HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc393-4
40. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much aid has been given to Bangladesh for jute mill machinery and for projects connected with the jute industry.

Lord Balniel

Approximately £920,000 for jute mill machinery and spares.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the Minister aware of the basic importance of the jute industry to Bangladesh? I welcome the amount of aid already given, but will the Minister have negotiations through the specialised agencies to see what more can be done in order to re-establish what was a thriving economy and one which has done well in the last six months? Will he also, at some future date, give the House a report about what has happened to the whole of the aid to Bangladesh?

Lord Balniel

The hon. Member is correct. The jute industry is of immense importance to Bangladesh. We intend to send a jute mission to Bangladesh early next year to see how we can help the industry. Until the mission has reported I cannot say how much aid we are likely to provide, but we are prepared to give the jute industry a top priority in our aid to Bangladesh.

Mr. Shore

I, too, welcome the aid that the Minister has just announced. However, will he say whether he has applied or intends to apply for a waiver in respect of the EEC tariff on imported jute manufactured goods from Bangladesh as from 1st January next? If he does not do that, the aid that he has just announced will be cancelled out by the imposition of the tariff.

Lord Balniel

This is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The EEC and India initialled an agreement on 6th November on jute and coir products, under which the EEC will reduce the common customs tariff on these goods by up to 60 per cent. up to 1975, in return for voluntary restraint on exports by India.