Vultures Bill is now law!

UK becomes first country to ban ‘Third World Debt’ profiteering in final hours of Parliamentary session

A landmark bill to protect the poorest countries in the world from profiteering by so-called vulture funds became law today after passing in the House of Lords during the ‘wash-up’ at the end of the Parliamentary session.

The successful passage of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill, which is the world’s first law to restrict the ability of Vulture Funds to sue some of the world’s poorest countries for full repayment of debts that they have bought up cheaply.

Last November two Vulture Funds were awarded $20 million in the High Court from Liberia – the second poorest country in the world – for a debt dating back to the 1970s. This law is expected to make that verdict unenforceable.

There was an outcry last month after the bill was blocked at third reading by an unidentified Conservative MP – thought to be backbencher Christopher Chope. But the Government made time for the Bill in the wash-up, after securing cross-party agreement with a sunset clause which will mean the law has to be reassessed to be made permanent in a year’s time.

International support for the bill has been expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Sponsor of the bill said:
“I am absolutely thrilled that my bill has been passed into law. It was completely unacceptable that a small number of companies were ever allowed in the UK courts to profiteer off the third world debt market. These “vulture funds” were completely unjust and it is to the credit of this parliament, and the efforts of the Jubilee Debt Campaign that we have finally managed to pass this law. I said I would put a stop to these vulture funds, and I did.”

Sally Keeble MP, who took the bill through the House of Commons, said:
“These vulture funds are international predators. Their victims are the poorest people in the world. It is excellent that at this stage it has been possible to get this piece of legislation on to the statute books to outlaw the activities of these vulture funds. This was a victory for a broad based campaign led by jubilee debt and other NGOs which brought this issue to public attention.”

Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:
“This is a landmark law. With this act, the UK has become the first country in the world to stop vulture funds using its courts to profiteer from poverty. It will mean the poorest countries in the world can no longer be attacked by these reprehensible investment funds who grow fat from the misery of others. We now call on other governments, particularly the US administration, to take similar steps to outlaw vulture practices.”

“We hope this is the first step towards creating a more just financial system, which operates for the great majority of people, not a tiny minority of unethical investors.”

Labour commits to Vultures Debt Relief Bill in manifesto

The Labour Party has announced that the election manifesto will include a clear commitment to introduce tough new legislation on vulture funds early in the next Parliament.

A few weeks ago, Labour MPs Andrew Gwynne & Sally Keeble introduced his Private Members Bill to tackle Vulture Funds once and for all. With the support of Government and Treasury Minister Ian Pearson, the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill made good progress.

As we reported, at its third reading in the House of Commons, it was torpedoed by Conservative MPs who objected to it, despite having promised to support the bill.

Vulture funds buy developing country debt at low cost and then sue these poor countries for the money. They undermine development in the poorest countries and use the UK legal system to do so.

We’re please that there will be a new commitment in the manifesto to stop this sickening practice from happening. Please add your backing to this measure by clicking here.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with this interview with Chris Cope MP, the Conservative MP to ruined the Vultures Bill, by anti-poverty campaigner Jameela Oberman. Draw your own conclusions:

Q. The Debt Relief Bill would have prevented loan sharks from fleecing money that was meant for people in developing countries who lack facilities like basic hospital care for their children, they are dying because of this, don’t you have a conscience about what you’ve done?

A. Well, I’ve said before I am sorry these countries having corrupt regimes who take from their people.

Q. How is this relevant when the Bill was specifically aimed at targeting vulture funds and tailored so these countries aren’t ordered in UK courts to pay investor sharks money these sharks are not owed? And so that aid money from your electorate isn’t spent on their estates, yachts and fat bank accounts? The Bill completely safeguards against countries with corrupt regimes – both front benches agreed. Are you saying it’s preferable for these investor sharks to pocket millions plus enormous inflated interest because you’d rather that than it goes to ‘these countries corrupt regimes’?

A. (No answer but scoffs at the question) There were objections I had with the Bill that needed to be discussed but the government didn’t allow it enough time.

Q. Yes I read that one of your claimed reasons for objecting to the Bill was that it would deter future investors in loaning money to countries. Could you please explain these concerns and why you, as Chairman of the Committee, waited until after the first, second and third reading to object?

A. To start there is no debate in the first reading, if you know anything about journalism and had done your research you would have looked it up in Hansard and read the concerns I expressed in the second reading.

Q. What I meant is that you had ample time to work through and clear-up any queries you had and that the Bill had cross-party and front-bench support- even support from your Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

A. Just because a Bill has support by all parties doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed – as I said in the local paper I have been made a scapegoat. It was the government who did not allow the Bill enough time to be discussed. I expressed my concerns in the second reading, which you can refer to in Hansard.

Q. As you’re here now, could you please tell me in a few words your main concerns with a Bill that your front bench supported?

A. I repeat if you had done your research properly by looking in Hansard you would have known from there, I am not discussing it now.

Q. Ok, so if your reason for shouting ‘object’ at the last minute is justified and you have nothing to be ashamed of why did you refuse to identify yourself to MP Sally Keeble who was trying to get the Bill through?

A. Because that is standard practice, the Speaker of the house will always protect the right of anonymity with an unattributable basis.

Q. But why did you then choose to keep your anonymity?

A. As I said it is standard practice. If I could ask you to leave now we’ve ran out of time.

Q. Before I leave, would you support the Bill for the party manifesto if the Conservative party wins the election?

A. I’m not on the front bench it’s not up to me.

Q. Of course but will you urge the front bench to support the Bill?

A. Goodbye.

Tory front bench ruin Debt Bill – co-sign our letter to Cameron

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.

We’re pretty disgusted by this, and we want to know whether this important bill was stopped on David Cameron’s instructions. Please co-sign our letter urging David Cameron to come clean now.

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.”

Sign the letter to David Cameron urging him to come clean on whether this important bill was stopped on his instructions.