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In defence of development aid

S4P aid Apr17 2

Tom Brake and Graham Gordon speak in support of development aid

Reporting by Mike McLoughlin.

At a well-attended meeting hosted by Sutton for Peace and Justice at Friends Meeting House in Sutton on 28th April, Graham Gordon and Tom Brake spoke on why International aid is good for both the recipients and for us.

Both have extensive experience in the subject, Graham Gordon as Head of Public Policy at CAFOD, a leading aid agency, and Tom Brake as present and past Lib-Dem spokesperson on international development.

Tom Brake said that over the last 18 months or so there had been a concerted effort by some of the press to talk down the benefits and exaggerate the failings of aid. One success of this campaign had been the appointment of Priti Patel, an opponent of aid in general to head up The Department for International Development (Dfid) which she once said should be abolished. She has said we will promote transparency but by shifting DFID money into Prosperity, Security and Empowerment funds its use will become less transparent. The “Prosperity” fund will provide cash for private businesses, the “Security” fund probably be used by the Ministry of Defence, the most non-transparent and unaccountable ministry and the “Empowerment “ fund is for the Baltic States who are not high on anyone’s list of the world’s poorest countries. With all these moves the provision of aid will become more political and less able to fulfil its purpose to eradicate poverty in the world.

Tom Brake concluded by saying we should lobby our political parties and their election candidates telling them how much we value aid and encourage its focus on eradicating poverty.

Graham Gordon agreed with Tom Brake in that the quality of our aid was in danger from the skewing of the debate possibly leading to the reduction of our involvement to only disease eradication and responding to natural disasters. DFID was recognised as a world leader in humanitarian aid but also in development aid in areas such as the alleviation of the impact of climate change, improvement of the position of women and girls, and strengthening of civic society for long term development. He quoted several typical schemes in countries as far apart as Zambia and Myanmar whose success was apparently unknown to the aid deniers. These included provision of water boreholes which then enabled girls to attend school because they no longer needed to spend their days fetching water from great distances, providing training in cyclone preparedness so that communities were able to quickly recover from the next cyclone caused by climate change and schemes to strengthen civic society and governance enabling more transparency and so enabling governments to improve their tax take and therefore provide service to their communities.

Graham also mentioned the Commonwealth Development Company, now know as simply CDC, a part privatised arm of DFID. There was little evidence of it being successful at generating jobs by providing capital and loans to private companies. However Ms Patel planned to give it much greater funds. In fact private enterprise is not very good at working with civic society or focussing on the poor, the two most important areas if we really want to eradicate poverty.

Both speakers concluded that we should be proud of our contribution to reducing poverty across the world and being one of the first in the rich world to commit to 0.7% of GDP. Many millions of people have benefited from our generosity and many millions more rely on our continuation of this generosity.

Reaching the issues other hustings may not reach!

Come and hear candidates of parties standing in the general election in Sutton & Cheam and Carshalton & Wallington answer questions on the theme of peace and justice.

With:
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat PPC for Carshalton & Wallington
Ross Hemingway, Green Party PPC for Carshalton & Wallington
Paul Scully, Conservative Party PPC for Sutton & Cheam
Siobhan Tate, Labour Party PPC for Carshalton & Wallington

Run along the lines of the BBC Question Time programme, this is an opportunity to hear the views of candidates on issues of peace and justice that are often overlooked by mainstream political campaigning and hustings events.

Questions will focus on the topics covered at our previous Question Time held prior to the last general election and the issues that have been of most concern to our members and attendees at our events – issues such as:  inequality, trade justice, tax dodging, Palestine, Trident and the arms trade, human rights, civil liberties and the so-called war on terror, refugees and asylum seekers.

On Friday 27 March, doors open 7.00pm for a 7.30 start
at Sutton Quaker Meeting Hall, Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA

Please reserve your place by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk or by text message to 07740 594496.

There is no entry charge, donations will be taken on the night.

Presented by Sutton for Peace and Justice.

MP lobbied on Lobbying bill

On Friday 4th October nearly 30 local residents attended a meeting with Tom Brake MP to discuss concerns about the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning & Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14’

Sutton for Peace and Justice members took part in a pre-meeting arranged by 38 Degrees and the meeting with Tom Brake, who is one of the Ministers responsible for navigating the Bill through Parliament.

The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning & Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14’:

  • Introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements;
  • regulates election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties more closely; and
  • strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date.

Concerns expressed at the meeting included:

  • A rushed and flawed consultation process.
  • No green paper; no white paper.
  • No early consultation with Electoral Commission or civil society organisations.
  • The Bill was published before the summer recess, tabled for its second reading on 3rd Sept. and given only 1 day of committee in the House.

The lower threshold of £5000 would affect a large swathe of organisations working locally – they would be looking over their shoulders, wondering whether they were at risk of breaching the rules, in effect crippling civil society.

Part 2 (charities and NGOs) should be withdrawn to allow for a longer period of consultation & part 1 should deliver the transparency we need regards corporate lobbying.

What we wanted was transparency: who does the lobbying on behalf of whom and on whom (any public official); how much money is spent, and targeting what legislation with what purpose.

But what we have got is the reverse: curbs on civil society organisations while letting corporate lobbying, an industry worth £20 billion, off scot-free. The proposed register only covers less than 20% of lobbying activities.

Tom Brake had difficulty in explaining how the line would be drawn between policy-based campaigning and political campaigning promoting a candidate or party.

He did say that campaigns like Make Poverty History, involving over 100 charities in an election year, 2005, would not be affected by the Bill.

The Political & Constitutional Reform Committee said:

For Government to push through legislation in this way is contemptuous of Parliament’ also applies to civil society – it is contemptuous of civil society.

Helen Mountfield QC, for the NCVO, advised:

there is a good argument that the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) as amended by the Part II of the Bill in its present form would go so wide and be so uncertain as to the extent of their restrictions on political/policy expression, over so long and so uncertain a period, as to be more than is ‘necessary in a democratic society’ and so to violate the provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said of the tabled amendments to the Bill:

The poor drafting, muddled justification and expert condemnation that brought together perhaps the biggest ever coalition in public life made this retreat inevitable. But the problems with this Bill have not gone away. It still limits campaigns against extremist parties, breaches the privacy of trade union members and fails to open up lobbying. If ministers think that opposition will now melt away, they have another think coming.

See also the concerns of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations

(Reporting by David Murray)