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people, including Conservatives, react to the sort of society we now have. As I say, the voluntary organisations are seen as a mechanism for countering that.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the description of my hon. Friends of people from all sections of society who are happy to give their time for nothing fits in with his description of a capitalist society?

Mr. Randall : Many people, including most hon. Members, are prepared to give their time. I welcome philanthropy, but I do not want society to be dependent on it. Much has been said about the way in which companies give. I welcome charitable giving, but what happens when an economy drops? Economies are cyclical. If certain services are reliant on that kind of giving, it must be consistent. If there is a recession and profitability drops, charitable giving will become vulnerable and we will let down people. The hon. Lady's argument has serious defects. State funding should be encouraged. The interaction between the state and voluntary organisations is important. The participation of people in voluntary organisations clearly shows that there tends to be a higher rate of participation when a local authority is involved. From our experience in voluntary organisations, hon. Members know that a core of a few full-time people adds a terrific stimulus to an organisation and makes it more effective.

I do not know where the hon. Member for Wimbledon got the subject of the debate. Perhaps it came from the Whips' Office.

[Interruption.] Conservative Members now want to push the subject as part of their underlying philosophy, because of the failure of social policy in this country.

Mr. John Patten : That is a monstrous allegation.

Mr. Randall : The Minister will have an opportunity to comment. Why have the Conservatives waited 10 years to do this? The oil money has been flowing for some time. The reason is that the Government are in schtuck over the crime figures. Violent crime figures are still rising, and the Government do not know what to do. That is at the heart of the issue.

As a result of the Government's extreme economic policy, society is divided. No hon. Member would argue that it is not greedy and selfish, and that self-interest prevails. That is the essence of Thatcherism--"I'm all right, Jack ; pull the ladder up."

Mr. Ground : Is not the debate the complete antithesis of what the hon. Gentleman has said? The people who are involved in the great mass of voluntary organisations doing things for other people are not behaving as the hon. Gentleman suggests that they should.

Mr. Randall : The hon. and learned Gentleman made an interesting speech. He said that he wanted all people involved as active citizens. I share his view. However, it is difficult to get people to participate when they are losing out. How do we get the homeless, those living in poverty, those who have drug or alcohol problems, and split families to participate? We do not. They are trying to survive day by day. The Government's social policy, which has emanated from their extreme economic policy, has resulted in a role for voluntary organisations and the

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active citizen. All I am saying is that in a divided society it is much more difficult to motivate people to give encouragement to others.

Mr. Ground : I am sorry to interrupt a second time ; but one of the voluntary organisations of which I spoke--the Feltham community association --is providing work and activity for those who are unemployed and find it difficult to obtain employment.

Mr. Randall : Voluntary organisations are taking up many of the problems, but the Government's funding policy is preventing much of that work. The operation of the community programme has resulted in 16 voluntary workers in my city losing full-time jobs, and in the ending of much good social work. The Government have placed emphasis on projects connected with economic development, and on capital rather than social programmes.

Active citizenship should not be limited to the prosperous and beneficent minority whom the Conservative party generally wishes to perform that role- -the "crumbs from the table" syndrome. The Government tell people that it is their duty, and we welcome that, but those who talk of duty should also talk of rights. The recipients of voluntary services should have certain rights. I have not time to go into detail, but I believe that everyone should have the right to a reasonably decent house, good health, education and, in the case of the elderly and those unable to cope, proper care. We have not really defined the active citizen today, and perhaps the definition is too complicated for us, but we have not defined rights either --although I do not think that the Conservative party would support that notion in any event.

How far do the Government want to go in charitable giving? That is an important philosophical question. I think that when my hon. Friend the Member for Walton talked about the balance, he was referring indirectly to the relationship between the public sector and the voluntary sector, supported by charitable giving. I fear that the thinkers and researchers in the Conservative party want to dispense with local authorities and arrange for all the work to be done by the voluntary sector, although whether it is able to do so will depend on a number of economic factors. I find that prospect very worrying : I think it is immoderate. Local government is being prevented from doing good work. I know that the Minister will agree when I say that my local authority in Hull is excellent. Its members are terrific people, and their good work has been hampered.

