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INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 168 NO 16 3 Campaigners celebrate UK action on vulture funds 4 Young Friends tackle conflict and the peace testimony 5 A celebration of our work 6 What is a police state?
A traveller 7 Comment
Margaret Peacock and Helen Porter 8-9 Letters 10-11 Quakers and politics
Michael Bartlet 12-13 Moments from a Meeting
Roger Ellis 14 Let’s dismantle Trident
Ken Veitch 15 A visit from Gandhi
M Heather Adams 16 q-eye: witness 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Moments from a Meeting. Photo: Jez Smith. See pages 12-13. Images on this page: Fazakerley Village Hall. Photo courtesy Philip and Margaret Baker. See page 16. Attendees at the EMEYF spring gathering held in Moyallon. Photo: Laura Wirtz.
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the Friend, 16 April 2010 News
Campaigners celebrate UK action on vulture funds
In a dramatic last-minute decision before parliament was dissolved for the general election, the UK has become the first country to restrict ‘vulture funds’, companies that buy up the debts of poor countries and then sue for massive profits.
The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill was passed on 8 April and hailed as a ‘landmark law’ by the Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC).
There was widespread outrage last month when the Conservative MP Christopher Chope used a parliamentary mechanism to object to the Bill, apparently hoping to delay it until after the election, when an incoming government might not give it priority (see
‘Anger as lone politician blocks anti-poverty bill’, 26 March). But that all changed after thousands of people responded to JDC’s call to email party leaders, who then gave their support.
‘We are delighted that the government has brought the Vulture Funds Bill back from the dead’, said JDC’s Nick Dearden. He added that it should be ‘the first step towards creating a more just financial system’.
Vulture funds have had a severe effect on the several countries’ economies. When the company Donegal International was awarded $15.5 million from the government of Zambia, a Zambian presidential advisor said that it would mean
‘the treatment, the Medicare, the medicines that would have been available to in excess of 100,000 people in the country will not be available’.
The Bill, which was proposed by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, has been backed by archbishop Desmond Tutu, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Guyanan president Bharrat Jagdeo.
‘We are pleased that our politicians have woken up to the injustice of private companies using UK courts to make a profit out of the poorest people in our world’, said Richard Vautrey of the Methodist Church, which has campaigned in support of the Bill.
MP Accountability Network launched
As Quaker Meetings and other faith groups prepare to host hustings in the run-up to the general election, Church Action on Poverty (CAP) has urged them to question politicians all year round and not just at election time.
CAP has launched the MP Accountability Network, which is appealing to churches and Meetings to ask candidates to commit themselves to regular public meetings if elected.
‘Holding MPs to account is not something to be done only once every five years’, said CAP’s Niall Cooper. ‘Real accountability requires a commitment to regular and ongoing dialogue.’ Many Meetings are already involved in holding hustings events in the run-up to the general election on 6 May, some of which have a distinctive focus (see ‘Bath Friends to host reverse hustings ahead of election’, 2 April). Former cabinet minister Charles Clarke was among the election candidates facing a grilling in Norwich Meeting House this week, after Quakers in the town teamed up with fourteen peace groups to organise a peace-based hustings.
Friends planned to question candidates in Norwich’s two constituencies about ‘what they would do to build peace and human security’, including questions on ‘nuclear weapons, human rights, tax subsidies to the arms trade, conflict in Afghanistan [and] the Middle East’ as well as other topics. Organisers said the event should take place in ‘an atmosphere of respectful listening for which Quakers are well known’. Meanwhile, supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) are lobbying candidates over UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government unit that uses taxpayers’ money to promote private arms companies. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is encouraging voters to question candidates over the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Are you planning to stand as a candidate in the general election? Or is your Meeting hosting a hustings event or lobbying candidates on issues of concern? If so, the Friend would like to hear from you. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the contact details on page 2.
Symon Hill the Friend, 16 April 2010