HC Deb 01 November 1989 vol 159 cc301-2
1. Miss Lestor

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next expects to pay an official visit to the Caribbean to discuss trade and financial relations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. John Redwood)

There are no plans at present for my colleagues or me to visit the Caribbean.

Miss Lestor

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern in the Caribbean about the effects of 1992 on bananas, sugar and other commodities? As 1992 comes closer every day, would it not be a good idea for a Minister to visit the Caribbean to discuss some of these matters face to face so that people there know where they stand?

Mr. Redwood

I should be delighted to be invited to visit the Caribbean in due course. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will be visiting some of the islands next week, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development will be leading a delegation to the Miami conference at the end of the month, where they will discuss a number of issues with other countries.

On the hon. Lady's spcific point, the British position is that the Lome negotiations should continue so that a satisfactory outcome can be achieved for the banana producers in the ACP regions, and that will be the Government's prime aim in our conversations with our EC partners. We wish to ensure that after 1992 those interests are safeguarded in the wider European market.

Ms. Abbott

Is the Minister aware that the economies of many of those countries, especially in the eastern Caribbean, will face collapse if there is not a constructive and successful end to the negotiations? Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government are committed to ensuring that, come 1992, those islands' interests will be absolutely safeguarded?

Mr. Redwood

I give the hon. Lady the assurance that the British Government will do all in our power to put the case of the islands forcefully. We are well aware of the importance of bananas and other such commodities to their economies. There are already many areas in which the Government are offering help, and we give a great deal of aid to the Caribbean. The hon. Lady may wish to know that we give the highest per capita aid for any region in the world to the Caribbean area because of our strong interest in and concern for the Caribbean islands.