HL Deb 20 November 1974 vol 354 cc1067-107

5.8 p.m.

LORD O'HAGAN rose to call attention to the changes in the EEC's policy towards developing countries; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am asking your Lordships to change perspective and pass from the subject of domestic concern to a subject of equal importance but in the international sphere. Some Members of this House may wonder about the timing of my Motion to-day. Just before Christmas, when we are looking forward to enjoying ourselves, perhaps we should turn our minds to those who cannot or will not be enjoying Christmas. But, more than that, Her Majesty's Government and the EEC have just been partici- pating in the World Food Conference in Rome, when the whole gamut of problems facing developing countries was canvassed; and I think that since Britain joined the Community nearly two years ago the nature of the relationship between the developing and the developed world has changed a good deal. It is worth focusing our attention on some of the ways in which the Community has responded to a changing world situation.

It has nothing to do with the Community that the world price of oil has multiplied by five. Nor is it the Community's fault that this has had an effect on the world prices of fertilisers, or that other commodities have rocketed in price, particularly grain. But all these new developments have greatly influenced the relative wealth of those countries whose economies are still under development. In some ways the old Biblical tag: "To him that hath shall be given", could really be adapted so that apart from the oil Princes we could really say nowadays: To him that hath it shall be taken away, And from him that hath not shall be taken away, Even more than he lacked in relation to other people before"— because those developing countries who have few of their own resources have, as we have with our modest increase in petrol prices, suffered from the increase in the prices of oil, fertiliser and grain. I should like to know from the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, whether he felt that Her Majesty's Government have been encouraged by the progress at the World Food Conference and whether the attitude of the EEC overlaps that of our own Ministers.

But. my Lords, there is another reason why I feel that we should be looking at this matter now. There may be some slight confusion in some of my remarks, because when I came to your Lordships' House this afternoon I discovered that the Government had just issued a White Paper, Developments in the European Communities March to October 1974. I will not attempt to give a precis of it, but having read certain parts of it in great haste I was struck by the fact that under the heading of. External Relations: Trade and Aid, Her Majesty's Government had listed a certain number of objectives that they had in mind when undertaking their renegotiation of our terms of entry. While I would not want to go through them all it appeared to me that a certain number of them have been if not wholly dealt with at least in part satisfied during the renegotiation so far.

If I may I will use this White Paper as a peg on which to hang my remarks. At one point it reads: At a joint meeting of Ministers from the nine member countries of the Community and Ministers from the 45 developing countries held at Kingston, Jamaica on the 25–26 July it was agreed that the industrial and most agricultural exports of the developing countries should have free entry into the Community without any obligation to give reciprocal treatment to Community exports. My Lords, many of us who are not members of the Labour Party share with the Labour Government a worry that the association agreements that the Community entered into in the past were not as wide in their spread or as generous in their terms as they should have been to people participating in them. It is therefore of particular significance that Her Majesty's Government have already shown how the new type of association agreement which is still being negotiated with all Commonwealth countries who might be eligible is something of a very different nature from the old type of association agreement. Perhaps the noble Lord could give us some information on this aspect.

There are those who look upon the Community as a selfish, protectionist bloc, merely looking after its own interests, and to those people the old type of association agreement (a special form of trading relationship with former colonies) looks as if it were merely colonialism in another guise. As I understand it (perhaps the noble Lord could confirm this), the wider type of agreement that is already in train has excluded many of those features which were objectionable in the old association agreements, for example, reverse preferences. It is very encouraging to us who are keen to see the Community develop a more outward-looking attitude to the rest of the world that the objections of Her Majesty's Government have to some extent been met.

Another point about which the Government were concerned was that those who are not eligible for association agreements for one reason or another, particularly large countries in Asia with few natural resources and exploding populations, should have a better relationship with the Community. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, could give us some examples of what has happened since the present Government came into Office. Could he tell us, in particular, what has been done for India in this respect, and also whether any progress has been made in regard to the knotty problem of Hong Kong? There is another statement in this White Paper which shows that Her Majesty's Government feel that considerable progress has been made on this aspect of renegotiation. This statement reads: For other agricultural produce the Community has offered tariff-free and levy-free access for almost 90 per cent. of the exports of the Commonwealth countries concerned and is now examining the possibility of further improvements. I would be grateful to the noble Lord if he could fill in a little more detail. At first reading it seems to show that some of the fears which many of us have about the nature of the Community's attitude to those countries which were not associated can be put on one side.

I understand, particularly from reading the evidence which the Minister of Overseas Development gave to one of your Lordships' sub-committees scrutinising European legislation, that Her Majesty's Government take a cool view of food aid as a form of development aid. I can quite understand the concern of Her Majesty's Government. In the past I think the EEC has been too prone to clap itself on the back for off-loading some of its food surpluses on to the poorer nations of the world, giving the reasons that by so doing they were doing a wonderful deed for everybody, whereas it was to some extent merely getting rid of an embarrassing glut. Therefore I welcome the new shift in the Community's policy in this regard. Surely the real objective of development aid must be to enable countries to help themselves, to encourage domestic agricultural production so that they can feed themselves rather than off-loading what may be quite unsuitable food simply because there is a surplus of it elsewhere in the world—not that there are surpluses of many commodities at the moment.

I was very interested to see that, under this heading, Her Majesty's Government said that already the Council of Ministers' meeting had called for an evolution of Community aid policies leading to a more balanced distribution of aid according to need. I would be glad if the noble Lord could give some examples of this shift that Her Majesty's Government have helped to achieve. I understand that the latest Commission proposal on the subject of development aid takes as its motto, "To each according to its need"; so it seems that as well as the Council even the Commission is paying some attention to what Hcr Majesty's Government hold dear. Will this Government resist any attempt by the EEC to give food aid to countries without giving a grant towards the transportation costs at the same time? I understand that in the past sometimes a grant of food aid has been given, but that the country has been unable to take up the grant of food aid simply because it is so poor that it cannot afford the transportation costs. I would not call that aid at all; I hope Her Majesty's Government will put a stop to it.

This is a short debate and I do not want to pre-empt the time of other noble Lords who arc more expert in this field than I am. I hope that I have provided a platform for the Government—and for those who are more knowledgeable—to point out some of the changes which have taken place in the policy of the Community in this particular respect. I should like to conclude by saying that I have come from Bonn this morning, where I was attending a meeting of the Social Affairs and Employment Committee of the European Parliament. We have been taking evidence from migrant workers, among others, who come from developing countries to work in Germany. We visited a Ford factory and saw that nearly half of the workforce in this car factory came from Morocco, Turkey or some other part of what is still the developing world. May I congratulate the Government on ensuring that the domestic arm of development policy has been reinforced by their decision with our partners in the Community to allow the Social Fund to be extended to projects dealing with those migrant workers from outside the Community who are now resident in Community countries. This was something which the old Community did not allow, but it has happened since we became a member. This aspect of the matter is being looked at as well as the difficulties of the countries far away.

In the aeroplane I travelled back in we were given the normal flight information about the weather in Britain, and finally the pilot concluded by expressing these wishes: "I hope you are liking to stay with us". I did not know what I was going to do in mid-air if I did not like to stay with him! However, speaking as one of your Lordships' representatives—a part-time one—in the European Parliament, may I say to Her Majesty's Government that so far as the EEC is concerned, "I hope you are liking to stay with us". From what the Minister of Overseas Development has done so far, it seems possible that renegotiation can mean something. I noticed that even The Times, after there had been a meeting of the Council of Ministers—and I should remind your Lordships that the Minister of Overseas Development in Holland is called Mr. Pronk—referred to the "Pronk/Hart axis" in the Council of Ministers. This is renegotiation which is already succeeding in changing the Community into something less selfish and more outward-looking. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and those who will contribute to this debate, will enable this process to continue. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, the whole House must be extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for initiating this important debate to-day. I should like to congratulate him on his excellent speech which demonstrated the vast knowledge he has of this problem. The debate is certainly not taking place before time, and I hope that the noble Lord will be well satisfied with the result of it.

