Letter: Rescue the child workers

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Sir: Kenneth Clarke deserves the praise he is getting from Oxfam supporters for his stand on reducing the debts of the poorest countries ("IMF to give Uganda $80m Christmas present", 1 October), and maybe even more for supporting the abolition of tariffs on their exports. That is the only way they are ever going to stop being poor.

The opposition of France and the United States to this plan is therefore to be deplored, but their desire for minimum labour standards, particularly for children, deserves support. It seems curious that these ideas appear to be seen as alternatives.

Millions of children are being robbed of their childhood and of their one chance of education by being made - sometimes forced - to work, often in hazardous conditions or at risk of physical, mental or sexual abuse. In 1992 the International Labour Organisation launched its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour. Those Oxfam supporters (and others) could do worse than to urge Mr Clarke to give it his backing.


London N13