HL Deb 08 July 2002 vol 637 cc438-40

2.58 p.m.

Lord Laird

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they will take to mark the final repayment of Second World War debt to the United States Government when £244 million is paid in 2006.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Government have no current plans to mark the completion of the repayment of the United Kingdom's World War II debt to the United States Government.

Lord Laird

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he recognise the concern at the recent disclosure that the USA is still demanding war debt repayment from the United Kingdom, almost 60 years after the war? In view of the UK rightly standing alongside the United States to defend freedom around the world, do the Government consider that that freedom comes at a price? In view of the United States' recent imposition of tax on steel imports from the UK, what do the Government consider to be the state of the special relationship?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, we should cast our minds back to the dark days after the war, when the economy of the United Kingdom was greatly helped by Marshall aid and lend-lease. We have never suggested that we should be relieved from repayment of that debt and we are not going to do so now. The special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is in no way damaged by the fact that that generosity has been honoured over the past 50 years.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is this payment part of the lend-lease scheme under which the United States supplied munitions, vehicles and many other requirements including food and other provisions that were needed badly by us in the last part of the war?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I referred to lend-lease in the context of the generosity of the United States throughout that period. However, the debt that we are talking about now is separate; it was negotiated in December 1945.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, will the noble Lord remind me as to exactly how much the loan was, and how much we have repaid since then in principal and interest?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey:

My Lords, the loan originally was £1,075 million, of which £244 million is outstanding. The basis of the loan is that interest is paid at 2 per cent. Therefore, we are currently receiving a greater return on our dollar assets than we are paying in interest to pay off the loan. It is a very advantageous loan for us.

Lord Saatchi

My Lords, in the wider context of our debt to America—and I hope that this question does not go too wide of that on the Order Paper—may I ask the Minister to pass on to the Prime Minister our respect for the support he has given to America in the war against terrorism and also for his steadfast refusal to be drawn into the wave of anti-Americanism which seems to have engulfed large parts of Europe?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I think that that is wide of the Question on the Order Paper. However, I shall pass on the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi. About three months ago, there was an attack on us in the Observer which claimed that British foreign policy was subservient to the United States because of this loan. That is utterly absurd. It also does not lead me to think that it is because of our debt to the United States that we have supported in so many respects the United States' policy.

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