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The choice – quotes from the aid bill debate on Friday speak for themselves

15 September 2014

“A friend of mine was at an international conference in Africa and she was making the point, which perhaps we would all have been tempted to make, that aid is not about pity; it is about empathy. It is not just about having sympathy for people; it is about helping people, because we think the same way as they do about their responsibilities to each other. She said that people would do everything for their children. But after her talk someone quietly took her aside and said one of the most devastating things I think I have ever heard. He said, “I can’t love my children as much as you love yours in the west. I can’t allow myself to, because then it would destroy me when I lose them.”

How can we continue to live in a world where in a country such as Ethiopia families did not register the births of their children for months because of the fear that they were going to die in their infancy—where a father or a mother can say that they cannot love their child too much because of the fear that they are going to lose them? How can we live, therefore, in a world where there is not hope and expectation that things could get better?

Let our debate today be a message that there can be hope for the future, enshrined in law. Let us ensure that we can say that to millions of people who thought things were hopeless that we not only kept our promises, but we kept hope alive.”

– Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP

 “We should be proud of what we are seeking to achieve today. A very small Bill, on just a few sheets of paper, will save many hundreds of thousands of lives of people we will never meet and whose names we will never know. …We will, in years to come, look back with a real sense of pride on what we are, together, achieving today.”

– Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

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All 6 MPs who voted against the bill were Conservatives – who tried to filibuster the bill to prevent it going to a vote. Here’s what they had to say:

“Many of my colleagues seem to want to abandon their Conservative principles… I do not know whether they believe in the Bill. In many respects, I hope they support it because they think it will help their advancement, because if they genuinely believe in it, I do not see how they can call themselves Conservatives in any shape or form.”

“At a time of national austerity, it seems to me sensible that we would want to reduce the aid spending given to other countries. It would not have been a bad thing even to have frozen aid spending to other countries, but to increase it massively, as we have done, at the same time as we are making the case that we have no money and have to cut spending everywhere and cut our cloth accordingly, is completely and utterly ridiculous.”

[The bill] “will just be a hand-out to make a few middle-class, Guardian-reading, sandal-wearing, lentil-eating do-gooders with a misguided guilt complex feel better about themselves.”

– Philip Davies MP, Con

“This measure would be grossly distorting and un-Conservative.”

– Sir Edward Leigh MP, Con

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