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Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

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asked the Minister of Overseas Development what aid is being given for emergency relief and whether technical help is being offered in relation to the famine and disaster in Bangladesh.

In response to the floods and the payments crisis in Bangladesh last summer, my right hon. Friend on 2nd September increased our wheat aid to 30,000 tonnes and our commodity aid for the purchase of British goods and services by £4 million to £9 million. The extra money was exceptionally made available to help Bangladesh meet payments due on urgent items already on order. Two loads of drugs and medical supplies, some of them provided by international agencies, were flown out and an immediate special cash contribution of £5,000 was made locally to Prime Minister Mujib's appeal.The country has just had a good main rice crop of 6·5 million tonnes, and nearly 900,000 tonnes of food imports, including our own wheat, will have arrived in Bangladesh between August and the end of this month. The Bangladesh authorities have not sought our technical help in the distribution of relief supplies to those in need, but my right hon. Friend will be very ready to consider any request made.

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what provision has been made for spares for British helicopters in Bangladesh.

The aircraft were handed over in March 1973 and 12 months' supply of spares was provided. In the autumn of 1973 specialist advice was given on the spot to the Bangladesh Air Force on the control, storage and issue of spares, and a further list of items required was identified and subsequently ordered. One aircraft has been grounded since January 1974 for lack of a calibrated torque transducer unit which proved extremely difficult to replace. A twelve months' supervisory and training consultancy paid for by Britain ended in April 1974.At the end of July 1974 the Bangladesh authorities, then having other helicopters available, decided that they had no further use for the British helicopters and asked us to help find a prospective buyer. This search is now going on. In view of their decision, most available outstanding spares were sent to Bangladesh at the end of August, the rest being sent in October. Altogether spares cost about £190,000. The supply of these helicopters has to be seen as only a small part of our total aid effort to Bangladesh.Apart from what has been channelled through international bodies, Britain has provided or promised about £13 million in relief grants, £18·8 million in commodity aid, £25 million for development projects, £1·4 million for a population scheme, 48,000 tonnes of food aid, and considerable technical assistance.