On Friday, the Conservative party scuppered a bill by Labour MPs on Debt Relief.
The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill was being taken through its report and third reading stages today by Sally Keeble MP after the bill’s promoter Andrew Gwynne, became ill. A cross party consensus had been agreed at committee stage of the bill with the acceptance of a sunset clause that put a time limit on the bill. A last minute objection from Phillip Davies, MP for Shipley, was withdrawn, so the bill should have completed its passage through the Commons today. Baroness Quin had agreed to take it through the House of Lords.
The bill, which stopped secretive off-shore investment funds from profiteering out of third world debt, was the result of years of international campaigning on the subject. It protected heavily indebted poor countries which benefit from UK taxpayers support – effectively stopping tax payers money being siphoned off by the so-called “vulture” funds.
The three Tory MPs – two of them Tory front benchers – sat with bowed heads in the Commons Chamber and refused to admit which of them had objected to the private members bill. Their move effectively brought an end to the bill. Sally Keeble called their actions “abject cowardice.” We think that’s a fairly measured way to describe their actions.
Here is a statement from Sally Keeble we’d like to publish:
“This action today gives the lie to the Tories’ pretence of supporting international development. This bill was a small, but significant step in helping the most impoverished countries deal with their debts. It also protected British taxpayers’ money.
The Tories obviously think that developing countries are good enough to use as tax havens from which to get funding. But they are not prepared to protect the poorest developing countries from the most blatant profiteering.
The Tory front bench – the Tory Leader and the Shadow International Development – must own up if it was one of their team was responsible for scuppering this bill. Was it their deputy chief whip Andrew Robotham MP, the whip Simon Burns MP, or the chair of the bill committee, Christopher Chope? They are abject cowards who sat and hung their heads as one of them objected to a measure to help combat world poverty.
The Tories have given a green light to the vulture funds that make profits out of the debts of the poorest people on the world.”