HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc17-8
63. Dame Judith Hart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the votes cast by the representative of Her Majesty's Government concerning recent loans to Chile by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mr. Chris Patten

After weighing the views of the members of his constituency and obtaining satisfactory answers to technical questions that we had raised, our executive director supported the loans for a hydro-electric project and a global neighbourhood improvement and sites-and-services programme.

Dame Judith Hart

First, may I express my appreciation for what the Minister said about the sad death of our friend Guy Barnett, the late hon. Member for Greenwich?

Given that Britain was the only country to vote in favour of the recent World Bank loan to Chile—even the United States abstained—and since we provide military training for Chileans and supply ships to Chile, would it not be better if the Government confessed that, apart from paying lip-service to the EEC condemnation of Pinochet in Chile, they completely support him?

Mr. Patten

Uncharacteristically, the right hon. Lady is wrong on this issue. She is wrong to say that Britain was the only country, of the larger donors, to support the World Bank loan. As she knows, although I think she disagrees with what I shall say on this, we always judge issues in the international financial institutions entirely on technical grounds, as we are bound to do by the IADB and World Bank articles of agreement.

Mr. Stuart Holland

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree with the remarks made by the Minister and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) about the tragic death of Guy Barnett, the late hon. Member for Greenwich. His commitment to development issues, not only in the Commons but in the Commonwealth and in developing countries, will be sorely missed.

The Minister cannot get away as easily from the matter of the IADB loan to Chile as he has tried to do.

Mr. Forth

Why not?

Mr. Holland

Because the reality is that the Inter-American Development Bank loan, with the World Bank and International Finance Corporation loan, and loans for projects currently under appraisal, total about £1,000 million. They have either been made or are in the pipeline. Apart from anything else, this includes $150 million support for a pulp and paper factory in a country with no press freedoms. Less than 3 per cent. of the total package will go to social development projects. The World Bank loan to Chile was passed by only 1.7 per cent. of the vote. Mr. Elliott Abrahams of the United States managed to persuade his master that the United States should abstain. What was the weakness in the Minister's case? Could he not handle his mistress and persuade her that he should have opposed this loan to what is still a dictatorship?

Mr. Patten

May I be permitted a brief reply to that question? Article VIII, section 5(f) of the World Bank's articles prohibits the bank from being influenced in its decisions by the political character of the borrowing member concerned and requires such decisions to be based only upon economic considerations impartially weighed. We made perfectly clear before the General Assembly on 18 November, and our ambassador made clear on 20 November, what we think of the Chilean human rights record.