HC Deb 16 October 1973 vol 861 cc22-4
Q2. Mr. Barnes

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

The Prime Minister

The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting was held in Ottawa from 2nd to 10th August. I know that I speak for all Heads of Government when I say how pleased everyone was that Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth and Queen of Canada was able to be present for the first four days of the conference.

Under the skilful chairmanship of Mr. Trudeau, the atmosphere at this conference was one of direct and informal discussion and as such it provided a valuable opportunity for the leaders of a quarter of the world's population to exchange ideas, to influence each other's policies and to understand each other's point of view on a wide range of subjects.

A copy of the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Barnes

Would not the Prime Minister agree that the area in which the Commonwealth probably has most to contribute, if the will is there, concerns the gap between the rich and the poor nations? With regard to the trap in which some developing nations find themselves being caught—of being permanent producers of primary agricultural products—can the Prime Minister say whether the reference in the communiqué to the need to study the means for getting a proper relationship between industrial goods and agricultural products is really meant and that something will be done about it?

The Prime Minister

This was one of the most important subjects discussed during the conference. It was recognised at the time by the developing members of the Commonwealth that as a result of of high raw material prices they were in a stronger position than previously. The point of discussion was to find a permanent means of dealing with the problem which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. There was a variety of proposals put forward by the Heads of Governments of the Commonwealth and it was agreed that this should be examined further. But in particular I explained the one which we ourselves put forward to UNCTAD in 1964 and on which a great deal of work has now been done.

Mr. Edward Taylor

As one of the key paragraphs in the communiqué referred specifically to the need to promote international commodity agreements, may I ask what progress has been made in this regard towards agreements which are fair to the producer and consumer, in particular on tea, which is a special problem?

The Prime Minister

As regards general commodity agreements, this is a matter for the GATT negotiations which have recently begun in Tokyo and for the European Economic Community in the discussions which we have begun with countries which wish to enter into particular trading arrangements with us. At the moment I cannot offer my hon. Friend any further proposals on commodities.

Mr. Hooson

Can the Prime Minister say what discussions took place at the conference on possible changes in the common agricultural policy of the EEC and in particular whether there was any agreement about trying to amend it to enable more sugar from the developing countries to be imported into the Community?

The Prime Minister

The question of the common agricultural policy did not feature in the discussions with the Heads of the Commonwealth countries. Sugar was not an issue. They all accepted the situation of 1.4 million tons coming into the Community every year.