First, I should like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having seen fit to call me to speak on the question of the Nile waters, and, secondly, I feel sure that we should all like to welcome my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who has returned from a tour of these parts of the world completely unharmed. I must say that for my hon. Friends to travel in Arabia or the Arab world today is not so safe as it used to be. The patron saint should be St. Stephen, the first Christian to be stoned, rather than St. Christopher. However, we trust that events will not move further till the protector saint of some of my hon. Friends becomes St. Lawrence, who was burnt. We trust that that day is far away.
I raise this question today as a matter of considerable urgency for three reasons. The Nile has flowed for several thousands of years, will continue to flow for many thousands more, and the projected works on the Nile will take many years to complete. First, I believe that this is the last chance in this year, perhaps, of achieving unitary control of the whole Nile waters. Secondly, I believe that the High Dam project which the British Government propose to support in certain circumstances is a bad project. Thirdly, I believe that this whole problem is vital to the peoples not merely of Egypt and the Sudan, but to those living in British East Africa who are the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, I believe that, whatever negotiations may be going on between Cairo and Khartoum at the moment, the sooner this whole question is raised the better.
Hon. Members are doubtless aware of some of the problems which have been elucidated by articles and leaders in The Times and by speeches made in this House. The main problem is simply this. When the map from Cairo to the Cape was coloured red, or, in deference to hon. Members opposite, was pink, there was no problem about unitary control. One Government was responsible for the control of those waters and that was Her Majesty's Government, working through Cairo, Khartoum, or the various Govern ments in Central and East Africa. But since Egypt and the Sudan have gained their independence and as Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika will over the next 20 or 30 years move further towards a greater degree of independence, the need to return to some unitary control of the whole Nile waters is obvious.
The demographic problem of the Nile Valley for political purposes must include Uganda, Kenya, and Tanganyika. The populations of these countries are rapidly growing and the amount of water available for their essential agriculture is limited. If we compare the available flow of the Nile with such rivers as the Congo, the Missouri-Mississippi confluence, or even with the Tennessee Valley, it is small. I think it true to say that the actual measurement of water, where it enters or passes through the Cairo-Sudanese frontier, is about 2,800 cubic metres per second. The rate of flow of the Missouri-Mississippi confluence is about 20,000 cubic metres per second. Even in the Tennessee Valley, which is less than 800 miles long, the rate of flow is 1,700 cubic metres per second.
I am sorry to embark on these statistics, but they are vitally important because while the flow of water will not increase, the population is increasing at a staggering rate. The Nile has to flow about 4,000 miles and by the end of this century the population may well have doubled, and these waters will be responsible for irrigating the agriculture with which to feed between 70 and 80 million people. In addition to that, the Nile has certain problems which can best be treated by an overall control. Problems of evaporation, of flood control and of swamp seepage are far best handled by one authority.
On purely mechanical grounds I believe that there is a strong argument for a Nile Valley authority. It is obvious that the advantages which would flow from such an authority are very great indeed. The fair division of the water could be achieved by such an authority as well as a common policy over irrigation and a common policy to see that the water is well used. Undoubtedly, it is being misused in Egypt today and the smaller irrigation channels are not all that they should be.
These obvious advantages of a Nile Valley authority stand out. Only such an authority could fully exploit the one great natural advantage possessed by the Nile, namely, the headwater. When we include Lake Tana, I think that the head of water is about 6,000 feet compared with the 1,000 feet in Tenessee Valley; that is to say, the possibility of hydroelectric projects up and down the Nile is very great, but could only be developed properly by one authority dealing with the matter.
Far more important than these peaceful advantages is the fact that today only such an authority, in my opinion, could avoid the tension which must grow among the peoples inhabiting the Nile Valley. In such a section of agrarian races it is clear that over the next decade or generation war will follow conflict between the peoples about the use of the water. The nearest thing to pitting Cain against Abel in the Middle East is a shortage of water. We have seen that the proposed diverting of the Yarmuc into the Negev by the Israelis has been declared by the Syrian Government to be an act of war.
We see the problem arising between India and Pakistan over the waters of the Indus. Therefore, I would say it is fairly clear, not merely for the purposes of peace but to avoid war, that if a Nile Valley Authority could be established, this country and the whole world, especially the people of the Nile and our peoples who live in East Africa, would benefit enormously.
Finally, on this point, I believe that an international authority, a Nile Valley Authority, is the only way to prevent captious financial power politics and the intervention of such States as Russia. At the moment, we see what can be done. We can see the playing off of one against another; a captious intervention in the shape of the proposal of Russian capital which, were there a Nile Valley Authority, could quite easily be absorbed in debentures and loans—if these people really be such "do good-ers" as some would have us believe.
I know that it is difficult to put forward to peoples who have just achieved independence the idea of any surrender of sovereignty. I know that in the Sudan and in Cairo there is a natural aptitude not to surrender any part of their sovereignty at this stage. But I believe it is essential that we, as an interested Power, and as a Power with control over the head waters of the Nile— through the control of the Nile from the major equatorial lakes— could make clear that this should be done. Unfortunately, far from any idea of a Nile Valley Authority, and the Powers of the Nile Valley moving closer to the idea of an integration of policy, since 1949 we have seen a movement in precisely the contrary direction. That is why I believe it is a matter of such urgency and why I am raising the question today.
In 1949, when Her Majesty's Government agreed with Egypt on the construction of the Owen Falls project, on Lake Victoria, to supply East Africa with electricity and to build up further storage capacity on the lake, it was clear that Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian and Sudanese Governments were considering a common policy on what is, I believe, called the "multiple dam project." On 19th May, 1949, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin announced to the House that the Egyptian Government would welcome the participation of the Sudan in various projects for the control of the Nile "now under consideration." I think that the cost of these projects was a mere £ 70 million, and included the extension of the existing dam at Aswan for about £ 20 million. There were other projects which, if he is successful in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) may develop further. I hope that he will go further into this matter, as he is a technician of great repute.
Since 1949, all this has changed. The multiple dam project has, for various reasons, been lost, and I believe that those reasons are as follow. The attitude of Egypt has changed. Naturally, Egypt now wishes to obtain as much of the water as she may; because, as my hon. and learned Friends will know, by international law, established water usage is a thing which cannot be contraverted. Under General Neguib, Egypt was prepared to agree with the Sudan to the sharing of the waters on a per capita basis. But since that general's incarceration, Colonel Nasser has come out with the rejection of the whole 1949 conception and the construction of this vast dam at Aswan—the policy, so to speak, of the hippopotamus or, at any rate, the hippopotamus's share of the Nile waters.
Following this, and also perhaps, the fact that the Egyptians, in their war with Israel, have spent about £70 million without a victory, the Russian intervention has taken place; and now we seem to be in the mysterious position in which the Russians and the West are competing to help Colonel Nasser. I believe this High Dam project is thoroughly bad, and destroys the whole conception of a unitary approach to the Nile waters. The capital sums proposed to be spent at Aswan on the major works alone, and without considering the necessary tributaries, amounts to about 1,300 million dollars. The previous scheme would have meant the spending of about one-fifth or one-sixth of that sum.
This will result, I believe, in difficulty about the raising of further sums for other parts of the Nile. It will mean that the Nile will be over-capitalised at one point; that the expenditure on irrigation at that point is quite irrelevant to the possible or probable cost, or probably sums of money, that the West or any other Power could find available. Even from the point of view of Egypt, it is questionable whether this scheme is advantageous. Egypt will have to find some of the money, a large part of it, in fact. But for Egypt, with her growing population—the figure may well double in the next generation—there can be no conceivable answer in the further development of irrigation.
