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Economic Development: Global Negotiations

Volume 414: debated on Thursday 6 November 1980

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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 on what grounds they are opposing the framework of the global round of negotiations on international economic co-operation for development.

My Lords, we worked hard at the recent United Nations Special Session to find an acceptable framework for the global negotiations. However, we were unable to agree on the procedures eventually proposed. We judged that they did not sufficiently protect the integrity of the United Nations specialised agencies. The United States and the Federal Republic of Germany took the same view. Discussion will shortly resume at the General Assembly. We hope that it will come to an early and successful conclusion.

My Lords, was this not a modified proposal made by the developing nations, in a sincere effort to try to break the deadlock of the last seven years? Was it not supported by every delegation, except the United States, West Germany and, I thought, a rather reluctant Britain? Did not the supporters include all the rest of Europe, the Soviet Union, China and Japan? Can I have an assurance that the Government will do their utmost in the General Assembly, and at the summit conference next year, to make a beginning to end the hunger of one-third of the world's population?

My Lords, we shall certainly be ready to play our part when the General Assembly resumes shortly to consider this matter. That will be on 17th November. But I do not think it would be helpful for me to speculate now on the chances of success.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister three questions which relate directly to the preparation for global negotiations? First, when the Vienna conference meets tomorrow, is it the case that Britain will not be present? Secondly, is it the case that there has been a much heavier cut in development aid than in any other aspect of Government expenditure in this country? Thirdly, is it the case that this policy of the British Government has been successively criticised and condemned by the Commonwealth finance Ministers, by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth organisation and, finally, by the President of the World Bank?

My Lords, if I may say so, all that goes rather wide of the Question on the Order Paper. But it is true that there is a sponsors meeting in Vienna on 7th and 8th November to discuss the timing, agenda and participation of the North-South summit. But the countries attending that meeting are co-sponsors.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether it is not the case that the real objection to this proposal, particularly by the United States of America, was not to the procedures, but to the proposal for the restructuring of the International Monetary Fund? May I also ask the Minister this question: Did not the terms of reference include "energy and resource transfers", and has there not been a developed attitude by the OPEC countries towards aid to the third world, supported by Algeria, Venezuela, Kuwait and, sympathetically, by Saudi Arabia? Does this not give hope of some settlement of this problem, if we have the co-operation of the three dissentient Governments?

My Lords, again, if I may say so, the question of OPEC aid goes rather wide of the Question on the Order Paper. But as for the earlier part of the noble Lord's supplementary, we think that the specialised agencies have shown that they are capable of evolving to cope successfully with changing needs. We do not believe that any other body could have the skill or the expertise to make decisions on matters for which they are responsible.

My Lords, with respect, the noble Lord the Minister did not, by any means, fully answer my Question. Why is it that the British Government will be absent from the conference in Vienna in the next two days, when most of the industrial countries, who, incidentally, have promised increased aid, will be present?

My Lords, why is the noble Lord so coy at expressing the view that Britain may have some reluctance in arranging for other people to spend our money?

My Lords, with respect, I think that that, as the noble Lord's supplementaries sometimes are, is an over-simplification.