Orders of the Day — Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th June 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertfordshire South 12:00 am, 29th June 1979

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the negotiations are not concluded; they are in the process of being renewed. They have started informally at the GATT, and the impetus to negotiation will be building up over the next few days. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman has not been raised previously with me, and I am sure that it has been noted by those listening to the debate. I certainly take it on board, but I feel that sometimes we get carried a little overboard in our attempts to impose what we consider to be proper working conditions in other countries.

I remember a good example of that. It was when I visited Umtata, in the Transkei. The new Government there told me proudly that they had signed the United Nations declaration on minimum prison standards. The problem was that the United Nations declaration foresaw a standard of living inside gaol of about twice the standard of living of the average citizen of the Transkei, and the Transkei Government therefore found themselves in the difficult position of having to throw people out of gaol and to stop people from trying to break in. That is just a measure of what happens when one tries to impose on countries which are not ready for them standards which might be entirely appropriate in developed Western countries.