Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development Unctad Iv

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1976.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether he will make a statement about UNCTAD IV.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

asked the Minister for Overseas Development what consultations Her Majesty's Government have had with the Ministers of the EEC in respect of issues likely to be raised at UNCTAD IV.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Newham North East

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade will be addressing the conference in Nairobi next week. I can say now that the Government are approaching UNCTAD IV in a positive spirit, and we hope that progress can be made in the various important issues under discussion. Commodity trade will undoubtedly be a very important issue in Nairobi, and we expect that debt problems, resource transfers, institutional reform and transfer of technology will also figure prominently. Amongst other things, the Government hope to achieve at Nairobi a wider recognition of the need of the poorest countries for an increase in the volume and an improvement of the terms of aid. These matters were discussed by the EEC Council of Ministers on 5th and 6th April and 8th April, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade is taking part in a final Council meeting today which will, amongst other things, consider the Community position.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

Will the Minister be supporting the creation of a common fund to finance an integrated programme of commodity agreements? Bearing in mind the recent White Paper, which says that in the current financial year we propose to spend 10 times as much on defence as on overseas aid, where would our contribution to such a fund come from? Would it come from our already inadequate overseas aid programme, or from some other source?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Newham North East

It is a difficult matter. The conference does not start until next week. It is a global conference, with a wide agenda, and it is not possible for any Government to set out their policy in detail, because it will be negotiated over a few weeks. I hope progress will be made on international guidelines or commodity trading that can be complemented by appropriate specific arrangements on a case-by-case footing.

Photo of Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler Mr Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler , North West Norfolk

The Dutch Government are sending two Ministers to the conference. Will the Minister say why only his right hon. Friend is going to Nairobi and he is not?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Newham North East

On present plans my hon. Friend will go to Nairobi for the latter stage of the conference. This has been the pattern at previous conferences, under both Governments. The Secretary of State for Trade takes the lead at the beginning of the conference and, generally, the Minister for Overseas Development goes later.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that that reply will be disappointing? I should like both Ministers to be there all the time. Will our representatives be meeting representatives of the Commonwealth prior to UNCTAD IV, to follow up the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) in Jamaica? Would it not be appropriate for them to meet representatives of the Commonwealth before meeting EEC representatives?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Newham North East

I should like to go to the conference, but other things intervene, including matters concerning the House. There will not be any formal Commonwealth meeting to determine a joint Commonwealth approach prior to UNCTAD IV.

Photo of Mr Christopher Tugendhat Mr Christopher Tugendhat , City of London and Westminster South

I agree with much of what the Minister has said in answer to the first question, but does he agree that it is important to support Dr. Kissinger's proposals for endeavouring to finance least-developed countries? Does he agree that economic development could be achieved more rapidly if a larger rôle were given to foreign direct investment?

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Newham North East

We shall study Dr. Kissinger's proposals with care. Direct private investment may be the quickest way forward for some countries, but for others, including the poorest countries, there is no substitute for a more relevant trade programme, because such countries do not always attract private investment.