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Select Committee On Commodity Prices

Volume 375: debated on Wednesday 20 October 1976

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3 p.m.

rose to move That the Select Committee on Commodity Prices have power to adjourn from place to place. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will remember that the Select Committee on Commodity Prices was set up in January this year. At that time it was thought unlikely that it would find it necessary to meet elsewhere than in London. It was, however, always understood that it should have the power to adjourn from place to place should the need arise. The Committee is now well advanced in its inquiries and hopes to conclude them in the next two or three months. It now finds it necessary to ask for this power for one specific purpose: this is to enable a quorum of the Committee to travel to Europe for a meeting with the Secretary General of UNCTAD, Mr. Gamani Corea. The bearing of UNCTAD's work on the Committee's remit is self-evident and I am satisfied that the Committee should be allowed the power of travel for this purpose. I hope that the House will agree. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Select Committee on Commodity Prices have power to adjourn from place to place.—( Lord Peart.)

My Lords, when the announcement regarding the appointment of the Committee was first made, it was strongly urged that there would be difficulty in the Committee achieving anything very much unless some firm and constant unit of measurement could be determined and used. The fluctuations in the commodity prices which the Committee was appointed to investigate would have much less, if not little, meaning unless there could be some stable unit against which the fluctuations could be measured. Has any progress been made on that? Also, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is intended that some interim report should be published and, if so, how soon is that report on progress likely to be made?

My Lords, I understand that the Committee is anxious to proceed as quickly as possible and also to have proper discussions, and I believe that what I have suggested is reasonable. The noble Lord, Lord Roberthall, is in his place today and no doubt he can answer detailed questions.

My Lords, can we have information as to the number of members on this Committee? When the matter was originally raised, I believe I asked a question about this journeying from place to place, for commodity prices have more than national ramifications—indeed, they have worldwide ramifications. How far have the members of the Committee to travel and how much will it cost, and is it worth while?

My Lords, I agree that one must be careful about this. There are nine members of the Committee, which is chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall, who is here today. I think that, in the circumstances, it is important that they should go to UNCTAD Headquarters in Geneva. It is not usual for the Secretary General of an international organisation to be summoned to places outside the area where his organisation is sitting. Therefore, I feel that this is reasonable.

My Lords, I think it very unlikely that the Committee will want to use this power except for the purpose already stated by the noble Lord the Leader of the House. We have had great difficulty in getting hold of proper representatives of underdeveloped countries and therefore we attach great importance to being able to see Mr. Corea, who is in a unique position to speak on their behalf. As regards the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, which are not strictly relevant to the Motion proposed by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, we are hoping to make a report in the early months of next year. It is an extremely complicated subject and I do not feel that an interim report would be worth reading.

On Question, Motion agreed to.