I have mentioned social policy. The Secretary of State for Social Security said in a speech yesterday that welfare groups would find poverty in paradise. That does not help the position ; we are talking about people who are essentially losers. We must ensure that voluntary organisations are funded properly, for a service of adequate quality cannot be provided otherwise.

The debate has been interesting and I congratulate the hon. Member for Wimbledon on initiating it. I also congratulate the voluntary sector on the terrific work that it does in Britain generally. Everyone should be an active citizen. We must establish the framework of how we run this country's economy and--as my hon. Friend the Member for Walton said--we must keep in perspective the balance between the voluntary sector, aided by charities, and the public sector.

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The Government have developed their policy to combat crime, and we welcome that. However, so far the policy has created inequality and a divided society and has not solved the problems. Until we get rid of the Government and have a more moderate economic policy in this country, I am afraid that matters will continue to deteriorate and the Minister will still have to cope with the high levels of crime in this country.

1.41 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten) : The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) referred to his days doling out custard at school. I hoped that with the onset of convenience Socialism, he might dole out a few new-style Labour party policies about the active citizen and the voluntary sector but, alas, we heard nothing new during his speech. The one thing he said with which I could agree was that it was good fortune that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Goodson-Wickes) was successful in finding time for his debate today and for propounding his thesis with clarity and eloquence. All hon. Members in the Chamber are pleased to have been here for the debate.

The theme of the debate was one that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon developed in his notable maiden speech and it is an interest that he has held consistently since he came to this place. Therefore, it was all the more insulting for the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West to suggest that the topic was foisted on my hon. Friend. If the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West has any decency, he will stand up and I shall give way to give him the opportunity to apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon.

Mr. Randall : I do not need to apologise to the House. If there was anything offensive in what I said, I would apologise. The hon. Member for Wimbledon and I know each other from Committees. The Government are determined to have this policy accepted because of the failure of their economic policy and the crime that has ensued.

Mr. John Patten : If the hon. Gentleman is not going to apologise, he should sit down and not waste the time of the House.

There is an ancient history to the concept of active citizenship. People have long wanted to help their fellow men and women in their village, community or town. It is a concept with which we are familiar and is not something new that has been dreamt up by the Conservative Government. From the time of Rousseau, philosophers such as Burke, Lincoln, and Ralf Dahrendorf, have talked in their writings about the active citizen.

In an amazingly lightweight effort, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West said that he did not know what an active citizen was. I had better give him a definition that he can chew over. I borrow it from an excellent article that I wrote--for nothing--on the subject in The Guardian six or eight months ago. My definition of active citizens is that they are, quite simply, those who make something more than a solely economic contribution to their communities. They not only care and say they do, but act on their caring instincts. The crux of the definition is that, for them, good will is necessary but not sufficient,

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and the contribution that they make is one that is clearly visible, even if not always measurable in a quantifiable sense.

Active citizens act for a range of reasons--to help others, to put their skills to the best possible use and to enjoy the active life and rewards that go with voluntary work, for instance. It can be very enjoyable to make new friends, to undergo training, to learn new skills and, above all, to help others. I echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) about that.

Many of those who come within the category of active citizens would not necessarily recognise themselves as such. They would certainly not expect their daily activities to be debated on the Floor of the House, which is why I welcome the opportunity that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon has given us today.

In many ways the model active citizen--the idea of the volunteer, the productivity of the volunteer, the free-thinking nature of the volunteer, the innovative way in which volunteers do things--has served as a paradigm for the Government when developing our thinking in recent years about the importance of devolving power from the centre to communities and individuals. As several of my hon. Friends have said, there are numerous examples of that in Government policies of recent years--school governors, the opportunities for NHS hospitals to become self-governing units, the opportunities that my noble Friend the Minister for Housing, Environment and Countryside is giving to people in housing co-operatives and housing management units to run their own affairs. So the Government have learnt from the good example of the active citizen and the voluntary sector and an appreciation of that has been evident in all the contributions today, through which I intend to run in the order in which they were made.

