Ludford: EU top court backs “right to erasure” in Google case

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

The European Court of Justice has backed the so-called “right to be forgotten” in a landmark judgement today, ruling that individuals should be allowed to request that “irrelevant” and outdated search results be erased on request. The case was brought by a Spanish man against Google, who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results was an infringement of his privacy.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP and European Justice and Home Affairs Spokesperson Sarah Ludford said:

“It is gratifying that the Court has backed the ‘right to erasure’ that MEPs recently demanded be made explicit in the EU’s updated data protection law. Coming hot on the heels of the Court’s strikedown of the Data Retention Directive, it is clear beyond doubt that the EU’s highest judicial authority stands squarely behind the European Parliament and Liberal Democrats in strengthening EU privacy rights.

 “It is now up to the 28 EU governments to respond to this array of forces and stop running away from the challenge to curb overreach by the state and the private sector.  Enabling EU citizens to have trust that their online data will stay in their control will boost, not harm, the digital economy.”


New EU rules to make it easier to claim compensation from price-fixing cartels

Sharon Bowles MEPToday MEPs voted through new rules that will strengthen ability of consumers and businesses to claim compensation when harmed by an infringement of competition law such as price-fixing cartels.

Currently, due to procedural obstacles and legal uncertainty, few victims actually manage to obtain compensation. Victims only sought compensation in a quarter of all the antitrust infringement decisions taken by the European Commission over the past seven years.

The new rules will make it easier for consumers and small businesses to claim by lowering the burden of proof and adding legal certainty. In particular, the rules concerning price increases that are “passed on” along the supply chain have been clarified ensuring that consumers at the end of the supply chain are entitled to compensation.

The European Commission is currently investigating the possible manipulation of energy price benchmarks by companies including Shell and BP which could have artificially increased the price of petrol for consumers.

Sharon Bowles said:

“Today’s vote is a great day for the consumer and a blow to all those who seek to profit from infringing competition law.

“From now on it will be much easier to claim compensation when companies have colluded to keep prices artificially high, especially for those at the end of the supply chain.

“In addition the practice whereby cases are brought under certain jurisdictions because offending parties know they will get softer treatment will finally be brought to an end.”

Notes to Editors

Today was the final vote on the legislation, the full text can be found here

Victory for Lib Dems as MEPs approve safer lorry designs – Phil Bennion

Groupe ALDELiberal Democrat MEP and Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion has welcomed a European Parliament vote to improve lorry safety through tougher design standards today, which was approved by an overwhelming majority with 604 MEPs in favour.

Under changes pushed for by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed to reduce the number of blind spots under the front windscreen and the side of the vehicle. The new designs would also include safer cab fronts to reduce damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians. It is thought the proposal and could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.

Over the past few years Liberal Democrat MEPs have met with a number of safety campaigners in Brussels and the UK who have called for tighter EU rules to improve lorry safety including Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Chris Boardman, Kate Cairns from the See Me Save Me Campaign and Nazan Fennell from the ‘Live in Hope’ campaign in Birmingham.

Mr Bennion commented:

“Today’s vote is a victory for all the campaigners in the UK who have worked so hard to bring about these life-saving changes to lorry design.”

“This shows that when individuals engage with MEPs and the EU they can affect the outcome and bring about positive change.”

“With today’s strong backing from the European Parliament I am confident that we can push these reforms through in negotiations with national governments later this

Notes to Editors

MEPs will now enter into negotiations with national governments in order to finalise the new legislation. These negotiations will not take place until after the European elections in May.

Under the new rules lorry manufacturers would be permitted to increase the dimensions of their vehicles as long as they used the extra space to incorporate safety and aerodynamic features. These safety features will then become compulsory seven years after the entry into force of the Directive.

The full text of the proposed legislation voted on today can be found here. The full results of the vote will be published around 2pm BST.

Ludford: Landmark EU judgement throws a spanner in the works of increased state surveillance

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

The European Court of Justice has today declared “invalid” the Data Retention Directive, an EU law requiring telecoms firms to store citizens’ communications data for up to two years.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP and Home Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament Sarah Ludford said: 

“It is a vindication of the Lib Dem rejection of this pernicious Directive in 2005 that the EU’s highest court finds the obligation on telecoms companies to retain records of our calls and emails for access by national agencies an unjustified invasion of privacy and breach of human rights.