Over recent years the policies that the European Community has followed in its relations with the countries of the Third World have come in for considerable criticism, on the basis that the policies were too restrictive and also too inward-looking. Relations between the EEC and the developing world were seen in terms of the Community's development policy towards the former colonies, especially those in Africa, of the member States. It was only towards these ex-colonies that the EEC had developed, mainly through its system of association, a coherent policy for the Third World.

With the entry of Britain with its historically different view of the developing world from that of the other members of the EEC, it was hoped and believed that the Community would formulate its policies on the Third World on a broader base. This was founded upon the belief that Britain in recent years had done more for the developing countries than had the Community. In terms of trade and aid this was totally erroneous. Both our trade with the Third World, as well as our official aid, in terms of size and rate of growth, were far less than those of the Community. But what was true, however, was that this country's attitude and policies towards the developing countries, especially those in the Commonwealth, were more open.

The 1972–73 Report of the Commons All-Party Select Committee on Overseas Development reflected this more global approach to the countries of the Third World. The Report urged the Community to consider the existing regional agreements as transitional stages in the way to a global development policy. The Committee also stated that those Commonwealth countries which had not been offered association—for example, India and Bangladesh—should not be permitted to suffer by reason of their exclusion from association. This problem has been partly covered by the joint declaration of intent made by the EEC. These aims of the Committee were pressed upon our Common Market colleagues, with a certain amount of support from the Commission, both by the last Conservative Government as well as by the present Labour Administration. This pressure has been partly successful.

Last July. France accepted the principle that the Common Market could give financial and technical aid to developing countries with which it had no special association links. However, this change of attitude was to a certain extent soured by the proviso that the associated States should be given absolute priority when deciding the level of aid. The resolution of the Nine which conceded this principle of financial aid to the non-associates contrasted strongly with the West German decision to cut back the I amount of development aid that it was willing to grant in the future. The decision was even more surprising consider- ing the stable economic position of West Germany, and the fact that it caused the resignation of the country's Minister of Economic Co-operation, Dr. Erhard Eppler. But these are just examples of how national interests tend to conflict with any real progress towards meaningful cohesion within the Community as a whole.

While the Commission itself tends to provide much of the impetus for change and expansion of policies, the member States are slower and take far longer to reach agreement. Thus it is misleading to think of the Community in terms of the aggregate of the statistics of each member State. If one does so, one finds that the EEC has a population larger than America or Russia, a quarter of the world's steel production, a level of overall development assistance equal to that of the United States, a market for the exports of the developing world which is twice that of America, and so one can go on virtually ad infinitum. These statistical totals are important in that they show the Community's potential but not its current strength, which is far below that.

However, a different relationship is being fashioned between the countries of the Third World and the EEC by factors far outside the latter's control. The recent crises in energy supplies, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the curent shortages of raw materials have tended to enhance the economic bargaining power, of much of the developing world vis-à-vis the developed countries. The recent crises have also created dire economic and social problems for many of the developing countries that lack raw materials and oil, which they have thus to import at vastly increased prices. The World Bank has estimated that developing countries as a whole spent some 5,200 million dollars on oil imports in 1973, and will need to spend 14,900 million dollars for the same volume of oil imports this year. It is likely that if the oil prices remain at the present levels—and it is probable they will increase—the current account deficits of the developing countries will double, reaching well over 20,000 million dollars.

On top of this, these countries are having to face a staggering escalation in the costs of their grain imports. As was made clear at the recent United Nations Food Conference in Rome, some of these countries are facing starvation on a vast scale. I am very glad that the Community did not insist on its original stand to fight against the creation of any new institution for the disbursement of development aid, because if it had done so the Arab oil producers would not have contributed to that aid.

On May 2 last, the EEC announced the i so-called Cheysson Plan whereby the Community agreed to make a contribution of 500 million dollars in 1974 to the UN Emergency Fund of 3.000 million dollars. This Fund had been set up at the Sixth Special Session of the UN General Asesmbly on raw materials and development last April, and was created to help those developing countries hit by the commodity crisis. However, regrettably the Community's contribution was made dependent on other countries joining in the scheme. This proviso luckily was subsequently relaxed in spite of considerable opposition from the French and the West German Governments. Last month the Community agreed to donate 30 million dollars to the Fund and to give 120 million dollars in the form of bilateral aid. But the release of the remaining 350 million dollars is still dependent upon donations being made by other countries. This Fund will be operated by the UN in favour of both the associate countries of the EEC and countries that are not associated with the EEC. This commitment made by the Community could mark the beginning step, if but a small one, on the way towards a more open EEC development policy, benefiting not only the poorest States in Africa but also those in Asia and Latin America.

The current negotiations, that began in October, 1973, between the EEC and the 44 ACP developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (hence the initials) have also been affected by the changing attitudes and economic circumstances of the Third World. There has been created a greater balance of economic bargaining power between the Community and the 44 ACP developing countries. These countries are the 19 African States, Madagascar and Mauritius that come under the Yaounde II Convention, the three East African Commonwealth countries under the Arusha II agreement and the 19 associable Commonwealth independent countries that are offered association under Protocol 22 of the Treaty of Accession. This unity of purpose did not exist in the earlier negotiations for Yaounde II or Arusha II, and this is a very important fact.

In this current set of talks to set up a system of preferential trade, financial aid and joint institutions, the Francophone and Commonwealth States have agreed to negotiate as one bloc under the leadership of Nigeria and within the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity. The tougher bargaining power can be seen in the eight so-called principles that were drawn up at the OAU Heads of State meeting in Addis Ababa in May, 1973. These principles call for the liberalisation of the Community's aid and trade policies. The ACP States are, in fact, seeking more favourable treatment in the area of trade than other developing countries will get from the EEC's generalised system of preferences.

So far as competing agricultural products are concerned, the Community is unlikely to accept a scheme that would undermine the Common Agricultural Policy or grant more favourable terms of trade than those given to other developing Third countries. While the EEC is negotiating on a product by product basis, the associable States are demanding free access as a matter of principle in order to avoid the danger of individual States trying to get marginal advantages on particular products, which is what happened in previous negotiations. Such an occurrence would obviously weaken their bargaining position. The main agricultural products for which free access is wanted are citrus fruits, tobacco, beef and of course sugar. As has been made clear in the Press to-day, the Community as a whole has at long last accepted the principle of access for 1.4 million tons of Commonwealth sugar for an unlimited duration of time. This fulfils the commitment made by the last Conservative Government in the two Lancaster House Agreements to the Commonwealth sugar-producing States. However, at the Jamaica Conference last July the Community came somewhere nearer to the position set up by the ACP States, and they agreed financially to guarantee the associated countries' earnings from exports to the EEC for certain primary products as well as manufactured and semi-manufactured goods.

On the crucial question of reciprocity the associablcs have totally rejected reverse trade preferences. The Community seems to be divided on this point. Britain appears to support the stand taken by those countries, whereas the French take the Commission view that the associates should establish customs exemptions for certain EEC products. Likewise in the area of aid there is disagreement among the member States. This country, West Germany and Holland are in favour of extending the geographical scope of Community development action, while other member States are not quite so keen on the idea.

