News Releases | 2013

Lower roaming charges - a welcome boost for summer sunseekers

29-Jun-2013 @ 22:0

New EU rules on maximum charges for mobile data roaming will come into force on Monday - just in time to give a handy boost to summer holidaymakers who like to use their mobile phones and tablets abroad.

Budget deal breakthrough: a victory for Cameron and Conservative MEPs

27-Jun-2013 @ 12:0

European Parliament negotiators today agreed to accept the broad terms of the deal over the European Union's long-term budget originally reached by David Cameron on February 8.

CAP: A Conservative critique of the supposed "reforms"

27-Jun-2013 @ 10:0

After two years of discussions and a huge amount of work from ministers, parliamentarians and officials, the deal struck in trilogue yesterday (Wednesday) on reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy amounts to a huge missed opportunity. That is the view of Julie Girling MEP, Conservative agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, who took part in the lengthy negotiation process and the detailed and gruelling final talks this week in Luxembourg and Brussels. And she pointed out that even now, the "deal" reached is not a final agreement as there are many outstanding issues on hold relating to the EU's long-term budget (the so-called Multi-annual Financial Framework) which has still to be settled. She said: "Our negotiations have managed to remove many of the very worst elements of the proposals as originally tabled and voted by Parliament. But that cannot disguise the fact that what is left is still not good - a backwards step in many ways to interventionism and statism. It does nothing for food security, consumers or the environment, and even less for farmers. "British farmers have little to celebrate here and to an extent their efficiency will be punished instead of rewarded." Following the negotiations concerns remain: Despite all the work to achieve a 'final' agreement today many issues remain open pending a deal on the Multiannual Financial Framework. This includes key elements of the Direct Payments regulation, such as capping, external convergence, the movement of money between pillars, and elements of the Horizontal Regulation primarily concerning the 'crisis reserve'. In addition, although the greening proposal has been significantly watered down we maintain our position that greening measures should be implemented via Pillar 2 funds. The current agreement is overly complex, administratively cumbersome and it will lead to upheaval such as remapping for very little environmental gain. We are also unhappy with the introduction of an additional 'greening penalty' in the Horizontal Regulation for those who do not carrying out their 'greening' requirements under pillar 1. Although we did manage to delay this penalty for the first two years, we were not able to prevent an eventual 25% penalty. The continuation of coupled payments is regrettable as these lead to over production which is not related to market demand. We regret the rejection of the requirement for full transparency, which was supported by the European Parliament at plenary. We will be voting against the agreement on the Single Common Market Organisation for a number of reasons: - the extension of wine quotas to 2030. - the increase of intervention and reference prices. - the extension of the sugar quota to 2017. - the extension of the power of Producer Organisations. However we do support the rejection of general marketing standards, so the return of 'bendy banana' can be laid to rest. We welcome the reduced mandatory negative list for the definition of the 'active farmer' and the flexibility of Member States to add to this list to fit particular national circumstances. We also welcome the agreement that no double-funding can take place despite the introduction of mandatory greening provisions. As representatives of a country outside the Eurozone we Conservatives fought hard to keep text introduced by the European Parliament which allows Member States to use an average exchange rate for conversion rather than the exchange rate on the last day of the month. This will avoid issues with speculation and was a huge achievement for Conservatives and the UK.

"Mixed bag" CAP deal ticks no boxes

26-Jun-2013 @ 14:0

A prospective agreement on the future of the EU's controversial Agricultural Policy, hammered out following lengthy "trilogue" negotiations between the European Parliament, Commission and Council, represents a huge wasted opportunity, Conservative MEPs said today.

Ashworth: Proposed EU budget cut a step in the right direction

26-Jun-2013 @ 13:0

The leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs today welcomed proposals for a six per cent cut in next year's budget for the European Union. Richard Ashworth said it was important for the EU's leaders to grasp the economic reality that had led to drastic spending limits right across Europe as national governments trimmed borrowing to balance the books. He spoke after the Commission announced a draft budget for 2014 amounting to €142.01 billion in commitment appropriations and €135.9 billion in payment appropriations. The figures are some six per cent lower than this year's for both commitments and payments. Mr Ashworth, Conservative MEP for the South East and budget spokesman for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the parliament, said: "We would have preferred an even greater reduction in overall spending and a more radical reform of the way the money is spent. However it has to be said that we see here a significant move in the right direction. "We would particularly welcome the accent on investment and the focus on key areas such as small businesses and measures to tackle youth unemployment. "There is generally a more disciplined approach to budgeting here than we have seen in the past. It is a sign that the pressure from the UK and other like-minded governments is getting results."