“This landmark judgement throws a spanner in the works of  increased state surveillance. It chimes with the recent call by Liberal Democrats for a ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ and an end to government bulk collection of data and the establishment by Nick Clegg of an independent review into surveillance practices.”

Notes to Editors

Today’s European Court of Justice ruling can be found here:

Hall: EEF manufacturers’ organisation says EU vital for UK’s economic future

Fiona Hall MEPCommenting on the publication of the EEF manufacturing organisation’s EU Manifesto, which calls for Britain to remain at the heart of the EU, Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall said:

“British manufacturers are now making it clear that being in the EU is crucial for this country’s economic future.

“Liberal Democrats are going into the European elections with a clear message: let’s safeguard jobs and the economic recovery by making sure the UK stays in the EU and reforms it from within.

“You can’t deliver for Britain by walking away from our biggest trading partner.”

MEPs vote to end mobile roaming charges and safeguard a free and open internet

Roaming fees

MEPs are calling for mobile roaming charges in the EU to be scrapped altogether by December 2015 following a landmark vote today on reforming the EU telecoms market.

Current EU caps on roaming charges have saved consumers across the EU an estimated £8bn since they were introduced from 2009, and new lower caps coming into force on 1st July 2014 will bring costs down even more.

However, Liberal Democrat MEPs are calling for the charges to be scrapped completely, including costly fees for data roaming in the EU which can reach up to £376 per gigabyte.

Commenting, Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall said:

“Ending costly roaming fees will give UK citizens travelling in the EU the freedom to use their phones just like they do at home, whether that’s using maps, downloading apps or sharing photos online.

“Liberal Democrats are the Party of In because we believe that engaging in Europe is the best way to deliver for Britain. That means driving down costs for families, creating jobs and opening up new opportunities for businesses overseas.”

Liberal Democrat MEPs also put forward ambitious proposals on net neutrality to safeguard a free and open internet. These call for all internet traffic to be treated equally without discrimination, restriction or interference, and for the blocking and throttling of online content by internet providers to be banned.In addition, consumers who do not get the internet speed they have signed up for will be given the right to cancel their contract.

Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for Justice and Human Rights in the European Parliament Sarah Ludford commented:

“It’s important to establish a strong framework on net neutrality now before bad practices by internet giants become established and widespread.

“These proposals will ensure a regulatory environment that enhances both consumer choice and economic growth.

“This will safeguard the openness of the internet and guarantee a level playing field where consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services they want to use.”

Notes to Editors

Today’s full report on the EU Telecoms Package can be found here. Negotiations on the final legislation between the European Parliament and national governments in the Council are due to take place after the European elections in the second half of 2014.

Under EU caps coming into force on the 1st July 2014, the maximum cost of data roaming in the EU will come down from 40 euro cents (33p) a MB to 25 euro cents (21p) a MB.

Figures uncovered in a Parliamentary Question by Liberal Democrat MEPs show that EU caps on roaming charges have saved consumers EUR 9.6bn (£7.94bn) since 2009.

The European Parliament is calling for a strict definition of net neutrality. Blocking and throttling of internet content will be banned, which will give users access to the full and open internet. Companies will still be able to provide “specialized services” with enhanced quality (such as IPTV, video on demand, tele-surgery) as long as this doesn’t affect the internet speeds promised to other customers.

Watson: MEPs vote to give EU trade preferences to Ukraine

Sir Graham Watson MEP

MEPs have voted to give Ukraine temporary autonomous trade preferences to the EU market, as a transitional measure until an Association Agreement can be signed following the Ukrainian presidential elections in May.

The proposal will reduce or remove entirely, depending on the sector, EU customs duties on goods originating in Ukraine. This will amount to an annual tariff reduction of around €500 million.

The trade preferences can be withdrawn unilaterally if there are deteriorations in the rule of law or the human rights situation in Ukraine.

Liberal Democrat MEP and foreign affairs spokesperson in the European Parliament Graham Watson commented:

 “The economic situation in Ukraine is rapidly deteriorating and so it is vital that the EU acts quickly to come to its aid.

 “Fast-tracking trade preferences are an important first step that will give a boost to the Ukrainian economy and a strong signal of support to its people.

 “Nigel Farage may be content being Putin’s poodle, but Liberal Democrats are clear that working together with others in Europe means we can have far greater clout on the world stage.”