Although the European Development Fund was greatly increased between the first and second Yaounde Conventions, the poorer associated States received less assistance from the Fund than did the richer States. To help counteract this in the future the Community and the ACP States have agreed that the programming of EDF aid should be carried out by negotiation, with the existing development programmes kept well in mind. The amount of the EDF has not been settled, although it will probably be around 2,000 million dollars or even as high as 3,000 million dollars to be spread over the next five years. What has not been made clear by the present Labour Government is whether our contribution to the EDF will be in addition to our existing official aid programme or will be deducted from it. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, when he comes to answer this point in his speech, could also say to what extent the granting of aid is dependent upon the number of Commonwealth States that become associates under a new Yaounde Convention, because it is important to bear in mind the fact that over 80 per cent. of our official aid goes to Commonwealth developing countries.

While many of the Community policies towards the developing countries are still concentrated on the associates, there is a perceptible change of attitude among the member States. The Community has recently agreed to extend the scope of its trade preferences for developing countries as a whole from the beginning of next year. This decision will increase the amount of imports entering the Community from the Third World at preferential duties by around 15 per cent.

Also, the Community has increased the number of non-preferential trade agreements that it has with third countries. However, in the case of the agreements with Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, the provisions on beef imports have been unilaterally suspended by the Community because of the current glut of beef in Western Europe. However, I am led to understand that those three South American countries have found markets for their produce in Eastern Europe. The negotiations between the EEC and the Special Co-ordinating Committee for Latin America are continuing in an attempt to improve relations between those two areas of the world, although as yet much is still being left to the individual member States.

My Lords, while the recent moves by the European Community and its member States towards a global approach to the Third World might not have been very great, at least they are in the right direction. If the economies of the EEC member States are to expand and grow, then it is in our interest to help to improve the economic standing of the developing countries, irrespective of any obligations which we may feel towards them. In the long term, the aim must be to convert the relationship between Europe and the Third World from one of dominance and dependence into one of more genuine interdependence.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, may I join the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, who has just sat down in paying a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for giving your Lordships another opportunity of considering European Economic Community matters, and particularly this most important subject of aid to developing countries. All of your Lordships will be most anxious that increasing aid should be given to developing countries, but some of your Lordships, like myself, may be bothered as to the channels through which, and the methods by which, that kind of aid shall be given and the nature of the aid that should be given. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, have given a most impressive amount of information to the House.

Your Lordships may find that it would be helpful to consider one specific aspect of aid to which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has referred; namely, food aid. In the few observations that I shall make to your Lordships I wish to consider the proposals, in so far as they have been published, of the EEC in regard to food aid. In fact, my intervention in this debate has been caused by the fact that I have had to consider for other purposes two documents which have been issued by the Commission during the last six months as to their policy on food aid and the responsibilities of the EEC in regard to food aid.

The second matter which caused me to intervene in this debate is that last night I had the honour of meeting the High Commissioner for Bangladesh who spoke most movingly of the difficulties which his country has faced recently—and, incidentally, of the great resources which he said that country has. In the course of the discussion after his speech, I had the privilege of asking him what aid his country had received from the EEC in recent months. Somewhat to my surprise, the High Commissioner said that so far he has received no aid at all through EEC channels. There had been promises of aid through the EEC channels and his country was relying upon that aid which appeared to have been promised to him.

Turning to the published policy of the Commission in regard to food aid, nobody would disagree with their general view, and if I may quote from one of the documents to which I have referred the Commission states: Europe must show its awareness of the sudden dramatic deterioration in the situation of the poorest countries and must rise to its responsibilities towards the victims of this crisis. These reports also recognise, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, mentioned, that food aid by itself—and again I quote: … is not a satisfactory permanent solution to the food problem of developing countries and that it is essential for them to expand their own agricultural production". However, these reports, dealing, as they say, with the responsibilities of the EEC Commission in regard to food aid for developing countries, do not explain in any detail how this further agricultural production aid can be developed.

Of course, immediate food aid has great value in certain cases. The recent devastation and human crises resulting from the droughts in Sahel and Ethiopia and the recent floods in Bangladesh establish the positive role to be played by food aid which is immediately granted in such circumstances. It appears to me that the administrative machinery for this kind of aid must be capable of working quickly. From the recent reports of the Commission, it seems that it certainly recognises that its own administrative machinery for dealing with this class of food aid is not adequate.

The problems of the Commission appear to be fully recognised, and again I quote from the section of the report dealing with the procedural and management aspects of food aid. It states: The food aid policy requires efficient and rapid procedures for its implementation. The report goes on to say that— The existing procedures are not adapted to the requirements of efficient management. While not wishing to discourage the EEC from continuing to improve its food aid procedures, it should, I think, be recognised that there are established procedures for granting and delivering food aid. They are the national procedures, and the procedures of the United Nations. Perhaps these established channels for aid may be found to be more effective than any procedures to be set up by the EEC, at least for short-term food aid.

The Select Committee on European Communities, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, to which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, referred in his speech and of which I have the honour to be a member, has had the opportunity of considering the Community's policy documents on food aid that have been published during the last six months. Also, it has had the advantage of taking evidence from the Minister of Overseas Development, Mrs. Judith Hart, on August 29 last. I put to the Minister the point about the advantages of national and United Nations procedures for granting food aid, and asked her to contrast them with the proposals by the EEC for channels for food aid. She indicated that the United Kingdom representatives were in the same position as representatives of other members of the Community, being reluctant to give a free hand to the Commission in this field for a number of reasons which I need not quote to your Lordships this evening.

It may be interesting to refer again to my meeting last night with the High Commissioner for Bangladesh, when he paid a great tribute to the Minister of Overseas Development in taking the stand that she has taken in using channels other than the proposed EEC channels for bringing immediate aid. It became clear to her that the position in India and Bangladesh required aid to be administered far more quickly in view of the acute difficulties in those countries.

My Lords, my main reason, therefore, for intervening in this debate is to ask your Lordships, and particularly the Minister who will follow, whether food aid in particular could be better distributed and better dealt with through the national procedures and the procedures of the United Nations rather than through the proposed procedures of the EEC as I now understand them. I am afraid that my discursive views and observations as to the potential value of EEC procedures for dispensing food aid, certainly in the short term, may be somewhat gloomy. But perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who will follow at the end of the debate, may be able to dispel a little of the gloom which I have brought into this Chamber this evening.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with other noble Lords who have spoken in thanking the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, very sincerely for bringing these matters to our notice, more particularly as I think he rather suggested that he can speak with an EEC voice as well as the voice of a Member of this House. We are grateful to him not only for his expressions of views, but for the information he brings to those of us who do not always have time to read the voluminous material that comes out from Brussels. In the space of a few minutes I will venture to broaden the subject a little and to put it into the context of what has happened in the world about aid over recent years and then come later to the EEC element.

To my mind, two drastic changes have taken place in the world of aid since it began to become organised on a large scale; say, some quarter of a century ago. In a way, we have come to the end of what might be called the classical age of aid, and there are two principal reasons. The classical aid was defined very well as 'the Jackson-Pearson era and perhaps consists of what Barbara Ward once wrote in Rich Nations, Poor Nations: Round the North Atlantic a ring of societies has come into being with more wealth, more resources at its disposal than has ever before been known in human history. That was the situation in, one might say, its purity until last year.

