HC Deb 06 December 1978 vol 959 cc709-10W
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent conference on the common fund.

Mr. John Smith:

The resumed second session of the common fund conference took place in Geneva from 14th to 30th November. I am pleased to say that, although a number of important issues remain to be resolved, progress was achieved towards consensus on the structure of the fund. In the light of this, it was agreed that the conference should be reconvened before the fifth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Manila in May 1979.

At the end of the session the chairman of the conference, Mr. Walker of Jamaica, circulated his own conclusions on the outcome of the discussions. I am placing a copy of these in the Library of the House. They comprise, under a covering note, a note on the fundamental elements of the common fund (annex I); and a note recording some of the views expressed on financial magnitudes (annex II).

I am also placing in the Library of the House a copy of proposals put forward in the course of the conference by the developed countries of Group B; and of a statement made on behalf of these countries at the end of the session. The statement recognises that Annex I to the chairman's conclusions—which takes substantial account of Group B's own proposals—helps to measure the progress which has been achieved in negotiation; although there are still elements with which the majority of Group B are unable to associate themselves. On annex II, the statement makes clear that Group B has no commitment to the figures proposed.

We worked hard through the conference for a positive outcome. I hope that the next round of negotiations early next year will provide a framework for the drafting of articles of agreement on the fund: we shall be preparing for it on this basis with our partners in OECD and in the European Community.