I had a day trip to Westminster on Thursday to have tea with Anne Main, the MP for St Albans.
Methodist Central Hall, opposite the Houses of Parliament was covered in bunting and tea ladies walked round offering pots of tea. The event was organised by Oxfam, Actionaid, Cafod and other World Aid charities to encourage people to lobby their MP on important issues about aid and taxes.
We Brits do like a cup of tea, so it was the perfect way to encourage people to come along and talk with their MP. Over 130 MPs turned up, and sat down to talk and listen over a cuppa with their local voters.
I met with other St Albans constituents including Oxfam supporters Hilary Tyrell and Philip Nixon, Peter Segers from World Development Movement St Albans, Aliana Monodee from Actionaid and Jacquie Heany from Cafod, each very active in the local community and with an interest in aid and development overseas.
We had tea with Anne Main for over half an hour and there was a lively debate about aid, taxes and supporting people living in poverty. We pushed for Anne to support legislation on 0.7% of national income to be aid. This money will help to put children through school, improve health and save lives. Anne explained that many people in our local area question international aid, so our views were an important contrast. But as we had heard Development Minister Andrew Michell MP say earlier “Charity may begin at home, but it doesn’t end there”. Ultimately Anne’s support for any legislation would depend on the exact wording.
We also asked for support for the “Robin Hood” tax, which would again fund aid and development. The Conservative party line is against this at the moment. We also asked for legislation against tax dodging and greater transparency in corporation accounts. It amazes me what some large companies get away with. The money some companies dodge in taxes would help fund better schooling and healthcare in developing world countries. Instead the money goes into bonuses and dividends for wealthy westerners.
At the end of the busy day we felt we had had a good debate with our MP, represented our views, and showed Oxfam, Actionaid and Cafod our support. I do hope when Anne Main comes to vote on these important issues she will pause to think and consider our arguments.
OK, so not the sort of thing I usually blog about. But it is about local people trying really hard to make a difference to people who need it. And that is really worth writing about.