We now have two drastic changes; one sudden, the other subtle. The sudden one I need not dwell upon because it has already been mentioned; namely, the quintupling of the price of oil. But perhaps I should add that it is not just a matter of pounds and pence; it is a matter of a feeling of vulnerability in Europe. In other words, to anticipate my conclusions, we have to go on accepting the aid obligation, and indeed the aid impulse, despite the fact that we can no longer speak of the North Atlantic in exactly the terms used by Barbara Ward 12 years ago. We must go on but we are no longer quite so confiident of our capacity. There is of course a corollary to that, which is that nations which have suddenly become much richer (not more developed, but richer) enter into this equation now, and the whole picture of who shall give aid to whom is much more confused than it was even quite a short time ago.

The other, subtle, element which has come into this whole question is—and I have said it frequently to my Indian friends when I was there—that people round the world must remember that in this process of a much greater humanitarian attitude towards social questions and towards life generally, the developed countries have discovered their own slums and there is great pressure on Governments now to use such financial resources as they have more and more in the interests of their own deprived people, and this competes with the proper claims of the developing countries. I speak of this matter through experience and not just from theory. I can say from my own activities in a voluntary organisation that the pressure to use a higher proportion of our resources on really deserving matters at home grows, not sensationally, but all the time.

Therefore, I think that one has—and I put this negative part of my suggestions first—to speak frankly to developing countries in this sense. Moreover, if you read, for instance, the account in last Sunday's Sunday Times of the food conference, I think one can talk very frankly to our friends who want our help and say, "It really is no good lecturing to the people of the developed countries on their misdeeds of the 19th century, on which there is plenty of argument, because people in these countries are just not interested". The point is that we really have to get together with developing and developed countries to try to ascertain what more we can do, and arguments that our system is all wrong really have no impact on the people who have got to contribute.

So much for my negative aspects in this matter. What then should we and what should the Community do? Perhaps I can clear one other negative out of the way. If, with the point of view of a financier, you were to look at the state of this country and notice that in the Budget we are told that we have a "borrowing requirement" of over £6,000 million your reaction would be: "Well how can we give any aid at all?" You would say that we are going to be £6,000 million in debt. However, I think that leads to one of the most positive merits of the experience this country has worked out for itself in the matter of the forms of aid which not only are easiest for us in financial terms to grant but also have the most long-run impact on the economies of developing countries. The experience gained through the original Department of Technical Co-operation, through the Overseas Development Ministry and through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has led to a general understanding which I think could well permeate other countries and may to some extent have done so: the great thing we can do, however difficult our own position is, is to provide a constant flow of technical, scientific, management and other assistance to developing countries. I do not know whether this is a practice of our partners in EEC in their priorities, but we can probably do even more of that because when I have made inquiries about this subject I have always been assured that we still have technical and administrative capacity to spare which can be of the utmost use, not to produce food tomorrow, but to produce food and many other things the day after tomorrow.

I think we should not be self-righteous about this matter. The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, very properly reminded us that 80 per cent. of our Government's official assistance has been in effect directed to Commonwealth countries. So really one kettle cannot call another kettle black when talking to our Community associates on this matter. The great gain from the present situation is a two-fold one: the first is, as the various speeches made by your Lordships have shown that our presence in the Community has in fact caused the restrictive natures of the contributions made by the different members to be subject to a gradual process of resolving themselves in the best interests of the developing countries. This is a 100 per cent. benefit to them as a result of our presence in the midst of the EEC, and if we had not been there the developing countries would not have developed to that extent.

The second advantage is this. Certainly international aid passes with efficiency and reasonable speed through some such organisations as the United Nations Development Programme. Incidentally, if one is too inclined to feel apologetic for the West about this, I looked up a figure for 1972 which showed that out of 260 million dollars of aid passing through that fund 238 million dollars had been provided by the OECD countries, which is to say Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia. Perhaps we could do with a little cash from the Soviet Union which is also a developed country. Our record is not so bad but of course it has not been enough.

By the process of combining the experience in the EEC in the small committee of Nine, which is after all what the EEC is, I am sure that we can accelerate the liberalisation of aid and trade policies in a way not possible in the arena of an organisation containing 130 countries. What can be done by our presence in the work of this expert group of Nine is to continue this liberalisation and, we hope, without any form of appeasement; such appeasement would not be what we really meant, but by positive work and by getting side by side with people from the developing countries. Thus we can go on accelerating this very necessary progress. By doing so, perhaps we shall help to remove some of the vulnerability (of which I spoke) to pressure from countries which are on the way to development in other respects.

My Lords, my message is simply that there are great difficulties about this matter which I think it is the duty of someone to emphasise. Having looked at these difficulties, we must find ways around them. I have tried to suggest at least one technique, and there are many others. I am sure the Minister who winds up this debate will be able to show us further pointers to the future in which we can help the more unfortunate parts of the world.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, I am rather inclined to think that at the time of our accession, and for a period afterwards, and to some extent still in retrospect, the Community has been criticised unfairly for what were, or were thought to be, its attitudes towards developing countries. It is true that Community aid was principally channelled through its association with a limited number of African States which, in aggregate, did not account for a high proportion of the population of the developing world, although they certainly included a considerable number of the world's poorest countries. But in giving the priority to those countries, the Community was only following a policy similar to our own to this day, of wishing to pay special regard to the historic ties and duties which have resulted from the colonial experience of the peoples of Europe.

On this principle, there is no difference between British and French aid policy. I think the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, was acknowledging that point. The difference lies in the much more worldwide nature and scope of Britain's former Empire as compared with any other. This was not, therefore, a problem of attitude, and the Community has responded as naturally and as rapidly in accepting the need to incorporate Britain's similar responsibilities into a Community policy as the other original members did in the case of France and Belgium.

Moreover, there were, and are, admirable features in the Community's aid giving methods within the association. Over the last two years in contacts with Europeans and Africans, I have heard no criticism at all of the way in which aid under the European Development Fund is basically organised. This aid is overwhelmingly in the form of grants, with no problem of interest indebtedness arising. It is managed in a form of partnership; projects need to be approved by the donors, but they can be put forward only on the initiative of the Governments of associated States. Special favourable conditions have been devised to give advantages to local contractors and so on. Nor is it correct to suppose that the Community did nothing for developing countries outside the framework of association. For some time it has had a substantial food aid programme, to the benefit of countries outside the Association. In July, 1971, the Community introduced its system of generalised preferences. But, of course, it is true that since the accession of the United Kingdom, the Community's aid and development policies have been greatly enlarged and broadened in scope.

The first respect in which this is true is in the current negotiations with the now so-called ACP countries which aims vastly to increase the scope of the association itself by the inclusion of many Commonwealth countries, and some countries outside the Commonwealth. Of course, this is a direct consequence of Britain's accession to the EEC. The fact of these negotiations has already had profound consequences in Africa. Previously, there were hardly any contacts between French-speaking and English-speaking countries in Africa. To-day, anyone associated with the negotiations has been impressed by the solidarity within the negotiations between the French-speaking and English-speaking countries, and their apparently absolute determination to conduct themselves within, and to emerge from, the negotiations as a single unit. Of course, this will towards solidarity is explained by other factors, but this unique opportunity for it to find expression was exclusively provided by this country's accession to the EEC.

We must hope these negotiations will be concluded before the expiry of the present association at the end of this year. But there are still some difficult problems which are not yet settled, including the question of the size of the next European Development Fund. I should like to ask the Minister whether he considers that there is a danger that these negotiations may not be concluded before the end of the year. If he does, does he consider that there will be any serious problem over the question of transitional measures to bridge the gap?

