Clause 1 — United Kingdom loans to Ireland

Part of Loans to Ireland Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 15th December 2010.

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Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 5:15 pm, 15th December 2010

Amendment 3, which my hon. Friend Mr Cash has moved, would ensure that the Bill did not apply to any loan made by the United Kingdom to Ireland under the European Communities Act 1972. Let me give him a second-tier assurance that the Bill applies only to the UK's bilateral loan to Ireland. Any EU loan made to Ireland through the financial stability mechanism would not be a loan from the UK to Ireland and would not be subject to the Bill.

There is no interweaving or interlocking, and therefore the amendment is unnecessary. My hon. Friend referred to paragraph 6(h) of the loan agreement. I am sure he will understand that the funding Ireland gets is dependent on it being a member of both the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. If it were no longer a member, it would no longer receive the funding and therefore there would be a problem. Amendment 4 would remove the power to increase the cap on the loan and adjust the cap for exchange rate fluctuations. I hope that the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor remove the need for anyone to push that amendment further.

Amendment 6 would require the interest rate on the loan to be approved by Parliament. That is not appropriate. The interest rate for each tranche of the lending to Ireland will be a fixed rate that is set by adding a margin of 2.29% to the sterling seven-and-a-half-year swap rate at the time that the disbursement is made. That is set out in the loan agreement and gives certainty to us and to the Irish Government, who would want to have certainty when accepting and voting on this package.

My hon. Friend Mr Carswell said that the amendment would enable the loan interest rate to be reduced. It could also lead to the loan interest rate being increased to the detriment of the Irish Government and their economic recovery. It is important that there is a clear, definitive statement about what the rate is. We have published the summary of key terms of the loan agreement to help colleagues understand what the rate is and how it will be set. The rate is set with the Republic and within the range of interest rates agreed with other multilateral bodies. It would be a big mistake and irresponsible of the Labour party to vote for amendment 6, because it would create uncertainty and instability where we want certainty and stability for the Irish Government. I question whether what the amendment proposes is the right thing to do. The loan rate is agreed and clear, and it is in the summary of key credit terms. The Irish Government have signed off on those key terms. That is the rate they are expecting to get. Amendment 6 would create unnecessary uncertainty and I therefore ask my hon. Friend to withdraw it.