HC Deb 21 February 1977 vol 926 cc1025-8
42. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what will be the main topics for discussion at the next meeting of governmental representatives set up under the Lomé Agreement.

Mr. Greville Janner

If I may refer again to the Vale of Belvoir, I fully accept that we must use our resources as swiftly as possible, but can my hon. Friend assure the people of Leicestershire that the resources will be exploited with the minimum permanent disturbance to the very beautiful surrounding countryside?

Mr. Eadie

I have no hesitation in giving my hon. and learned Friend that assurance. The NCB has given a similar assurance from time to time.

Mr. Tom King

As the market for coal will clearly be affected by its competitiveness, and as there are Press reports of a 15 per cent. rise in coal prices shortly, can the Minister give a clear assurance that there is no truth in the further rumour that there will be an additional price increase later in the year?

Mr. Eadie

It is not the job of a Minister to comment on rumours. I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the 15 per cent. increase.

Following are the figures:

47. Mr. Forman

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if he will make a statement about the agenda for the next meeting of Government representatives under the Lomé Agreement.

The Minister of State for Overseas Development (Mr. Frank Judd)

The agenda for the next meeting of the Joint Council of Ministers to be held in Fiji on 13th and 14th April will not be settled until later next month. But I expect the council to review all aspects of the convention, including the working of its trade provisions, the operation so far of the European Development Fund and Stabex schemes, and the start of its arrangements for industrial co-operation.

Mr. Hooley

Can my hon. Friend say whether the discussions will include a debate about the common fund and commodity agreements in the wider context of the world discussion of these matters?

Mr. Judd

I do not see these matters having a high priority on the agenda.

Mr. Forman

I recognise the important rôle of these discussions and the development of Stabex and the European Development Fund, but does the Minister agree that it is important for this country to open its markets to the manufactured exports of developing countries as an overriding priority and that this should be discussed in public at such meetings?

Mr. Judd

That is certainly an important part of the overall strategy of development and everything that we shall be talking about in Fiji will be related to that strategy.

Mr. Tim Renton

Further to the question of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), can the Minister say what consideration his Department is giving to the question of the common fund for commodity stabilisation? Can he assure us that this year the question will not fall fatuously between two stools —his Department and the Department of Trade—as it did at the Nairobi Conference last year?

Mr. Judd

There is an overall position of the Government on this matter, though the primary responsibility rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. We have said all along that we are participating constructively in the discussions and that we wish to investigate the precise terms before finally committing ourselves.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is my hon. Friend aware that at the European Parliament's Committee on Overseas Development in Brussels on Wednesday there will be criticism of Governments which fail to do all they can to prevent any Lomé Conference being held in Uganda or to prevent the Community being represented at any such conference? Can he assure me that we shall do everything that we can to prevent such conferences being held in Uganda so that I may better be able to defend the British Government?

Mr. Judd

There is no question of any Community Minister attending such conferences in Ugaanda.

Mr. Tapsell

In the light of recent events in Uganda, will consideration be given to the economic privileges currently enjoyed by Uganda under the Lomé Convention? Will this be a matter for discussion?

Mr. Judd

Community aid to Uganda is a multilateral matter and a subject for the Community as a whole to decide. It is distinct from the United Kingdom's bilateral aid to Uganda, which has ceased. Only one small EDF project has been approved in Uganda, and we and our partners will certainly keep the matter under close review.