Apart from the association's negotiations, another respect in which Community development policy has been extended greatly since we joined the Community is in the generalised scheme of preferences as a result of the improvements introduced for 1974, and again for 1975. These were approved last week in the Council. Incidentally, I think that the Community's generalised preferences scheme is the only one open to modification on an annual basis. As a result of these improvements, it has been estimated that next year manufactured goods to a value of between 21 and 2.3 billion units of account, and textiles to the value of 500 million units of account, will be able to enter the Community from the developing countries, duty free. It is also estimated that agricultural goods worth between 450 million and 600 million units of account will enter duty free, or at preferential rates. The Community's GSP has, therefore, become an instrument of major importance in its overall development policy.

In extending the GSP, a great deal of account has been taken—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, will confirm this point—of the needs and requests of countries on the Indian Subcontinent in the implementation of the Joint Declaration of Intent attached to the Treaty of Accession, for example, in the matter of the quota for flue-cured tobacco, or by the inclusion of a long list of Indian specialities for preferential treatment. If some noble Lords think that, perhaps, there are other items that might have been included in this list, it must be borne in mind that any trading concession given by the Community to a developing country can be worth far more than a far larger concession given by the United Kingdom alone.

There are other points which I might mention: where special account has been taken of Britain's Commonwealth concerns—as in the acceptance of the commitment to guarantee the access indefinitely of the 1.4 million tons of; sugar—the current negotiations for commercial co-operation agreements between the EEC and countries on the Indian Sub-Continent, and also cases where other initiatives have been taken by the Community. For example, the action under the Cheysson Plan was established to assist all countries, whether within or without the association, most affected by the recent oil crisis. But I hope that I may have said enough to help convince any who doubted it that in the Community there is a tendency and a determination to look outwards, and a will to assume responsibilities to the world at large.

However, I do not think it proper to discuss the Community's aid-giving policies without making some reference to the present financial situation. I do not think that at present it will be possible for the Community to do much more than it is likely to be doing if, to those decisions which have already been taken by the Council, we add the assumption that positive decisions will be taken on those proposals already submitted to it by the Commission. It is true that the Community's per capita wealth is, of course, far higher than that of developing countries. But leaving aside the problems of political leadership involved in getting our populations voluntarily to accept severe sacrifices in their living standards, or their expected future living standards, on top of those involuntary ones which have recently arrived, there is also the problem of financial responsibility. Our wealth depends on our economic activity, but much more than our own wealth depends on the survival of this activity and the survival of the world monetary system. There must be a limit to which it is responsible for the Community to extend its commitments to advance financial gifts and loans at a time when it is, or it may be, in search of substantial funds itself to finance survival of its own economic activity. I think, therefore, that we must be approaching the moment when we shall have to seek to consolidate and to main tain our present levels of assistance rather than to extend them.

I should just like to say something, since the matter has been raised, on the question of food aid. I think there is a fallacy behind the argument of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, on this. I do not see how you can criticise the Community for giving food in aid on the grounds that they had the food to give. If they had not had the food to give, the aid could not have been given. Although it is correct that the long-term solution must be to stimulate the food producing capacity in the developing countries, nevertheless there was at Rome general agreement that for some time food aid will be needed, and therefore it is important for the Community to try to maintain its activity in this field.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, doubted the efficiency of the Community's system of distribution of food and suggested that perhaps more use might be made of other mechanisms. I have not had an opportunity to check what are the figures for the Community's current distribution in food aid. There are two forms of food aid programme: there is the regular food aid programme, which I think involves something of the order of 1 million tons of wheat and some other products as well, and there is the emergency food aid programme. Of all Community food aid, something under half, I think 45 per cent., is distributed at Community level, so that the Community cannot be without experience already in this field. I know that under their emergency food aid programme they have assisted a number of different countries, certainly Bangladesh in the past; very recently they have established an emergency system to assist Somalia. I know last year they did so in the case of the Sahel, and I know personally that that aid was very much appreciated. Surely it must be right to build up a single centralised system and, if necessary, make that more efficient rather than rely on a number of different national systems.

If noble Lords can bear with me, I should like to say something about how the European Parliament is involved in the Community's development policy and in the Association, because this may be of interest to noble Lords, some others of whom may, I hope, one day find themselves involved. First, there is a Parliamentary Committee, the Committee on Development and Co-operation, which meets once every two or three weeks in Brussels. In addition, we currently have a Working Party, meeting rather less frequently, and composed of a small number of members out of this Committee, studying the question of how the Community's overall development policy—that is, beyond the framework of the Association, a matter very much of interest to this country—should be developed. Then within the framework of the Association we have the Joint Committee. This is composed of one representative from each of the African Associated States and an equivalent number from the European Parliament's Development Committee. This Joint Committee currently works three times a year, alternating between Europe and Africa, for what is usually a 3-day session. Then, once a year, immediately following one of the meetings of the Joint Committee, which will have prepared its work, there takes place the Joint Parliamentary Conference which will be attended by between 50 and 60 members of the European Parliament, and again an equivalent number from African States, and these sessions also alternate, like the Joint Committee, between Africa and Europe.

In addition to being a member of the Development Committee and the Working Party, I have had the good fortune to be a member for the last two years of these two institutions of the Association, and from my experience I feel bound to say that, having started from a position of considerable scepticism, I have become convinced of the great value they have for the contacts they provide between working European politicians and their African counterparts. The Joint Committee has been particularly successful in the amicable and frank relationships it has established between the two groups, who have come to know each other well. Institutions like these have become, as I see it, an extremely important means for European Parliamentarians to monitor the consequences of Europe's development policies and to make a contribution towards planning their future direction, and I think that we should think very carefully, in a time of international upheaval, before we dispense with any such instruments of international contact and co-operation as these.

It would be difficult to adapt these institutions to the greater numbers of the new Association, but I think that Her Majesty's Government should use the influence they have to see that they are continued in the future in as close a form as is practicable to what they now are. These institutions are what I have said they are. They are not a trap of a neo-Colonialist kind which seeks to lure developing countries into the acceptance of situations they wish to be free to protest about. These institutions do not inhibit any member from adopting or expressing any opinion at all, whether inside or outside those meetings. Her Majesty's Government should seek to allay the suspicions which are known to exist among some of the associables with regard to these institutions, and I suggest that they should argue that whereas these may be institutions which have not hitherto been traditional to the British pattern of relationships with Commonwealth countries, nevertheless Her Majesty's Government for their part are now sufficiently satisfied on the evidence they have, evidence based on the unqualified support for these institutions from all who have taken part in them, both Europeans and Africans, as to believe in their value.

To summarise, may I say that whereas I believe the Community's original development policy and its development attitude was often unfairly called into question, nevertheless I think that since the accession of the United Kingdom great strides have been taken towards broadening that policy in the direction that the present Government and the previous Government wanted. Proposals now lie before the Council which would carry Community policy almost to the limit of what could now be within its means. If in the next few months the ACP negotiations are successfully concluded; if there is a sugar agreement; if there is an agreement on the Commission's food aid proposals, or at least some steps are taken towards meeting the Commission's position; if the conditions are fulfilled which would enable another payment to be made under the Cheysson Fund; if a step can be agreed towards establishing a fund for financial and technical assistance outside the framework of Association, something very much desired by Her Majesty's Government (and if I may say so in parenthesis, their proposal that this fund should be the same size as the next European Development Fund is probably beyond the financial means of the Community at the present time, although it is a good principle), then I think that we, in this country, shall have very little left to complain about. Indeed we shall have considerable cause for satisfaction in the rapid adaptation of Community policy in the field of development which will have taken place to accommodate our needs, our views, and our historic obligations.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he would like to develop for a moment one policy about which there seemed to be a slight difference between the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and himself? Would he consider in this matter of the organisation of, say, an EEC food programme, that there would be a future in a system by which there was a certain amount of planning jointly in Brussels, and an allocation of functions between members, which would enable the whole thing to get started rather quicker than if it were done either nationally or centrally?


