HC Deb 09 April 1986 vol 95 cc152-4
6. Mr. Blair

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held in the European Community Foreign Affairs Council concerning the forthcoming world economic summit.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

The Tokyo economic summit has not been on the agenda of this year's Foreign Affairs Council meetings. But world economic issues are regularly discussed at international meetings such as those of the FAC. They include developments in the world economy such as oil prices and debt problems and also trade issues, which are likely to be discussed at the Tokyo summit.

Mr. Blair

Does the Minister agree that one of the main items on the agenda should be international debt? Does she further agree that falling oil prices for oil-exporting countries, just as falling commodity prices for African countries, have intensified their debt problem in a way that is not offset by the increase in world growth? Will the hon. Lady therefore give an undertaking that the Government will support moves, first, to put life into the ailing Baker plan for international debt, and, secondly, to give the type of increase in funding to the World Bank that matches resources to the scale of the problem?

Mrs. Chalker

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. There are no formal agendas for summit meetings, as they are matters for Heads of State and Governments. Questions of policy are addressed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the notice of the Prime Minister. The fall in oil prices causes concern in all parts of the world. I cannot imagine that any discussion of this nature could possibly take place without the references that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is something to be said for telling the EEC that this country does not believe in a lot of pretentious posturing over foreign affairs? In particular, this country does not believe that there is any such thing as EEC foreign policy. It would be better if the EEC concentrated on getting its own finances in order. Does my hon. Friend accept that that might be achieved by telling the EEC that there will be no increase to 1.6 per cent. in our VAT contribution?

Mrs. Chalker

I hope my hon. Friend meant 1.4 per cent. It is important that there should not be posturing. We need to discuss issues with our colleagues in the EEC, and what we want in summit meetings is a free flow of discussion. That is the value of discussion. If there were the posturing that my hon. Friend spoke about, that would destroy the value of discussion.

Mr. Deakins

During our presidency of the EEC in the next six months, will the Minister consider the possibility of inviting observers from the poor states of the world, from UNCTAD and from the United Nations to attend the Tokyo economic summit? At present it is a grouping of rich nations trying to settle the world's economic affairs in their own interests.

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman should be under no illusions. The countries which are represented at summit meetings are well aware of the extreme needs of some of the poorer nations. What comes up on the agenda is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but I shall make sure that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are brought to her attention.

Mr. Rathbone

If that subject is not on the Council's agenda, can my hon. Friend say whether the control of the threat of drugs is on the agenda? If so, the European Community could support my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's efforts, which he made during his visits to India and to Pakistan to increase our influence in those countries, to minimise that threat.

Mrs. Chalker

I can well understand my hon. Friend's concern about this matter. There are regular discussions between the Interior and Home Ministers. I am sure that the control and the threat of drugs is a matter for all nations.

I cannot give my hon. Friend a definite clue whether it will be discussed at the meeting or whether it will be part of the formal agenda. I can only say that because the control of drug taking and drug peddling in Britain remains a special concern of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I am sure that it will be discussed at some stage.