asked the Minister of Overseas Development if he is aware that because of drought, India's food production this year has reached its lowest point, and that the surplus on the 1964–65 crop has become a deficiency; what steps he is taking to assist in overcoming the imminent Indian food crisis; and how much he proposes to spend on such assistance.
I have heard with distress of the shortage of food in certain areas of India. I hope shortly to be able to announce further aid to India to complete our pledge for this year. Like that already afforded earlier this year, this aid will be available in a flexible form, best adapted to India's needs, as determined in consultation with the Government of India.
That Answer tells us nothing and is worthless. Is the Minister aware that I am asking him what the Government intend to send to these millions of Indians who are on the verge of starvation, what requests have been made by the Indian Government to us and what reply we have given? Will something be done urgently?
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory, particularly since India has received enormous grants of aid for industrial purposes which have brought no discernible benefit to the vast majority of the population of that country? Will he not make representations to the Indian Government in an effort to see that the money is used to benefit the people of that country?
We are very ready to see that our aid is used for agricultural projects, if the Government of India wish this. However, apart from technical assistance, the Government of India have so far preferred that priority be given to projects of an industrial nature.
Is it not fair to say that the food position in India would be greatly improved if modern conditions of farming were employed and if new strains of grain were used? Will he look once again into the protein-producing plant which is a British patent but which may be taken over by America?
In answer to the first part of that question, we provide technical assistance for agriculture which takes account of the sort of point the hon. Gentleman has in mind. With regard to the protein-producing plant, the hon. Gentleman has a later Question down on this subject.