My Lords, I am not sure that the main criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, was on the speed with which the mechanism was able to respond. I think in the most recent instance of an appeal being made to the Community for aid, the delay has been caused not at all by a failure of the mechanisms of the Commission, but of the Council to arrive at an agreement as to whether it wished to respond and, if so, to what extent. As in most instances of where, and where not, progress is being made in the Community, you will probably find that most delays are caused by the Council and not by any other institution of the Community.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, as has been said already, we must all be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan for the opportunity to discuss this extremely important subject. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, that it is vitally important to us in Europe that the standard of living, health, and industry rises in the Third World. First, in a world as rich as ours, it is an appalling affront to our consciences that the Third World should be populated by so many people near to death, so many people actually dying of starvation. Secondly, and perhaps more cynically, a richer Third World will buy more of our goods, in turn raising our own standards of living and improving our own economy.

We have heard a lot of details about the Community's development policies and aid policies. There are two vital aspects of these aid and trade policies that, as yet, have not been mentioned. Not only is it better to give than to receive, but it is also easier. We know from examples how difficult it is in this country to persuade some people to accept their rights under various social security legislation. Yesterday, for instance, I heard a woman who said, "I don't want people in the village to know that I receive cheap butter tokens."

This might sound a slight digression, but, after all, there was a similar reaction by the former Ethiopian authorities to the ghastly drought that took place there. When one becomes a newly independent Power, it is often difficult for the authorities to swallow their pride and admit that things in their own countries are not going as well as they have told their own people and the outside world. Consequent upon that failure to admit that there was a problem in Ethiopia, thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of people died unnecessarily. How can we prevent this sort of thing happening again? Can the EEC, or Her Majesty's Government, or both, try to get better advance warning of these situations?

Added to that section of the problem is the difficulty of honestly administering aid and investment in most parts of Asia and Africa. On September 6, the Far East Economic Review published a series of articles entitled, "Graft; Almost a Way of Life". Some of these examples are worth quoting, and would be very funny if they were not so debilitating for the countries concerned. With our recent experience in the North-East of England, and the present difficulties of the administration in Hong Kong, we must admit that our standards are not up to the ideal that they should be, and of course the happenings in the United States have been very far from edifying. Will the right honourable lady, Mrs. Judith Hart, in her estimable efforts to get the EEC's aid programme increased, please bear in mind this corruption issue, and see what she, or the EEC can do?

Tony Hagan, who is the first director of the United Nations Relief Organisation, observed that in Bangladesh only one in seven tins of relief baby food reached its intended destination, and only one in 13 blankets reached its intended destination. The rest, as the expression goes, "Fell off the back of a lorry on the way". This is really quite intolerable. For myself, I hate giving taxes, or having them given for me by Her Majsty's Government, to provide cream for the fat cats in the underdeveloped world. I should like Her Majesty's Government to give—and it gives me pleasure to say this—aid which will really relieve, and which will really advance the people who so desperately need it.

The National Awami Party rule the Northern frontier province of Pakistan, and to improve Party funds they sell permission to the Pathans to buy arms. Arms licences have been bought so regularly, that one rustic Pathan had his application approved to buy a Sherman tank. The bribe was automatic, and the application was not even read. Further, in Pakistan a job of station master changed hands for up to 300,000 rupees. No genuine tickets were sold for three months, but half-price tickets were sold and bought from obliging ticket clerks who, in turn, paid the station master.

When the charitable organisations know what is going on in the countries concerned they cannot really publish it, for if the person who generously gives, because he is moved by the suffering of the people concerned, thinks that six out of seven tins of baby food will be "flogged" by somebody in Bangladesh as opposed to going to babies who need them, or 12 out of 13 blankets will be "flogged" in Bangladesh as opposed to going to those who need them, then those one out of seven tins of baby food and one out of 13 blankets will not be forthcoming.


My Lords, just in case the position of charity orgisation may be misunderstood, may I say that the one I am interested in invariably administers its own aid in countries of this kind for this reason.


My Lords, that is very good to hear, but, as I said, I am quoting from this article which is in an authoritative book. I think the noble Lord will realise that there is some force in what I am trying to say; at least, I hope he does.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Earl, but having met the High Commissioner for Bangladesh last night, and having heard the noble Earl's indication that this corruption is happening in Bangladesh, may I say that the High Commissioner last night denied that such corruption was taking place. No doubt the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who is dealing with corruption at rather great length, may wish to give examples of corruption in developed countries as well as in developing countries.


My Lords, first, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, ever hesitates to interrupt me, because he has done it frequently before. Secondly, I think I said that our own position is not as white as it should be. People in Birmingham and the North-East of England have been sent to prison, and there have been cases in the United States. I am not criticising here from a holier than thou point of view; I am trying to put forward a point which I hope concerns a lot of other people. I shall give the article to the noble Lord and then make sure that he gives it back to the Library from where I got it.

In the Sahelian drought area the lorries donated by the British taxpayer are reputed to be owned by one of the local residents who uses them for her own I profit. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, could confirm that point to me. If it is not true then I unreservedly would withdraw the accusation. But it has a terrible ring of truth about it. What relief in this area is getting through on some of these lorries? The driver, perhaps naturally, gives some of the sacks of food to his friends and" relations who are starving and sells a little extra along the way. We cannot possibly blame that man when he sees what is going on in what I believe in Tanzania were called the Wah-Benzi tribe, or the tribe who drove Mercedes.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord in his amusing excursions, but could he give some constructive suggestions as to what should be done about the problem to which he has referred, instead of merely dilating for a long time on these horror stories illustrated for the benefit of your Lordships without coming forward with any positive suggestions, in which case I shall have to move that he be no longer heard?


Why?—to start with. But do not interrupt me again. The reason why I am producing these details is to ask Her Majesty's Government, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, whether they have any suggestions to make. What I am saying is that this is the situation and it is one that must be borne in mind. It seems to me something of vital importance.

My Lords, I am acutely aware that this corruption is a horrifyingly difficult problem—I am coming to it now—in countries with long traditions of it, perhaps broken in some cases only by brief intervals of honest colonial rule. If all the money that had stuck to the wrong fingers in the last 20 years had been properly invested in the aid and in the industries of the countries concerned, the situation would be infinitely less depressing than it is at the moment. I ask the Government, and especially the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, whether they have any ideas on what can be done about it. I know it is asking far too much for it to be stopped and I know that we do not have it in our power so to do, but let us try to mitigate this problem as much as possible.


My Lords, surely the noble Lord feels himself to be under an obligation, as he has been making these allegations, to come forward with some constructive solutions. Does he really think it fair to make these allegations and criticisms, which may or may not be true—no doubt some are true and I am sure that he has looked into the problem thoroughly—without coming forward himself with proposals as to what should be done?


Yes, my Lords.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that my own intervention will be as brief and as concise as the last one. We must all feel grateful to my noble friend Lord O'Hagan for raising this important matter and to all those noble Lords who have contributed to this remarkably interesting and informative debate. This Motion is being debated at an important moment in the history of the Community's relations with the developing world. The Motion implies that a good deal is happening and this is very true. I hope to inform your Lordships in some fair detail of what is actually going on. I cannot of course provide a complete picture of what is likely to emerge from all this activity, all these changes that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, described to us in opening the debate.