Conservative MEPs condemn Spaniards' Gibraltar gun incursion

26-Jun-2013 @ 9:0

The three British Conservative MEPs who represent Gibraltar in the European Parliament last night issued an unqualified condemnation after it emerged that a shot had been fired from Spanish vessel during an incursion into territorial waters around The Rock. Giles Chichester, Ashley Fox and Julie Girling described the incident as reckless and provocative. They spoke out after Europe Minister David Lidington revealed that an officer aboard a Guardia Civil boat had fired a weapon during an illegal incursion into British Gibraltar territorial waters on Sunday. The three, whose constituency is officially designated the South West of England and Gibraltar, said: "Sadly incursions into our waters by the Guardia Civil have increased in frequency recently. "They are a form of international political posturing by a struggling government which hopes to distract attention from its domestic failures. "As such they are an unwelcome and aggressive irritant. "However, for a shot to be fired will push to a new level the offence caused to the people of Gibraltar. This action is wholly illegal and as provocative as it is reckless. "We wholeheartedly back the British Government's demand that Spain should explain its actions. We believe it should also apologise and offer a solemn assurance that there will be no repetition of such foolishness."

Conservatives deliver long-term research funding

25-Jun-2013 @ 15:0

After months of discussions an agreement was reached today on the EU's next seven year funding programme for science and research. The so-called Horizon 2020 package will have a budget of around £60bn for projects over the next seven years. East of England MEP Vicky Ford was Conservative negotiator on the deal and today welcomed the eventual outcome of the protracted talks. Horizon 2020 will focus funding in three separate pillars: excellence in largely academic-based blue-sky research, supporting industrial companies in innovative areas and finally addressing the so called societal "grand" challenges which include food and energy security, climate change and demographic changes. Some 20 per cent of the funding should go towards small and medium sized businesses and there will be a new financial instrument specifically dedicated to funding innovation. EU research funding is extremely important for the UK and is one of the few areas where the UK gets back roughly what it contributes. By the end of the 2007-2013 programme, the UK will have received around €7.5bn in funding - around 15% of the overall €50bn budget. Cambridge University, for example, estimates that 20% of the work undertaken by its researchers is funded by EU grants. However, EU research programmes have a reputation for complex bureaucracy and red tape. Mrs Ford has been gathering evidence and suggestions for reforms for the past three years and tabled many amendments to the legislation to simplify the paperwork and application processes, particularly important for improving the participation of small businesses. These changes include shortening timetables for awarding grants and receiving payments, introducing a clearer complaints procedure and improving communication between participants. Mrs Ford has also been adamant that grants should be awarded on the basis of excellence in order to ensure that funding goes to those who put forward the best case. She said: "Science and research is critical to maintaining innovation thus driving growth and creating jobs. Recent studies have shown that scientific research which is the result of international collaboration tends to have a greater impact. We should focus the EU budget on areas where it does add value. "Other MEPs should stop the institutional infighting over the EU budget, lead not by policy but purely by their constant pursuit of more money and more power. They need to get behind the deal agreed by national governments otherwise we risk holding back our scientists and businesses at such a crucial time."

New rules to target the market-riggers

20-Jun-2013 @ 17:0

Conservative MEPs today gave a cautious welcome to a breakthrough agreement between European Parliament negotiators and the EU Council over planned new rules to tackle market abuse. The regulations should clamp down on price and rate-rigging as exemplified by recent scandals over LIBOR and the oil market. Kay Swinburne, Conservative negotiator on the new regulations, said the scope of the rules was welcome - but she would have preferred stronger sanctions against anyone who continued to flout them. The Wales MEP said: "It is good that the EP and Council have reached an agreement to have strong market abuse rules across the EU after so many high profile cases of market manipulation. "I am disappointed that the level of fines that has been agreed to is now only 15 million Euros, or 15% of the annual turnover of the company - I had originally proposed unlimited fines, as the potential for profit is so high, the deterrent needs to be truly effective. "However, as the legislation does allow member states to go further, the UK authorities should still be able to fine over and beyond that proposed in the regulation so as to properly punish those guilty of market abuse."

Conservatives welcome withdrawal of moves to ban eel fishing

18-Jun-2013 @ 16:0

Conservative MEPs today welcomed moves to safeguard traditional eel fishing and avoid a damaging EU-wide ban which would have destroyed the industry.

Conservatives dig in against unwanted European sales law

18-Jun-2013 @ 13:0

Conservative MEPs today vowed to resist European Commission plans to introduce a European sales law which would cover online shopping and e-commerce across the whole EU. They warned that the proposed Common European Sales Law would help neither customers nor traders - and would have a damaging effect on the development of the digital single market. They were responding to an appeal from the BEUC, the Europe-wide umbrella organisation for consumer groups, which called on MEPs to reject the proposals and urged commissioners to concentrate on more-effective measures to boost the digital single market. Ashley Fox, a Conservative member of the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee, said: "We believe the proposed law is too complex and not needed anyway. The existing differences between the national contract laws of different nations are not creating any barriers to trade. "The legislation is trying to solve problems that don't exist, yet could throw up problems all of its own. Were this new law to come into force consumers’ confusion and regulatory costs for business who sell offline and online would increase further." As BEUC has pointed out, four different legal scenarios would then exist for:

Welsh MEP backs support for threatened languages

18-Jun-2013 @ 18:0

Welsh Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne has welcomed a decision in the European Parliament to tackle the threat to endangered languages across the EU. Members of the Parliament's culture committee today voted to adopt a report which calls on EU Member States to protect endangered languages and develop strategies which address the threats facing them.