Andrew Duff calls for immediate lifting of British block on Europe for Citizens Programme

The EU’s new Europe for Citizens programme has been blocked by the UK Parliament since November 2013. Today (Monday 7th April 2014) a motion on the ‘scrutiny reserve’ is due to pass in the House of Commons which will enable the UK government immediately to give the green light to allow the programme to start.

Europe for Citizens is a package of measures agreed under the EU’s new multi-annual financial framework for the dissemination of public information about the EU. For 2014 the agreed topics include encouragement to participate in the European Parliamentary elections and research into voters’ attitudes, as well as projects to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Andrew Duff MEP, who leads for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe on constitutional affairs, said:

‘It is embarrassing for me, as a British MEP, to see how the combined forces of euroscepticism in the UK government and parliament have held up this excellent citizens’ programme not only in the UK but across the whole EU.

‘Many civil society organisations, media and think-tanks are ready to go with good projects whose purpose is to deepen popular understanding of the importance of engaging with the European Union. €93.4m has been allocated to the programme from the EU budget for 2014.’



Ludford: Joint EU police operation nets 213 smartphone thieves

Sarah and Giles213 suspected mobile phone thieves have been arrested in a joint EU-wide police operation in the UK and a further seven EU countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Romania). The coordinated operation against individuals and gangs behind smartphone theft led to 120 arrests in the UK alone and the seizure of 2401 stolen phones.

Liberal Democrat MEP for London Sarah Ludford, who has campaigned to retain EU police cooperation measures in the UK, commented:

“This is yet another example of how being in the EU can help us cooperate across borders in the fight against crime.”

“Liberal Democrats are leading the fight to keep Britain in Europe because being in helps us to bring criminals to justice and keep the British public safe.”

Giles Goodall, Lib Dem MEP candidate for South East England, added:

“Smartphone theft is a growing crime in the UK and across Europe, as many victims are all too aware. This successful operation is another example of how European cooperation helps fight crime and catch the perpetrators.

“Unfortunately, Ukip and the Tories would have us abandon these types of joint operations because of their anti-EU obsession. Lib Dems want us to stay in the EU so we can better keep our streets safe. Crime crosses borders. By working with our European neighbours we can make sure our police and justice systems catch up with them.”

Notes to Editors

See here the Europol press release in which Metropolitan Police Service Commander Christine Jones, who has been leading Operation Ringtone in London for the past year, is quoted as saying: “Operation Ringtone is not simply about mobile phone crime in London, but that which is committed across Europe.

“It is a fantastic, progressive and innovative operation. Not only are we working in London and with police forces across the country to tackle mobile phone crime, but through incredible work by our staff and partners we now have reach into Europe to tackle those criminals who attempt to exploit free movement in order to commit offences, often travelling to London and other UK cities for that purpose.

“Our Europol, European and National Crime Agency partners have been outstanding in both recognising the crime reduction and detection opportunities of our joint activity, and in providing leadership and impetus in targeting those individuals, of whatever nationality, who are intent on preying on our communities across Europe.”

In total 213 individuals have been arrested under the auspices of Operation Ringtone (including 120 in the UK, 33 in Bulgaria, 10 in Germany, 3 in Romania where an additional 120 suspects were identified, and 1 in Sweden) and 2401 mobile phones seized.


Ludford: MEPs back reform of European Arrest Warrant to prevent miscarriages of justice

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

The European Parliament today overwhelmingly backed a report by Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford calling for major reforms to the European Arrest Warrant, including a human rights safeguard clause to help avoid miscarriages of justice and a proportionality check to prevent it being used for minor offences.

The report calls on the European Commission to table proposals for reform within the next year. One key demand is for the introduction of an explicit clause that would empower EU member states to refuse extradition requests if there are substantial grounds to believe that the human rights of the accused person would be breached. This would help to avoid the repeat of notorious cases such as that of Andrew Symeou, who was detained in poor conditions in a Greek prison for almost a year after being wrongfully accused of manslaughter.

In addition, it calls for a proportionality check that would look at the trial-readiness of the case, the seriousness of the offence and whether a less intrusive measure is available. This is to prevent the Euro-warrant being issued for petty crimes, which in the past have included cases such as the theft of two tyres and the stealing of piglets.

Commenting, Sarah Ludford said:

“Given that my report received explicit backing from Conservative MEPs, I hope that Tory backbenchers now close ranks and support reform of the European Arrest Warrant rather than insisting that the UK abandons it altogether. Continue reading