The only way it could be met is by the industrialisation of the country; and if money is poured into the High Dam the resources available for industrialisation are absent. I believe that from her point of view, therefore, it is not in her best interests. From the point of view of the Sudan this scheme will not merely render 50,000 people homeless but, unless she is successful in her negotiations with Egypt, huge areas which could have been irrigated by smaller schemes will be left unirrigated. From the point of view of the whole Nile Valley it will establish a water use for Egypt which is, and must be, contrary to the interests of the British peoples in East Africa.
Merely from the irrigation point of view, viewing the Nile Valley as a whole, it will mean that instead of irrigating, as could have been done under the 1949 project, 1¾ million acres in Egypt and 2¾ million acres in the Sudan, at the most a mere 2 million acres will be irrigated in Egypt. Therefore, the Nile Valley as a whole, by this scheme which is costing six times what the original scheme would have cost, will be merely irrigating 2 million instead of 4½ million acres.
From the point of the United Kingdom Government, of our peoples in East Africa, and of defence, I would say that this is an important subject which should be opposed. If we have a base at Fayid which is to be reactivable— I believe that is the Foreign Office word— or reactivatable, I think it would make matters even more difficult. If I were an Egyptian politician I should be even more against reactivation of that base if I knew that there was a dam with 30 million tons of water which could wipe out the Egyptian Government if someone pressed the wrong button. Doubtless these matters have been considered by the Government.
I see that from the point of view of Colonel Nasser there is considerable advantage in building this giant dam. Mahommet Ali built the great barrage on the Delta. The Pharaohs are reported to have built the pyramids, and Nasser will build the greatest dam the world has ever seen.
However, the attitude of Her Majesty's Government and of the World Bank on this question are difficult to explain. Provided the Sudanese agree with the Egyptians— and for reasons of finding agreement on currency control, it is not impossible, however much they dislike it, that they may come to terms with the Egyptians— our commitment and that of the World Bank to the scheme is very large indeed. The World Bank, the British Government and the American Government propose that 400 million dollars should be found towards this project provided, of course, that agreement is reached between the Sudan and Egypt on the question of the high dam.
It is proposed that 200 million dollars should be found by the World Bank— and, of course, I suppose that there is a British director somewhere on the World Bank. It is proposed that 130 million dollars should be found by loans from the British and the American Governments and 70 million dollars by an Anglo-American grant or gift, of which our contribution will be 14 million dollars. At a later stage, provided the various parties agree and Nasser accepts certain financial controls, further loans will be made.
I quite understand that, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, sterling balances must be repaid at some point, but I cannot see why a grant should be made to a project which is against our interests and to a country which seems hostile, and by tax payers who have been assured of a cut of £ 100 million this year in Government spending. Furthermore, there is no apparent indication from the Government to see that, at the same time as the grant is given, the Nile Waters Agreement of 1929, which is no longer in the interests of this country, should be reviewed.
When the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs was asked by me why this had been done, he declared that the Government had entered into the international negotiations for financing the Aswan High Dam because, after careful study, they believed the project to be technically sound and of great importance for the welfare of the people of Egypt. I must ask the Government who their technical advisers are. I must also ask whose welfare is more important to the Government, the welfare of the people of Egypt or of the peoples living in East Africa under the control of Her Majesty's Government. It is all very mysterious.
Looking back on the 1949 multiple dam project, one can ask this question: if, today, we are prepared to embark on a scheme costing about £ 450 million why, in 1949, were neither the World Bank nor the British Government prepared to help? There can be only one answer. The only conclusion is that the reason for this sudden offer is fear of Russian intrusion. If this is the way to deal with Russian intrusion, we should think again. This policy of outbidding Russia puts a premium on the local Governments in the various so-called underdeveloped areas to invent special departments for thinking up fantastic schemes which would win in a sort of Dutch auction either Russian or British or American support. It is really a policy of seeing how they can "do" the British taxpayer or the Russian Soviet the better or the quicker. We will have it all the way from Cape Horn to Colombo with special departments set up for swindling the Western taxpayer.
I apply the principle to the Nile. Suppose we grant this money. Suppose the Egyptians and the Sudanese agree. Suppose a great dam is built. What will the next thing be? The Russians will send an embassy down to Khartoum and say, "You want dams; we will build them for you." Suppose we then say that we will build unnecessary dams for the Sudanese, and suppose that in Kamapla independence is achieved. The Russians will go there and say to the Kabaka or his successors, "We will build a dam for you." It really is a policy which is doomed to failure.
There are two quite simple answers to this sort of Russian intervention. One is to say to them, "If you are such do-gooders and so darned rich, take a few shares in the Nile Valley authority," and we should know how to deal with that. I am sure that hon. Members who are directors of companies have good experience of how to deal with shareholders.
If that cannot be done, I suggest that we should turn to the realities of the situation and think of this problem not in economic terms, but in terms of power where such conditions do apply—and they do apply in the Nile, because we control the headwaters of the river. If we wished to do so, we could even divert the river. We could fructify lands in Tanganyika. We could do many things, and really it is time to think more in those terms.
I know that the Government are in a difficulty on this matter. They have made a pledge of assistance under certain conditions. They must be hoping that arrangements will break down between Cairo and Khartoum, and I trust that those arrangements will break down if this fantastic project is to be the outcome of them.
I would interpolate here that I think it is a pity that the onus for being disagreeable should have been put on the Sudanese Government. There should have been a clear policy on the part of this country before—a clear policy throughout—to defend and advance on the multiple dam project which is of almost equal advantage to the Egyptians as the project now envisaged.
Whether the conversations in Cairo or Khartoum break down or not, I believe that the time has come for plain speaking. I do not want to be unreasonable and to say that because of Egypt's hostility over the radio, and so forth, that the pledge that we have made should necessarily be broken, but I would say—it is not as forceful as some suggestions which have been made in the past to the effect that a gunboat should be driven up the Suez—that the time has come, in accordance with the terms of the Nile Commission of 1925, to demand an immediate review and for the setting up simultaneously of a Nile Valley Authority to which initially would belong Egypt, the Sudan, ourselves and the East African territories and into which later, one hopes, would go Abyssinia and the Belgian Congo.
We should say that now, and we should also say that unless these terms were agreed to we shall abrogate the Nile Valley Treaty of 1929 and do what we can to preserve our own interest, as the Egyptians preserve their interest, at the head waters of the river. At the head waters of the Nile we are in a position of power. Power is a terrible responsibility, but a failure to exercise it for the good of our own peoples or of our friends is the final dereliction of national duty. I ask the Government to exercise their power now.
If they do not, these Nile waters will in the next generation become a torrent of contention; who knows?—the great High Dam itself a ruin and on its broken pediments an epitaph to Nasser, the new Osiamandas, and here and there potsherds or broken palimpsests, cenotaphs relating the folly of a British Government and its slaving taxpayers.
I do not know that I can go all the way with the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser), but I support what he has said about the desirability of a Nile Valley authority. As to his aspersions upon Colonel Nasser and so on, I am rather in disagreement, as will be quite evident as I go along.
