HC Deb 11 November 1999 vol 337 cc1285-6
13. Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

What representations he has made concerning the composition of the board of the IMF. [97002]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Miss Melanie Johnson)

The Government have not made any representations concerning the composition of the board of the IMF.

Barbara Follett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and welcome her to her new post. Is she aware that in September the IMF replaced its much maligned enhanced structural adjustment facility, which one non-governmental organisation described as treatment by asphyxiation, with its new poverty reduction and growth programme? Will she and her ministerial colleagues do all that they can to ensure that that is not only a name change, but that poverty reduction is central in future IMF interventions in developing countries?

Miss Johnson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her work in that area as a member of the Select Committee on International Development. I know how seriously she takes those issues and that she will appreciate how seriously my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury team take them, too. The poverty reduction and growth facility replacement programmes for the IMF enhanced structural adjustment facility will bring about a big improvement in the work that can be done and will ensure that the IMF and the World Bank work together more closely. It will also emphasise country ownership and focus much more strongly on poverty, with the aim of achieving poverty eradication goals that are set in the international development targets. I know that that will be most welcome.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)

Will the Economic Secretary try to get the Chancellor to explain how it came about that, within hours of his election as chairman of its key committee, the IMF announced that it would after all not be selling any of its gold through the market?

Does the Chancellor remember that whenever I suggested to him earlier in the year that it was not a good way of helping poor countries for the IMF to sell its gold through the market, he got rather cross with me and denounced me for not being genuinely interested in helping them? What was it that led him eventually to conclude that I had been right and that he had been wrong?

Miss Johnson

I do not know what led the hon. Gentleman to come to that remarkable conclusion. I am disappointed, in that he ought to be congratulating my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on the key role that he will be playing in those arenas as a result of taking over the committee. He ought also to be complimenting the Government on the relationship between the sale of gold and our ability to deal with poverty-stricken countries and the highly indebted poor countries issue. We have made massive progress, and the gold sales have contributed to that. Congratulations are due when real achievements are made by the Government in key areas.