HC Deb 23 June 1986 vol 100 cc15-6
37. Mr. Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to international financial institutions concerning the scope for stabilising the price of the commodities which Africa exports.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Timothy Raison)

None to those for which I have responsibility. They are not directly involved in commodity price stabilisation schemes.

Mr. Wainwright

Does the Minister, with his wide responsibility, agree that seemingly cheap imports of raw materials from Africa may eventually prove extremely expensive if they are bought at the price of destabilising the Western banking system by exacerbating the international debt crisis?

Mr. Raison

Obviously there is a real problem, but we believe that developing countries' commodity problems are best tackled in the context of overall economic policy. There are stabilisation schemes — for example, the European Community, STABEX and SYSM IN schemes —but assistance through bilateral aid, aid for structural adjustment, general balance of payments support, and so on, are all very valuable in helping to deal with the problem.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of African countries the experience of the common agricultural policy, of OPEC, and of the tin industry before they draw any general conclusions about the desirability of these various interferences in the market mechanism?

Mr. Raison

Commodity schemes are sensitive and delicate mechanisms and it is right to look at what has been happening around the world.

Mr. Deakins

Is the Minister aware that the present Government, and a Labour Government, would be committed to the United Nations integrated programme for commodities, under which there are to be stabilisation schemes? Does he not talk to his colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry about these matters?

Mr. Raison

As I have already said, there is scope for such schemes but we must be cautious in attributing to them virtues which they cannot always carry.