At the outset, I would make it quite clear that I am speaking for myself. Lest anybody should take note of what the hon. Member said about my qualifications, evidently he has not looked them up or he would not have put me down as such a great technician as he did in his opening remarks.
As usual, I want to avoid idle repetition. Therefore I shall devote my time this morning in the main to saying something about the High Dam project, why it should not be proceeded with, and why the alternatives are of much greater advantage to Egypt. I am not really a bit concerned as to whether Egypt competes with the West and Russia for capital. My own convinced view is that if the Egyptians taxed land values they could get all they want for the purposes of putting up any dam, as has indeed been proved elsewhere. However, that is a matter for another debate; it is not a subject for today. I thought I had better work that in early in case it slipped out later without my noticing it.
I want to emphasise that I am speaking as a great friend of Egypt's. I suppose I must declare my interest. The firm of which I have had the honour to be managing director for some 30 years—perhaps some people would say that was too long—has supplied all the control apparatus for all the major works on the Nile inside Egypt since 1900. We are very proud of what the men in the works have done in turning out equipment of first-class workmanship for 50 years. The original gates are in many places still working although they are 50 years old.
Nor am I any critic of Colonel Nasser. Indeed, I am a supporter of his. As I have indicated, I think Colonel Nasser has done more for Egypt and the Government which he controls—if one calls it a Government and not a dictatorship; one can call it what one likes—than any past Government. In Colonel Nasser's period of office in the last few years more has been done for the under-dog in Egypt than throughout the whole of my experience over the last 30 years. I agree that he has not tackled the land problem properly, and I hope he will take note of what I have said in my opening remarks.
One of the things that seem to get neglected when we study the problem is that the Sudan's point of view appears so often to be ignored. I agree with what the hon. Member said. The construction of the dam will mean the flooding of some 150 kilometers upstream. The water will go back somewhere between the third and fourth cataracts. As the hon. Member said, it will mean the removal of a large number of people—the hon. Member said 50,000; I should think it is more like 70,000—from their present habitats. It will also mean the complete and permanent loss of such magnificent temples as Abu-Simbel, which is one of the finest antiquities of its kind in the world.
I want to study for a few minutes the area that will be irrigated. It seems to me that that has a good deal to do with the question. Is it really true, and have Her Majesty's Government satisfied themselves about that, that 2 million more acres of good land really will be irrigated? From my knowledge of the place, I should have thought that it was more likely to be a case of double crops for about 300,000 acres and probably 1 million acres of swamp in lower Egypt being drained and irrigated.
Here comes the landlord again. Having borrowed the money from the International Bank and/or from ourselves or and/or from the Russians as well, all that will really happen will be that the money will be spent and the landlord will scoop the pool. That is surely why it is so necessary that when making arrangements of this kind the authorities concerned at the other end should be urged to introduce a really proper system of land taxation.
What I find bewildering when studying the problem is that there do not seem to be any comprehensive maps issued, nor does there seem to be any real indication of where this land lies. Two million acres is, of course, a considerable area. The total cultivatable area in Egypt is only some 7·8 million acres, and it requires about 60 milliards of water to have it properly irrigated.
The objections to the High Dam scheme can be quite simply summarised in four or five statements. First, it will cost about £400 million, and it seems absurd to spend that money on drowning a large area of the Sudan when one can spend about one-third of the amount, as I shall explain in a minute, and not drown the Sudan and get very nearly as much water.
I have spoken about the 70,000 people who will be displaced and who will have to be resettled somewhere near, I suppose, the junction of the Atbara and the Nile further south. But no one has explained how Egypt will service the debt. Unless it is to be a free gift, the service alone will cost about £17 million a year, which is more than £1 per head of the population, a considerable sum. This would make a very large hole in Egypt's exportable surplus, if indeed she has a suitable exportable surplus at the present time. It does not seem apparent to those who have studied her balance of trade.
I have always been brought up with the idea that, almost, the lifeblood of Egypt is the silt which comes down in the floods from the Blue Nile and the Atbara. The intention is to build a solid dam. Whatever hon. Members may say about the bombs of the future, they must remember that this will be a very solid affair, and I doubt whether a bomb would upset it very much. It will not be like the dams in Germany; there will be no mechanical structure in it at all. Everything mechanical will be under about 200 ft. of solid granite.
But what is going to happen behind the solid dam is that all the silt in the floods of the Atbara and the Blue Nile will settle and none of it, or very little—the estimate is about 10 to 15 per cent.— will ever get to Egypt at all. I have not discovered anybody in Egypt who has anything to do with agriculture who thinks this is a good project. I know that it is claimed in the Reports that only the Basin irrigation is helped by the silt, but that is not true. If we talk to the farmers in Egypt we find that they are always most anxious to get what they call the early flood water, because that has most of the silt in it and a higher proportion of its manurial properties.
It seems to me absolutely crazy to build, as undoubtedly will be built, in support of the dam a canal from the South— that is also part of the multiple dam scheme and also applies to the High Dam— for the purpose of saving 5 milliards of water, pouring the water into an enormous reservoir behind the High Dam which is so vast in extent that about 12 milliards will evaporate. Moreover, such a dam will cost £ 400 million today, including the attendant works.
It seems equally crazy to go in for this adventure and by so doing to keep all the silt from reaching Egypt. Presumably, one would then say, "Since you are no longer getting the manurial properties out of the water, we will generate electricity for the purpose of making artificial manure to compensate you for your loss." Like many people, I think the poison produced by Imperial Chemical Industries ought to be stopped, but that is precisely what we are going to perpetuate in Egypt as a result of this adventure—we are going to poison all the people's food.
One of the other bad things which will happen as a result of all this is on what they call the berms of the Nile— the area between the flood level of the Nile and the ordinary low level, the top of the bank and the bottom, as it were, which amounts to about 300,000 to 500,000 acres of very valuable agricultural land from which the people get considerable crops. What is to happen to all that? Presumably it will be dry and will go out of cultivation.
If we sum up all the arguments, from the water point of view, the result of the High Aswan Dam project will be the evaporation of between 10 milliards and 12 milliards of water a year, and a Sudd Channel—in an attempt to save 5 milliards of water; a total of flow of about 80 milliards, when Egypt needs 60 milliards; and then, having saved one-twelfth of the total, we proceed to lose one-fifth of it behind the High Aswan Dam. If that is not crazy economics, I do not know what is.
I should like to know who were the authorities who advised both the Government and the International Bank that this project is in Egypt's interests, because I do not believe it is. I make these remarks this morning purely as a friend of Egypt.
The alternative to the High Dam is quite simple. It involves building a small dam at Lake Albert for storage purposes and building a channel through the Sudd area or Sudd swamps to carry the water and avoid evaporation. That is known as the Jonglei Canal scheme. I travelled through all this territory years ago and know pretty well what it is like.
It means building a High Dam at Merowe, which is just below the Fourth Cataract, chiefly for flood control, but also for summer storage. It means making use of the Wadi Rayan project in the area about 60 or 70 miles South of Cairo, on the West bank of the Nile, for the purpose of storing water which in the summer period will feed the whole of the Delta area. Coupled with that is the barrage at Beni Suef, a little further South, about a hundred miles South of Cairo, at a cost of about £40 million.
If all this is summed up—the channel through the Sudd, the Lake Albert Dam, the High Dam at Merowe, the Wadi Rayan project—the total at today's figure would be about £150 million to £200 million. By this scheme we should lose no land at all in the Sudan and should get pretty well all the water we required. In addition, the silt would continue to come down into Egypt. In fact, this scheme was drawn up and approved in the 1934–38 period by the Egyptian Government and passed by the Council of Ministers. Since then it has been on the shelf.
