HC Deb 28 July 1960 vol 627 cc208-9W
Mr. Smithers

asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations what progress has been achieved with development projects in the Maldive Islands.

Mr. Alport

In the Agreement which was concluded last February the United Kingdom Government undertook to make available to the Government of the Maldive Islands a sum of £750,000 which would be devoted to various projects of economic and other aid spread over a period of years.

2. The economy of the Maldive Islands depends upon its fishing industry. The Maldivian Prime Minister has asked for our help in developing and improving this with the object in particular of making more fish available for export. We are sending out to Male this autumn a Fisheries Adviser who has had recent experience in Malaya. He will carry out a full survey of the fishing industry in the islands and will make recommendations regarding improvements in techniques and marketing.

3. The Maldivian Government have been considering improvements and some enlargement of the harbour at Male. Arrangements are being made to carry out an engineering survey which is the necessary preliminary to any large scale construction work.

4. In the field of education the Maldivian Government have decided that they wish the use of English to be developed increasingly in their schools and they have asked for primary teachers from the United Kingdom. The British Council has agreed to undertake recruitment.

5. The Maldivian Prime Minister attaches great importance to the introduction of modern health services. The United Kingdom Government have undertaken to build and equip a hospital at Male. Plans for such a building are being prepared and a Medical Adviser from this country, who has had considerable experience of tropical medicine, has just visited Male to discuss details, including the recruitment of staff, with the Maldivian Minister of Health.

6. In addition to the hospital, the United Kingdom Government are providing a hospital ship based on Male, which will be equipped with an operating theatre. This ship will visit outlying atolls and could bring back serious cases requiring special treatment to the Male hospital. Orders have been placed and the ship will be ready for delivery to the Maldivian Government by the spring of next year.

7. These are the first items to be tackled by the two Governments in a continuing co-operative programme which Her Majesty's Government hopes will bring solid benefit to these islands and their inhabitants.