David Cameron is today attending a summit of European leaders which will seek to agree the EU’s approach at a major United Nations summit on the UN Millennium Development Goals due to be held in September.
Meanwhile a large proportion of his Tory MEPs yesterday refused to vote in favour of a report in the European Parliament on the EU’s progress in meeting these very same Millennium Development Goals. Fortunately the report was adopted by a large majority, which only goes to show just how out of touch the Tories are with mainstream opinion.
In the final vote on the report authored by my Labour colleague Michael Cashman MEP, there were no Tory votes for the report and no outright rejections. However, the following Tory MEPs abstained: Jacqueline Foster, Ashley Fox, Daniel Hannan, Roger Helmer, Syed Kamall, Sajjad Karim, Emma McClarkin, Kay Swinburne, Charles Tannock and Marina Yannakoudakis.
The refusal of such a large proportion of the Conservative MEPs (10 out of a total of 25) to back the report must call into question the wider support for international development within the Tory party. It also makes you wonder about David Cameron’s attitude in that most of these MEPs supported Cameron for Tory leader and are clearly close to him.
In yesterday’s vote, the European Parliament specifically expressed its support for policies on voluntary family planning, safe abortion, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and the provision of reproductive health supplies consisting of life-saving drugs and contraceptives, including condoms. Maternal mortality claims over half a million women’s lives a year and progress has been negligible. Teenage pregnancy is still high and contraceptives and family planning have become only slightly more accessible.
Yet the Tories refused to support amendments to the report on these issues. The first part of amendment 42 dealing with safe abortion and the provision of condoms was rejected by Richard Ashworth, Robert Atkins, Giles Chichester, James Elles, Vicky Ford, Daniel Hannan, Malcolm Harbour, Roger Helmer, Syed Kamall, Timothy Kirkhope, Emma McClarkin, Struan Stephenson and Charles Tannock while Ashley Fox, Sajjad Karim, James Nicholson, Kay Swinburne and Marina Yannakoudakis abstained.
Both these Conservative MEPs and more importantly Prime Minister David Cameron need to explain why they do not wish to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and improve the lives of women in poverty in developing countries.
We know that David Cameron has promised there will be no cuts to overseas development aid. The big question now is: “Will Cameron make good on this promise or will he renege on all those vulnerable people who so badly need our assistance?”