HC Deb 11 December 1972 vol 848 cc28-9
33. Sir Bernard Braine

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether consideration can now be given to the relief of the burden of debt incurred by Commonwealth countries in respect of past British loans; and whether he will initiate talks on the subject with other donor countries.

Mr. Wood

Debt relief must be considered against the economic situation of each developing country and preferably by donor countries acting together. We shall continue to discuss it with our Community partners, in aid consortia and in other groups. We recently proposed that Community members should help countries which face the greatest problems of indebtedness and suggested a number of measures, including the waiver of interest due on past aid loans.

Sir Bernard Braine

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there was no immediate response to the Prime Minister's appeal at the recent European summit conference for co-ordinated action on this matter, but that was swiftly followed by unilateral action by President Pompidou who announced the writing-off of debts owed by French-sneaking African developing countries. Does he not think that this French initiative underlines the need for co-ordinated action and, if not, why cannot unilateral action be taken by Her Maiesty's Government?

Mr. Wood

My hon. Friend will be aware that President Pompidou is not in the lead since we nave already cancelled a loan of great value connected with compensation and pensions commutation to former Colonial Service officers. What President Pompidou was doing related to entirely different circumstances from anything we might do. It must be remembered that in the ex-French colonies France is the only major creditor. This is not the case with countries like India, Pakistan or Ghana where we favour multilateral action and are trying to achieve it.