HL Deb 12 June 1980 vol 410 cc571-3

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have concluded their examination of the Brandt Commission Report, and when and in what form they propose to publish their conclusions and proposals for action.


My Lords, we shall very shortly conclude our examination of the Brandt Commission's Report. The Government will hold a debate in another place on the 16th June in the course of which we shall give our considered views.


My Lords, should not the Government already have indicated their views? The term of art "very shortly" is one which implies a lack of urgency in this matter. Do the noble Lord and the Government not realise the extreme urgency of the world trade and economic situation which was so cogently analysed by the Brandt Report, and has not the president of the World Bank, Mr. McNamara, indicated his view that the world situation is even more urgent and grave than is set out in the Brandt Report? In view of that, will the Government treat the matter much more urgently? May I ask, for example, whether the Prime Minister is proposing—as I think she should—to raise these matters at the Venice Summit Meeting today or tomorrow?


My Lords, I hardly think that we are exhibiting lack of urgency when I announced that our conclusions are almost complete and that we shall be giving them in a debate in another place on Monday next. But as for the report itself, of course it is an important report. It contains (if my memory serves me aright) nearly 200 pages and we have been no longer than usual—in fact, rather quicker than usual—in digesting it, absorbing it and coming to our conclusions. As to whether or not the matter will be discussed at Venice, it is possible that it will be raised there but I cannot give an assurance on that.


My Lords, if the matter is not going to be raised in Venice, will the Government see to it that it is raised very urgently at the council meeting of the EEC?


My Lords, I can say that European leaders at their council meeting in Luxembourg on 27th and 28th April noted the significance of the Brandt Report and instructed that it should be taken into account in preparing Community positions on North-South issues.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Brandt Report does not call for urgent consideration; it calls for careful consideration? It covers a very wide field in very loose phraseology. If we are not careful we can find ourselves, out of emotion, led down a road which will take some sorting out later on. That could be the situation if we commit ourselves precipitately.


My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. There are a number of important issues dealt with in the Brandt Commission's Report which need to have, and are receiving, careful consideration. It needs both careful and urgent consideration.


My Lords, is this good enough? If the Brandt Commission's Report or the matters arising from it are to be discussed at Venice during the current conference, would the noble Lord not agree that the Government's views should be put to Parliament before they are put to the Summit Meeting in Venice, in order to avoid the difficulty into which the Foreign Secretary got himself in Naples by announcing a policy which was not then supported by Parliament here?


My Lords, I did not say that our considered views were going to be put to the meeting in Venice. It is, in any event, open to the leaders of every Government to speak frankly with their colleagues when they have these meetings.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the British Parliamentary Group for Population and Development, which is an all-party group of both Houses, has sent a message to the Prime Minister asking whether she will use her powers of initiative at the Venice Summit to get notice taken of the widespread extension of starvation and privation in the world today? There is an urgency about this matter, as my noble friend Lord Oram and others have said, and if time can be devoted to consideration of world affairs at the Venice Summit it will be a great service to humanity.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is quite right.

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