Tories fight cash raid on UK farms

12-Jun-2013 @ 18:0

Conservative MEPs today condemned a move in the European Parliament to discriminate against British farmers and penalise efficient land-management. Agriculture spokesman Julie Girling MEP spoke out after the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved a Commission proposal to place an arbitrary £5,000 threshold on full payment of the Single Farm Payment under the EU's Common Agriculture Policy. Above that threshold, farmers could lose nearly five per cent of their total payment (4.7%). The National Farmers Union estimates that British farming could lose £20m a year. Mrs Girling said: "We would entirely approve of a wholesale revision of the CAP, Single Farm Payments and subsidies as a whole - but that is not what this is. Instead it is a blatant attempt to target member states - including the UK, Germany and Czech Republic - where farms tend to be larger. "Bigger farms are generally better-run and more efficient, so we are effectively looking at a tax on good farming. "It is a ruse to divert money away from some countries and towards others. British farmers are being eyed up as the victims. We will fight to protect them."

Shining a light on foreign corruption

12-Jun-2013 @ 18:0

Conservative MEPs today welcomed new rules to improve transparency and crack down on exploitation through the financial reporting process for companies running mining and other extraction operations abroad. The rules were approved in a vote by the European Parliament sitting in Strasbourg. The Accounting Directive will contain new requirements for financial statements by mining, drilling and logging companies. "Country by country reporting", as it is termed, will mirror rules in the United States obliging companies operating in third countries to report any payments they make to governments relating to their overseas projects. As Conservative negotiator on the legislation, Sajjad Karim MEP was successful in maintaining several sections of previous directives of importance to certain member states, in particular the alternative balance-sheet format commonly used by UK companies. He is pleased that in line with objectives of reducing administrative burdens on business, the rules will apply on a sliding scale. Micro-enterprises will be excluded entirely and SMEs will benefit from lighter rules, particularly over notes attached to financial statements. Mr Karim, MEP for North West England and Conservative spokesman on legal affairs, said: "Through detailed and rigorous negotiation of this directive, we have come up with an important tool for flushing out bribery, corruption and backhanders - but without making life impossible by over-regulating small businesses. "The little man will not lose out, but corrupt officials, slush-fund managers and bent businesses will find life less cosy." However Mr Karim was critical of UKIP MEPs who opposed the measures and whose poor attendance figures were highlighted in the media recently. He said: "I seriously question their judgment in today's vote. Their lack of participation at the EU negotiating table is detrimental for British interests and British businesses."

Callanan: EU needs to focus on open markets and free trade to reduce youth unemployment, not irresponsible and undeliverable guarantees

12-Jun-2013 @ 13:0

In a debate on the economy and youth unemployment with the European Commission President Barroso today, European Conservatives and Reformists Group Leader Martin Callanan MEP argued that the European Social Model is not working, and European leaders are acting irresponsibly in sustaining socialist policies that promise a lot but fail to deliver jobs and growth.

Stevenson welcomes a better balance on cod stocks

11-Jun-2013 @ 16:0

Conservative Fisheries spokesman Struan Stevenson today welcomed a new package of measures designed to address the delicate balance between the recovery of cod stocks and the livelihoods of fishing communities. As the European Parliament approved two reports aimed at getting the EU's cod programme back on track, Mr. Stevenson said: "The old plan was delivering the worst of both worlds - no good for cod stocks and no good for fishermen. This readjustment should help to inject some common sense into the management of cod stocks which have begun to make a strong recovery." Mr. Stevenson, Conservative MEP for Scotland, supports the findings of the EU's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for fisheries, which reported last year that the Commission's Cod Recovery Plan was not meeting its main objectives. The plan sets how much cod boats can land, as well as how long they can spend at sea. Mr. Stevenson and Conservative MEPs backed a rebalancing of the plan so that it can continue to rebuild cod stocks around the United Kingdom and Ireland, while also restoring the confidence of the industry. Affected countries such as Britain, France, Denmark and Germany, have argued for an end to year-on-year decreases in so-called "fishing effort" (the number of days a vessel may legally fish) which are considered ineffective and unjustified. Conservatives backed a successful move to keep days at sea at 2012 levels. Mr. Stevenson said: "This is all about getting the right balance. Saying you will continue reducing time at sea relentlessly is an ineffective and burdensome control. "It just was not working, so something had to be done. I'm glad MEPs have listened to fishing communities. It's now up to the Council of Ministers to approve this multi-annual plan."

