Oral Answers to Questions — Commonwealth Famine Relief

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th May 1966.

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Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , South Angus 12:00 am, 12th May 1966

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is to be responsible for dealing with the subject of the emergency programme of Commonwealth famine relief.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for consultations with other Governments about the proposal of Her Majesty's Government for an emergency programme of Commonwealth famine relief for Africa.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Mainly, Sir, my right hon. Friends the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretaries and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , South Angus

In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Secretary has now told us that this project has been abandoned, does not the Prime Minister agree that it would have been better for him to have dealt with these non-events himself instead of shrugging them off on to the Commonwealth Secretary, who has a good many of his own to deal with?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. Member has been pursuing this point for some months now, with a certain degree of repetition. I want to make it clear that on 7th January, when the statement was made by us, there was acute concern about the widespread drought in South Africa—not least in Rhodesia. Hon. Members opposite were pressing us about this. We said that we were prepared to give any help that was needed and to approach other Commonwealth countries. Later in January very heavy rains came, and we were told by those in a position to know in Rhodesia that this help was no longer needed.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Does the Prime Minister recall the wide publicity that was given in January to his telephone calls to Mr. Menzies and Mr. Lester Pearson? Will he see that equally wide publicity is given to the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary to the House two days ago, namely, that inquiries had revealed that there was no need for a general emergency programme?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I have already told the House on a number of occasions that there was every reason to do this planning at the time, because of the drought. Farmers in Rhodesia were saying they were much more worried about the drought than about the sanctions. It was not the result of any publicity or any statement in the House that heavy rains did come at the end of January. I do not think that either side of the House is in a position to claim credit for that, but it did change the situation.