HC Deb 21 April 1970 vol 800 cc223-4
12. Mr. Barnett

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now enter into discussions about Great Britain's overseas debts; and if he will make a statement.

21. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now hold discussions with a view to reducing Great Britain's short-term overseas debts.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

No. Sir. As I said in my Budget speech over half our short-and medium-term debts have now been repaid and those which remain are clearly manageable.

Mr. Barnett

Now that they are manageable, in view of the additional growth we could obtain if we no longer needed to consider building large balance of payments surpluses to repay any more, would not it be worth while considering stabilising the present situation and going for a higher level of growth?

Mr. Jenkins

It is important to go for as high a level of growth as we can sustain. I made it clear in my Budget speech that this was my major objective. I certainly think that it has been more important in the past to achieve some repayment and to have some discussions. We have achieved a great deal of repayment. For the future, as I also said in my Budget speech, I think that we can take a somewhat more relaxed attitude, but we must remember that we still have certain I.M.F. debts outstanding. It is desirable to reduce these so as to have the facilities available in the future to sustain, possibly in conditions of adversity in the world such as can occur, a higher level of growth at home.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Does the Chancellor draw a distinction in this matter between medium- and short-term debt on the basis that medium-term debt has been rolled over, quite probably, by the present Government, but that short-term debt is given under circumstances in which there is an obligation on this country to repay as soon as possible?

Mr. Jenkins

Yes, Sir. Medium-term debt is, broadly, debt for which there is a fixed term. A typical example is the J.M.F. obligation, of which the next instalment falls due in June, 1971. Short-term debt, broadly, has no term to it and it is desirable to pay it as quickly as is reasonably possible. We have paid off more than four-fifths of the total short-term debt.