HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1028-9
36. Sir Bernard Braine

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make a statement on the proposals Britain is putting forward at the third session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development for assisting the least developed countries.

Mr. Wood

Our own support for the least developed countries is already substantial but we are ready to play a part in the new international effort which needs to be made on their behalf. We are discussing with other members of O.E.C.D. what detailed proposals should be made at U.N.C.T.A.D. III.

Sir Bernard Braine

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Would he not agree that the 25 least developed countries, most of which are in Africa, provide an admirable opportunity both for devising comprehensive country programmes and for effectively co-ordinating for the first time bilateral and multilateral aid? Also, what can be done to increase the flow of resources to these countries?

Mr. Wood

The first point is very important and I am glad to say that the United Nations Development programme has already got country programmes for most of these 25 countries. I believe it is essential that we should build on this foundation to try to extend aid particularly in technical assistance, so far as we possibly can to these most needy of all the developing countries.

Mr. Prentice

May we be assured that our representatives at U.N.C.T.A.D. III will not speak from a purely defensive brief but will make some positive British initiatives on this and other points? Will the right hon. Gentleman consult his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to see whether we can debate the conference and the attitude that Britain will take at it?

Mr. Wood

The answer to the second part of that supplementary question is that my right hon. Friend, being in his place, will have heard the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion. I am glad to say, in answer to the first part, that we have an extremely good record in regard to the 25 least developed countries. We shall, therefore, be in a good position to take a useful initiative in any discussions on these matters.

Mrs. Hart

Will the right hon. Gentleman give further consideration to my proposal that the Government should publish a White Paper on their attitude to U.N.C.T.A.D. III because of the many important issues that are involved and the fact that it is not possible to explore them by way of question and answer?

Mr. Wood

I have given further thought to the matter and I have told the right hon. Lady in a letter over the weekend of my decision to follow the example which she took at a previous conference and not to publish a White Paper.