I am reminded that the Wadi Rayan project is very much like the Wadi Tharthar scheme which has just been completed in Iraq, by which the flood waters of the Tigris have this year been successfully led off so that they did not flood Baghdad. They are stored in the Wadi Tharthar area and can ultimately be led back into the Tigris or the Euphrates, as the case may be, when the rivers are at low level. The Wadi Rayan project would work in the same way and would be of enormous benefit to Egypt as a whole and to Lower Egypt in particular.
When we examine the reasons advanced for pushing on with the High Aswan scheme I think we shall find that they are based on a fallacy. I believe that what has happened is that the technical people who have gone into it have been asked to assume that they must provide sufficient storage for the worst possible years. That, again, is a crazy approach, because it is bound to involve an enormous capital cost. The last really bad year was 1913, and there have been only three years like that in the last 900 years. It looks as though this scheme has been based on 1913 and, in consequence, the enormous cost is apparently made acceptable because of the assurance of water.
I believe that the difference between what can be gained by the High Dam scheme and that which would naturally come out of the multiple dam scheme is so little, except in the very rare years—once in 300 years—as to make the multiple dam scheme far more advantageous to Egypt.
I was told with great pride the other day by some technicians— I will not say who they were— that this would be a magnificent show, that the power station at the new Aswan Dam would be 200 feet below the surface of the granite and that it did not matter what sort of bomb was dropped on it since the power station would still remain. I replied, "What is the use of that? if they drop a hydrogen bomb on Cairo there will be nobody left to make use of the power. It does not make sense."
It will be twenty years before this scheme is completed. Surely the authorities ought to reflect that in 20 years' time expensive hydro-electric schemes of this kind will be out of date with the arrival of atomic power and nuclear energy. l should have thought that this project would be about as old-fashioned as my grandmother's bonnet is today. I think the days of hydro-electric schemes are numbered and that the new developments which are taking place, schemes of this kind, will never be contemplated in the years to come; and that long before this dam has been completed, those who are responsible for pushing the project will regret that they ever did so. I hope that Her Majesty's Government and the International Bank will think again and examine a little more closely what is involved before they let the Egyptian Government carry out this project.
I think we should all be very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) for raising this matter, because it is a most important one; and despite the thin attendance this morning, this is a rather important debate.
It also raises a very difficult question. It is difficult because it is hard to determine by what principles our decision whether to give our support to this project or not should be governed. I am not a technician, but I find the arguments which my hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) have put forward on the technical side extremely strong. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State comes to reply, he will be able to say something which can allay the very grave doubts about the practicability of the scheme to which both these speeches must have given rise. But, in any case, even if the Government were right to believe that the scheme is technically sound, I am still not quite sure that we should go ahead with it, for one or two reasons which I wish to put forward.
Before the war, when we were responsible for the political destiny of the whole of the Nile Valley, including Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda, we were in a position to judge a scheme of this kind simply on its technical merits; but that is not the case today. We are now one of the interested parties to the scheme, in so far as we represent Uganda. Nor do I think that we can altogether divest ourselves of responsibility for the interests of the Sudan. It is true that we have given the Sudan independence, but, if some of us think that that independence was granted prematurely, that is all the more reason why we should take an active concern in defending Sudanese interests in a matter of such vital importance to that country.
There is another consideration of a rather more general character. Capital for development is not unlimited in the West, and, in deciding whether we should spend and encourage others to spend very large sums on capital development projects in Egypt, we should consider whether they should have priority over others in the world. There are very big development plans, either in the process of coming into operation or still on paper, in parts of the Commonwealth and in other friendly countries, for which there will be a crying need for capital before they are completed. There is the Volta scheme in the Gold Coast and the Kariba scheme in Rhodesia. There are a great many of these schemes. Should Egypt. therefore, have priority?
Against our responsibilities for Uganda, and to a lesser extent for the Sudan, and against our overall responsibilities to the Commonwealth and to other friendly countries, we have to weigh the needs of Egypt. The need of Egypt is, to some extent— and we can say it and be proud of it— the result of British achievements in Egypt over a period of 75 years. The improvements in administration, in medicine and so on which we have introduced into that country have led to an increase in population and to the pressure of that population on the means of subsistence, which in itself has created an extremely serious new problem. Although immense improvements have taken place in Egypt in the last 75 years, the value of these improvements to the individual Egyptian have been very largely cancelled by the growth in the rate of the population. This has also produced in its turn a large, and in a way rather dangerous, intelligentsia for which there is no suitable or sufficiently remunerative employment. This presents us with a great human problem which will be obvious to all hon. Members.
But that is not all. The presence of these social and economic problems in Egypt and the grim conditions of the working classes and the intellectual classes together create a most serious political situation. It means that in Egypt explosive forces are being generated, which tend to drive every Government in Egypt in turn into expansionist policies and tend to produce an emigration of Egyptian intellectuals to other countries, carrying with them that general climate of discontent which has been boiling up in Egypt for some time. You cannot build a hospital in Kuwait without staffing it with Egyptian doctors or a new school in Aden without Egyptian schoolmasters being called in. If you build a new radio station in Amman, Egyptian technicians will be needed. In each case the discontent is spread.
If it were the case that the Aswan Dam project was technically sound, and if by supporting it the growing social and economic tensions inside Egypt could be to some extent resolved, I think most of us would feel that there was a very strong case for going ahead with the dam. And this in spite of the evidence we must weigh very carefully, supporting the claims of the Commonwealth and of other friendly nations against those of Egypt. I think my own leanings have always been in favour of Commonwealth development rather than developments in countries which are not in the Commonwealth; but the importance to us of a friendly Egypt, from the point of view of the security of our interests in the Middle East, is such that, if the technical basis was sound, I would myself have been tempted to support the scheme. Indeed, I have never opposed it, but on one occasion have said a few words in favour of it.
But between these evenly balanced claims there is a decisive consideration. In the ideal state of the brotherhood of man, which some hon. Members opposite preach, the guiding principle was to be "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." In the rather more turbulent world in which we live, before the brotherhood of man is reached, that principle has, I understand, become not "To each according to his need" but "To each according to his work"; that is to say, according to the contribution that he makes. We have to ask ourselves before going ahead with this scheme whether the Egyptian Government themselves are making a contribution both towards the solution of their own problems and towards the solution of the general difficulties of the Middle East.
I have never mistaken Colonel Nasser as a latter-day Sidney Webb. That was one of the reasons why I opposed the Suez Agreement as much as I did. Nevertheless, when the agreement over the base was concluded, I hoped that we might be friends, and I was therefore myself prepared to agree that, the technical considerations being equal, there might be something to be said for supporting the Egyptian view over the Aswan Dam. I do not find that I can take that view any longer, and I do not think that I am alone in this respect. I think it is the growing opinion of all parties in the House, even though it has not yet been said by the right hon. Member for Ipswich, that Colonel Nasser's contribution to Middle Eastern affairs has been increasingly a negative contribution. To that extent, we are all in the Suez Group now.
Let us look at the milestones of Colonel Nasser's conduct in the years since we made such great concessions to him— since we concluded the agreements over the Sudan and the Suez Canal. There is still no freedom of shipping through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba, despite the ruling of the United Nations. All Colonel Nasser's diplomacy and propaganda remain directed against Britain in the Persian Gulf, in Aden, against the Bagdad Pact, against Israel and against our French Allies in North Africa.
