concerned, and join in it. The soldiers did a magnificent job in very difficult conditions, as did the airmen on the convoy. We have not yet received a request for an airlift. We hope that it will not be necessary. It is a very expensive way of moving comparatively small amounts of food.

Mr. Blaker

Does not the European Community have far-reaching plans for aid to the area? Will the Government be supporting those plans in the Council of Ministers and seeing whether such plans can be extended to other parts of Africa?

Mr. Price

1 am not sure about any special plans. What we know is that the EEC has played a major role in the relief operations this year. A total of 700.000 tons of food is going in. The problem has been whether one can get that food there before the rains set in. Every effort is being made to ensure that that happens. The hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to the efforts of the EEC, and ourselves as part of it.

Mr. Wood

In the light of his recent visit to the area, will the Minister say when he and his right hon. Friend's general plans will be available to deal with disasters and prospective disasters as rapidly as possible, so that we can make as effective use as we can of what resources are available?

Mr. Price

We regard that as a matter of considerable importance, and we hope that plans will be made within the next few weeks.