Oral Answers to Questions — European Community (Ministers' Meeting)

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

asked the Minister for Overseas Development if he will make a statement on the meeting of EEC Ministers responsible for overseas development held on 8th April 1976.

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

I apologise for the length of the reply, but I was asked for a statement on the meeting.

So far as progress in the Community's own programmes is concerned, this was a disappointing meeting. No agreement was reached on spending the 20 million units of account for the non-associated developing countries provided in the 1976 Community budget, in fulfilment of the decision in principle which was taken in July 1974. There was no agreement on a Community contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, nor on spending 2·5 million units of account provided in the budget for collaboration between the EEC and nongovernmental organisations, nor on the forward planning of food aid. The Commission will make further proposals on harmonisation and co-ordination of member States' bilateral policies for consideration at the next Development Council this summer.

The Council did, however, agree on the member States' common position on major aid issues for last week's discussion of the transfer of resources by the Conference on International Economic Co-operation. These include undertakings of progress towards better harmonisation of aid terms for each developing country and improved terms for those countries whose needs are greatest, and the idea of an agreement among donors to devote aid increases principally to those experiencing the worst difficulties and the greatest needs.

Photo of Mr Frank Hooley Mr Frank Hooley , Sheffield, Heeley

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that our own aid policies in relation to food and rural development will not be held back because of the obscurantist attitude of certain members of the EEC? Will he take note of the excellent behaviour of the Netherlands Government, who have taken an intiative with regard to UNCTAD without waiting for the Commission to pronounce at all?

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

The policies contained in the Government's White Paper and expressed to the House on several occasions will not be adversely affected by any ideas to the contrary on the part of other member Governments of the EEC. Meanwhile, we shall press for a more outward-looking policy by the Community as a whole, particularly an aid policy for the Community that is world- wide and gives more priority to the poorest countries.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the attitude of the EEC towards the question of the price for the importing of 1·3 milion tons of cane sugar is both selfish and inward-looking? The Government should stand up for our old partners in the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, who looked after us so well—as we did them. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to let this happen?

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

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend rather than for me, but I hope that I have made it clear that the Government are not satisfied with the stance taken by the Community on overseas development matters and are pressing for a number of fundamental changes.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Will my right hon. Friend say what action the Government propose to take on the sugar negotiations, which apparently have now reached a deadlock?

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

I cannot. As I made clear, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

Is the Community making progress towards the idea of a European export-import bank, which would be of assistance in financing commodity stabilisation schemes and new mineral deposits in less-developed countries?

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

That is not primarily a matter for me, but I shall look into it and see that I or or my colleagues write to the hon. Gentleman about it.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us will find that statement disappointing? May I revert to the question of the common fund and the attitude taken in Holland? Is it not a fact that the Netherlands Government have indicated that they are in principle prepared to contribute to a common fund? What is the Government's attitude to this matter, in particular, to the point of view of the Netherlands—a view that, I understand, is shared by Norway?

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

As I explained in answer to an earlier Question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade is attending a Council of Ministers meeting today which will be discussing the Community's attitude to this problem and other problems that will come up at the UNCTAD conference.