§ 24. Mr. Blaker
asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement about her latest meeting with the Development Ministers of the EEC.
§ The Minister of Overseas Development (Mrs. Judith Hart)
The Development Council last met on 22nd January and I reported to the House on that meeting on 28th January. A further Council meeting was to have taken place on 20th March but it was cancelled. The date for the next meeting has now been tentatively set for 13th May, but this has to be confirmed.
§ Mr. Blaker:
Does the right hon. Lady recall that when she reported to the House on 3rd February on the terms of the Lome Convention between the EEC and 46 developing countries she described the convention as historic and said that we could not have achieved such a good agreement from the point of view of the developing countries if Britain had not been a member of the EEC? As no Commonwealth country wishes us to leave the Community, does not the right 814 hon. Lady think that the developing members of the Commonwealth in particular will regard with dismay and incredulity her stand on membership of the Community?
§ Mrs. Hart
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments. I ask him to study precisely what I said in the House in my statements on this subject. I regard the Lomé Convention as an extremely good achievement for the one-quarter of the Commonwealth countries which are associated with the Community.
§ Mr. Skinner
Will my right hon. Friend accept that the majority of Government supporters congratulate her on her forthright statement in which she made it abundantly clear that, notwithstanding the many efforts that she had made in negotiations with the Common Market on the Lomé Convention and on other matters, she had not been as successful as she wished?
§ Mrs. Hart
The essential point, which I have made clear in a previous statement to the House, is that the Lomé Convention concerned a number of Commonwealth countries. By that convention we were able successfully to protect their interests. Nevertheless that left out of account, as I said quite clearly to the House in my statement in January, the interests of those Commonwealth countries of Asia which are not associated and are therefore not involved in the Lomé Convention.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
While we recognise the right hon. Lady's difficulty in separating her personal views from those which she is required to hold as a member of the Government, may I ask whether 815 she agrees that among the most valuable things that have happened in recent years to underdeveloped nations, particularly those of the Commonwealth, are the series of agreements providing free access for their commodities and the substantial capital aid agreements that have been made in the Community? How can she personally have negotiated these matters and put her signature to them knowing privately all the time that she was about to campaign in favour of this country having nothing to do with them?
§ Mrs. Hart
I must ask hon. Gentlemen to study more carefully than they seem to have done what I said to the House on these matters. I have made it clear throughout that the Lomé Convention represented our efforts to protect as far as we could—I think we have done so successfully—the interests of those Commonwealth countries associated with the Community. I have made it equally clear that one of the major objectives of our renegotiations was to seek to protect the interests, both in aid and in trade, of the Commonwealth countries outside association, which means primarily the Indian subcontinent. I can only refer to what I have already told the House.