HC Deb 25 July 1973 vol 860 cc1610-1
44. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had within the EEC about the co-ordination of aid for the drought-stricken Sahelian countries of Africa.

Mr. John Davies

Britain is represented both in the EEC Food Aid Group, which co-ordinates this Community aid, and at higher-level meetings, where the subject is also discussed.

Mr. Barnes

Why is it that the airlift by NATO countries called for by the EEC is proving so inadequate? Why are thousands of tons of food piling up at Dakar with only small quantities getting through to areas where starvation is very great? Why is it that invariably, in the case of disasters such as this, those responsible for co-ordinating international relief prove extremely reluctant to communicate effectively with their counterparts in other countries?

Mr. Davies

I share the hon. Member's anxieties about the relief problems which have been encountered. But we have responded to the requirements made on us and have diligently tried to undertake relief where we can, within the framework of Community activity.

Sir D. Dodds-Parker

Will my right hon. Friend see whether it is possible to do some pre-planning by the seven members of WEU which are members of the Community, so that we can anticipate the need that has been shown in the last three months instead of going in for the sort of ad hocery about which we have heard?

Mr. Davies

I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Spearing

In view of the fact that we were told that once we entered the EEC we would play our full part in international affairs, is it not disgraceful that in this respect the EEC's food aid programme has not been as effective as it might have been? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to find out why this programme has failed, in terms of distribution, and will he report to the House on his investigations?

Mr. Davies

I am clear that the Food Aid Group in the Community exists to ensure that the Community's activities are improved and optimised in this respect. Our representative on that group will work to that end.