Clause 3

Part of Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 9th March 2010.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Digital Britain) (also HM Treasury), Financial Secretary (HM Treasury) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) 10:30 am, 9th March 2010

Let me comment on a couple of questions that have been raised about the Government’s perspective, the first of which concerned compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998 and European legislation. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Daventry for commending the Treasury on this occasion. The explanatory notes outline the Government’s view that the Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights. It reduces the recoverability of debts in line with the HIPC initiative. The reduction, in our view, is not a deprivation of property but a control of use. The European Court of Human Rights has found there to be a deprivation only where there is a total practical or legal extinction of the rights of ownership. Under the Bill’s provisions, the creditors will still retain an asset of some economic value. Although the face value of the debts will be considerably reduced by the Bill, their current market value is likely to be much lower than their face value. We consider that control of use to be justified in the interests of promoting fairness among creditors and promoting the development of poor countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk set out the moral case for doing that.