The Government have made progress on many fronts, as evidenced most recently in the G8 Birmingham summit communiqué, which encouraged all debtor countries to begin the process of securing debt relief by 2000 and looked forward to the speedy and determined implementation of debt relief in more countries under the highly indebted poor countries initiative.
Real and effective debt relief is essential to countries such as Rwanda and Mozambique to provide them with the opportunity for economic development and social rehabilitation. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the measures promoted by the Government for debt relief will assist those countries in such efforts?
My hon. Friend makes a perceptive point: debt relief is not enough in itself. It might be a necessary precondition for economic growth and development, but it is essential in the long term that the indebted countries implement policies that will lead to economic growth and development, so that they never again return to the high levels of debt that exert such a drag on their economics and create the conditions in which poverty becomes endemic.
I should like to tell my hon. Friend that many people from Bedford and Kempston have told me that they support the Government's commitment to the flexible and speedy implementation of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative—[Interruption.]Unlike some Opposition Members, many people in this country do not find that initiative amusing. Does my hon. Friend agree with those commentators who say that, if only Governments would co-operate more effectively on the initiative, it would be of great benefit to as many as 300 million of the poorest people in the world?
My hon. Friend makes a very valid point, which contrasts with the mocking remarks of Opposition Members. Up to 20,000 people have written to the Treasury in support of the initiatives that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has taken on the Mauritius mandate. It is critical that there is international co-operation on debt relief, and the United Kingdom Government have already established their leadership in seeking to provide assistance to countries, through not only debt relief but export credit guarantees for the next two years, which will allow those countries to work their way through productive expenditure to growth and sustainable development.