Yes, and in Zanzibar. Soviet arms have been accepted, together with a good deal of Soviet advice. Nor has Colonel Nasser been making any contribution of a substantial character in the last two or three years towards improving the lot of his own people. There was a land reform, which did not get very far, and not much has been done since the land was redistributed to make sure that the peasants who were given the land were enabled to work it. The cotton crop has been exported very largely to the Soviet Union and used to pay for the aeroplanes, the tanks and the guns sent from behind the Iron Curtain, so that the wretched peasantry are worse off today than at any time under Farouk or under the Wafd. They are not getting the food, they are not getting even the consumer goods that they were getting formerly, precisely because the cotton crop which used to be sold abroad to buy things for the consumer is now being sold to buy arms. It is, indeed, a question of gulls rather than butter. And the people are taxed to maintain a Government which has neither the sanction of tradition nor of popular elections.
For this House of Commons to decide to subsidise this Egyptian regime to build the Aswan Dam would be, in my view, to relieve the Nasser regime to some extent of the responsibility it should be undertaking to solve the social and economic tensions in their own country, and to free Colonel Nasser's hand to continue his present career of aggression. If we did that we should be encouraging him to escape from his own problems and helping him on in his present course. It is quite clear, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone, that we were led into the doubtful project of supporting the Aswan Dam scheme from fear that the Soviet might do it if we did not. Fear is a bad counsellor in these matters, and this is a kind of danegeld which we are asked to pay. It will follow the pattern of the old danegeld— if we pay up they will come again to ask for more.
I do not understand why on earth we should be so anxious to prevent the Russians from burning their fingers in Egypt at the end of communications that they cannot support. The more the Russians got involved there, the happier I should be— and the worse off they would be.
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman raises a slightly different point.
If Colonel Nasser changed his tune, or if we got a friendly Government in Egypt again, things might be different; and there have been friendly Governments in Egypt. I do not think that anybody who was there in 1942 will forget the magnificent and spontaneous co-operation we got from the Wafdist Government of Nahas Pasha when Rommel was at the gate of Alexandria. In such circumstances, and always supposing that the technical argument was in favour of the scheme, the present course might be justifiable, but in the present circumstances I can see no case for over-riding the objections of the Sudan or for giving development in a hostile country priority over development in our own Commonwealth. To help Colonel Nasser build the Aswam Dam is to fasten still further the present military despotism on the back of the people of Egypt and to nourish a regime bent on our destruction in the Middle East—a régime which may still lead to the predominance of Communism in that area.
I believe that this project is really a hangover from the days when we thought — not I, certainly, but the Government thought— that Colonel Nasser might prove to be another Sidney Webb. I hope therefore that the Government will now bring this particular factor of their old Middle Eastern policy into line with the more robust policy, they have recently adopted. I hope they will withdraw their support from this scheme, use their influence with the Americans to the same end, and make it quite clear that this whole question could be discussed again only if Egypt changed its tune and if there was a Government there which had due regard for the interests of its own people and the cause of peace in the Middle East.
For once I can go a long way with the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), but I do feel that this debate should not be used as a peg on which to hang any attacks—overt or covert—on Colonel Nasser and the Egyptian régime. And I part company with the hon. Member when he misquotes or mangles Marx to the extent of saying "to each according to his work." I do hope that he will except old-age pensioners in this particular context.
Debates on Fridays are usually a little tedious. Lawyers make holiday with legislation, or future legislation, and one is a little bored, but this morning we do owe an enormous debt to the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) for his bold and imaginative approach to this subject. His was a forthright and a breezy speech, and there was a lot of meat in it, and I want to address myself to one or two of the things he said, particularly in the light of what may or may not happen about the waters of Lake Victoria and the enormous significance the future establishment of a Nile Valley Authority could have for people, black and white alike, in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. It is a bold and imaginative project. The conservation of the waters of the Nile opens up an exciting future for the people of those parts.
The hon. Member for Stafford and Stone spoke of Soviet financial intervention. I am the last man to allow fear of Soviet intervention in any way to daunt me, but I want to say that the hon. Member's speech this morning lined up with the admirable address delivered in New York by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in which he spoke of international joint co-operative aid, particularly financial aid to backward -and dependent peoples. Such peoples are suspicious of the old-fashioned individualist, capitalist, interventionist economies, and it is extremely important, if we do spend large sums of money in that way, that the aid should be known to be completely untrammelled and not tied with any political or national strings. The future of the world lies, I am sure, in Colombo Plans and in Tennessee Valley Authorities and such like. We should have not only a Jordon Valley Authority in Israel but a Nile Valley Authority in East Africa.
I have in my hands a Blue Book which is not so famous as it should be-the East Africa Royal Commission Report, 1953–55. I think I can claim to be one of the few people inside or outside the House who have read it from cover to cover. I hope that the Minister has read it—but I will say no more about that. I trust that both this book and the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) this morning will be studied closely, not merely by the Egyptians but by the Ethiopians and the people of Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. More and more the future of those people in the headwaters of the valleys depends on the actions of those down below, so to speak, in the valleys.
I will say this much about Colonel Nasser. His actions lately have not been too helpful, nor have those of any of the Arab people whose territories lie North of our Colonies in the Nile Valley. I have only to instance the shameful and scandalous action of the Saudi-Arabian Government in expelling the Desert Locust Commission at Jiddah. Not only does unfriendly action in connection with the headwaters affect all the East African peoples, but so also does this stupid expulsion of that Commission. If not checked, locusts can mean a plague, and famine and death to many people in East Africa and also Ethiopia.
I want to say just a word about the significance of the supply of water in and about Lake Victoria. The Germans, who at one time occupied Tanganyika, were not such bad colonial administrators as some have alleged. I do not go any way with them in their flogging of the Herreros and their shooting of the "Maji-Majis" at the beginning of the century. but they were honest in what they did and said as to their economic imperialist activities. In that regard they called a spade a spade, and were ingenuous enough not only to call a spade a spade in that regard but to call conquest conquest and force force, which is what a lot of others did not do in East Africa.
Amongst other ideas, they had a most stimulating and imaginative scheme for piping off the waters of Lake Victoria into what we now call Sukumaland. I understand that the plans are still there — and not only those but a lot of other plans which are printed in this Blue Book which I have in my hand. But no one can move in Tanganyika, Uganda, or anywhere else, can do anything to drain the swamps in Uganda or Sukumaland or undertake land irrigation by piped water schemes without looking at the 1929 Agreement with Egypt. Therefore, it is very important for the future economic
development of East Africa that we really do adopt some of the ideas advanced by the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone, get together with the Egyptians and the others and have a new settlement of the whole of this ideological and water problem in East Africa.
It is an old saying that soil fertility is one of the basic assets of any country. I would add that water is the catalyst without which it cannot be used. If we have soil fertility and soils which are basically usable and exploitable, we must take the water to them. I could quote many extracts from this Blue Book of the East African Royal Commission relating to schemes which are lying waiting to be developed. We cannot do it until we have something in the way of a Nile Authority, a joint considered effort by Ethiopia, in addition to the Egyptians and the Sudanese, and along with Uganda. They must get together with the Belgians in the Congo to utilise for the common good this enormously valuable supply of water which is pent up in Lake Victoria, which emerges at the dam at Jinja and flows out to the Mediterranean Sea.
