HC Deb 22 July 1974 vol 877 cc1034-6
45. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what pi ogress she has made in her discussions in the EEC Council of Development Ministers on obtaining a world-wide approach to the distribution of aid.

50. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement concerning the recent meeting of EEC Overseas Aid Ministers.

53. Mr. Blaker

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement about the proposed EEC contribution towards the special United Nations Fund for developing countries worst hit by the oil crisis.

The Minister of Overseas Development (Mrs. Judith Hart)

The Development Council that met on 16th July took three important steps. It agreed in principle to financial aid from the Community to non-associated States and it asked the Commission to complete its draft aid framework. I hope and believe that the concept of distributing aid according to need, both within and outside association, is beginning to take root. Thirdly, the Development Council agreed, at my suggestion, to meet again in September to try to reach a decision on the release of the Community's contribution to the United Nations emergency measures. I told the Council that although I thought a Community response would be more effective it was essential that our own contribution should begin to flow by the autumn, if necessary on a bilateral basis. In my view, the urgency of the need will not permit further delay.

Mr. Hooley

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on pressing upon Community Ministers the need to base aid on the criterion of need and not on quirks of history or geography? Will she continue to press that the maximum amount be devoted to international agencies and not on the Common Market special association basis?

Mrs. Hart

As I think my hon. Friend will know, I aim to achieve approximately a 50–50 breakdown of Community aid. It was good to have the resolution on aid to non-associates, but I stress that this nevertheless gives us only a starting point for the real negotiations that I have in mind.

Mr. Blaker

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the emphasis which she places on spreading aid more on a world-wide basis than solely to associate States will be welcome to this side of the House, because it is continuing an emphasis which the previous administration established from our entry into the Community and, indeed, as far back as October 1972? Now that the EEC has agreed in principle, as I understand it, to provide 500 million dollars of aid to the developing countries which are most severely hit, will the right hon. Lady bend her efforts to persuading other members of the United Nations to play their part?

Mrs. Hart

Yes. The virtue of the Community contribution is that, if we can achieve it, it will ensure the maximum contribution from the other European members of the Community. That is why I prefer that as the way of making our contribution. Nevertheless, I think that it is true that there are a number of hurdles to be overcome before we reach that position. One of those is the extent to which other States are prepared to play their part.

Mr. Spearing

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging statement. Did the Ministers discuss the European Development Fund? If they did, did she draw their attention to a certain disequilibrium in the grants within that fund, as noted by the last Parliament's Select Committee on Overseas Aid?

Mrs. Hart

One of my problems in this area is that in a sense one is operating in two arenas of renegotiation. One is the European Council of Development Ministers; the other is the whole area of negotiation concerning Protocol 22 and the European Development Fund. I expect to be in Jamaica later this week on Protocol 22 and European Development Fund matters. These are at an early stage, and it is not possible to envisage exactly how the discussions will develop.