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asked the President of the Board of Trade what instructions he has given to the British delegation to the United Nations Committee for Trade and Development conference in New Delhi regarding schemes to encourage private investment in developing countries.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, while his speech at the New Delhi Conference was, on the whole, well received, it was unfortunate that there was in it no mention of private investment possibilities? Particularly in the light of the Strikker Report, are there not good possibilities for making public aim and private investment work better together in future?
There were two reasons for my omission of that aspect in my speech at New Delhi. First, speeches at U.N.C.T.A.D. and elsewhere tend to be much too long anyway, and I wanted to make a rather concentrated speech. Secondly, as the hon. Gentleman knows, for he was in New Delhi, the question of private investment is not one of the burning controversial issues before the Conference. But, of course, I agree that it has a very important part to play.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development meeting in New Delhi; and if he will make a statement.
The Conference continues until 25th March. Discussions are still in progress on a wide range of issues in the Committees of the Conference and it is not possible at this stage to forecast the outcome of these discussions.
Could my right hon. Friend say what initiatives we have been able to take on preference schemes and how far we have been able to iron out the paralysing differences, particularly with the French. on a whole range of issues before the Conference?
As I think my hon. Friend knows we have played a very active part, not only in the Conference generally but particularly on this question he raised. Ironing out the differences of opinion amongst developed countries is a very difficult task indeed, which we certainly cannot yet claim to have achieved. It is the experience with these Conferences, I understand from those who have been to them before, that it is only in the last fortnight of the eight-week Conference that it gets down to a detailed discussion and the possibility of agreement. My estimate is that we are now just starting on the critical stages.
There may be a misunderstanding. I do not think that there is any difference of opinion about the rôle that private investment can play. The fact is that this is not one of the most controversial issues requiring to be settled with U.N.C.T.A.D.
While agreeing with the Minister that the last fortnight is likely to be crucial, as was shown by the rôle played by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) in U.N.C.T.A.D. 1, could the Minister tell us whether he or his right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development is likely to visit New Delhi at that time?
I have an absolutely open mind on this at the moment. This is something on which one must be guided by the advice of people on the spot. As the hon. Member knows, we have an extremely powerful delegation there but it has not as yet advised me that it would be necessary for me to go back. If it does I shall take it very seriously.