The new Convention of Lomé, to be signed on Friday, provides for aid and trade arrangements for the Commonwealth associated countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. I regard these as satisfactorily, protecting their interests.
I am still seeking Community agreement on a firm financial programme of aid to non-associated developing countries, particularly the Commonwealth countries of Asia. This question will be further discussed in the Council of Development Ministers on 20th March.
In view of the progress which the right hon. Lady has made in providing aid, will she say whether the last point which she mentioned is the only outstanding matter among the objectives which the Government have set themselves in their so-called renegotiations? Will she say also what is the attitude of the Governments of south Asia towards progress which has been made in connection with them?
Continuing efforts are being made with regard to generalised preferences, which is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. On the major issue, the matter which I mentioned is the outstanding one. It is true that one has had to deal with a dual job here. One was concerned with Commonwealth countries which were associated. That has been the deal in the negotiations which have been involved in working out the new Lomé Convention. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are not covered, and that has been the second aspect of my concern in this matter, which is still unresolved. These countries themselves have made some progress in their bilateral trade negotiations with the Community, but the question of a world-wide approach to aid remains to be determined.
Does the Minister agree that whilst some aspects of this matter may be for her right hon. Friend, the generalised preference scheme for 1975 is a great improvement on that which went before? Will she say what she is doing to ensure that the scheme for 1976 is even better? Will she accept that the Community has been flexible and helpful in these matters?
That question is for my right hon. Friend. I think that he would probably agree that the 1975 scheme was better than the 1974 scheme. My hon. Friend will remember the tremendous criticism of the Labour Party about the move from our own DSP scheme to that of the Community at the time of our entry to the EEC. I am certain that my right hon. Friend will press for further improvements.
Will the Minister say what is the view of the Council of Development Ministers about the resources available by way of loans through its own funds and through the IMF oil facility for the most seriously affected countries? Does she believe that the provisions made so far, and which were announced by the Chancellor on his return from Washington, are likely to be adequate for the whole of 1975?
The hon. Gentleman will recall that a few weeks ago I announced the results of our deliberations on this matter in the Council of Development Ministers. I hoped that there would be a release of the whole $500 million indicated at the Special Assembly last April. After a good deal of debate in the Council of Development Ministers over the last few months, there was in the end a release of only half that amount, plus additional food aid. On those grounds the Government decided to make a further bilateral contribution to the most seriously affected country. Something good was done, but it was not quite as much as I hoped.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that if we were not to make any progress with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, a great part of the population in the developing world would not be provided for? That would not be a satisfactory basis on which to recommend to the country that the requirements of renegotiation had been met.
Clearly, judgment will have to await the eventual conclusion of this aspect of my efforts, at least. However, I have very much in mind that these are countries with the largest populations. They are the poorest countries and they demand all our efforts to ensure a satisfactory result.