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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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Economic Discussions


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the results of his discussions with Gambian Ministers about the economic needs of that Colony.

As a result of discussions of the development needs of the Gambia over the next year or so, I have made a further allocation of £600,000 from colonial development and welfare funds.

What increase does that represent on what was already promised to the Gambia? Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that it is his settled policy to try as rapidly and as hard as possible to develop the economy of the Gambia before any discussions are entered into with Senegal?

I think that that latter point goes beyond the Question on the Order Paper, which was concerned with the economic needs of the Colony. As far as they are concerned, the allocation should allow development to continue at about the present rate until about March, 1963. What happens after that will depend on the passage of the new Colonial Development and Welfare Bill.

Is there special provision in these additional funds for the expansion of education, for the development of rice growing and for the encouragement of the co-operative movement in the rural areas?

I have given the figure of the amount we are allocating which will continue the present rate of development. If the right hon. Gentleman wants further details, I ask him to put down a Question.

Yundum Airport


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, as a result of his recent discussions with Gambian Ministers, it will shortly be possible to proceed with the modernisation of Yundum Airport; and if he will make a statement.

The recent discussions did not involve decisions on the airport. The Gambia Government are at present considering a report on the subject.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, owing to its geographical position, Bathurst could become a most important international airport? Can we have an assurance that help in modernising Yundum would not be limited by reluctance on his part to upset any other nation by the possible diversion of air traffic to Yundum?

This is a difficult problem. There are considerable attractions in having a better airport in that part of the world. However, it would be near to the existing and important airport at Dakar, and we must consider this matter on grounds of competition as well as on grounds of economics. Whether there is need for two international airports so close together in this part of Africa, I do not know. All these matters need careful study.

The present state of the airport is deplorable. I say that as one who has recently been there. It undoubtedly needs improvement and repair. While considering that matter and looking to the future, will the right hon. Gentleman look perhaps 25 years ahead and do a good job now?

Yes. There are two separate issues here. First, the state of the airport for local needs is open to considerable criticism because conditions are not all they might be. Secondly, there is the separate question of whether this should be the site for an international airport with all the enormous capital outlay involved.