The picture will be somewhat clearer in the next month or two and no doubt this continuing debate will resurface at a time when it is clearer to all of us what are the practical implications of these changes. May I deal with the more important points raised by various noble Lords during the debate by grouping my remarks under three headings. First, the relations between the EEC and the 45 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which are negotiating association under Protocol 22 of the Treaty of Association. This heading includes the question of sugar. Secondly, the Community's relations with developing countries outside the circle of association. A number of noble Lords addressed themselves almost exclusively to the future relationship with the non-associables. Under this heading I shall be examining, I hope, not only the Community's generalised preference scheme and worldwide aid policy, but also the details of the Community's relations with Commonwealth Asian countries, a point specifically raised by more than one noble Lord.

Finally, I shall be looking briefly at the Community's action in various multilateral contexts, such as GATT, the multilateral trade negotiations and the World Food Council. First, the Protocol 22 negotiations. Noble Lords will recall that at the ministerial conference in Kingston last July, the EEC and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries agreed that negotiations under Protocol 22 should be concluded substantially by the end of this month. This is going to be a rather difficult target but we are making every effort to achieve this result. After the Council on November 12, there remained one or two issues on which there is still no agreement within the Community. We hope that these will be cleared up in time for a further ministerial level conference with the EEC countries at which, we trust, final agreement will be reached.

Her Majesty's Government continue to believe that the successful conclusion of the Protocol 22 negotiations offers the best chance of meeting the interests of the developing countries concerned, including the 22 Commonwealth countries, and we are pressing for their conclusion on a satisfactory basis. Although it is too early to give noble Lords details of the arrangements negotiated, I am glad to say that the Community has now accepted that the developing countries concerned will not be required to open their markets to the Community on a preferential basis in return for the preference which they enjoy in the Community market. This was one of the conditions which my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary attached to the Protocol 22 negotiations during his renegotiation statement in Luxembourg on June 4. This I think disposes of the point which one noble Lord made about a difference of view between members of the Community in regard to non-reciprocity. It is a fact that there was a difference between Britain and France and some other member States on the question of reciprocity. This was so, but the Community agreed at Kingston that the EEC will not expect reciprocity from the ACP countries. I am sure that the noble Lord who raised this point will be as delighted as I that this is Community policy.

This brings me to the question of future arrangements for imports of sugar from the developing Commonwealth, also a matter that has been dealt with in the Protocol 22 negotiations. As your Lordships' House are aware, the Government are determined to secure access for 1.4 million tons of Commonwealth sugar at a fair price and on a continuing basis. As I indicated in my Statement to the House on November 13, the Community has already agreed that access should be for 1.4 million tons of sugar. The great bulk of this—practically all of it—will be exported in accordance with traditional patterns of trade, that is, to be refined in this country. A further meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers took place in Brussels on November 18 and 19—that is to say, yesterday and the day before—and my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food hopes to make a Statement on this in another place shortly. No doubt that Statement will be repeated in your Lordships' House. I therefore cannot anticipate the content of what is bound to be a fairly comprehensive Statement as a result of the discussions which have been going on this week in Brussels. We hope that the negotiations can be concluded as soon as possible so that the supplying countries may have a clearer idea of their future position in the Community market, and so that one of the uncertainties surrounding sugar supplies to the United Kingdom can be cleared up, this being an advantage both to our housewives and to an important processing industry in this country.

Since we are talking of changes in the Community's policy towards the developing world, perhaps I should take the opportunity to mention one significant aspect of the Protocol 22 negotiations which is sometimes overlooked. It has been mentioned in this debate, and I am very glad that it has. It is the participation in the negotiations of all the independent black African States. The point has been well made not only that this is politically important but that it will help to overcome the artificial divisions in Africa created by differing colonial histories, and will also contribute to a more rational economic development of that continent. I will not pursue that point, but will say that I respond very warmly to the fact that it has been made in this debate. It is of great importance, not only to Africa but to the Community and, I think, to the rest of the world as a hopeful sign of regional unity which contributes to a larger Community.

I now turn to the question of the Community's relations with the rest of the developing world; that is, the non-associables. At this point I should like to remind your Lordships of our renegotiation objectives. Broadly, these are that non-associable developing countries should enjoy better access to the Community market and that financial and technical aid for the associated developing countries should be balanced by similar Community aid for non-associated countries allocated on the basis of their needs. I am very glad to say that there is evidence of change also in this area. A number of noble Lords pinpointed this: that as we expand the practice and the psychology of the Community in this field of endeavour we should try increasingly to get a balance between our treatment of the associated countries and of those outside the circle of association. There is evidence that there is steady change in this area.

On the aid side, I, too, would pay warm tribute to the efforts of my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development. Thanks to her efforts, the EEC has now agreed, by the resolution of July 16, the principle of financial and technical aid for the benefit of developing countries outside the circle of association. There is of course some way to go to ensure that this is translated into concrete financial terms. We have asked—and this is the answer to some noble Lords who have pressed this point—for a broad 50–50 division. This is not dogmatism: it is a good basis on which to discuss the broad division of aid and of assistance as between two broad groups of developing countries. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, who raised the question of the conditional nature of the EEC offer of 500 million dollars to the United Nations Special Fund. The answer is that the conditions imposed by the Community have been effective in producing contributions by other developed countries and oil-producing countries. I think the noble Earl was with me in this, that he seeks to illuminate the point, a useful point, that by making this condition, not in a hostile way but in a bargaining way, the effect has been, and probably will be—I say this hopefully but with some confidence—that a great deal more money than this sum will be attracted from sources possibly rather richer than this.

Further on the aid point, the Community has also agreed to the release of 150 million dollars of the funds thus conditionally offered towards the United Nations emergency measures in favour of developing countries—those most affected, as we have heard this afternoon once more, by the rise in oil and other raw material prices. There is now considerable urgency that this money should begin to flow, and we are pressing for this. I will not detain your Lordships by a detailed statement of how the first tranche has been made available, and in what way we are endeavouring to speed its practical application as effectively as possible, but there is now a sense of urgency about the need to put this money to effective use. At our request the Commission has now produced a Paper on possible future developments in the Community's aid policy. In it, the Commission recognises the overwhelming need for a Community aid programme of the kind for which we are pressing—a balanced programme resting on the principle of need. We hope that on the basis of this Paper and the Community's agreement to the principle of such aid, the Community will take decisions in the near future which will meet our aim of a more balanced Community aid effort.

On the trade side, progress has been made towards improving the situation for the non-associated developing countries, especially those in Asia. A trade agreement between the Community and India came into force on April 1, 1974, and the Community recently opened negotiations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with a view to concluding trade arrangements with these countries. I have a very long list of specific commodities here which perhaps I might, possibly in response to a Question for Written Answer, circulate for the information of the House. I think it would detain the House unduly on matters of detail if I attempted to give this information specifically to-day. It is too early to comment in any detail on these arrangements, but I am hopeful that it will not be too long before the negotiations are brought to a successful conclusion. That is in response to the fairly general feeling expressed in this debate that not only should we press forward with meaningful agreements with countries like India but should also base similar agreements on our experience in negotiating that particular agreement. This is in fact how the Community, and certainly we ourselves, see the future in that part of the world.

