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Abu Simbel Monuments

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Education whether he will make a statement regarding the financial help which the United Kingdom is giving towards the international effort to preserve the 3,000 year old colossi at Abu Simbel.

Her Majesty's Government have already helped in the preservation of the Nubian antiquities by giving a special grant through the British Academy to the Egypt Exploration Society of£10,000 for each of the years 1960–61 and 1961–62. The Government are not at present contemplating any contribution from public funds to the appeal for the preservation of the Abu Simbel monuments.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is doing what he can to secure effective international co-operation over this matter?

It is very difficult. The response to an appeal for over 60 million dollars is not going well.

Is the Minister aware that since we debated this matter in the House, it has now become certain that, by a stupendous feat of engineering, the Abu Simbel monuments can be saved at a cost of something like 70 million dollars, of which our own contribution over nine years, if we gave it in proportion to the rest of the civilised world, would be under£3 million? While it may be difficult to make a grant like this in present economic circumstances, will the Government bear in mind that it would be a great contribution to improving the understanding between the West and the Middle East?

The amount required is four times U.N.E.S.C.O.'s annual budget, and there are so many children oat of school in Africa that I think it is not in scale.

Will the Minister endeavour to keep a sense of proportion? Is it not a fact that the great monuments of ancient civilisations all over the world are gradually falling into decay and being neglected? Is it not essential, when a new conception of the universe is coming before us, to preserve these relics of ancient glories? Will he not allow his heart to govern his head a little?

I agree with my hon. Friend that ancient monuments and objects of beauty ought to be preserved, but there is a scale of proportion here, too.