Commons debates Private Members’ Bills

01 March 2010

The Commons debated several Private Members' Bills, starting with the second reading of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill, sponsored by Andrew Gwynne MP, but introduced by Sally Keeble MP

Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill

The Bill makes provision for the relief of debts in certain developing countries.

The enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) which started in 1996 is an international measure designed to provide debt relief to heavily indebted low income countries.

Under the Initiative, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank calculate the proportionate reduction required in the country’s external debts in order to return them to 150 per cent of the country’s annual exports, which is considered to be a sustainable level.

All creditors - multilateral, bilateral and commercial - are expected to provide the proportionate reduction that will achieve this. At present, the UK and many other governments, multilateral lenders and commercial creditors do so.

While many reduce their debts, some creditors - known as vulture funds - have instead sought to recover the full value of the debt, plus accumulated interest and any charges owed to them - often through the courts, including those of the UK.The Bill would prevent creditors from recovering an amount in excess of that consistent with the Initiative.

The Bill passed its second reading and now moves to a public bill committee.

Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill

MPs also debated the second reading of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill, sponsored by Alistair Burt, Conservative MP for Bedfordshire NE.

The Bill augments the 2007 Sustsainable Communities Act whose principal aim was to promote the sustainability of local communities by encouraging the improvement of economic, social or environmental well-being. Local communities worked with their local authorities, following the invitation of the Secretary of State, to make proposals that would contribute to promoting local community sustainability

The new Bill would extend the 2007 Act by ensuring that the process of involvement established by that legislation becomes an on-going process rather than a one-off event, by involving parish and town councils and their county associations in the process, and empowering citizens to petition their councils to use the Act.

The intention behind the original Act was not for a one-off round of proposals, which would then be subjected to scrutiny and eventual decision. It was, rather, to involve the public in a process with their local authorities and government, but no specific provision was made in the original Bill for a continuing process, despite the intention.

The Bill passed its second reading and now moves to a public bill committee.

Lisob Treaty (Referendum) Bill

The Lisbon Treaty (Referendum) Bill was the third bill to have its second reading, sponsored by Nigel Dodds, Democratic Unionist MP for Belfast North.

The Bill calls for a referendum to he held on the Lisbon Treaty and for the repeal of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 if the decision to ratify is not approved in the referendum.

The debate on the second reading was adjourned until Friday 5 March.

Other Bills

A number of other Bills were rejected - although one Bill did pass its report stage and third reading without debate: the Mortgage Repossessions (Protection of Tenants etc) Bill.

The main purpose of the Bill is to offer protection to tenants of rental properties whose landlord has both defaulted on his mortgage and not notified his lender that the property was being let.

It gives courts power to postpone a possession order, and to suspend the execution of an existing possession order, and ensures the tenant is given notice of a possession order before its execution.

Private Members' Bills

Private Members' Bills are Public Bills introduced by MPs and Members of the Lords who aren't government ministers. As with other Public Bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population.

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