Good news on Haringey schools and vulture funds

Good news on the fair funding for education in Haringey. Haringey Youth Council are going to join the campaign and are going to start their own petition!

Excellent to have their support – and on an issue which primarily affects them – spot on! I had a huge response to this campaign so far and to the petition I’ve been organising.

My next move is to present the petition to the Government – and that reminds me – don’t think Gordon B has yet answered my letter following up on my question at Prime Minister’s Questions a couple of weeks ago. May have to start nagging!

One other piece of good news – The People yesterday ran a piece on my concerns over vulture funds. Good to get the story out beyond the usual obvious places! All adds to the pressure I hope.

Vulture funds: Gordon Brown stands by and does nothing as the poorest suffer

I’m in The Guardian talking about the dreaded scourge of vulture funds:

Liberal Democrat shadow international development secretary Lynne Featherstone released figures she had requested from the World Bank about the extent to which British courts had been used by so-called “vulture” funds to sue poor countries.

These showed £237m-worth of suits had gone through British courts despite Britain being a vocal supporter of greater aid for poor countries.

“Gordon Brown talks at length about justice for Africa but instead his government should explore ways of creating an internationally binding system to ensure companies can’t prey on heavily indebted developing countries,” she said.

“Failing that, in the interim, the government should start looking at how our national laws can be changed to bar vulture funds from using Britain as a tool to milk heavily-indebted poor countries.”

Vulture funds buy up poor countries’ sovereign debt at a fraction of its face value and then sue for its full value plus interest in court. Many are US-based but use courts in Britain and France to pursue their victims.

UPDATE: There’s more in the story on the Liberal Democrat website.

The three keys to international development

Lynne Featherstone speaking at conference. Photo credit: Alex Folkes/Fishnik.comThis afternoon was my big set-piece speech in the main conference hall – on international development of course!

We need to recognise that one of the big problems with effective foreign aid is that the most effective development projects are the small scale and local – like solar cookers.

But these small scale projects don’t scale up well to making a difference to a whole population, to a whole country or to a whole region.

So what is to be done?

Answers in the full speech on my website.

On Newsnight tonight

A day latter than I was expecting, but tonight Newsnight ran their piece on vulture funds – including a (brief!) interview with me. If you missed it, you can watch it again on their website (for the next 24 hours only I think).

UPDATE: This link should work for ever (or close enough!).

Oliver Tambo memorial

Dashed from Parliament to Albert Road Recreation Ground to get to the meeting on the plans for the Oliver Tambo memorial. What a fantastic scheme. The architect presented the scheme and the thinking behind the scheme and has come up with what I thought was an absolutely brilliant solution – both in terms of its design and physical presence. Moreover – in its conception execution and future – the community and the schools have key roles to play. I was well impressed! Congrats to all involved for their efforts.

Before I left Westminster – did a pre-record for Newsnight. Of course, you never know if you end up on the cutting room floor – but hopefully it will make it. Vulture funds are the topic – but we will see – and I will blog about the substance tomorrow !

Darfur, doctors and debt

Hurrah! My glasses were found in the back of the car that brought me back from The Westminster Hour – thank goodness. Tuesday has been a busy, busy day and I hate it when there isn’t even breathing space between events.

To highlight the best of the bunch: met with an interesting organisation called Waging Peace about the ever-deteriorating situation in Darfur. My take is that the world is standing by and letting genocide take place. The Sudanese Government is playing us for fools and toying with us suggesting that they are on our side against Al Qaeda when really they are not. The Arab militias continue to kill rebels and the suffering is spreading into Chad and Central Africa. We need action from the EU and the UN. Sanctions, travel bans and arms embargos would be a start and for goodness sake – China is applying more pressure than we are.

I also met constituents about the mess that the changes to the way junior doctors are employed have caused. It’s a terrible tale of diving in without a clue where it will end up – and now peoples’ lives and careers are being ruined. And are they stopping it? No. This is a nightmare for those caught up in the changes. This should have been thought about, piloted and rolled out in a measured way rather than being steamrollered through across the board.

More Maxitech good works as they start teaming up with Age Concern to deliver free computers and training to our older citizens. The event to mark this is held in the Lords and really it is quite clear that Maxitech has solved the problem of big corporations like HSBC, John Lewis and British Airways (all in attendance) who want to be good and give their old computers for good causes – but need to know that the computers will be properly wiped clean and they won’t be caught by legal liability issues.

Then onto Spurs to see the launch of the Bounds Green United football team – set up and initiated by the (police) Bounds Green Safer Neighbourhood Team. Spurs are doing their community bit – hurrah – and some of the wards in the borough are getting teams together to compete. The first match will be on Tuesday. It’s a great project and I get to stand one inch from the pitch – the hallowed turf. It is a tremendous feeling. Thanks to the police Safer Neighbourhood Team – without whom this just would not have happened.

Then on to the CASCH AGM (a Crouch End residents’ association). Nice to be able to get here tonight – as Monday and Tuesday nights are usually impossible but I try to get to all local events that I can. The new Met volunteer organiser is there – and talks to the members about perhaps joining the team. It is so great to see what feels like my ‘baby’ growing up. The re-opening of the front counter at Muswell Hill police station was fantastic and the volunteers who run it are fantastic – and now it’s the second generation organiser is in place. Very rewarding. As they go on to the business of the Association, it is time for me to run as I have a radio car coming to my house at 10pm to interview me on vulture funds.

Vulture funds are these companies that feed off the debt of the third world. The High Court ruled today to cut Zambia’s debt repayments to them:

A “vulture” fund seeking more than $55m (£27.5bn) from Zambia had its wings clipped in the high court yesterday by the judge who limited its claim to $15.5m and cut its award of costs because of its “dishonesty”.

(From The Guardian)

Debt relief was a good move – and it is horrifying to think that anyone would prey on these countries and exploit a legal loophole. We need a government that takes action – not just wrings its hands ineffectually as this one is doing.

Then get a message that there is no radio car available to come to where I live – so go home to bed!