Tory MP kills anti-poverty bill and goes into hiding

By staff writers
March 12, 2010

An unidentified Conservative MP today (12 March) appears to have brought an end to the passage of a bill in the House of Commons which could have helped millions in poverty.

There was confusion in the chamber of the House of Commons this afternoon, as campaigners said a Tory MP yelled his objection to the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill - blocking the bill's passage and effectively killing it. The bill had reached its Report Stage and Third Reading.

Though the cry appeared to come from a small group of three Conservatives, it was not clear which of them objected. Reports from MPs in the chamber suggest that the MPs were Christopher Chope, and two Whips.

Chope had spent two hours trying to 'talk the bill out.'

One of the whips present was Deputy Chief Whip and MP for Blaby, Andrew Robathan. The other was Simon Burns. Tory Edward Leigh, who is not a whip, was also present, have just entered the House before the objection was made.

Another Tory MP, Philip Davies, who had been expected to try and wreck the bill, did not appear to be in the chamber at the time. He was however spotted in the vicinity.

Whoever it was, the MP concerned has however refused to come forward and be identified.

After the objection, Sally Keeble MP, raised a point of order with the Deputy Speaker, implying that it was Chope who had objected. She further suggested that since he had chaired the bill's committee stage, his objection was not in order.

Legislation to prevent 'vulture funds' profiting in UK courts will now not be passed during this Parliament. The bill aimed to outlaw the investment companies which buy up defaulted Third World debt and sue countries for immediate repayment. The practice has cost the poorest countries in the world over a billion dollars in recent years.

Campaigners are calling on the leader of the opposition, David Cameron, to clarify which MP objected to the bill, and his party's view of the objection.

They also what to know what action, if any, will be take against the MP concerned.

Cameron is now being asked whether his party would, if it forms the next Government, support similar vulture legislation within 12 months of the General Election.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign expressed anger and disappointment.

The move came on the day that former Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa backed the bill, saying: "I hope the international community joins hands to put an end to these deplorable activities of the Vulture Funds."

The bill has also been backed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign said: "It is an outrage that one MP has taken it upon himself to effectively kill a bill which has the support of the vast majority of the House of Commons. This action has destroyed the hopes of many people across the developing world that we might put an end to the appalling practice of vulture funds. This move will mean many of the poorest countries in the world will continue suffering at the hands of reckless and unethical investors.

"We pay tribute to the work of MPs who have taken this bill so far, most notably Sally Keeble and Andrew Gwynne - but also the many other MPs who have supported this bill from all parties. Unfortunately their hard work has been undone in a matter of minutes. We are asking clarity of the leadership of the Conservative Party as to their position with regards to this legislation."

Andrew Gwynne, who proposed the bill said: "It is completely outrageous that the Conservatives have opposed this Bill at the final moment in Parliament. A number of concessions had been specifically been made to gain their support, for a Bill that would have helped the very poorest people in the world.”

"Vulture Funds are completely unacceptable and it is staggering the Conservatives are still unwilling to support even the most basic legislation to help reduce Third World Debt."

You can watch the objection here (4.58) Also in the chamber at the time appear to be: Nick Raynsford, Stephen Timms, Kerry McCarthy,

[Update 18.06 Cathy Newman, Political Correspondent for Channel 4 News says: "I just spoke to christopher chope who denies shouting object - and blamed Philip Davies - but Labour says he wasn't even in the chamber" ]

Keywords:vulture funds
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