HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc18-9
65. Mr. Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the aid Ministers of other EEC countries; and what issues were discussed.

Mr. Chris Patten

I chaired the Council of European Community Development Ministers on 11 November. The main topics covered were food aid reform, aid for population activities and programming of the sixth European development fund.

Mr. Cox

I note the Minister's reply and welcome the discussion on food aid, but what meaningful action will be taken in Europe to ensure that suitable food surpluses are made available to countries that face hunger and poverty? Is the Minister aware that such a policy would be received with much greater support in Britain than is the present policy, under which surplus food seems to be sold off at giveaway prices to eastern Europe and is then sold in those countries at enormous profits, which are made at the expense of British taxpayers?

Mr. Patten

I am pleased to say that, during our presidency of the Community, we secured reform of the Community's food aid regulation. That should now mean that food goes to the developing countries to meet their needs rather than as a means of surplus disposal. Food aid will now be better integrated with general Community development programmes, and the procedures will be streamlined so that people in emergencies get food far more rapidly. I think that that reform is one of the most important things that we achieved during our presidency and that that view is widely shared in Europe.

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