I turn first to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) not only because he spoke first but because he is leaving shortly to be an active citizen in his work with the National Records Office. He raised two important points : the first was the need for adequate funding for the voluntary sector from the Government. I should remind him that public sector support for the voluntary sector now runs at £2 billion and direct grants given by central Government to the voluntary sector run at about £280 million a year. That represents an increase of 221 per cent. in Government support for the voluntary sector since 1979.

A similar amount of support, although not quite as much, has gone to the citizens advice bureaux, to whose work in his constituency the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery paid tribute, as do we all to those in our constituencies. The hon. and learned Gentleman wove them into a rather appealing argument about the need to preserve the solicitors' conveyancing monopoly so as to ensure that there are at the same time enough solicitors to give free help to legal aid. That was one of the most ingenious arguments I have heard for a long time. If I am ever in trouble in the courts I shall go to the hon. and learned Gentleman--if he will take my brief.

The main responsibility for funding local citizens advice bureaux lies with local authorities. That has been so since 1948, when the law was changed to enable them to provide that support. Funding is primarily a matter for each local

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authority to decide, taking its priorities into account. The Government rightly fund the service, and our grant to the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux now runs at almost £9 million--up 167 per cent. in real terms since 1979. So our support for the voluntary sector through grants to the CAB is formidable. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) made a remarkable speech which I hope will be widely read by the professionals in the voluntary sector. He knows as much about volunteer work as anyone in that sector and spoke from the heart about important issues such as job sharing among volunteers and being cautious about developing counselling services too far--because of the dangers of becoming too bureaucratic.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard) spoke next. Before she came to this place, she gave valuable public service as the chairman of two health authorities. I remember reshuffling her from North-West Norfolk health authority to Norwich health authority. There can be no greater form of active citizenship than chairing a health authority. She said that, like many other things--and I would choose neighbourhood watch--volunteerism is not only for the affluent classes. I found it rather offensive that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West, who has now left the Opposition Front Bench, suggested that volunteerism was only for those who were affluent and middle class. The hon. Gentleman is more interested in speaking to other hon. Members than in listening to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West pressed me quite hard about the number of women that we were appointing to public bodies. I can tell her that 21 per cent. of Government appointments to voluntary bodies and statutory and public bodies are women. We give considerable grant aid, for example to the important "women into public life" campaign. We continue to fund that campaign, and many Departments appoint women to more than a quarter of their posts. The Departments which show major recent increases in the appointment of women include the Department of Social Security, the Home Office and the Cabinet Office. However, one of the problems we face is that we do not receive enough nominations of younger women in their 20s and 30s and the public appointments unit would be extremely pleased to hear from people who want to nominate younger women, as we receive very few such nominations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is president of some 58 voluntary groups in his constituency. That shows how many active citizens there are in Ealing, North and how lucky they are to have such an active Member of Parliament. I look forward to the 100th birthday celebrations that my hon. Friend mentioned. He talked about the relationship between churches and volunteering, a point also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) in her notable speech. He also gave me one of the most engaging pieces of information that I have ever heard in the House--that a number of volunteers freely give up their time to exercise polo ponies in Ham. I have long thought that polo was a sport for the very rich. The thought that active citizens freely give up their time to subsidise that sport by riding polo ponies is a new and interesting development of outdoor relief for the rich. Perhaps we will soon have new monastic orders such as "the little sisters of the rich" rattling tins and asking people

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to give to those who have never known what it is to want. I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing that to the attention of the House.

Basildon of course figures large in the interests of its Member of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) told us about the "I Love Basildon" campaign in which he plays a major part. When they open me up post mortem, they will find Basildon on my heart. As a Minister I have visited Basildon more often than any other place in the country. I have answered more Adjournment debates on Basildon than on any other issue.

