HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc458-9
19. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Commonwealth Governments have now concluded trading and/or aid agreements with the EEC.

Mr. Hattersley

In the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) on 26th March I listed the EEC's trade and aid agreements, including its agreements with Commonwealth countries. The Lomé Convention, signed by 22 Commonwealth countries, is the most extensive. In addition, the Community has, since our accession, concluded food aid agreements with Bangladesh, Cyprus, The Gambia, India, Malta, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. Kenya and Tanzania are likely to sign agreements in the near future. Some of these countries have concluded more than one agreement.

Sir A. Meyer

Does the Minister agree that there is now a delicately interlocking structure of agreements which are greatly to the benefit of the Common wealth, and particularly the developing nations of the Commonwealth? Does he also agree that this delicate structure might be irreparably damaged by our withdrawal from the Community?

Mr. Hattersley

I am always cautious about the use of words such as "irreparable", but putting that word aside, I have no doubt that a delicate, complicated and beneficial series of aid and trade agreements has been concluded between the developing countries and the Community. That is no doubt one of the reasons why no country of the Commonwealth, developed or developing, wishes Britain to leave the EEC after the referendum on 5th June. Were we to do so, it would be necessary for those developing countries of the Commonwealth to conclude new agreements. I have no doubt they could do that in any case, but it would be more difficult without Britain working on their behalf inside the EEC.

Mr. Jay

Will the Minister say what proportion of the population of the Commonwealth is covered by the Lomé Agreement?

Mr. Hattersley

A small proportion of the Commonwealth—a figure which my right hon. Friend no doubt heard quoted in the Sobell Sports Centre on Saturday afternoon. But having no doubt attended diligently to my answer, my right hon. Friend will recall that as well as the Lomé Convention there were agreements in regard to Gambia, India, Malta and other countries. Those agreements cover a majority of the Commonwealth. There fore, not only is the majority of the Commonwealth benefiting from the EEC; the totality of the Commonwealth does not wish us to leave.