HC Deb 22 March 1976 vol 908 cc23-4
38. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister for Overseas Development what discussions he has had concerning the impact of the EEC common agricultural policy on imports from the 46 ACP countries which are signatories of the Lomé Convention.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development (Mr. John Grant)

The Convention guarantees the ACP countries almost completely free entry into the Community for their agricultural exports. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Minister for Overseas Development have kept its operations under review, and this has already resulted in significant improvements in the operation of the trade regime which was agreed at Lomé.

Mr. Hooley

The theory of the Lomé Convention may be satisfactory, but what is happening in practice about imports of sugar and beef from developing countries? What is the attitude of the Community to the world reserves of grain, and the International Agricultural Development Fund?

Mr. Grant

There were difficulties about beef. We tried to resolve them and to achieve special arrangements. Botswana, in particular, now benefits from a 90 per cent. reduction in the third country levy. I cannot today answer my hon. Friend's question about sugar. He will have to table a Question to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on that matter. However, he knows that the Convention guarantees access to the Community for 1.3 million tons of ACP sugar without payment of levy, and there is an arrangement for an annual negotiation on price.

I cannot give my hon. Friend an answer to his question on grain. However, in June there will be a meeting of the World Food Council and I have no doubt that this matter will be fully discussed there.

Mr. Jessel

Does the Lomé Convention give an unfair advantage to African countries as against other Commonwealth developing countries, such as India, in trading with the EEC?

Mr. Grant

We have made it clear that we are concerned about the Commonwealth Asian countries and the fact that some of the more populous Asian countries are excluded from the Lomé Convention. I know that when he meets the Development Ministers at a meeting scheduled for early next month my right hon. Friend will again be pressing particularly hard for the Community to implement what it accepted in principle, namely, a world-wide Community aid policy, which may particularly benefit the Commonwealth Asian countries.