Clause 1

Part of Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 9th March 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke Shadow Minister (Treasury) 9:30 am, 9th March 2010

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who sets out the issue very well. There is no casus belli. I hope we will be able to work constructively, as we did on Second Reading, and proceed with the Bill in that spirit.

The intention, as my hon. Friend points out, is to ensure that the Bill is appropriately calibrated so that it will address the legitimate concerns of developing countries and assist them. There is no sympathy in the Committee for vulture funds—the intention is to help developing countries. However, in doing so, we must be careful and not make developing countries pay a risk premium on borrowing in the future, which will have a detrimental effect. That is a concern that we all recognise, which is why we want to calibrate the measures appropriately, and hence my entering now into some of the arguments I was going to raise in the stand part debate.

Amendment 1 is a probing amendment. The general approach in the Bill is to look back and enable us to identify a narrowly defined set of debts to which the Bill will apply, but there appears to be an exception. One reading of the Bill suggests that a country could become eligible and at that point, debts that were entered into before the legislation’s commencement, but which could not currently be identified because we do not necessarily know which countries will become eligible, would suddenly fall within that jurisdiction. I am not sure that, in the great scheme of things, the consequences of that would be particularly terrible, because we would be talking about debts incurred in the past. However, the clause’s wording is not entirely clear, and if the hon. Lady could provide some clarity, that would be of service to the Committee.