asked the Minister for Overseas Development what recent consultations she has had with the Development Ministers of other member States of the European Economic Community.
Mr. Jan Pronk, Netherlands Minister for Development Co-operation, and I have had discussions in London. Last week I met Ministers from the other Community member States at the Council of Development Ministers in Brussels. I shall have discussions with my Italian colleague this week in Rome. I hope soon to accept an invitation to meet my French colleague in Paris.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can she tell the House anything of the discussion in the Development Council about the pros and cons of various means of assistance by the EEC to the Third World, particularly the pros and cons of the STABEX scheme and other alternatives such as the Common Fund, which, I believe, was discussed at the Council of Ministers yesterday?
On the two latter points, the House will await with interest the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in a few minutes. I can tell my hon. Friend that we made a certain amount of progress. For example, we agreed the criteria for the distribution of food aid, although there are more matters to be resolved there. On disaster relief, we took a further step forward on co-ordination and agreed that on a case-by-case basis we could cover both man-made and natural disasters. We made what I regarded as a significant degree of progress on aid to non-associated countries, but we have to return to that matter at the next Development Council.
Has the Minister—or her predecessor, bearing in mind that she has only fairly recently resumed office—taken any initiative regarding the proposals for the development of a fund for commodity stabilisation? Or has her Department, as I fear, merely hidden behind West Germany and the United States, following whichever way they led?
The hon. Gentleman would be wrong to suppose that. My Ministry is deeply concerned and involved in the interdepartmental discussions on these and other matters which affect the North-South dialogue and the current discussions in Geneva. I think that the hon. Gentleman will have observed that there has been an agreed Community position, particularly on the Common Fund, which took us a good way forward from Nairobi last April. But there may be something of interest in the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.