Rogue Tory kills debt relief bill


10:00 am - March 15th 2010

by Left Outside    


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At the end of last week Tory MP Christopher Chope shouted “object” in the Houses of Parliament. By doing so he has more or less ensured that the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill will not pass before Parliament is dissolved and an election is called. This was a Bill with cross party support which was intended to be passed before Brown must call an election.

This Bill was introduced as a consequence of Liberia being brought before the courts in the UK. Greg Palast reported for Newsnight:

Liberia received debt relief worth $4bn from the international community in 2007 under the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, including $2bn from private-sector bondholders. Insiders to negotiations allege that two US financiers, Eric Hermann and Michael Straus, allowed other creditors to accept a low payout from Liberia, then quietly transferred their holdings to two other firms, which then sued in Britain for the debt in full.

The Bill would have protected the 40 countries helped by the heavily indebted poor countries initiative. It was also drafted to include measures to prevent assets being seized which are intended to help Liberia.

Three Tory members were in the house when the Bill was being discussed.As The Guardian makes clear, for some time no one knew which of Christopher Chope, Andrew Robathan or Simon Burns had raised this objection. This point should be reiterated, when challenged in Parliament the member who shouted, who we now know to be Christopher Chope, childishly refused to speak up.

I e-mailed the MPs involved in an attempt to find who had killed the BIll and received a single response. This was from Simon Burns making it abundantly clear that he whole heartedly backed the Bill. I am sure Christopher Chope has had a lot of explaining to do this weekend but he has still failed to even acknowledge my question.

Christopher Chope had concerns about the Bill, his objection was entirely within the rules of parliamentary protocol and he was also entitled to refuse to identify himself when challenged, but that does not mean what he did should not pass without condemnation.

This was a Bill introduced by a Labour MP, Andrew Gwynne, and supported by David Cameron and the Conservative front bench. I suspect that this is an example of an MP going rogue. Mr Chope spoke at inordinate length in previous debates hoping to stall the legislation.

As an “honourable” member objected to this Bill’s consideration a further vote must now be arranged for this to be passed into law. Since we are so close to an election, there does not appear to be time remaining in this parliamentary session to do so. The Bill is dead in the water and Christopher Chope killed it. Sadly, the consequences for him are likely to be minor compared to the damage which may now be visited on countries in the Developing world in this Bill’s absence.

If David Cameron cares about his party’s image and really is a compassionate conservative he will promise to reintroduce this Bill and help some of the world’s poorest people.

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About the author
Left Outside is a regular contributor to LC. He blogs here and tweets here. From October 2010 to September 2012 he is reading for an MSc in Global History at the London School of Economics and will be one of those metropolitan elite you read so much about.
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Reader comments


This only shows two things, 1) The Tories are the same old, same old and 2) Cameron hasn’t got anywhere near enough control to lead a party with a tiny minority.

At least that’s what I generally hope 😉

The bill’s dead. Good.

For there was a major problem with it. It would be retroactive.

It’s one thing for the law to state that going forward from here lending to poor countries just got a great deal riskier.

It’s quite another to say that we’re changing the terms of loans that have already been made.

Tim,

Surely the best thing is to amend retroactivity out in a short debate rather than to kill the whole bill dead?

Not sufficiently certain on Parliamentary procedure to know whether that is possible.

I think (and would welcome correction) that you can only amend at Committee stage. By objecting, the bill now goes to committee stage. Thus this is the correct action if you want to debate or argue for an amendment.

As I say, I’m very much not sure I’ve got this rules right here and would welcome correction if needed.

I may too be wrong, but my understanding is that an objection merely delays when the vote on taking the next reading occurs.

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2009-10/debtreliefdevelopingcountries.html

According to the above you’re right that it couldn’t be amended in the commons (though it could be in the Lords), but essentially the objection means that the 3rd reading vote has been put back to a point where there won’t be enough time to actually pass the bill in the remaining <2 weeks there would be of parliamentary time.

Just had a look at Chope’s past voting record… he really is an odious man

#4

Don’t want it amended thank you very much. Liberia have been successfully sued for $20m by these parasites. Don’t expect me to cry any tears for vulture funds; just because they were acting technically within the law doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to get screwed.

Comment lef t on my blog.

Greg Palast, reporting for BBC says:
March 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm (Edit)

Vultures defend themselves by vomiting on their enemies. In Britain this week, terrified vultures puked up a Tory MP named Christopher Chope.
Two weeks ago, the day after we broadcast our investigation on BBC Television of financial vultures preying on the world’s poorest nations, the British Parliament voted to effectively put them out of business in the UK. A rare victory for victims.
But last Friday, MP Chope used a Parliamentary gimmick to kill the bill.
Chope, I should say, has not confessed to the deed. The cowardly little piece of vulture puke would not admit he’d put the knife in the back of the law. However, vulture vomit has a truly vile stench, impossible to wash off; so activists were able to sniff him out.
Whether the law ultimately takes effect may depend on the outcome of the UK election. Though all parties in the UK back the anti-vulture law, the Conservatives commitment is apparently hobbled by some of their members’ preference for dining on the dead.
When I was in West Africa in February, I met with former UN diplomat Winston Tubman, who asked the vultures, “Don’t you know you are causing babies to die all over Liberia?”
Will the honorable MP Mr. Chope answer the question?
Greg Palast, New York
Our BBC report:
http://www.gregpalast.com/bbc-on-the-hunt-for-an-american-vulture-attacking-liberia/

“we’re changing the terms of loans that have already been made.”

