Third-world Debt

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 March 2001.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South 12:00, 1 March 2001

What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in other countries on the elimination of third-world debt. [150145]

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

On Monday, I was pleased to hear from the head of the International Monetary Fund, Horst Köhler, and the President of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, that following the path-breaking initiative on which we congratulate them, 22 countries are to receive debt relief and will qualify for 100 per cent. write-off of debt owed to the UK. Among those countries still to qualify, many are in conflict and civil war. Britain has renounced from December 2000 its right to debt payments. Those payments will be held in trust until they can be used for poverty relief.

I met the chairman of the heavily indebted poor countries Finance Ministers group on Monday, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and I hosted a conference to discuss the 2015 targets for education, health and poverty. On 17 February, I met the G7 Finance Ministers in Palermo, where the Italian presidency made new proposals to extend debt relief during 2001.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He is probably aware that many organisations in this country appreciate his efforts in trying to get the IMF and other countries, as well as Britain, down the road of debt relief. What further plans does he have on third-world debt, particularly with regard to Bangladesh, which, as he knows, fairly recently suffered some tremendous natural disasters?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and all those on both sides of the House who have raised the standard for debt relief and worked with the Churches, non-governmental organisations and many UK and international charities which have been pressing for a sensible solution to the problem of unpayable debt. Forty-one countries qualify under the HIPC initiative; 22 have already received debt relief. As I have said, most of the others are in conflict or civil wars. Bangladesh is not one of the countries in the HIPC initiative because its debt is less than that of other countries. It is, of course, being committed resources through the Department for International Development's aid and development budget, which has risen by 41 per cent. in real terms in the five years to 2004.