Comment Article on Vulture Funds and Interview with MP Christopher Chope

The Developing World Attacked by Vulture Funds

A group of ruthless debt investors are huddled around a table in a secret office in New York. The business decision of the meeting is where in the world they will choose to cut off peoples’ hope of a livelihood, adequate schooling, clean water and hospital care for the sick.

Children will be deep in national debt before they are even born –  future mass suffering and death means the gift of billion dollar profit for these circling ‘Vulture Funds’.  This vile investment business is the same as loan sharks’ but on a global scale. They buy up old debt cheaply from the banks and demand developing countries pay up to as much as 500 percent interest on the debt racked up by former corrupt regimes many years ago. ( Johann Hari, The Independent, reported in September 2009).

The country taken to court is given no choice but to pay the money and slash their funds meant for health, education and investment – thus a nation struggling to rebuild from past wars and corrupt regimes is knocked back into extreme poverty and despair. The vultures do this to the developing world under our noses – using UK courts and eating into any aid money sent by us.

Three weeks ago a Private Members Bill called Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill, designed to block this sick business, was halted by a Conservative backbencher, MP Christopher Chope.  Alarmingly, this happened despite the Bill having full front bench and cross party support. This is because it is a Private rather than Public Bill; therefore Chope’s single shout of ‘object’ at the end of the third reading has possibly scuppered the chances of the Bill being made law before the general election.

Labour MP, Sally Keeble called it ‘cowardly to object to a measure to combat world poverty.’

Yet Chope is not the lone villain, the Tory leader has not commented and there is still no pledge for the Bill to be in Conservative party manifesto. If it is the case that the Shadow Cabinet was lobbied by Vulture Funds to stop the process, it is possible Labour is also tainted by this mercenary ‘failure’.

The government has a chance to prove this wrong if they rush the Bill through using what they call the ‘wash up’ at the end of this week to get it forced through before the election. The parliamentary whips on both sides must ensure that this time the Debt Relief Bill is not blocked.

If this fails, Heather Stewart, The Observer, March, 2010, reported that the Labour government’s Treasury minister, Stephen Timms has pledged to introduce legislation early in the next parliament – if they win the election. If they lose the Conservatives could set it back further.

It is down to the public to campaign to make sure The Debt Relief Bill is eventually made law. Vultures rely on the silence of recession weary and compassion fatigued electorate –  but they will get skittish and fly away if enough people protest their existence.

Meeting Chope at his local surgery on 26th March, I asked him to explain his reasons for blocking the Bill – I received no answer – not surprising, his reasons stated in Hansard border on the obscene – quoting the investors’ human rights.  I also asked if he had a conscience about what he’d done and he declared his sympathy for people in ‘these countries whose corrupt regimes take from them.’

Nick Dearden of Jubilee Debt Campaign dismissed this:

‘The Bill had been carefully crafted to be geared towards tackling the world debt market and had front bench support for the go ahead.’

Chope needs to swallow the truth that the people who would benefit from the Bill are not the victims of ‘their regimes’ any longer but the victims of injustice in the UK – namely his single shout out of ‘object’ – a western, privileged voice’s support of nasty exploitation and pushing down of the poor who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Jameela Oberman’s interview with MP Christopher Chope

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 they 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. 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 un-attributable 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.  Time is up, Goodbye.

3 Responses to “Comment Article on Vulture Funds and Interview with MP Christopher Chope”
  1. Neville says:

    Nice article, i like it.

  2. Jameela says:

    Thank you for reading it.

  3. jameela1 says:

    Great news, the Vultures Fund Bill has been passed!! More aptly named now too.

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