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Africa (Communications Conference)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the Seven-Power Conference to co-ordinate defence arrangements in Africa, due to begin on 11th March.

A conference which was held at Nairobi on the initiative of the United Kingdom and South African Governments in August, 1951, undertook a study of the facilities available for communications and the movement of military forces and supplies between the South of Africa and -the Middle East in time of war. The French and United Kingdom Governments have now convened a second conference to undertake a study covering the Western Territories of Africa South of the Sahara, which were not included on the previous occasion. This conference will open at Dakar on 11th March. In addition to the inviting Powers, there will be representatives from Belgium, Liberia, Portugal and South Africa and a delegation representing the four British West African Territories. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the United States are sending observers.

Am I to understand from the Foreign Secretary's reply that the ambit of the conference is restricted to questions of communications?

Yes, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right. It is a follow-up of the conference which the late Government set on foot in August, 1951.

Will the conference consider the possibility of a trans-African road, which might serve a great strategic and economic purpose?

It will certainly consider transport and communications, and I will see that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is made available.

Mr. Speaker, would it not save time if the Opposition could decide who is going to be the next Foreign Secretary, so that only one of them need ask questions?