HC Deb 25 November 1974 vol 882 cc27-9
62. Mr. Roper

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what progress has been made in the renegotiation of the European Community's policies towards the developing countries.

54. Mr. Jim Spicer

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement on the development of a common aid policy within the European Community.

68. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what progress has been made on the development of a common aid policy within the European Economic Community.

Mrs. Hart

The Council has now accepted the principle of providing aid to non-associated countries and of the harmonisation and co-ordination of member States' bilateral policies. The Commission has submitted guidelines on the establishment of an overall aid framework which Development Ministers will be discussing next month. There is still some way to go to achieve our objective of Community aid policies based on the principle of need, both between associates and non-associates and among associates, and to see this translated into concrete financial proposals. At the same time, the Community has been discussing its first contribution to the United Nations emergency measures, food aid and other related questions.

Mr. Roper

Does my hon. Friend accept how pleased many of us are with the progress that she is making in this matter? Will she give some indication of the view of Her Majesty's Government about the payment for the European Development Fund and say whether provision is made in the discussions with the ACP countries for Angola, Mozambique and Namibia to associate themselves with the convention after they become independent?

Mrs. Hart

In reply to the first part of the question, these matters are very much under discussion at the moment. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is in the middle of discussions about this. On the second part of the question, the answer is, "Not as yet", but this might well develop.

Mr. Spicer

Would the right hon. Lady care to give due credit to the Community, and, through the Community, to our membership of it, for the joint effort that has been made by all the Ministers involved in all this work, which is of such great value to the developing world?

Mrs. Hart

I am happy to give the Community credit. I would only say that it has taken longer than I had hoped to persuade them to agree with us.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the progress made, is it to the advantage of third countries that Britain should remain a member of the EEC?

Mrs. Hart

The answer to my hon. Friend's Question depends, in my view, entirely on what the end result of our present discussions of these matters proves to be. As I said, we have made some advances but there is still a long way to go. It would be foolish to suppose that one could give a concrete answer to the question in advance of knowing exactly how the negotiations will turn out.

Mr. Rippon

Is the right hon. Lady aware that one of our main concerns in joining the Community was that we should be able to play our full part in extending overseas aid of all kinds? May she be assured that she will have our full support in her efforts in that regard?

Mrs. Hart

I am grateful for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's support. I could only wish that rather more of the spadework had been done before we arrived on the scene.

Mr. Luard

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on her success in bringing about some change in focus in the direction of the Community's aid programme, may I ask her whether she is satisfied that enough has been done in this respect? Does she think that the Community should devote more of its aid to the countries of South Asia in particular which are suffering so much from the rise in energy prices and which are suffering in general from a worse degree of poverty than many countries which receive aid from the Community?

Mrs. Hart

This has been the essence of the problem. Community aid in the past has normally been directed to associates. Most of those associates were in Africa. Therefore particularly the Commonwealth countries in Asia, which are the largest and the poorest by any standards, have been excluded from Community aid. Our effort has been directed towards seeking a broad 50–50 balance as between associates and non-associates which would bring India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia into the circle of Community aid. That is what we have meant by talking of criteria based on need.