HC Deb 29 April 1998 vol 311 cc318-20
8. Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

What issues were discussed at the recent IMF-World bank meeting; and if she will make a statement. [39067]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I attended the spring meetings of the IMF and the World bank in Washington recently. Our priorities were, first, to improve collaboration between the bank and the fund so that lending programmes such as those in east Asia and in Africa take account of macro-economic adjustment, development needs and the needs of the poor; secondly, to agree that the bank must re-balance the cost of its services so that adequate resources are available for the poorest countries; and, thirdly, to speed up implementation of the highly indebted poor countries initiative. I am pleased that we made progress on all those issues. The Chancellor and I also had discussions on a range of issues with the managing director of the IMF and the president of the World bank.

Mr. Allan

While I appreciate that the Department is so keen on inclusive government that it sends briefings with suggested supplementary questions to Opposition Members, I hope that the Secretary of State will forgive me for not using one of them. Does she agree that the Jubilee 2000 coalition, which is supported by many thousands of our citizens, should be responded to by the Government, and that the World bank and the IMF are crucial to any accelerated programme of debt relief for the poorest countries? Are moves being made in that direction on behalf of the IMF and the World bank?

Clare Short

I have often said in the Chamber that the issues with which we deal at Question Time are far too important for party politics. Most of the time, there has been serious engagement from hon. Members on both sides of the House on how we can make progress in development, which I welcome. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman received the briefing—I did not write it—and hope that he found it useful.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I strongly agree that we must speed up implementation of the HIPC initiative. When my right hon. Friend put forward the Mauritius mandate nearly a year ago, there was resistance among other countries to the target of getting three quarters of countries on course by 2000. Now everyone agrees that it is likely to be achieved, but we must not be complacent. Countries such as Rwanda do not qualify, and we must do more. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Churches and Jubilee 2000 have done a glorious job in mobilising support in this country and internationally for debt relief for the poorest countries.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

My right hon. Friend will confirm that she did not give me this supplementary question. Will she also confirm that the bail-out of the corrupt regime in Indonesia, which will cost this country an estimated $700 million, was discussed at the recent meeting of the IMF and the World bank? In the light of her remarks about good governance and respect for human rights, how can we support the bail-out of a regime that is attacking pro-democracy activists and torturing students, and which is unstable and will collapse in the near future?

Clare Short

My hon. Friend is right; the Indonesian Government are responsible for corrupt and unattractive practices and for poor governance, which have helped to feed the depths of the crisis in Indonesia. No one wants to bail out people who are responsible for such practices, but we are deeply worried about the suffering of the people of Indonesia. The task is to intervene in ways which bring relief to the poor and prevent the crisis from spreading, and require greater transparency that bears down on corruption so as not to prop up the current practices of the Indonesian Government. We are right to try to achieve those things; otherwise, the suffering of the people of Indonesia will be even greater.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

How many coins have been received by the right hon. Lady's Department and the Treasury from people who support Jubilee 2000, and how will they be spent?

Clare Short

Speaking again from memory, around £2,000 of shillings, I think, was sent to the Treasury, which is why I do not know exactly. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor does. They have all been credited to Tanzania. The coins are a token of the concern of the many people who write letters in vast quantities and visit my advice bureau, and whom I meet in schools in my constituency. That shows the depth of generosity and commitment of the people of Britain, including poor people, to bring relief to people in need across the world.

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