In a speech to more than a thousand campaigners at the Tea Time for Change mass lobby of Parliament this past weekend, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said he was “grateful” to Catholic agency CAFOD for showing him the organisation’s work in Uganda.
The speech, made at a rally prior to the lobby, reinforced the UK government’s pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to aid and to pass this commitment into law. Mitchell thanked CAFOD for taking him on a trip to Uganda in 2005 and said he would always remember the commitment of workers on the ground, particularly the hard work of CAFOD partners the Medical Missionaries of Mary on HIV/AIDS.
Mitchell told the 1,200 supporters gathered for Tea Time for Change: “Your voices are being heard and the Government is taking these issues forward. Charity begins at home, but it doesn’t end there. I am so grateful to CAFOD who took me to Uganda. I have never forgotten the trip and the passion of a British NGO working so well for the poor and downtrodden.”
Later in the day, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Harriet Harman also hailed CAFOD’s leadership on pushing forward the Bribery Act which comes into force next month. Before speaking, Harman met with nine of her constituents to talk through the issues being raised at Tea Time for Change.
In her speech, Harman urged the Government to act “so that business and government play their part in tackling poverty”.
The mass lobby was the largest since the coalition government came to power with more than 130 MPs, including Frank Dobson, Glenda Jackson, Stephen Timms and John Bercow, taking the time to meet their constituents who had travelled from around the country to discuss overseas aid and the need to increase transnational company transparency, an end to tax dodging by big corporations and new ways to raise extra funds for poor communities.
Director of CAFOD Chris Bain led the mass lobby with a rousing speech on the importance of aid and the reasons why aid alone is not enough to help the poorest nations help themselves.
Chris Bain said: “Today 850 million people are going hungry because they are poor. That is a scandal. It’s a scandal every day. It gives us 850 million reasons to be here. Today is our opportunity to demonstrate to Westminster that, in the face of a financial crisis, there is a community within the UK that will continue to stand up for the world’s poorest people – and we’re here to stay.”
Tea Time for Change was organised by CAFOD, Action Aid, Tearfund, Oxfam, Save the Children and Christian Aid and took place on June 9 in Westminster Central Hall in London.
Joanna Switalska from Harrow, London, met her local MP Gareth Thomas. She said: “The whole day has been very inspiring and humbling. It’s amazing to hear what people in poorer countries are experiencing. It’s really shown me how interconnected we are and what we do here really does impact on people elsewhere.
“It was great talking to Gareth, who is so informed on International Development issues and we’re lucky in Harrow to have someone so supportive of aid and the connected issues that are so important to me and the other constituents that have come here today.”
* Tea Time for Change: http://teatimeforchange.org.uk/community/
* CAFOD: http://www.cafod.org.uk