asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will withhold the grant of further Government economic aid to the Ceylon Government as long as that Government maintain their policy of squeezing out British-owned businesses of all kinds in Ceylon.
As my hon. Friend the Minister of State has explained, Questions essentially dealing with our economic aid are for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development.
The Government of Ceylon have assured us that it is not their policy to squeeze out British-owned businesses and that the recent budget measures were intended purely to safeguard Ceylon foreign exchange reserves.
The only governmental aid which we are at present providing to Ceylon is a fairly small amount of technical assistance, the withholding of which would not benefit British interests.
I had no discussion of aid with the Ceylon Finance Minister.
I am very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman did not have any discussion on economic aid. In view of the Ceylon Government's attacks upon the freedom of the Press, upon foreign banks, and especially upon all forms of British interests in Ceylon, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would have been intolerable to ask the British taxpayer to assist the financing of policies of this kind, and would it not be better to suspend economic aid until these policies are reversed?
Could the right hon. Gentleman explain his Department's division of responsibility, as I have two Questions down, one on Zambia and one on Ceylon, and the one on Zambia was transferred whereas the one on Ceylon has been kept? Does not his reply mean that the right hon. Gentleman does not accept responsibility for aid to Ceylon?
It is not clear to the House, and it is not clear particularly to hon. Members who are putting Questions, why the right hon. Gentleman accepts a Question on aid to Ceylon but transfers to his right hon. Friend an almost identical Question on aid to Zambia. What precisely are the responsibilities of the two Departments of State?
I made it quite clear. I think that this will adjust itself as it goes along. For obvious reasons, many of these Questions were put down at an earlier date, and it was then clearly my responsibility. Where the responsibility has now been transferred to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, Questions will be answered accordingly.