Millennium Development Goals

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 10th November 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour, Heywood and Middleton 10:30 am, 10th November 2005

If he will extend the Government's debt relief programme to all countries that need debt relief to meet the millennium development goals.

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

At the annual meetings in September we secured agreement from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for 100 per cent. multilateral debt relief for up to 38 of the world's most indebted countries. Britain goes further than this, and we will unilaterally service our share of the debts of other poor countries where the resources freed up will be definitely used for poverty reduction.

Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour, Heywood and Middleton

Short-term volatility can be damaging for developing countries. On current trends, sub-Saharan Africa will not reach its development millennium goals by 2015. What progress is the international finance facility making that would aid and support developing countries?

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

First, I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done on these issues over many years within his constituency and in the wider community. My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of the IFF. For example, on current rates of progress it is unlikely that some donors would be able to meet their aid commitments without the IFF, and based on donors' legally binding long-term commitments, the IFF would leverage money from international capital markets by issuing bonds. Bond holders would be repaid from future donor payment streams. More than 80 donor, emerging market and developing countries, including France, Italy, Sweden, China, Brazil and South Africa, support the IFF.

I can assure my hon. Friend that this was very much an initiative of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who wanted to see far more rapid progress in this area than would have been the case. I can assure my hon. Friend also that the IFF is gaining continuing and growing support from the international community. We see it as a crucial part of achieving our objectives on an accelerated basis, which I am sure every Member of this place would want to see.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Financial Secretary

At the risk of playing into the hands of the Chancellor, even in his absence today, this question time, like so many others, seems to sound more like International Development questions than Treasury questions.

Might I suggest that an extension of the debt relief programme should depend on two conditions? Does the Economic Secretary agree that the best way to meet millennium development goals is to insist on pathways towards good internal governance and recognition of the role of government in the developing world, in both promoting and protecting private property rights?

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

First, we make no apologies for dealing with these matters in Treasury questions. The Government have embarked on a moral mission in terms of the international community. It is one of the most tangible examples of a Government making a difference in respect of things that really matter in this world. We make no apologies for saying that "Make Poverty History" is a campaign that the Treasury has played a massive part in supporting. We pay tribute to the church groups and other organisations that have ensured that the issue is at the top of the political and public agenda throughout the international community.

On the hon. Gentleman's specific point, of course good governance matters. There is little point, as we have seen through history, in pouring aid into situations where the countries concerned are not being managed in an appropriate way, where there is not transparency and where there is corruption. As part of these new international agreements, the Chancellor has made it absolutely clear that good governance, openness and accountability are crucial if we are to be able to achieve the objectives that we are setting out. In that respect, I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of good governance.