I am sure that the whole House will be indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) for initiating this important and timely debate.
We have had some frank speaking this morning. The High Dam project has been blown sky high, and the Government will have to do a lot of explaining why they appear to give their blessing to this project especially at a time when Egypt is engaged in waging a vicious campaign directed against British interests and influence in the Middle East.
It is not unnatural for some people to believe that since we control the headwaters of the Nile, we hold the whip hand and we should use it. I do not think that there is an hon. Member in this House who would subscribe to that view. I certainly reject it myself. It has always been recognised by this country, especially in the days when we had responsibility for the administration of Egypt and the Sudan, that the Nile waters are not just a major factor of importance to the people of Egypt. They are the source of life itself. After all, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) reminded us, the population that lives in Egypt today owes an enormous debt to the British engineers who developed their great water system.
Having said that, however, this is clearly a matter which does not touch the interests of Egypt or, indeed, of the Sudan alone. It concerns Ethiopia, British East Africa and the Belgian Congo. Indeed, the situation has changed dramatically since the Nile Waters Agreement, 1929, was concluded. That agreement, the House will probably know, laid down that no irrigation or power works should be carried out on the Nile or any of its tributaries or in any of the lakes under British control without prior consultation with Egypt. Thus, it would appear that the Egyptians have the power of veto upon any irrigation works which we might carry out not only in Uganda, but in Kenya and Tanganyika as well.
I do not believe that either the people of this country or Parliament want that situation to continue. I suspect that it is wholly unacceptable to the Governments of East Africa and that those Governments have represented the matter in that sense to Her Majesty's Government.
Enormous changes have swept over East Africa since the Nile Waters Agreement was concluded more than a quarter of a century ago. First, population has increased enormously. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone said that by the end of this century the population of the whole Nile valley would probably have doubled. I am in no position to argue about that, but I remember that Sir Philip Mitchell, in his famous dispatch of 1951, estimated that the population of British East Africa was increasing in certain areas at the rate of 2 per cent. per annum, and that it would double itself not by the end of the century but within 35 years-that is to say, within 30 years from now.
The second change which has swept over this region is that the importance of irrigation, which was hardly considered in 1929, as a means of improving agriculture and raising the standard of living of the African peasants, is now recognised fully. The East African Royal Commission Report, to which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) made a brief reference, makes it plain, first, that the lack of developed water supplies is a major factor in preventing the use of the region's otherwise productive resources of land and labour and, secondly, that the three basic interlocking requirements for the proper development of East Africa are food, water and communications.
The third change which we should take into consideration in thinking about this matter is that all three East African territories have grown up since 1929. They now exercise considerable control over their own affairs. Uganda is approaching self-government, and as a sovereign State would hardly thank us for having failed to defend its interests while it still remained a dependency of the United Kingdom. In Tanganyika, we have special responsibilities in this matter not only to the people of Tanganyika, but to the whole world through the United Nations.
I suggest, in the light of the Royal Commission's Report, that the time is now ripe for a comprehensive survey of the water resources and likely irrigation requirements of the three East African territories. I should like to know from my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether consideration has been given to that matter. I would like him to consider the suggestion that until such a survey is completed we should enter into no further negotiations in connection with the High Dam project.
It is quite clear from what has been said this morning that there is only one solution to the problem, and that is the establishment of an international Nile Valley authority which pays regard to the interests of the peoples concerned.
Certainly. There are plenty of precedents. Water not only divides; it unites. There are plenty of examples in the past where in times of great international stress and strain it has been possible for great and small Powers to come together to control navigation or the flow of waters.
Undoubtedly, there is tremendous sympathy and understanding in this country for the position of the new Sudanese Republic. I was astonished to read in The Times of 16th April, however, that the Sudanese Prime Minister agreed that Her Majesty's Government had made representations to the effect that Uganda ought to be admitted to any negotiations between Great Britain and Egypt on the subject of the High Dam but that when he was asked whether he approved of the idea of an international authority he is reported to have said, "I would rather confine it to Egypt and the Sudan".
I respectfully suggest that unwillingness to recognise the changed and changing status of the important African State of Uganda would be as foolish on the part of the Sudan as unwillingness on the part of Egypt to recognise the special interests and needs of the Sudan. If this is to be the attitude of the two major users of Nile waters, then I submit that it would be madness to plunge any further into the High Dam project. It is an astonishing thing that we should even have contemplated going into this project without first making it a condition that the Nile Waters Agreements of 1929, which we have faithfully observed, should, by international agreement, be replaced by a new understanding, and the creation of an international authority responsible, if thought necessary, to the United Nations.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not underestimate the strength of feeling on this subject both in the House and outside, and in the British territories in East Africa. Indeed, I doubt that he will, because, from past experience, I know what great understanding he has shown in these matters and what knowledge he possesses of the regions concerned. I hope he will not hesitate to tell the House this morning exactly where Her Majesty's Government stand in the matter.
The case for an international authority is unanswerable. Unless the whole Nile Valley, from the Lake Victoria basin, is treated as one hydrological unit, the allocation of waters being governed by one authority, and seen to be fair by all concerned, then great ill consequences will flow. As things stand, about half the water which flows into Egypt— according to my information, 30,000 million tons— is wasted. In the Southern Sudan, where the Nile wends it way sluggishly through the swamps, enormous quantities are wasted through evaporation.
Yes. Indeed, the view might prevail, not only in East Africa but here, that in the absence of effective and proper water control lower down in Egypt and the Sudan, we have no right whatsoever—Nile Waters Agreement or no—to retard the proper water development of East Africa. All water engineers and all great experts on the subject are agreed that the problem cannot be tackled piecemeal, but only as a whole.
I do not know who suggested the High Dam project in the first place. I hope my hon. Friend will let us into the secret; I hope he will tear away the veils which have enshrouded this business from the very start, and tell us who advised this project. when it is quite clear that vast quantities of water will be wasted if it is put into operation.
Clearly, the wisest course to take is to treat the great lakes, Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, and Lake Tana, in Ethiopia, as vast natural reservoirs and great storage units. That is the solution, as every expert I have ever consulted or read on the subject agrees. But, since such a proposal would raise the level of Lake Victoria by at least four feet and would submerge African tribal lands in the most densely populated parts of East Africa, the interests of East African peoples are self-evident.
The problem is not insuperable. The Nile Waters Agreement itself, within its limitations, has worked remarkably well. In general, these matters are governed by technical considerations, the agreements being drawn up by technical men. I am certain that there is still among the responsible technical people in Egypt, in the Sudan, and in this country, a great measure of mutual good will, and I feel sure that if it is possible to proceed along the lines of an international authority we would relieve tension enormously. I hope my hon. Friend will make it quite clear this morning that there will be no further movement towards the High Dam project by the United Kingdom Govern- ment until the concept of an international authority is accepted by all the Powers concerned.
I hope that when my hon. Friend replies to this debate he will be able to gratify the wish of my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) that this scheme should not be proceeded with, or at least that scarce British resources will not be squandered upon it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) did not want to be a critic of Colonel Nasser, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, when he is not speaking for himself, would agree that the present revolutionary dictatorship in Cairo is not the sort of Government upon which we can depend.
