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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 16 November 1961

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Famine Relief


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the famine conditions in Kenya.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what financial assistance Her Majesty's Government are giving towards measures to deal with the famine in Kenya; and whether he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he has taken to relieve the famine now taking place in Kenya.

There has been famine in various parts of Kenya during the greater part of this year as a result of drought. In February, Her Majesty's Government made £60,000 available towards the cost of famine relief measures, principally for transportation and distribution of maize given by the International Co-operation Administration of the United States. In July, Her Majesty's Government undertook to provide up to another £235,000 in grant in aid for this purpose, if necessary. Both the Army and the Royal Air Force have been giving continuous assistance in distributing food supplies in remote areas.

During recent weeks, heavy rains have led to wide-spread flooding in many districts, and surface communications have been disrupted; food is having to be dropped by air. I am considering urgently in consultation with the Service Departments how the help which they are already giving can be supplemented. The aircraft carrier H.M.S. "Victorious" is now on its way to Mombasa so that her helicopters can be used in relief operations.

There is no immediate shortage of basic foodstuffs. The problem is one of distribution under adverse conditions, and of supplementing the basic maize issue. We shall need to consider, in due course, what the effect of famine and flood relief will be on Kenya's budgetary position, but I would emphasise that the essential work of relief on the part of the Government is not being hampered for lack of immediate funds.

Aid from private and charitable sources, which is already being offered will, however, be welcome.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that statement. I am sure that the House would wish to congratulate the Services in Kenya on the fantastic job which they have been doing under the most trying conditions. Surely it is not unfair to remark how well that compares with the lack of example, apparently, given by Africans and Asians there, and notably the lack of example given by Kenyatta. When my right hon. Friend goes to Kenya, will he try to find the time to visit at least some of the stricken areas?

I will try to visit some of these areas myself, and I am very glad to join my hon. Friend in his tribute to the work done by the Services, which has been magnificent. However, he is not fair in his strictures about what has been done, or not been done, by other people.

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his detailed Answer? Is it his view that the new Department of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation should be brought into these operations so that we may learn something which will enable us to stop famine in the future?

Can my right hon. Friend say what was the extent of the casualties in the famine area? How many people are seriously without food in the area now? How serious is the position? He has not mentioned that in his reply and I should be most grateful if he would do so.

The position is that adequate food for everyone is available, but the problem is distribution. It would be difficult to give any fair assessment at the moment of how far we are succeeding in getting food to the people in isolated communities, to whom it has to be dropped from the air. So far, by the use of helicopters and other aircraft, the Services are managing to provide the basic food requirements of pretty well everyone.

As the right hon. Gentleman finds himself in the position of having to help British Honduras, Tanganyika and Kenya, as the result of widespread distress, and Uganda, as a result of the movement there of large numbers of refugees from the Congo, does he not find that the resources of his own Department are at full stretch in this matter? Have the Government appointed some sort of combined committee within the Government to carry on large-scale co-ordinated action of the Army, Navy, Air Force and all likely to be concerned so as to tackle all these problems systematically and thoroughly?

The basic co-ordination is done on the spot in both the West Indies and Africa, but there is constant consultation among Departments here. I do not think that there is any lack of co-ordination, and I have the assurance of the Governor of Kenya that lack of money is not in any way impeding rescue or relief operations.

Has the right hon. Gentleman been in touch with the Council of Free the World from Hunger Campaign, which was set up by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Is not there a need for co-ordination not only within Government Departments, but among private agencies who are interested in helping?

African National Union (Talks)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about his talks with the delegation from the Kenya African National Union.

An agreed press announcement was issued at the conclusion of my talks with the delegation from the Kenya African National Union. I will, with permission, circulate the text with the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether any commitments were entered into with this delegation and whether any undertaking was given about any future constitution?

I am glad of the opportunity of saying that no secret undertakings of any kind whatsoever were entered into.

Following is the Press announcement: