I took the difficult decision last night to rebel against a Government 3-line whip and oppose the vote to increase the UK’s subscription to the IMF by over £9 billion. While it is right that MPs follow their own consciences and represent their constituents at Westminster not vice versa, this should be done on a considered basis and so I have set out my reasons for voting this way below.
Firstly, I don’t think we should leave the IMF. It has an important role to play in sorting out the messes many countries have got themselves in and indeed just over 30 years ago we had to ask for their help. We should play our part, as a major economy, in helping those that need it.
But we should only pay our fair share, no more no less. My concern was that the 88% increase in our contribution was in excess of those offered by other countries, especially ones who are not struggling with the budget deficit that we are.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, with their oil riches, offered only increases of around 40%. Other EU members for example Belgium at 39%, Netherlands 69% – the list goes on.
At a time when we are taking difficult decisions I did not feel I could look my constituents in the eye and explain why I supported a contribution of this size. Even a 40% increase would have knocked £billions off the cost.
Many say there’s no cost and we will get all the money back eventually. It’s hard to be sure of that given the situation with Greece. And Portugal. And Ireland. And Spain (apparently) and even Italy now. Is the IMF not lending good money after bad? Another argument is that it’s only a guarantee, we don’t actually pay over this money. Well we do pay a quarter of it, and who’s say the guarantees won’t get called in?
Some of you may want to check out the debate on the significant issue. Well don’t look in Hansard for yesterday. It wasn’t debated in the House of Commons. It was debated last week in a Statutory Instrument committee at which 16 members voted (about 2.5% of MPs) – the Hansard record is here.
The process then requires the House of Commons to ratify the vote. This would normally be done “on the nod” or if an MP objects via the deferred division process (a written vote done on a Wednesday lunchtime) but last night these rules were waived forcing an immediate vote – why the rush?
In a week where we can find time to debate a vote of thanks to the retiring Clerk of the House, and a day to consider the Civil List reforms (value of a couple of million pounds) I can’t explain why we could not debate a £9 billion plus item where there are clear concerns about the size and the recoverability of the contribution.
Not a great day for our democracy in many ways. I don’t think a contribution of this size is appropriate and denied a way of holding the Government to account for it in debate, I had no choice but to oppose the Government.