My hon. Friend reminded me of a couple of the Adjournment debates to which I replied during my ministerial career in different Departments. I am glad to learn that some of the things for which he was pressing have come true. He referred to the Adjournment debate some years ago about the magistrates' court in Basildon. I am extremely glad that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor will be opening the new magistrates court in Basildon--proving that Adjournment debates can be worth while.

I remember an Adjournment debate many years ago in which hopes of building a hospice in Basildon were expressed. I was a junior health Minister, which in those days was a modest post. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon said that the individuals involved hoped to raise enough money to open a hospice. How marvellous it is that only four years later Mr. and Mrs. Cox and others have raised £660,000, and the hospice may soon be erected.

My hon. Friend asked me to mention to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the zero rating of hospital equipment. I shall have a gossip with him about that, as I will with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, who is responsible for radio issues, about community radio when I see him on Monday. The hon. Member for Walton made a remarkable speech, which reminded me of the one he made, to which I listened with equal care, when, to my surprise, I found myself winding up a debate on Anglican Church issues. There were some echoes in his speech today of the one that he made on that occasion.

The hon. Member for Walton at least had an intellectually coherent view of future Socialist policy for the voluntary sector. Although I did not agree with all his speech, I found it intellectually appealing to hear him clearly set out his view of the right mixture of voluntary and state provision. The hon. Gentleman referred to it as "non-bureaucratic Socialism", and I see him nodding in assent. The hon. Member recommended that hon. Members should read some books and dissented from what he fears will appear in the Labour party's policy review. Perhaps I can swap him a book, if he has not read it already, by a distinguished one-time hon. Member and Foreign Office Minister, Mr. Evan Luard, whom you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will probably remember. He wrote an excellent book entitled "Socialism without the State".

Mr. Heffer : I have read it.

Mr. Patten : I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has read it. It may have influenced his thinking and led him some way towards a positive attitude on the voluntary sector.

Evan Luard was my Labour party opponent in 1979. Being a political canvasser or campaigner is a form of

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active citizenship. In 1983, he became my SDP opponent and, as an active citizen, slogged the streets for it. Alas, he was deselected in favour of a passing Guardian journalist. My hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development and I experienced passing Guardian journalists being sent to our constituencies of Bath and Oxford, West and Abingdon. I beg The Guardian to send them again and again. Nothing is better for a Conservative candidate than a journalist from The Guardian. I dare say that I shall not be so lucky in the future ; perhaps it will be someone from the Sunday Sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone made a powerful speech. She said that one does not have to be a member of a voluntary organisation to help people. That is what this debate on active citizenship is about. The examples that she gave of young people shopping and giving time to the elderly were telling.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) referred to payroll giving. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is currently having new forms printed for the upper limit of £480. They will shortly be available and I will ensure that hon. Members who attended the debate receive one.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall) : And the Minister.

Mr. Patten : I have already asked for one, I shall send one to the retiring hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) when he begins his new job in Florence, in which I wish him well, so that he can contribute substantially.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea rightly drew our attention to the fact that the level of giving in this country is lower than the United States.

Last, but by no means least, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) reported that he has a good relationship with the voluntary sector in his area--so much so that he holds his advice surgeries in its property. I expect that many hon. Members feel that we might as well move into the citizens advice bureaux offices anyway, or that they might as well move into ours, so close is the relationship between us and the people in the voluntary sector.

My hon. and learned Friend also made a number of important points about the need to involve special constables in the areas from which they were recruited. It is most important that they should be used for policing purposes in neighbourhood watch areas as we try to build up the role of the active citizen.

