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HIPC Initiative: Okinawa Summit

3 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, debt is an important issue on the Okinawa Summit agenda. Heads of Government plan to review and encourage progress on the HIPC debt relief initiative with a view to meeting the target set at last year's Cologne Summit of seeing three-quarters of eligible countries receiving debt relief by the end of this year. The UK Government remain committed to this target and will continue to do all they can to ensure that these countries receive the debt relief they so urgently need.

The UK has taken a leading role in the development of the HIPC debt relief initiative and our bilateral policy of 100 per cent debt forgiveness underlines our commitment.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for reaffirming the Government's intentions on the HIPC process, although they still fall well short of the 100 per cent target agreed at Cologne. Would he agree that it is time to turn our attention to future World Bank lending? For instance, under its new country assistance strategy, the World Bank is embarking on a 1 billion dollar loan for Tanzania which merely replaces the debt relief of 1 billion dollars that Tanzania has already received. What is the guarantee that the Bank has a new lending policy which will ensure that future loans are based on sustainable strategies, especially in agriculture?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his recognition of the outstanding role of the UK Government in these matters. The new lending that is proposed for Tanzania will be on highly concessionary terms. It will be related not only to industrial projects but on the basis of Tanzania's poverty reduction strategy paper. My noble friend Lady Amos referred to that in

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response to an earlier Question. Therefore, the loan will be for projects such as agriculture, health, rural roads and water.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, in the light of the Minister's comment about the UK's leading role and its policy of 100 per cent debt forgiveness, how many countries have received debt cancellation from the British Government under the policy of cancellation of all debts owed to the UK by developing countries? Furthermore, can he tell the House how much debt has been cancelled by the British Government in each case?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I should have to produce a large table to answer that question in detail, but I can say that our contribution to the HIPC trust fund is the largest in the world, at 350 million dollars. All the G7 countries have agreed to follow our example, with 100 per cent relief on bilateral aid. That is not a bad record.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, the Churches are highly appreciative of the lead taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, there have been disturbing reports that the high hopes set for the G8 Summit will not be achieved. Are there serious obstacles to achieving the target and, if so, what might they be?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the first obstacle was to get the item on the agenda. Our officials working on the agenda have overcome that. As I indicated in my Answer, it is now agreed that the item will play an important part on the agenda. Japan, in particular, as host country has made a commitment to that. We shall have to wait and see how the negotiations progress at Okinawa, but I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we are pushing hard for a better outcome from HIPC 2.

Lord Judd: My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the urgency of the situation is underlined by the consistent fall in levels of development assistance from the wealthy countries of the world, with the honourable exception of the United Kingdom and the lead given by the DfID? In those circumstances, is there not something despicable about the wealthy nations of the world meeting to discuss how they can shore up their wealth without falling in behind the lead given by the Chancellor and others on what we should be doing together to fulfil our responsibilities in the wider world?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is not for me to criticise other countries in the way in which they approach the G8 Summit. Of course they come with their own motivation, and our role is to pursue, and to encourage them to pursue, a firm and effective strategy for the reduction of world poverty. After all, it was the Labour Government who pushed for the adoption of HIPC 2, which now covers 38 countries and a total of 100 billion dollars. That is no mean achievement.

Lord Redesdale : My Lords, will the Government consider pushing for a change of rules for the World

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Bank and the IMF so that they may consider changing from loans, even on a concessionary basis, to grants for social spending? Some countries--for instance, Haiti--have unsustainable debt and they will never be able to repay even the most lenient concessionary loans.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there will always be a role for grants, particularly for disaster relief. Indeed, referring back to an earlier Question, the European Commission makes a considerable number of grants for this purpose. I believe that loans will always have a major role to play because they enable the provision of relief earlier than would otherwise be possible.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend and the Government on their excellent record on debt relief, but would he not agree that while 600 million people live in 40 HIPC countries, many billions living in other developing countries rely heavily on concessionary aid? Would he further agree that it is extremely important that while the debt initiative must be properly financed, it should not be an excuse for OECD countries to reduce the rest of their development assistance and thus rob Peter to pay Paul?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, those are wise words from my noble friend.

Alliance & Leicester Group Treasury plc (Transfer) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Transport Bill

3.6 p.m.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I explained the background to the Motion.

It has been agreed through the usual channels that it would be advantageous to commit the Bill to the Moses Room for a single day, specifically to allow the government amendments to be inserted into the Bill. Once this has been done, the Bill will be reprinted as amended and recommitted in its entirety to a Committee of the Whole House.

The Bill which is considered in Committee of the Whole House will therefore be a clean copy incorporating all the government amendments. It will then be open to your Lordships to move amendments to the Bill in the usual way.

Although the purpose of the Motion is to allow government amendments to be inserted, the Motion does not prevent other amendments from being tabled. However, I would urge those of your Lordships who have already tabled amendments to consider

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withdrawing them before the Marshalled List for the Grand Committee is printed and retabling them for the Committee of the Whole House. This can be done very simply by talking to the Public Bill Office and it would assist with the practicalities of reprinting the Bill for the Committee of the Whole House.

I should be happy to talk to any of your Lordships who are affected by the arrangement and the Government Whips Office is also happy to provide advice and assistance on this subject. The purpose of the Motion is to allow the Bill to be handled in a way which will make an effective and efficient use of the time of the House.

Moved, That the order of commitment of 5th June be discharged and that the Bill be committed to a Grand Committee; that the Bill as amended in the Grand Committee be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House; and that the Instruction to the Committee of the Whole House of 7th June (order of consideration of clauses and Schedules) be instead an Instruction to the Grand Committee.--(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston.)

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I want to congratulate the Minister on his well placed sense of modesty and shyness in seeking to handle a very awkward stage of a very clumsy Bill in a reasonably delicate fashion without revealing the full horror to an unnecessary degree of public examination and perhaps even slight distaste and disapproval.

At the same time, I should not like to leave my noble friends on the Front Bench out of the torrent of goodwill which is proceeding from my lips. I congratulate them on their generosity, even if I believe that on this occasion they may rather have overdone it and been a little too generous where the deserts were not all that obvious.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, before the Minister replies, for the convenience of the House can he inform us how many government amendments are to be put down which necessitate this rather unusual move? After all, a great deal of time has been spent on the Bill in the other place and we have already spent one day debating it here. Can he tell us how many amendments necessitate this strange idea?

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