My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered the use of hovercraft for supplying food and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Biafra and Nigeria.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (LORD SHEPHERD)
Yes, my Lords. This possibility has been considered by us and the International Committee of the Red Cross, but the shipping of a hovercraft to Nigeria might be costly, in relation to rivercraft that are already available locally.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. May I put two supplementary questions? First, what tonnage of foodstuff is daily getting through to Nigeria and Biafra; and, second, what form does this food take?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I should need to do a certain amount of examination to be able to answer both of those supplementary questions. Of course, the amount that is taken in nightly depends upon the flying conditions, and also upon the availability of the airstrip. The noble Lord will have seen the figures which were recently given by the Church Missions and also by the International Red Cross, and from those one would construe that, on average, fairly sizeable quantities are getting into Nigera. The types of food that are being sent in are all of high protein value.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, could my noble friend confirm the statement made to-day by the International Red Cross, that unless they have more financial help their supplies will last for only another three weeks?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, as I understand the difficulties of the International Red Cross, it is not a question of supply and the physical holding of stock, but of the monies needed for the transport of those goods. An appeal is now in course of being made to many countries and many people. My noble friend may perhaps have seen the appeal made on B.B.C. Television on Sunday.