My hon. and learned Friend also referred to the importance of the active citizen in looking after the environment--a speciality of my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development who has done so much to stress the importance of environmental issues in the context of overseas aid. We shall be having a debate soon on that point. It will be a very interesting debate, so I do not intend to take up much more time. However, this debate has been so good that it is important to reply properly to all the points that have been made.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West is concerned about the relationship between the active citizen and crime. It is extremely difficult to be an active citizen if one is working in the teeth of local opposition. I am sad to say that there are areas where that is the case. The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey and Lambeth still refuse to build a proper partnership between the police and the public, through the police consultative

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committees. In his annual report to the Home Secretary, published yesterday, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis said : "I am disappointed that the hope I expressed in last year's report, that the majority political parties in the boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey and Lambeth would begin to participate in their local consultative groups has not been realised."

That is very sad. I invite the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West, to whom I shall happily give way, to say that he will visit those councils and try to persuade them to take an active part in the police consultative committees, which involve active citizens in their areas as well as the police and the local authorities. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to stand up and respond to me.

Mr. Holland : In the case of Lambeth, which the Minister mentioned, it is relevant to point out that the entire reorganisation of the Metropolitan police was undertaken by the police after consulting Marks and Spencer and other commercial bodies. There were no consultations with either the Members of Parliament for the area or local councillors. That is the kind of treatment that many of these boroughs have had from the Met, and it is much to be regretted on both sides.

Mr. Patten : As that was probably the last opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to intervene during one of my speeches, I was happy to give way to him, since his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West, leading for the home affairs team--and they need some leadership

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--on the Opposition Front Bench simply refused to say that he would encourage Labour boroughs to play their proper role in local police consultative groups.

Mr. Harry Greenway : Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Patten : I must give way to my hon. Friend, because I referred to his constituency.

Mr. Tom Clarke : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. When Government Whips give an assurance to Back Benchers, is there any way in which that assurance might be upheld?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : I well appreciate and sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's point, but I am afraid that this is a matter over which I have no control.

Mr. Greenway : Ealing has a very good police consultative committee on which I and the other Members of Parliament for the borough sit. It is widely representative of the community. We have to deal with the Ealing council's anti-police committee, on which the council spends a large sum of public money, and it is always denigrating the police.

Mr. Patten : I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North has said it all.

It remains only for me to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon on his excellent speech and on the way in which he has created so much interest in the importance of the active citizens and voluntary organisations.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House confirms its commitment to the ro le of the active citizen and voluntary organisations in society.

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International Debt

2.5 pm

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West) : I beg to move,

That this House recognises the crucial role played by the World Bank, and, in particular, the International Development Association, in promoting development and alleviating the debt problems of the Third World ; therefore urges Her Majesty's Government to support a generous real increase in the resources of the International Development Association in the forthcoming negotiations for its ninth replenishment ; recommends that in future assistance provided by the International Development Association should be on grant terms, and that all outstanding International Development Association credits should be adjusted retrospectively into grants ; and believes that measures of debt relief, such as the Brady plan, and new funds for the International Development Association would be a major contribution to restoring economic and social development in the Third World.

This will be an all-too-brief debate. I must say first that there are times when I think that I am not exactly the Minister's favourite Member of Parliament. On this occasion, so little do I feature in his thoughts that he does not appear to be listening to the point I am making. However, by way of compensation for keeping him late on a Friday, I assure him that if he finds it possible to accept my rather modest motion, I shall do my best to arrange the kind of reception for him in Glasgow that Daniel Ortega experienced last week. We have had an interesting debate on the role of voluntary organisations and I feel confident that organisations such as Oxfam, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, Christian Aid, the World Development Movement, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and War on Want would feel that the week before an extremely important meeting in London dealing with world debt is an important time for us to have this debate and to give the Minister an opportunity--alas, an all-too-brief one- -to respond to what we have to say.

This debate takes place against a background of a cut in aid to Africa of 26 per cent., or £600 million, which does not balance the excellent efforts of organisations such as Band Aid and Sport Aid, which feel that, on top of their efforts, there is a great need for us to address ourselves to the problem of debt. The debate gives us an opportunity to talk about the influence of the World Bank, the International Development Association, and, of course, the Brady plan. We do so in the knowledge that the ninth replenishment meeting of the International Development Association will take place in London next week.