That may be so; but we are at present dealing with this Government which has lasted rather longer than some of the Governments which have preceded it, and it is a Government which has shown to the world that its word cannot be depended upon. It has broken the spirit and the letter of the Agreement which we signed with it in 1954. It has broken the spirit by accepting aircraft and arms from the Soviet bloc, and it has broken the letter by continuing to deny freedom of navigation in the Suez Canal, which it was pledged to grant under the Constantinople Convention of 1888, and which it reaffirmed in the Suez Agreement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) has shown that it is folly to undertake this project for a Government which is compelled inexorably to expand, and expand at our expense. It is not a question of the ambition of the self-styled Saladin of Cairo; the facts and population figures are such that his Government is bound to try to break out in expansion or aggression. When Bonaparte was in Egypt the population was 2.5 million. At the first census in 1897 the population exceeded 9 million. The census of 1947 showed a population of 19 million. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) has spoken of a probable doubling of the population in the next generation.
It is said that if we build this parvenu Pharaoh his great pyramid, then he will be able to feed the fellaheen, he will be able to make the desert blossom, and he will beat his scimitars into ploughshares. But even if this project is carried out, and I hope it will not be, the effect will not be immediate. It may, perhaps, be a matter of 10 years before it has any effect on the economy of Egypt. The danger of Egyptian expansion and Egyptian aggression is immediate.
It is sometimes said that the heart of Colonel Nasser will be touched if we do this for him. We had our hopes of the Agreement of 1954, but those hopes have been dashed. Again it is said that if we do not help him to build this High Dam at Aswan the Russians will do it for him. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) did not mind if that happened. Perhaps there is something in that; but it is quite certain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone and other hon. Members on both sides have made clear, that the power is in our hands and the sources of the Nile are not in Egypt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East referred to a number of African territories which have a better claim to our consideration in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North referred also to the Volta scheme. One has only to spend a day or two in the Gold Coast to be aware of the great importance which this emergent Dominion of Ghana attaches to that huge project. I hear—I hope it is not true—that some of those concerned in the Volta project are beginning to have doubts whether they should go forward with it.
I would say that the first claim to projects of this kind must be the claim of territories for which we are responsible. A better claim is the claim of the Sudan, which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary knows so well— the Sudan which, I believe, he loves so much. It is the best policy and it is also good morality that in these as in other matters we should stand by our friends. We should stand by and support those who are most likely to restrain and resist the forces of aggression in the Middle East and in Africa.
I believe that if we make that our policy we may hope to see an improvement in the regime in Cairo; or it may be, as the right hon. Member for Ipswich has said, that Governments there do not last very long. If, however, we do not see an improvement but if we stand firm by our friends, it is possible that we shall see the present regime replaced by a saner and more stable Egyptian Government, less harmful to the people of Egypt, to the world interests of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, to the progress of Africa and to the peace of the Middle East.
It is often said that those who drink the water of the Nile return to drink it again, and I think that everybody who has spoken in this debate so far has drunk the water of the Nile on many occasions, not always unmixed with something else. I know that many of them have returned to drink it quite recently. My hon. Friends who have spoken from this side of the House and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), who has been for so many years such a good friend of that country, have done a great deal in putting forward some of the points which I propose to answer this morning.
I have had the privilege of seeing the Nile twice in the last five months and of visiting it last only about two weeks ago. I flew over the upper reaches of the Blue Nile and saw the first red water containing the silt, about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, starting to come down for yet another Nile flood.
My visit to the Middle East on that occasion underlined the importance of what one of my hon. Friends said of water throughout the world and particularly in that area. There are the three different types of country: those who have rainfall and probably a certain amount of irrigation; those which, like Egypt, are almost entirely dependent upon irrigation and, in this case, on the River Nile; and those which have neither. They may have oil, but if they are without water there is a considerable limitation on what can be done in their development.
We know of the importance of water for irrigation and also for hydroelectricity, on which the right hon. Gentleman is a great expert. Whether or not, in the long run, it will be possible to undertake power developments on atomic energy with uranium, which is, I suppose, a wasting source in the world, whereas the water is renewed by Allah annually in the same way as the things that grow on the land, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I will be old enough to see whether his forecast is right. I believe, however, that in the immediate future we must look to hydro-electricity as a source of power in the area which we have been discussing.
In the eight countries which I visited in the last month, I found a most friendly reception wherever I went. I often think that if only one could get as friendly a return when saying "Good morning" to people in the streets of London as one gets in the streets of most Middle Eastern countries, it would be a far more friendly place.
When hon. Members have spoken of the Nile waters, they have spoken in some respects as if it is a matter for Governments, hydrologists and the like, but it is an age-old problem that we face in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, which has no rainfall. It is the people of these countries that must interest all of us in this House, as they have done in the past, especially during the 70 years of cooperation between the people and Governments of this country and the peoples and Governments of the Nile Valley. Whether it is the High Dam or the other series of dams, or both together, as I believe will be the case in due course, these most important projects are for the benefit of the peoples of these countries and not for the benefit of any one Government, whether it is lasting or not.
I do not suppose that there is any series of projects which will carry so much benefit to the ordinary man, woman and child in the fields and in the towns of the area as the series of developments which we have been discussing this morning. As has often been pointed out, the population of Africa will probably double at least before the end of the century, and the question of where we are to get a doubled food supply, quite apart from anything else, is a problem that must concern all of us. I should first, therefore, like to answer one or two of the specific points which hon. Members have raised and then make some general remarks and fit them within that framework.
The experts who advised that the High Dam was sound were of many nationalities, including advisers of the World Bank and of British firms, among others. I do not have the details with me, but if any hon. Member is interested in pursuing the point I will certainly let him have such details as I possess.
It was both together. The right hon. Gentleman knows far more about the consulting engineering side than I do. It was not simply a snap decision, but was the result of years of study and exploration by consulting engineers and others of the best way for the Egyptians to use the water that comes in.
I am coming to that.
What we are discussing over the High Dam is the use of the water that reaches the borders of Egypt. East Africa will not be affected by what Egypt does with that water. The picture has to be put in its setting, but the High Dam is what Egypt proposes to do with the water which reaches her borders.
The cost of the Dam and of the civil works will be less than one-quarter of the total cost of £ 400 million which has been mentioned. The rest will go on irrigation, which would be needed under any scheme, compensation, electric power, and so on.
I am sorry, I cannot give the figures offhand. The scheme will make water available after five years, whereas the other overall schemes to which the right hon. Gentleman referred would not yield benefit for nearly 15 years.
Silt is a matter of controversy; it clogs channels and is expensive to dredge. Personally, I am on the right hon. Gentleman's side on the question of silt, but there is, however, another side to the picture. So, in many ways, fertilisers are better than the silt and, as he mentioned, the Aswan scheme will produce that.
One other relatively small but important point, because it affects the whole of this High Dam discussion, is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal for a land tax. That might raise the money internally, but it would not provide the foreign exchange, which is the main reason why the Egyptian authorities approached the World Bank and ourselves, among others, in order to discuss this problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) asked whether consideration was given to comprehensive water use and needs in East Africa, and the reply to that was given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) on 21st March, 1956. Three East African Governments are now looking at this question of the use of water and their needs, and we hope to have their views on that by the autumn, when we can then go to the other Governments concerned and discuss in more detail plans for the future.
