HL Deb 08 April 1968 vol 291 cc16-9

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend in another place.

"The Second United Nations Conference on Trade and Development began in New Delhi on February 1 and ended on March 29. The Conference covered virtually all subjects in the fields of trade, aid and development which affect the economic interests of the developing countries. It is too early to make a final judgment on the achievements of the Conference. But I believe that it did produce a number of positive results and in certain sectors laid the foundations for further advance.

"First, the Conference unanimously agreed on the early establishment of a system of general preferences on exports of manufactures and semi-manufactures from developing countries. This involves a major change in commercial policies as between developed and developing countries. Although this will require further intensive work, the aim is to settle the details of a mutually acceptable system in the course of 1969.

"Secondly, the Conference made significant progress in respect of the aid target. The developed countries accepted a higher target than hitherto, namely, to try to transfer annually to developing countries resources of a minimum net amount of one per cent. of their gross national product at market prices. Previously donors had interpreted the target as one per cent. of net national income at factor cost. This new target offers the prospect of a substantial increase in the flow of resources to developing countries in the years to come.

"Thirdly, the Conference agreed that work should be put in hand to resolve the problems which still remain in devising a scheme for supplementary finance, and that measures should be worked out and presented to the Trade and Development Board next year.

"Fourthly, there was agreement on an international action programme on commodities.

"The Conference also adopted resolutions on a wide range of other topics including the terms and conditions of aid, various shipping questions, economic co-operation and regional integration among developing countries, and special measures on behalf of the least developed among the developing countries. The Conference did not, any more than did its predecessor, produce all the results for which the developing countries hoped. But it did produce certain positive achievements, whose importance in practice will now depend on the follow-up action to be taken. The British delegation played an active and indeed often a leading role in the Conference itself. Her Majesty's Government will be equally active in seeking to ensure that the detailed subsequent negotiations make a genuine contribution to the welfare of developing countries."

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Statement, may I ask him whether, despite what he has said, the total effect of the Conference was not a disappointment, and did that not lead to a widening of the gulf in regard to good will between the "have" and the "have not" nations? Was not the only concrete decision that of increasing aid to one per cent. of the gross national product, which I recognise that this Government and this nation have already fulfilled? And did not the General Secretary say that that aid would be of little value unless the prices of commodity products were increased and preferences for manufactured goods achieved? Is this not left to the future? And will Her Majesty's Government seek to establish a ministerial conference next year which will enable these most urgent questions, which may lead to world hunger and great disruption in the world, to be settled before it is too late?


My Lords, the noble Lord is considerably too pessimistic. It has to be understood that the First UNCTAD Conference was at that time presumed as a once-for-all Conference. This second Conference is part of an ongoing series, and what that Conference has in effect done is to establish in prospect machinery that will deal with a number of the problems which over the years have been facing the developing countries. It is quite true that the high aspirations of the developing countries formed at the Algiers Conference have, to a large extent, not been met by specific decisions at this Conference, but the machinery which is going to be set up by resolution, will deal with a number of these measures this year and in the years to come; and a process has been started by this UNCTAD Conference which will lead to benefit to the developing countries in the future.


My Lords, may I thank the Minister on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House for repeating this Statement? I, too, am a little disappointed by the results of the Conference, but, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I should have thought that this was a matter to be taken in stages. I personally am glad that Her Majesty's Government have taken a leading part in this effort, and perhaps they will be able to keep the continuing Conferences on the right lines.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether he thinks that there is any reasonable prospect of this country during this year, and perhaps next year, transferring, in the words of the Statement, annually to developing countries resources of a minimum net amount of one per cent. of their gross national product at market prices'"?


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord opposite for his remarks, with which I concur. In reply to the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, may I say that we have accepted the one per cent. of the gross national product, which differs from the previous target, as a target, by about 25 per cent. All the developing nations have explained in conference that they cannot commit themselves to undertake this new target without drawing attention to the possible economic difficulties for them which arise from time to time. But it has been accepted as a target, and I think there is little doubt that, as a result of the acceptance of this target, many thousands of millions of additional pounds over the next few years will go in aid to the developing countries.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether, in further consideration, he will take into account the constructive proposals which were made in the Algiers Statement by 77 developing countries; and also the constructive proposals which have been made by the British Council of Churches in this country?


Yes, my Lords; we have taken that into account, and we shall continue to do so.