The Minister knows that IDA provides generous loans on generous terms to the poorest countries and that every three years, the replenishment comes up for debate. We hope that the Government will approach the meeting positively. We want to see a generous replenishment next week as we realise that the present figure of $12 billion is somewhat inadequate. We should-- and I hope that the Minister will have the opportunity to tell us this-- attempt to exceed that figure next week, especially as the United Kingdom share has declined noticeably.

All this takes place at a time when we know that the British people are generous in their approach to these matters, but also at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a surplus of £15 billion in the last Budget. It is not as though the resources are not available if the will is there. We must not have a world in which the poorest

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countries are subsidising the rest of us and in which we do not appear to be taking steps to remove the dreadful problem of debt. I want to quote the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) from the important speech he made on 29 March to the Overseas Development Institute and the Royal Institute for International Affairs. He said :

"Either way both lenders and borrowers in the 1970s made some awful financial decisions. But the real tragedy is that the resulting debt crisis, far from encouraging forgiveness, has relentlessly ensured that the sins of the fathers have been visited on children in the third world."

I am delighted that my right hon. and learned Friend pursues these matters with vigour.

Our contribution and approach should be those of the last Labour Government. They did not have the resources in oil that this Government have experienced, yet under Judith Hart, we had a far better record. The Minister will recall that under IDA 4, the Labour Government's contribution was 11.1 per cent. Under IDA 5, it was 10.6 per cent. and under IDA 6, it was 10.1 per cent. Under the Tories, our share under IDA 7 was 6.7 per cent. and the same under IDA 8, so I look forward to a huge increase to make up for those lost opportunities when the Government tell us about their approach to next week's meeting, which is important because the replenishment of the agreement will apply until 1993.

The views contained in the motion are widely shared. On the future, the motion makes it clear that grants should be offered in some cases, if only because we have seen in the past that loans do not always make economic sense. I am delighted to say that, on that point, I speak not only for my hon. Friends but for a clear majority in the House. That was made clear in a letter addressed to Mr. Barber Conable, the president of the World Bank in spring 1988, signed by 400 hon. Members including 169 Conservative Members. It said : "When IDA started lending to the Third World's poorest countries in the early 1960s, its terms were amongst the most concessional of any aid donor. However, since then the governments of many donors such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany, have switched to providing nearly all of their bilateral aid to the poorest countries on grant terms."

The letter continued :

"In the discussions beginning this year on the ninth replenishment of IDA, we urge that you put proposals to donor governments that the funds they supply for IDA should then be provided to the poorest countries on grant terms."

That letter was signed by Lord Oram, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), and the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) and was supported by more than 400 hon. Members altogether.

Having endorsed that aim, as I hope we shall, should we not do something else? Should we not consider that $32 billion of credit are outstanding which the poorest countries owe to the World Bank? Should we not accept that that is a major problem inviting a response? The countries concerned are flat on their backs. Over the years, some of them have grown out of their difficulties. We accept that South Korea, for example, would not qualify for any arrangements ; indeed, it might be invited, in its new role and with its new status as a developing country, to contribute to countries whose need is so great.

There is a case for multilateral aid being grant-supported rather than being based on loans. There is also

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a case--many have supported this view--for writing off much of the debt retrospectively. There is nothing new about that proposal. I shall try to be fair to the Minister, even though he does not always make life easy for me, by saying that even this Government have accepted in their bilateral aid policy that there is a case for grants instead of loans. They have carried on Judith Hart's policy, and I am delighted to see her successor, the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) here. I give the Government credit for doing that, but why do they not apply that important concept to multilateral debt and introduce it into the meeting next week. The World Bank has a major influence on these matters. It is the largest source of multilateral aid to Africa at the moment, accounting for 25 per cent. of the total.

An article in The Times of 5 April, referring to the recent meeting of the Group of Seven said :

"The meetings of the Group of Seven, International Monetary Fund and World Bank which ended yesterday were characterized, as usual, by surface harmony. All the participants claimed to support the letter of the communique s while going on to interpret them in ways which were blatantly at odds with each other."

