HL Deb 16 July 1981 vol 422 cc1377-9

3.27 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

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 what policy they intend to adopt at the Mexico Summit Conference on the Brandt Commission Report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Government have welcomed the Brandt Commission report. We shall take it into account in our preparations for the Mexico Summit where we hope there will be a full and informal discussion of the many issues involved.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that outside this country—indeed in some parts of this country—there is a firm conviction that this Government are opposed to the recommendations of the Brandt Commission report as shown in the conferences in Venice and New York last year and in the very cold terms of the Foreign Office the official response to the report published just 12 months ago? Is he further aware that at the Ottawa conference the Canadians are taking the lead in trying to stimulate western positive response to the Brandt Commission report in preparation for the Mexico conference? Will he tell the House, on behalf of the Government, whether the Government accept the core of the Brandt Commission report—the core being the interdependence of nations throughout the world with the inevitable consequence that the recovery of the British economy depends upon the kind of measures that have been put forward by the Brandt Commission which, included a former Conservative Prime Minister?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the views of the noble Lord on the Brandt Commission report, I would think, were now almost as well known as those of the Government. I have certainly repeated the Government's view on the Brandt Commission report on a number of occasions from this Box. As the noble Lord said, the Government's view has also been published in various documents presented to Committees in the other place and elsewhere. We have welcomed the Brandt Commission report. We share its concern about the problems of the developing world and we shall continue to contribute to a wide range of international action designed to help developing countries.

Lord Harmar Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is not to be against the principles of the Brandt Report to remind any Government that it is full of generalities, and to accept it as though it is a blueprint may well alter the approach to the real priorities that face any Government which want to remedy the inequality of conditions throughout the world?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the fact is, of course, that, as my noble friend has rightly pointed out, the Brandt Report is a very long and comprehensive document. It is not possible to give a response to that document in one sentence.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the report is full of particularities as distinct from generalities and it is to some of these particular matters that have been raised that some particular response is required?

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, indeed, my Lords, and the Government have expressed a view about some of the particular points and have expressed reservations about others.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, while welcoming the changed attitude of the Government towards the Brandt Report, as indicated by the earlier appalling paper they issued on the subject, may I ask the Minister this: Will our representative at the Ottawa Conference seek to secure a new approach to this problem which has meant North-South dialogue for eight years, with an increasing gulf between them? Will the Government make an effort at the Ottawa Conference to get the heads of the Western nations really to approach this issue in a different way?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the change to which the noble Lord referred in the Government's attitude towards the Brandt Report is, I am afraid, confined to the mind of the noble Lord. As for the Ottawa Conference, that is another matter.

Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he really cannot get away with that? The Government's response, as he perfectly well knows—does he not?—was originally extremely cold, as my noble friend has said. We do very much welcome the increase in wisdom of the Government at the moment. Is the noble Lord aware that the world outside, though at first shocked by the Government's initial response, is now beginning to see that they can sometimes learn by experience?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am happy to accept the congratulations of the noble Baroness upon our current policy, but the difference that she sees between that and the earlier one is largely confined to people's minds.

Lord Oram

My Lords, will the noble Lord recall that a few weeks ago there took place in these buildings one of the most massive lobbies on the Brandt Report that I can recall on any subject, having been either in this Chamber or in the other Chamber for the last quarter of a century? Will he and his colleagues, in approaching the Mexico Conference, realise that if they can take a more positive attitude than has been indicated so far they will have the support of an important section of public opinion led, I am glad to say, by Church representatives?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we have always welcomed, and I repeat our welcome now, public expression of opinion on these matters and public discussion on these matters. The lobby to which the noble Lord referred was of course part of that public debate.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether a firm date has been fixed for the Mexico Conference, and, if so, who will represent this country? Will the Foreign Secretary himself be there?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the firm date, I believe, is 29th September but I shall have to check that and let the noble Lord know if I am wrong. Her Majesty's Government will be represented by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is not the noble Lord the Minister aware—and perhaps he will be further aware if he reads Hansard tomorrow—that he has missed the point I was making, as has his noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls? I am not talking simply about aid to the underdeveloped countries; I am asking the noble Lord whether the Government have recognised the core of the Brandt Commission Report, which is interdependence? Also, do the Government recognise that the future of this country, as well as the prosperity of underdeveloped countries, depends upon putting into effect the specific proposals—not the generalities—brought out by the Brandt Commission Report?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, the Brandt Commission Report contains a very large number of specific proposals. We have welcomed many of them and we have expressed reservations about others.