European Parliament News

Here you can find an archive of all the news items that have been on this website.

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."

Brussels urged - keep out of social housing

11-Jun-2013 @ 14:0

Conservative MEPs today urged European Union officials to keep away from issues that should best be tackled by national governments.
The plea came after a majority in the European Parliament backed a report calling for the EU effectively to fund new council houses all across Europe - and to set management frameworks and investment targets for social housing schemes in member states.

The report, drawn up by French Green MEP Karima Delli, criticises governments such as the UK's which are bearing down on debt through deficit-reduction measures, and demands that the EU should start paying for new social housing. It also calls for a "European Social Housing Action Framework" and a "Social Investment Target".

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.

Dismay over EU legal action

30-May-2013 @ 17:0

Conservative MEPs today reacted to European Commission plans to take court action against Britain over benefit-tourism safeguards.
Anthea McIntyre and Timothy Kirkhope spoke out after the Commission announced so-called infringement proceedings against the UK over the ‘right to reside’ test applied to EU migrants seeking certain welfare benefits. Commission officials claim the test breaches EU law because British citizens pass it automatically.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "Commissioners don't seem to realise how thin the British public's patience with Europe is wearing. This is no time for unnecessary provocation.
Mr Kirkhope, a former Home Office minister and Conservative spokesman on Justice and Home Affairs in the parliament, said the case demonstrated the need for a Europe-wide overhaul of the way benefits rules are applied.
The Commission considers that criteria already laid down by EU law are strict enough and thus ensure that only those people who have actually moved their centre of interest to a Member State are considered habitually resident.
Mr Kirkhope observed: "The UK was not the only member state on whom the Commission launched infringement proceedings today. Spain has had complaints about the refusal by Spanish hospitals to recognise the European Health Insurance card, the Commission has asked Finland to remove restrictions on migrant workers entitlements to unemployment benefits, and the Commission continues action against Lithuania to uphold EU citizen's rights of free movement for their families across Europe.
"Britain already has support from Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The UK has an opportunity to lead and build strong coalitions in Europe which create reform, allowing only those that contribute to British society to access to social welfare, but still ensure freedom of movement in order to allow the British economy to grow, the single market to flourish, and allow the millions of Britons who have chosen to live elsewhere in the European Union to have fair access and rights to other Member States social welfare systems.
Miss McIntyre said: "Britain has very good reason to apply these tests. Our benefits tend to be universal and means-tested, whereas those some other parts of Europe tend to be earned through insurance payments - that is, by long-term residence.
"That's why these rules are entirely appropriate for Britain. Similar rules also exist in Holland, Germany and Austria.
"I certainly welcome efforts to increase mobility for those what wish to work, but I do not welcome measures that will inadvertently provide incentives to those who want to come to the UK not to work.
"This decision to target the UK is disproportionate and downright unhelpful at a time when the Britain's future in Europe is the subject of so much controversy."

Online gambling reforms - odds-on steady progress

30-May-2013 @ 14:0

Proposed measures to revamp regulation of the online gaming industry represent a small step forward.

Stevenson welcomes fish-talks result

30-May-2013 @ 10:0

Years of negotiation over the future of European fishing reached a successful conclusion in the early hours today.
Three-way talks between the EU Parliament, Commission and Council eventually reached final agreement on reform of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy, subject to only a few formalities.
Struan Stevenson, Conservative fisheries spokesman in the Parliament, welcomed the deal as one which finally offered British fishing a future.
The Scots MEP, who is senior vice-president of the Fisheries Committee, said: "It is fantastic news that after many years, months, weeks and finally late-night hours of dedicated work, we have arrived at a sensible compromise on the future reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which will enable us to deliver a better future for our fishermen and fishing communities.
"The final compromise thrashed out in the wee small hours has delivered a meaningful element of regionalisation, devolving day to day management of fisheries back to the member states and to the fishermen themselves and wresting control away from the micro-managers in Brussels who have done so much damage to the industry over decades."
"We have also reached a reasonable compromise on the controversial issue of discards, which will see this wasteful practice phased out over the next few years in a way that is both practical and achievable by our fleet."
"Against the background of improving fish stocks in UK waters, I believe that this agreement can now provide our fishing sector with a good future."

