A minor story doing the rounds at the moment is of a Private Member’s Bill was torpedoed at the last minute by an anonymous Conservative MP – thought to be Christopher Chope of anti-Minimum Wage fame – shouting ‘Object!’, which effectively stopped the Bill going through Parliament.
The Bill was aimed at stopping what’s known as ‘Vulture Funds’, where companies buy up third world debt at a reduced rate, then sue the countries for the debt at full value.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign has called on David Cameron to reveal his position on the Bill, if he supported it or if he gave the go-ahead for an objection to kill it, as two other potential Tories who could have shouted object were actually whips, meaning they could have been following a party line to kill the Bill.
At the moment it’s Christopher Chope who is taking the flak, rightly so, but there is a danger that we forget who it was who was going to put forward an amendment that would also have wrecked the bill (these amendments are known as ‘wrecking amendments’ for obvious reasons), until it was disallowed by the Speaker.
The MP who put forward the amendment was Shipley MP, Philip Davies (also Conservative, unsurprisingly) who has spoken in two debates on the bill opposing it on the grounds that it shouldn’t be retrospective in its scope.
Apart from the original Guardian article (link) on the wrecking amendment the rest of the news coverage has focused solely on the role of the whips and Christopher Chope, understandably enough but it’s worth remembering that Philip Davies was also prepared to kill the bill if he could.
What is interesting is why Davies didn’t go to the debate himself to object, if he felt so strongly about it? Could it be that his majority in Shipley is only 500 or so, while Christopher Chope has a majority of over 10,000? Could it also be linked to the fact that the Jubilee Debt Campaign had organised a rally outside Philip Davies’ office on the Friday to oppose his wrecking amendment?
Its bad enough Davies wanted to kill a bill that had cross party support on helping third world countries in debt. It would have helped them use their money not to pay rich businessmen in the UK and USA preying on the poor and the weak but to put food into the mouths of their starving children. But for Davies not to even have the guts to go through with his objection is simply pathetic.
He does, however, have form on this sort of thing. When his opposition to the Minimum Wage was revealed by my campaign he stated that he merely wanted to start a debate on the matter. Then, when he sent out thousands of leaflets to his constituents letting them know what he’d been up to, he completely left out any mention at all of his opposition to the Minimum Wage and the ‘debate’ he wanted to have about it.
If you want to sign the letter sent to David Cameron asking him to explain his position on the issue then click here.
Below is a set of links to news stories and blogs on how the Tories have killed a Bill that would have saved lives in the third world:
UPDATE: Philip Davies contacted me to explain his side of the story, see below and make your own minds up. He seems to be under the impression that his amendment would have in no way endangered the progress of the Bill which is pretty much in exact opposition to what Andrew Gywnne and the Jubilee Debt Campaign both believe. However I do believe in openess so am happy to put Philip’s side of the story below.
For a bit of context I should point out the reason his amendment was rejected is that it had already been debated both in the first reading and the committee stage, so whatever issues the parties felt there were had already been resolved, though not, obviously, to Philip’s satisfaction:
I tabled an amendment to the Bill at the first stage of the Bill at which I had an opportunity to debate such an amendment (people are appointed on to Standing committees and I was not appointed). When the Speaker informed me that he had not selected my amendment on Thursday afternoon I asked (on Thursday – before any campaign or protest outside of my office on Friday!) that my amendment be withdrawn.
This is crucial as if I had left the amendment there (even though not selected for debate by the Speaker) that would itself have blocked the Bill. Therefore by actively asking for my amendment to be withdrawn on Thursday I was actually smoothing the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons. I even checked first thing on Friday morning with the Clerks of the House that this was the case and they confirmed this to me.
I was as surprised as anyone to be told that the Bill had been blocked. I was not in the chamber at 2.30pm (there was no debate for this Bill as you suggest as it was not reached) when this happened and therefore do not know who did it or their reasoning. It may well have been Chris Chope who did it, not because he is a friend of mine, but because he regularly does this with many Bills every week. If it was him it was not something I asked him to do, and it was not something that we spoke about. I trust you will take my word for that without any kind of innuendo.