HC Deb 27 March 1975 vol 889 cc687-8
Q2. Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Prime Minister what subjects he proposes to raise at the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in Jamaica.

The Prime Minister

We shall, of course, be discussing a wide range of issues at Kingston. In particular, I shall use the opportunity to develop some of the ideas on world trade in commodities which I mentioned in my speech at Leeds on 9th February.

Following the normal practice, the agenda for the Heads of Government Meeting is co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Secretary-General in consultation with the Heads of Government. These consultations are confidential.

Mr. Thomas

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he say what progress he has made on the question of commodities, because this is a vital aspect of trade to Commonwealth and developing countries? When he meets his colleagues in Jamaica will he take the opportunity to confirm that every Commonwealth Government now wish Britain to remain within the EEC?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend's first point is the subject of an initiative which we are taking, which was begun in my talks with President Ford in Washington. It has been further discussed with a number of Commonwealth Prime Ministers who have visited this country, including the Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Guyana and Canada. It is of vital importance, particularly to developing countries and certain producers, because we want more security and stability in food production for consumers and on the question of fertilisers and feeding stuffs. This is a very complicated issue. The problem has never been solved on past occasions, and it is important that some progress is made.

I am quite sure that the subjects we shall be discussing will permit the question of the EEC to be raised by anyone who wishes to raise it, whether the United Kingdom or any of the many other countries. However, I confirm what I said in the House and what my hon. Friend has just repeated, that all, or practically all, of the independent Commonwealth countries have indicated their desire that we should stay in the Community.

Mr. Tim Renton

Does the Prime Minister agree that commodities represent a very good area for EEC intervention, and that the setting up of an EEC fund, for example, for mineral development overseas, could be a very appropriate area for EEC activities?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member is right, and I think he will be aware that in the Lomé Convention a beginning was made—all sides of the House will welcome this—in commodity stabilisation, although the funds for this are relatively limited. In the Heads of Government summit in Dublin a fortnight ago, I made a fairly lengthy statement to the other Heads of Government on the lines of the initiative which I have already described, and it was warmly welcomed by those who spoke. We shall, of course, consult them in the furtherance of this initiative, which some of them have been pursuing in different ways overseas.