There is a need for some form of leadership, but not of the sort that we have seen so far in the Government's representations. In a previous debate I asked the Minister to comment on the Brady proposals. We have had little debate so far on these matters in the House and, especially, on the Brady proposals. I refer the Minister to a comment in the Financial Times on 19 April :

"By emphasising voluntary debt reduction, accelerated with financial support from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the US has implicitly recognised that--at least for countries taking the right kind of economic measures--ability to pay should be a factor in deciding what countries should pay."

It added :

"One could not expect banks to support the moral argument. However, there are strong financial arguments to suggest that they should try to embrace the Brady proposals as convincingly as possible." For reasons out of my control, time is not on our side, but we sincerely ask the Minister and the Government at least to consider the contents of the motion. We recognise the awful problem that debt represents to the developing countries--to the poorest of the poor. We see no good in the Chancellor seemingly giving with the one hand and then very definitely taking away with the other. Debt represents an enormous problem. It leads to hunger and to poverty, which strike a major blow to the quality of life of millions of men and women in the Third world.

I believe that Great Britain has a contribution to make towards the economic and social development of the developing world. Next week we have a responsibility to make such a contribution to solving those problems. I urge the Minister to consider these matters seriously, because poverty in the Third world represents perhaps the biggest threat to peace apart from nuclear weapons. The problem invites a major response from the Government and from the Minister.

2.16 pm

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Christopher Patten) : I am glad to have the chance again to discuss in the House the important issues of aid and

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development. I congratulate the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) on his good fortune and his choice of subject. The motion refers to the "international debt crisis". That well- worn phrase can tempt us to see the problems of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America in the 1980s only in terms of international debt. That would be wrong. Those two regions in fact owe not much more than half of total developing country debt. There are some very heavy debtors in Asia. Yet Asia in the 1980s, unlike Africa or Latin America, demonstrates a consistent run of strongly positive growth in per capita income figures. We should, perhaps, rather talk of Africa and Latin America suffering a "development crisis", and not focus purely on debt in seeking the causes or the remedies of those countries' economic difficulties.

The motion, perhaps rather unhelpfully, refers us not to the causes of debt problems, but to their remedies. I propose to deal briefly with the situation in Africa, before turning to comment on the recent proposals for middle-income debtors, which are specifically mentioned in the motion. I have often said before that the key to Africa's economic recovery lies in the policies pursued by African Governments. More and more are now pursuing economic reform programmes agreed with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. There are also encouraging signs that economic performance in recent years has been better in those countries which have adopted adjustment programmes than in those which have not.

However, we have long recognised that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with incomes typically around $350 a head, will never be able to repay all the debts that they owe. We have played a part in recent initiatives to alleviate the debt burden of sub-Saharan Africa. In April 1987 we launched an initiative to help those poorest, most indebted countries, which were prepared to shoulder the difficult responsibility of restructuring their economies. The initiative called for the writing-off of old aid loans and the rescheduling of other official debt on concessional terms.

Britain has taken a lead in implementing the first part by cancelling nearly £1 billion of old aid loans or providing equivalent relief. The Chancellor's second proposal formed the basis of the agreement reached at the Toronto ecomomic summit in June 1988. Nine countries have now had their official debt rescheduled on concessional terms in the Paris Club and more are likely to follow in the next few months.

In the multilateral institutions, the Government have played their part in providing financial support for the poorest debtor countries pursuing economic reforms. We have agreed to provide up to £327 million over 14 years to subsidise loans from the International Monetary Fund's new enhanced structural adjustment facility. That is enough to subsidise one sixth of total lending and makes us the largest single contributor to the subsidy account. Seven of the poorest most heavily indebted countries already have programmes supported by that facility.

At the World Bank we have pledged £250 million over three years in association with the bank's special programme of assistance for Africa. I shall speak later of our specific contributions to the International Development Association, a subject referred to in terms in the motion and to which the hon. Member for Monklands, West referred at some length.

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