The Nile waters and the Nile as a whole have been of great interest to Parliament for about 70 years, and I think that one can claim with pride the association of this country with the tremendous developments which have taken place during that period in the Nile valley. But, as has been pointed out, more than a quarter of the average annual flow of the Nile escapes unused to the sea; and restrictions have to be placed on the use of the water at certain places and at certain times of the year because this water is not kept, as it were, in reserve.
Engineers have worked out great projects for harnessing the water and irrigating the land so as to settle more people on it. But before any of this big development can be undertaken, the countries through which the Nile and its various branches flow must agree how to share the waters. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East said that this work has been carried out with great good feeling between the technical branches of the various Government Departments concerned.
As for the High Dam, which we have been discussing this morning, I think that one might recall with pride that Sir Murdoch Macdonald, who reached his ninetieth birthday about a week ago, and who was a Member of this House for so long, played a prominent part in the building of the original dam at Aswan and thus made made use of the water in Egypt.
This is the best known of the many schemes which have been put before the Governments concerned in the development of the Nile Valley; but I think that the point about this one is that it is planned to provide complete over-year storage of the Nile waters reaching Egypt, so that when all the irrigation works in Egypt are complete none of the river's flow into Egypt will remain unused.
I do not think that it really affects the co-operation or the likely co-operation in the future. The East African Governments are putting their proposals forward and when they are complete we shall approach the other Governments. I have no reason to believe that we are likely to run into great difficulties over reaching agreement.
Is the hon. Gentleman then claiming that the High Dam project will bring a material difference in the amount of water that would be stored as compared with the project which I described as the Wadi Rayan project?
Without notice 1 cannot answer that point. I will look into it and let the right hon. Gentleman know. This is one of the things which is argued about between the experts and has been for a number of years. His remarks in this House will, I have no doubt, be taken note of in Egypt by the experts and others, and 1 hope that they will take his views into account, and that when next he goes there he may find that they have modified their scheme.
The dam and all its associated works may cost altogether over £ 400 million and take 15 to 20 years— virtually a generation-to complete. It is not a question of helping this or that regime, but this project is vital to Egypt with its growing population. It will increase the total acreage which can be brought under cultivation by over 20 per cent. and make other improvements possible—a factor of the utmost importance in a country where the population is still expanding rapidly.
I cannot say. It is a complicated matter. It is not only a question of acreage increase, but also a question of more crops a year off a certain amount of acreage.
Another point which I would like to stress is that firms of many countries have already shown themselves interested in the project, including British, French and German. It was a German firm that carried out the original survey. A British firm of consulting engineers have been engaged, and negotiations have been continuing for many months, involving the British and American Governments as well as the International Bank, to work out financial arrangements. Her Majesty's Government have very much in mind the importance of seeing that British firms have adequate opportunity to participate in this international enterprise.
The position now is that last December the United States and the British Governments informed Egypt that they would assist the Egyptian Government by means of grants towards developing the foreign exchange costs of the first stages of the work, and an assurance was given that the United States and United Kingdom Governments would, subject to legislative authority, be prepared to consider sympathetically, in the light of the then existing circumstances, further support in financing the later stages to supplement the financing by the International Bank. The Egyptian Government considered our proposals and those of the International Bank, and they made certain counter-suggestions. We and the United States Government are now considering these counter-suggestions and, in due course, any financing arrangements involving a grant will come before the House in the ordinary way.
I should like to say a word or two about the Sudan, because, naturally, Her Majesty's Government have given much thought to the position of the Sudan, for which we were until so recently responsible, and with which we have so many friendly ties. The Sudan Government have stated their own attitude to the High Aswan Dam project. They will agree to it on three conditions. First, there should be an agreed division of the Nile waters. Secondly, the Sudan should be free to use its own share of the waters in whatever way it pleases; and, thirdly, the Egyption Government should provide for the resettlement of those Sudanese who will be displaced by the reservoir created behind the dam.
These conditions have been the subject of much discussion between the Egyptian and Sudanese Governments, which is still continuing. All parties recognise the great importance of an agreement being reached. I can assure the House that there is no question of sacrificing Sudanese interests, as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs made clear to the House in Answer to a Question on 25th April.
When the High Aswan Dam is built, if it is, there will be more water for both Egypt and the Sudan. But the dam itself will not enable the Sudanese to use their share. They will have to carry out their own storage and irrigation schemes. We believe that there is great scope for future development in the Sudan, and we hope that Western countries will play a big part in helping the development of the Sudan.
I myself recently had talks in Khartoum with the Sudanese Government and also in Addis Ababa with the Ethiopian Government, about the use of the Nile waters. These exchanges of view were cordial and, to me, very valuable.
On the question of other territories, I have informed my hon. Friend that the position is as stated by the Colonial Secretary in reply to his Question. The three territories concerned are Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. Irrigation has not hitherto featured largely in their development programmes, but there is already very great pressure on the land in Kenya. Detailed surveys are being carried out to determine the potentialities of irrigation and swamp reclamation and the amount of water likely to be required. The surveys should be completed by the coming autumn.
Compared with the vast projects of Egypt and the Sudan, these territories' requirements will be comparatively small. But their position must be safeguarded, and Her Majesty's Government have informed the Governments of Egypt and the Sudan that they formally reserve the right to negotiate for a share of the waters of the Nile for these territories at the appropriate time.
My hon. Friend has pointed out that the 1929 Agreement was based upon the Nile Commission's report, which recommended that the use of the Nile waters should be reviewed from time to time. In effect, that is what is now happening. It is the main subject of the discussions between the Egyptian and Sudanese Governments. When the detailed surveys in our East African territories have been completed, Her Majesty's Government will be in a position to review the requirements of these territories with the other Governments concerned.
The 1929 Agreement between Her Majesty's Government and Egypt provided for arbitration, but I do not think that the Powers concerned are likely to reach such difficulties; at any rate, I hope not. It is not in the interests of Egypt to quarrel with the other users of the Nile about its waters. The Egyptian Government has just paid Uganda nearly £ 250,000 as a result of their obligations under the Owen Falls Agreement.
As far as future development is concerned, I have been asked whether Her Majesty's Government believe that the 1929 Agreement needs to be revised, and I have also been asked whether there should be an international authority for the Nile. As I have said, the answer to the first question is certainly, "Yes." When the shares of the various territories bordering the Nile have been worked out and agreed, it will hardly be possible to apply the present Agreement.
As to an international authority, we believe that such a body might well come into being in time, and if circumstances were right we should welcome it as an imaginative idea. But it is not something into which we can rush precipitately. But the High Dam project as at present proposed is not inconsistent with a Nile Valley Authority, although we are still far from agreement among the Powers concerned. Whereas, some years ago, we had more direct control over the Governments in this area, it now requires political agreement between four Governments, of which Her Majesty's Government is only one. There is all the preliminary ground of agreeing upon shares and on the work that needs to be done, and we must give the Governments concerned time to reach agreement.
Finally, I would like to say that although Her Majesty's Government have no longer the same direct control as in the past over the development of the Nile Valley, it may be that our net participation will be even greater in the enormous schemes which have been foreshadowed in the debate this morning. As a result, let us all hope that in the next 70 years the progress of the people of the Nile Valley-whose growth, I say with pride, is so much due to conditions of political stability, and health and education methods introduced in the period of more direct British control over the past 70 years-will be as great or greater, in health, wealth and happiness.
Can my hon. Friend give us an assurance—as he seemed to do in his speech—that before the £5 million is granted or gifted from this country to the High Dam project, the House will have an opportunity of debating the matter?