Clause 1

Part of Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 9th March 2010.

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Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley 10:00 am, 9th March 2010

The essence of the Bill, as discussed earlier, concerns a country being unable to pay its debts because its income is too low. An individual would have some form of bankruptcy arrangement and, effectively, we are dealing with countries in such a position—their exports are so low that they cannot pay.

We cannot get away from the fact that in future, lenders will take into account countries’ ability to repay debt when loaning funds to them. I think that that is a healthy situation. Having a situation where lenders hold out massive quantities of money to developing countries, some of which find their way into Swiss bank accounts and do not do the country any good whatsoever, is not helpful for developing countries. Within all that, there are factors—for example, the Bill will only affect UK jurisdiction, so debts enforceable in other jurisdictions remain enforceable there anyway. It is an issue that requires international rather than UK resolution.

There is also a question about whether it is appropriate to have corporate entities controlled by the Government included within the Bill, as opposed to sovereign debt. The nature of sovereign debt is particularly different. If one looks at the history of Haiti and how sovereign debt has caused problems there over centuries, and the fact that most debt disappears into people’s estates when they die, one can see that that particular type of debt hangs on. Again, we are interfering with contracts—there is no question about that. However, bankruptcy arrangements interfere with contracts, so it is with precedent.