The terms changed a long time ago when the people responsible for taking out the loans – usually various despots and warlords – lost power and were replaced. Its like me moving into a new house, and debt collectors chasing gambling debts run up by the previous owners.

In terms of liberia, we have a country that is an emerging democracy being expected to pay for the wars of Charles Taylor by speculators using technical legal means to make massive profits on loans previously written off years ago.

Its as ethically indefensible as slavery.

Surely the best thing is to amend retroactivity out in a short debate rather than to kill the whole bill dead?

Couldn’t be done here. Laws are being passed through on the nod here, without debate and withour amendment, because there isn’t time to amend or debate them. If a law is considered even vaguely controversial, then it will (and should be) blocked.

Bills that get passed through on the nod tend to be technical and utterly uncontroversial, which is a good thing, as they effectively bypass all parliamentary scrutiny.

10. Then the process is to display your disdain with a vote at the third reading, not as a single member out of around 650 to scupper the whole thing. Why exactly has this one MP had the power to on his lonesome wreck an entire bill?

@10

It has been debated and it has been altered, yours is something (although not entirely) of a moot point. It could be altered more but in a normal parliamentary session it would almost certainly be passed in the form it now has.

Chope’s a coward.

Then the process is to display your disdain with a vote at the third reading, not as a single member out of around 650 to scupper the whole thing.

There won’t be a third reading – there’s not time. That was, I suspect, rather Chope’s point. If he hadn’t objected to it now, it would be fast-tracked to assent stage without there being a debate or a vote on it.

12 – It has been debated and it has been altered, yours is something (although not entirely) of a moot point.

I’m not defending Chope’s action here, but my understanding was that this Bill is still at the Report stage – ie: there has not been a third reading. The debate on the Report is where most substantive amendments get made to a Bill. It may be an extremely good bill, and given that it appears that both front benches support it, it may well be re-introduced post-election, but it’s a bit of an assumption that it would definitely be passed in its current form.

“The terms changed a long time ago when the people responsible for taking out the loans – usually various despots and warlords – lost power and were replaced. Its like me moving into a new house, and debt collectors chasing gambling debts run up by the previous owners. ”

Ah, no, you’re talking about repugnant debts (not sure that’s quite the right word. But there is one to cover such debts run up by tyrants). But this applies to all HIPC countries. No, the debts of all of them were not run up by such tyrants. Tanzania, say, was brought low by nothing more than socialism (however much the rest of the world cheered as it was done) under Nyere.

2. Tim Worstall

‘ The bill’s dead. Good.

For there was a major problem with it. It would be retroactive.

It’s one thing for the law to state that going forward from here lending to poor countries just got a great deal riskier.

It’s quite another to say that we’re changing the terms of loans that have already been made. ‘

There is nothing wrong in principle retroactively canceling or debt restructuring if they are ‘ odious debts ‘. No nation should bear a debt burden if they did not receive the benefit.

The odious debt doctrine:

‘ When a despotic regime contracts a debt, not for the needs or in the interests of the state, but rather to strengthen itself, to suppress a popular insurrection, etc, this debt is odious for the people of the entire state. This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime. The reason why these odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state is that they do not fulfil one of the conditions determining the lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred, and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State. Odious debts, contracted and utilised for purposes which, to the lenders’ knowledge, are contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation, are not binding on the nation – when it succeeds in overthrowing the government that contracted them – unless the debt is within the limits of real advantages that these debts might have afforded. The lenders have committed a hostile act against the people, they cannot expect a nation which has freed itself of a despotic regime to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler.’

What is needed is an international odious debt arbitration institution. More interfering big government? Not according to none other than the free market libertarian Cato Institute. They have no problem with repudiating debts ex post facto.

‘ By clarifying the responsibilities of creditors (or borrowers), and thus their rights to repayment (or repudiation), an odious debt arbitration would help reduce the moral hazard that has destabilized international finance for the past 60 years. More profoundly, by giving creditors an incentive to lend only for purposes that are transparent and of public benefit, future tyrants will lose their ability to finance their armies, and thus the war on terror and the cause of world peace will be better served. ‘

Odious debt, not repugnant. Thank you.

Ugh. Chope is one of the most loathsome MPs out there, and unfortunately in a very safe seat indeed. I don’t think even vote swapping could unseat him…

Christopher Chope is utterly shameless. Here he is making a Very Important Objection to the Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill:

“The hon. Gentleman makes an assertion. What I am interested in is evidence. I look to the Minister to provide some evidence that the provision will be proportionate, and that it will not offend against the principle of affordability. I also want to ensure that she will take into account the information that came to me earlier this evening, which is that many users of sunbeds who are under 18 are employed in our armed forces. The impact on their morale could be substantial if they cannot continue to use sunbeds. I should be grateful if the Minister could address those points in responding to this brief debate.”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100209/debtext/100209-0023.htm#10021030000002

I can assure you I didn’t vote for or against anything. 🙂

Chope has also single-handedly blocked the Sustainable Communities Act (Amendment) Bill. He seems to be on some kind of mission to reinvent himself as the latter day Eric Forth, albeit without the filibustering skills.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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