Argentina (Bank Loan)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1983.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow 12:00 am, 24th March 1983

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has given any advice to British banks about their involvement in a consortium of foreign banks which is seeking to negotiate the new medium term loan to Argentina following the Argentine decision to suspend repayment on nearly £1,000 million of its foreign debt.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

No, Sir. This must be a matter for the individual banks concerned. The swap facilities, to which I assume the hon. Gentleman refers in the latter part of his question, form part of the foreign debt obligations of Argentina which are the subject of negotiations currently in progress between that country and international banks.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that there are no conditions attached to the loan to prevent the Argentine Government from using it to purchase arms, and that recently the Almirante Brown has been delivered, replete with British components, along with 70 Mirage III or Dagger jet fighters? Numerous other items are on order. Is it not a disgrace that the Government are prepared to finance the rearming of Fascist Argentina?

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

The part of the hon. Gentleman's question relating to Argentina's recent acquisition of frigates is not a matter for the Treasury—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] There is no shortage of arms sellers around the world. We would not deny the Argentines the opportunity of purchasing arms by driving Argentina into default.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

Really. What a disgrace.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

It is clear that this loan is an integral part of the IMF programme for Argentina which puts tight controls on Argentina's public finances. If Argentina diverted money to buy more arms that could jeopardise the IMF programme and hence Argentina's ability for future drawings.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

On the more general point, is it the Government's view that no one economy can be allowed to disintegrate without a substantial knock-on effect on its neighbours and, ultimately, on the whole international economic scene? In those circumstances, does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have no alternative but to pursue their policies irrespective of their views of the regime in Buenos Aires?

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

My hon. Friend is entirely right. We are a major trading nation and we depend upon exports for a larger proportion of our total output than do most other major trading nations and upon a steady expansion of international trade. A default that was triggered in Argentina by a failure to resolve the immediate problems of Argentina's indebtedness could have repercussions in other countries and serious implications for international trade that would be seriously to our disadvantage.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

To borrow the Minister's graphic phrase of last year, is not this a mug's game?

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

No, Sir. It would be a mug's game to perform otherwise.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

If Argentina were to default, would that not mean that British banks would have to write off considerable loans? [Interruption.] Before the Opposition jump for joy, will my hon. Friend confirm that the effect would be a reduction in their capital base which would mean that they would find difficulty in lending to domestic companies? Would that not mean a reduction in jobs?

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

I think that the hon. Gentleman is a merchant banker.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The propositions advanced by the Opposition would be damaging to international trade and to the structure of international banking and would ultimately have repercussions on employment.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of Tuesday's report in the Financial Times, that despite Argentina's reduction in interest arrears, the conditions for the $1.5 billion loan have not yet been settled? As the Prime Minister has stated categorically that the money is not being lent to purchase armaments, why is that not to be a condition of the loan?

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , Knutsford

As the right hon. Gentleman knows well, international arms trading is conducted on credit which is not necessarily pervious to the consequences of such banking negotiations. All the arrangements that are being conducted by the IMF are designed to ensure that Argentina, like other countries with debt problems, pursues correction policies that will enable it to settle its debts and not involve itself in additional outgoings that it could not meet.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Harlow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of that disgraceful Pontius Pilate-like reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. There can be no further point of order on that point of order except to the extent that it was not expressed in the usual language.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I intend to raise this matter tonight on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.