It is of course in the context of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences—GSP—that the main scope lies for improving the situation for those developing countries which have not been offered association. At the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting on November 12, general agreement was reached on the scheme for 1975. Substantial improvements were secured at the meeting, many of which will be of great benefit to the developing countries in Asia, particularly those in the Commonwealth. And we must not forget Latin America. Here again, the value of a debate like this is that it brings up very important points which sometimes tend to be overlooked. I have had the feeling for some years that we and the other democratic countries of Europe have not paid as much attention as we should have to Latin America. The Generalised Preference Scheme is, by definition, generalised, universal and intended to benefit virtually all developing countries, and we are determined that the improvement should not end here. The GSP is reviewed every year and at subsequent reviews we shall be pressing very hard for a further significant improvement with a view to the progressive abolition of the various restrictions over several years—a policy which will delight the heart of the noble Lord who speaks on these matters on behalf of the Liberal and, presumably, the expanding free trade position.

My Lords, it is largely at our instance that the Community has agreed that there should be a thorough-going discussion in the Council on the general strategy for the development of the Community's GSP. This is the liberalising process. Admittedly it is as yet within a regional context but it is a large and, I would say, an expanding context and to that extent very warmly to be welcomed and promoted. It is expected that this discussion will take place early in the New Year and we also wish to use it to end particular discriminations which still come up within the generally beneficent trend of liberalisation of generalised preferences. I refer in particular to Hong Kong. It is true that this year we have been able to get a very substantial concession in regard to footwear, but we are disappointed that we were not able to get a concession in regard to textiles. However, in the New Year the discussions will provide us with an opportunity to argue strongly for the end of discrimination of that sort so that, in 1976 if not in 1975, the arrangements will be so changed as to get rid of it finally.

The Community is also playing a full part in attempts to solve the problems of developing countries on a multilateral basis. I refer to the GATT, to the multilateral trade negotiations which are due to begin in Geneva in the New Year, and which will provide a unique opportunity for combating pressures which are growing up in world trade. These are pressures which would particularly harm the interests of developing countries. The Community's mandate for these negotiations is in preparation, but one of the sections of the draft mandate is specifically concerned with the problems of developing countries as a whole, not just those countries with which the Community has had special relations.

Finally, I turn to the points made by a number of noble Lords this afternoon about the World Food Conference and food aid. I am glad to say that the Community as a whole has shown a positive approach to the World Food Conference and has agreed to organise its future food aid in a manner better suited to the requirements of the recipients—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, put with great force and cogency. Member States also agreed that the only viable long-term solution to world food problems is to increase production in developing countries. There is absolutely no doubt that we need effective emergency programmes and procedures to go with them, though I would commend what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, had to say on this score from his very great experience. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, would wish to reflect on what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, had to say about this.

The fact is that a variety of methods exist of moving food and medicines to where they need to go. One must not be too technically dogmatic about this. One could go on instancing situations in which immediate bilateral national efforts and arrangements were effective. Then there are situations in which the United Nations method, which is a proven one, is best, and of course it is undoubtedly a fact that the Community has something to offer in regard to machinery as well as resources in this matter. However, this is not a matter about which to be unduly dogmatic. We must study all these methods of delivery in emergencies and, as I think, stand ready to approve and use whichever is best in the situation.

My Lords, the Member States have indeed shown a really new awareness both of the immediate urgency of the situation in many parts of the world—particularly the countries which were mentioned by noble Lords who referred to food aid—and also to the need for a long-term policy of consistent production, of conservation, of storage, and of strategic provision, so as to make use of glut, when it occurs, as a solution for famine. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, would join me in delighting in the fact that the United States in particular has used its own abundance very generously and very effectively to relieve real suffering in other parts of the world. One must be thankful that glut does occur, especially in years when we are without its advantages and, indeed, are trying to find the resources to relieve suffering in a situation where there is a shortage of production.

My Lords, there is much that one could say and many points which I have not been able to touch on. For instance, there is the point about the emphasis placed by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, on technical assistance. In all this talk of aid and emergency aid, particularly in regard to food, one must always remember that the long-term key to the situation must lie in technical assistance which enables chronically underprivileged and suffering countries to help themselves. We must help them to help themselves and also of course we must move in without any question of expecting them to do very much when there is a real crisis such as that which some countries are suffering at the moment.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could possibly answer the question of which I gave him prior notice about Britain's contribution to the EDF? I think this is rather important.


Yes, indeed, my Lords. I was casting about for an opportunity to do precisely this: as a result of the relief which the noble Earl has afforded me by his intervention, I have been able to put my finger on the holy writ. It is too early to say how large the next EDF will be. The Community's offer will be decided by the Council, but a number of States agree that the Fund must be large enough to provide, first, advantages for the old associates which are comparable to what they enjoyed in the past; and, secondly, equal treatment for new associates, including of course the Commonwealth countries.

As to how much we can contribute as a country, bearing in mind one or two references to our, we hope, temporary preoccupations with our own economic situation, as voiced by, for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, I have this to say. Britain's contribution to Community aid, including the EDF, will be found from the aid programme. We believe that it will be possible to meet this contribution out of a rising aid budget without cutting back existing bilateral aid programmes. I think the noble Lord will perhaps be satisfied, at least for the moment, with that statement. He may wish to come back to this matter. I shall certainly want to watch it very closely.

I would not wish to see bilateral aid being trimmed in order to show that an extra amount was being made available under the EDF. That would be misleading and unfair to countries which are expecting more rather than less from the richer countries. However, this country must do what it can, always bearing in mind that its own strength and potential must be safeguarded, so that it is enabled, both as a country in its own right and as a member State of a wider Community, increasingly to assist others less well off.

I leave that point there and will conclude very quickly with references to the two final speeches we heard. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rcay, that compassion must be combined with common sense. There is no doubt about the will of the people and the Government of this country to do everything possible in this field. We have heard from more than one noble Lord that it is often a question of procedures and machinery, as well as of resources.

This brings me to the final speech that we heard—a speech to which I listened with very grave attention—in which the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, referred to the undoubted fact that in this of all fields there is far too much corruption. Those of us who recall the end of the Second World War and what happened then in Central Europe, not only with food but with medical supplies and the deprivation of children, are deeply concerned that there should be even a minimal amount of "wide boy activities" when millions of people, including children, are starving to death. It is right that we should be reminded of that kind of consideration.

It is also right, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, said, that when there are instances of this sort they should be brought to the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and I personally should be very glad to look at any evidence of this kind of misapplication of aid, especially concerning food and medical supplies. It is also right that not only the noble Earl but also the rest of us should be constantly thinking of constructive ways in which this kind of activity can be kept to a minimum—I do not suppose it can ever be stamped out completely—and how positive action of a better kind can overwhelm it.

My Lords, I welcome this debate. I have taken note of everything that has been said. There were a number of points with which I should have liked to deal in addition to the ones I have covered. But I think, on the whole, that the main points of concern and suggestion made during the debate have been covered by what I have said. As I said at the beginning, this is a continuing debate because this is a continuing problem and opportunity.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank all those who have spoken in this debate for their very realistic suggestions and contributions. Sometimes in debates of this kind we stray too far into the stratosphere without coming down to earth, but certain noble Lords ensured that we stayed very close to the ground and I believe that was well worth doing.

I think all speakers have shown that the merging of traditions of the new member States with their Third World responsibility, with the traditions of the old member States, with their responsibility to the Third World, can be a constructive process and of benefit to all countries, both those which are developing and those which have developed. Perhaps the economic centre of gravity has shifted now, as several speakers have reminded us, but this does not stop people in this country continuing to be aware of their responsibilities to the wider world, and this has been given a new opportunity of expressing itself through our membership of the Community. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.