HL Deb 13 December 1999 vol 608 cc9-10WA
Lord Judd

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy towards greater transparency and accountability in the work of the International Monetary Fund with particular reference to (a) the publication of background analysis and documents; (b) reporting by executive directors to national legislatures; (c) independent programme monitoring and education; and (d) stricter scrutiny of loan conditions to ensure that the social well-being of the people of the countries receiving such loans is paramount. [HL132]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Government believe strongly that transparency in policy making, both nationally and internationally, is crucial in developing both the public support and the informed and educated markets we need to encourage stability and support growth and employment. There should be a presumption across the board in favour of the release of information. The IMF has a responsibility to lead by example.

The UK has consistently pressed for greater transparency at the IMF, and many reforms have been agreed in recent years. Key among these is the increased use of Public Information Notices (PINs) following executive board discussions of country Article IV reports as well as following discussions of policy issues and regional surveillance. A pilot project for the voluntary release of Article IV staff reports was agreed last spring.

Her Majesty's Government are committed to publishing the documents relating to their Article IV consultations with the fund. These have included the mission chief's concluding statement and the PIN following the executive board discussion. The UK has agreed to participate in the pilot programme for the voluntary release of Article IV staff reports. Following this year's Article IV consultations, we have (again) released the mission team's concluding statement and expect to release the UK report after it has been discussed by the executive board early next year. Because the pilot project began after the 1998 report for the UK had been discussed by the board, we were unable to release it

The UK continues to encourage the fund to look further at ways to promote greater transparency and so reinforce public support for its activities and improve its own accountability. The Chancellor has proposed the creation of a new evaluation unit, inside the IMF, but reporting directly to the fund's shareholders, and in public, on its performance.

The Treasury Select Committee already takes evidence on UK policy on the activities of the IMF. The UK's executive director gave evidence last month to both the Treasury and International Development Select Committees. Her Majesty's Government welcome the proposal made by the TSC for an annual report on the activities of the IMF and the UK's role at the fund. The UK has also played a leading role in reforms to improve the IMF's focus on social issues. At the annual meetings in September, agreement was reached on substantial reforms to the IMF's lending instrument for low-income countries, the enhanced structural adjustment facility. This has been renamed the poverty reduction and growth facility and reformed substantially to enhance its pro-poor focus.

The UK has been the leading proponent of the development of principles and good practices in social policy currently being drawn up by the World Bank and UN. The Chancellor has argued that these principles should be used by the IMF and World Bank to shape the design of adjustment programmes in order to ensure that the burden of adjustment is not placed on the poor and most vulnerable.