MRI scanners saved - but new regulations still interfere needlessly

11-Jun-2013 @ 14:0

Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre today praised MEPs for bowing to common sense and stepping back from measures which would effectively have banned MRI scanners from hospitals on staff-safety grounds. Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, was speaking as MEPs approved a revised package of measures to offer protection to workers potentially exposed to electro-magnetic fields. At one point the proposed new rules were so over-zealous that they would have largely outlawed MRI scans, which are a widespread and essential tool in hospital diagnostics. But following negotiation involving Miss McIntyre as Conservative "shadow rapporteur", the more extreme proposals have been modified to achieve a more realistic balance between safety considerations and practicality.

Kirkhope: Remember who the real enemy is in the internet data row

11-Jun-2013 @ 11:0

Politicians debating the Prism internet-data controversy should not lose sight of who the real enemy is, a senior Conservative MEP warned today. Addressing an emergency debate in Strasbourg, Timothy Kirkhope appealed to the European Parliament to avoid grandstanding and anti-Americanism. And the Yorkshire MEP cautioned against jumping to conclusions or pointing fingers. Mr Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on Justice and Home Affairs and himself a former Home Office minister, said: "This debate is about increasing the trust and faith of citizens, in holding to account the governments and agencies which serve and protect our citizens. "Those companies already named and shamed have so far denied acting outside of the law. Governments and the European Commission have expressed concern, but rightly acknowledge that it is too early to draw final conclusions. "Yet here we are already pointing the finger, with some of you already expressing the strong anti-American and anti-commission rhetoric that is all too familiar, as is the opportunism and grandstanding without pausing to gather of facts or proof. "Protecting citizens from modern threats is a balancing act. Intelligence agencies are often lambasted for not acting soon enough, and then equally condemned for going too far. Their successes are celebrated in private, but their failings are only too public. "Increasingly terrorists and organised criminal groups use information and technology against innocent citizens. Therefore, there must be an expectation that the same technology will be used in our response. But that information must, of course, be used and respected within the confines of democratic principles and legal oversight. "We must understand that we do not gain more freedoms by taking others away, and that our greatest asset will always be the rule of law. "That is why sometimes it is necessary for us as politicians to remind those with "less visible" power that ensuring freedom and the safety of our citizens must not come at the price of sacrificing democracy. "But it might also be worth some people in this room remembering who the real enemy is, and where it is, and that when we deal with allies, and when we want answers and the truth, that friends listen most when you talk, and not when you shout."

Lease of life for key flight data anti-terror plans

10-Jun-2013 @ 18:0

A crucial piece of security legislation was rescued from derailment last night by a key vote in the European Parliament.

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Sturdy: EU solar panel duties reflect badly for the environment and the economy

04-Jun-2013 @ 17:0

The EU's decision to adopt duties on solar panels from China are a job-threatening mistake, Robert Sturdy MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group trade spokesman and Vice-President of the European Parliament’s International Trade committee, said. He believes that anti-dumping cases must always consider the wider interests of the EU, and in this case such duties will do far more harm than good, costing jobs, forcing up prices for consumers, running contrary to EU environmental policy, and damaging the trading relationship with China. China exported solar panels and their components are worth around €21 billion to the EU. The EU responded to a complaint by an industry association called EU ProSun, which claimed that the solar panels from China were being ‘dumped’ (they were entering European markets at prices cheaper than their market value).

Red card scheme - good for Britain, good for Europe

31-May-2013 @ 18:0

A red card system allowing national parliaments to block unacceptable EU legislation makes sense for Britain and sense for Europe. That is the view of Sajjad Karim, the MEP leading the European Parliament's own drive to to improve regulation by giving a greater say back to member -state legislatures. Mr Karim, MEP for the North West and Conservative legal affairs spokesman, warmly welcomed Foreign Secretary William Hague's so-called red-card proposal, which would give parliaments the power to veto EU Commission proposals which are too intrusive on matters which should instead be handled at local state level. He said: "I have been lead MEP on our last two reports on 'subsidiarity and proportionality' - and we have been looking to improve the ability to resist measures which interfere needlessly and unhelpfully in the affairs of member states. I also work on the annual report that looks at how parliaments engage with the European legislative process." Parliaments can currently wield a so-called "yellow card" to challenge unsuitable legislation - but it only allows them to ask the EU Commission to reconsider its proposals. Mr Karim said: "We have been examining ways in which parliaments can be given more power to intervene effectively, and what William Hague is saying chimes perfectly with this. "Subsidiarity and proportionality don't always get people excited, but they are crucial principles. They are about making sure the EU does only what it should to be helpful - and leaves the rest to national governments.