HC Deb 08 December 1999 vol 340 cc816-7
6. Mr. John Healey (Wentworth)

By how much the poorest countries qualifying under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative will benefit from the agreement on debt reached at the Cologne summit. [100353]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

The proposals for enhanced debt relief agreed at the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in September, which were originally put forward at the Cologne summit, will provide $50 billion of debt relief, which is more than twice as much as before, and will provide a sharper focus on poverty reduction.

The G7 also agreed at Cologne that all aid debts of HIPC countries should be cancelled, once they have qualified for HIPC. That is worth an additional $20 billion. In addition, the existing Paris Club relief for HIPC countries is $30 billion. That brings the total to $100 billion available for the HIPC countries. The UK Government are extremely grateful for the work of the British faiths and churches and non-governmental organisations for all their campaigning, which made that agreement possible.

Mr. Healey

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can she confirm that the Government are prepared to consider a 100 per cent. debt cancellation in certain circumstances, and can she outline the criteria that will be used to determine eligibility for that extra help?

Clare Short

My hon. Friend is right. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made it clear that, after countries have qualified for HIPC, he, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry—I emphasise that, because who pays for the initiative is important—will be willing to increase the debt relief to 100 per cent. The countries that qualify will be spelled out. I am sure that they will be those that are focusing on the economic change needed to improve their economies and reduce poverty.

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the debt relief programme for the poorest countries, like access to world trade, should be tied to the treatment of children, and that countries that use child labour without providing a proper education and opportunities for children to broaden their lives should not have access to debt relief programmes, any more than they should have access to world markets?

Clare Short

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman at all. He adopts the same position as the American trade union movement, with which I also disagree. There are 250 million child labourers in the world. They are in the very poorest countries, and only 5 per cent. of them are in traded sectors. It is not that their parents do not care for them; their families are poor and the children work to get food. We need development programmes that help those countries to grow their economy and reduce poverty. Trade sanctions would entrap them in perpetual poverty and perpetuate child labour. It is the wrong remedy. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should not heckle me. He is wrong.

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