§ 11. Mr. Arbuthnot
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last attended a meeting of the World Bank; and what was discussed.
§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peter Lilley)
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor met the president of the World Bank in London on 26 April; discussion covered a wide range of issues.
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
Did my right hon. Friend emphasise the importance of encouraging underdeveloped countries to attract private capital investment to assist in their development?
§ Mr. Lilley
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise that point, which was mentioned earlier today by my right hon. Friend. The United Kingdom has an exceptionally good record on this. Over the last five years, direct private investment, which is of immense value to 354 underdeveloped countries, from this country totalled £6.6 billion, averaging £1.3 billion a year. That is the best help that this country can give many developing countries.
§ Miss Lestor
Noting the fact that official Government aid as a proportion of GNP has fallen from 0.52 per cent. under Labour to 0.28 per cent. under this Government, which represents a loss in real terms of 20 per cent.—I wish the Chancellor would listen, because he got his figures wrong—will he bear in mind the week after next, when discussing the replenishment of the World Bank international development assistance, the fact that it is important that donor nations give generously? Will he support the growing demand that IDA loans should be converted into grants? Will he pursue that policy for all future assistance to the poorest countries?
§ Mr. Lilley
I know that the hon. Lady takes a great interest in these matters: indeed, I have discussed them with her. I do not think that she is correct in assuming that the total benefit or even the major benefit that this country can give underdeveloped countries is limited to official aid. I know that she will join me in welcoming the fact that Britain was the first country to pay in full its contribution to the recent increase in the general capital increase of the World Bank, which is on the lines of the sort of thing that she was welcoming. I would place even greater emphasis on the importance of encouraging trade and private investment in developing countries.
§ Mr. Hind
Next time our right hon. Friend meets representatives of the World Bank, will he ask them to consider which of the two major parties in this country is likely to close the gap between our exports and imports and therefore make Britain a much stronger economy—one with record levels of investment and one with productivity four times larger than that of the last Labour Government or the one with the crackpot policies of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Lilley
I expect that my right hon. Friend will cover a wide range of subjects, including those mentioned. He will, of course, want to reassure the leader of the World Bank that Britain will not have a trade policy that seeks to rectify a balance of payments situation by excluding trade with the underdeveloped countries, as is often the wish of the Opposition.