HC Deb 23 April 1998 vol 310 cc963-4
11. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

If he will make a statement on the Mauritius mandate. [38252]

17. Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East)

What recent representations he has received on his policy to reduce the debt burden of the poorest countries. [38260]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

The Government have made considerable progress in securing international agreement to the Mauritius mandate and will continue to press for its speedy and determined implementation. Since his Mauritius mandate statement to Commonwealth Finance Ministers last September, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has held a number of meetings with religious leaders and non-governmental organisation heads to discuss the issue of debt relief and keep them informed of progress.

Dr. Starkey

May I pass on to my hon. Friend the considerable support that I have received from my constituents for the effective action that the Government are taking to reduce the debt burden on poorer countries? Given the importance of reducing debt to allow the poorest countries to develop more effectively, and because of the wider effect on the world economy, what steps are the G7 countries taking to monitor progress in achieving those targets by 2000?

Mrs. Liddell

I congratulate my hon. Friend on that question. [Interruption.] Opposition Members sneer, but the Treasury has received many thousands of letters supporting the Government's position on the Mauritius mandate. The G7 countries issued a statement on 21 February encouraging all debtor countries to begin the process of securing debt relief by the year 2000, and they continue to monitor that progress. In addition, six countries will benefit from HIPC—heavily indebted poor countries—relief: Uganda, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Côte d'Ivoire and Mozambique. I commend the many thousands of people throughout the country who have kept the issue to the fore, despite the laughter of Opposition Members.

Mr. McNulty

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is little point in seeking to alleviate debt unless we tackle the systemic and structural difficulties in those economies to allow them to develop through sustainable growth? Can she confirm that the measures taken to alleviate debt will set out a way in which those countries can achieve sustainable growth?

Mrs. Liddell

I commend my hon. Friend for that question. It is important that we encourage Governments to develop sound economic policies so that in future they do not return to their present condition. That is why the programme is biased towards countries that clearly exhibit a determination to adopt sound economic policies. We will encourage them in that and give the support that is necessary, both in our role as the UK Government and through our role in G7 and other international organisations.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

Will the Minister confirm that the money necessary to relieve the debt of the poorest countries is taken from the overseas aid budget? Can she say when the Government expect to make progress on increasing to 0.7 per cent. of gross national product aid to the poorest countries of the world, as promised?

Mrs. Liddell

I do not confirm the hon. Lady's point about the overseas development budget, but we have given extra assistance to the African development bank. In relation to specific countries—for example, Mozambique—where there is a particular problem because of the scale of the debt, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has brokered a significant deal. As a result, maximum assistance is being given to Mozambique to ensure that it can meet its debt obligations and find an exit from its debt, in line with the other countries involved.