BRIEFING: Britain's Debt Secrets (Nov 2012)This briefing outlines Jubilee Debt Campaign's efforts to uncover the truth about the £2 billion developing countries owe as a result of Britain's dodgy deals.
It is just over two years since the launch of our Dodgy Deals campaign. The campaign is targeting the more than £2 billion of debt owed by developing countries to UK Export Finance – a secretive government department based in Canary Wharf which backs loans for UK exports overseas (it was previously known as the Export Credits Guarantee Department).
A big share of the debts owed to UK Export Finance arose from failed trade deals with some of the world’s most notorious dictators in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, including for military goods used to suppress their own people. While most of these dictators are now out of power, their debts are still being paid by the people.
Since 2010, tens of thousands of people across the UK have joined our call for the coalition Government to audit these debts and cancel those that are unjust. The Liberal Democrats have a party policy to audit all the debt owed to the UK and cancel those found to have come from “reckless loans to dictators known not to be committed to spending the funds on development”. But so far Liberal Democrat Business Minister Vince Cable, who is in charge of UK Export Finance, has said only that he is “not minded to pursue such an audit.”
So we decided not to wait for the Government to release the information and have carried out our own investigation. Scouring 30-year old files in the National Archives, using Freedom of Information requests, and in combination with parliamentary questions from supportive MPs, our activist researchers have unearthed crucial information related to debts owed by countries including Egypt, Argentina, Zimbabwe and North Korea. This briefing summarises what we’ve uncovered about Britain’s debt secrets.