Fresh boost for single seat campaign

28-May-2013 @ 16:0

Further backing for the European Parliament single-seat campaign came today in a key decision by MEPs on the Petitions Committee - despite attempts to cut short the debate and suppress the initiative.
Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, who has responsibility for drafting the committee's opinion on the issue, stoutly resisted attempts by French, Greek and Romanian MEPs to declare the opinion out of order.
He said: "Some MEPs for some reason want to continue the wasteful travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg. They were trying every trick in the book to stop this opinion going ahead. But we stuck to our guns and continued work on an opinion which I hope will add clout to the campaign for a common sense solution."
The Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee, under the guidance of another Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, is preparing a report on how the Parliament should bring its will to bear on the single seat question.
The advice from Mr Chichester's Petitions Committee will now feed into that report.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The trek costs an estimated £160 million a year, in a report now 10 years out-of-date, and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite a clear majority of MEPs opposing the arrangement, it remains in place because of a stipulation in the EU treaties to stage 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg.
Today's committee opinion notes that the parliament has received several petitions in protest, one signed by more than a million EU citizens. Despite that, repeated attempts by the committee since 2006 to put the issue on parliament's agenda have been obstructed.
The opinion says plainly that the Parliament would be "more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place."
It notes: "The continuation of the monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has become a symbolic negative issue among most EU citizens which is detrimental to the Parliament's reputation."
Finally, the opinion calls for Parliament to stage a defining debate on the issue and "if an appropriate majority vote is recorded, recommends that Parliament propose treaty changes under Article 48."
Mr Chichester said: "Stubborn self-interest and backroom fixes are the only reason this arrangement is still in place. We are saying: let's get the whole thing properly debated and decided by elected representatives, let's have the whole discussion out in the open and let's come to a solution that shows some accountability to the electorate."

Single seat - constitutional arguments support common sense

28-May-2013 @ 10:0

The European Parliament's members must ultimately be allowed to decide how the institution should organise its own business.
That is the message from a hearing at the Parliament in Brussels organised by its Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Most importantly, the will of MEPs should be paramount in deciding the key question of where the Parliament holds its sessions, the hearing was told.
Ashley Fox MEP, a leading figure in Single Seat Campaign to scrap wasteful parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg, helped organise the hearing and is the co-author of a report for the committee on "The location of the seats of the EU institutons".
In advance of the meeting, the Conservative MEP for South West England said: "Most MEPs want the parliament to sit only in Brussels and that majority is growing all the time. They know that the monthly trips to Strasbourg are a huge waste of money, time and energy.
"The travelling circus is an attack on the environment, an insult to the taxpayer and an affront to common sense."
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The trek costs £160 million a year and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Earlier this year the European Parliament voted by 429 MEPs to 184 to call for a single seat. However, stopping the yoyo travel schedule would require a treaty change.
Mr. Fox has launched an e-petition - www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com - which aims to persuade the UK Government to intervene on this key issue by pressing the EU Council to amend treaties to ditch the dual-seat farce.
Experts addressing the hearing included Olivier Costa, of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Bordeaux, Richard Whitaker of Leicester University, Herwig Hoffman of Luxembourg University, and Andreas Maurer of Innsbruck University.
Professor Costa told the hearing the parliament's inability to decide its seat impacted not only on the physical organisation of the assembly but also on its agenda and reactivity.
Professor Whitaker said MEPs suffered negative media coverage over the seat of the parliament even though they were not permitted to decide it. Giving them power over their location would increase the accountability of MEPs for the way they conducted their business.
Mr. Fox said: "The practical and economic arguments for ending the dual-seat system are clear and undeniable. I hope today's hearing will also start to put in place the key constitutional, legal and philosophical arguments which will underpin our campaign."