Open Letter to EU High Representative Ashton and Commissioner Piebalgs: The EU can help to end FGM within a generation

Dear EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs,

On the International Day for Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Mutilation, we are writing to urge you to put ending this harmful practice at the heart of the EU’s foreign and development policy

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an appalling form of child abuse and violence against women which continues to blight the lives of millions around the world. We would like to commend the Commission and EEAS for their much-needed action to date on preventing FGM, including successful EU-UNICEF programmes in Eritrea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sudan and India. But we believe more could be done. Through more funding for awareness-raising and grass-roots activity as well as more effective data collection on victims of FGM and greater coordination with national governments, the EU could play an even greater role in protecting young girls and women around the world.

The United Kingdom is playing a major role in the global fight to eradicate FGM under the leadership of International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone MP. In March 2013 Minister Featherstone announced a £35 million programme that will support local projects in Africa, research into the most cost-effective approaches to end FGM and work with diaspora communities to bring about change in their countries of origin as well as in the UK. With the support of the EU and its member states, we can continue to shape cultural attitudes across Europe and worldwide and end this horrific practice.

Given the progress achieved on FGM, making the world truly safe for women and girls is an achievable possibility. We call on you to make this goal a central part of the EU’s external relations. By taking the lead on this issue, the EU can help to end FGM within a generation.

Liberal Democrat MEPs Catherine Bearder, Sarah Ludford, Fiona Hall, Edward McMillan-Scott, Phil Bennion, Rebecca Taylor, Chris Davies

To add your name as a co-signatory to the letter please leave your name in the comments section below, or alternatively email your name to

If you would like to join Lynne Featherstone’s campaign to end FGM within a generation you can visit her website here

I’ll protect £100K “fake” Chagall – says Yorkshire MEP

A senior MEP has offered to step in to stop the destruction of a ‘fake’ Chagall painting owned by his constituent, businessman Martin Lang of Leeds.

Vice-President of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott (Yorkshire & Humber, Liberal Democrat) said:

“If the Chagall family go ahead and destroy the painting they claim is fake it will be vandalism. As it happens, I prefer the ‘fake’ to the original, as it is more typical of Chagall’s style.”

“If Mr Lang gets in touch with me, I will immediately seek to establish Mr Lang’s rights under EU law to the picture he bought for £100,000 in good faith.” the MEP said as he prepared to travel to Strasbourg tomorrow.

The ‘fake’ saga is the subject of Fake or Fortune broadcast on BBC 2 TV at 18:00 on 2 February.

Rebecca Taylor MEP: Liberal Democrats have not given up the fight for e-cigarettes


The European Parliament Environment Committee today held a single vote on the Tobacco Products Directive, which includes stricter measures to regulate the sale of tobacco such as a ban on flavourings and restrictions on packaging, as well as proposals to regulate electronic cigarettes as consumer products. Liberal Democrat MEPs Rebecca Taylor and Chris Davies both abstained on the vote.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP Rebecca Taylor said:

“I could not support the whole package today because I still have serious concerns in relation to the final text of the legislation on e-cigarettes (article 18), which I find far too restrictive.”

“In particular, I find the 20mg limit and the potential for a future ban on refillable devices deeply worrying, as these could lead many e-cig users to switch back to harmful tobacco cigarettes.”

“However, I have always supported measures that will reduce the appeal of tobacco, especially for young people, and discourage them from starting smoking in the first place, and for that reason I decided to abstain in today’s vote.”

“Liberal Democrats have not given up the fight for sensible regulation of e-cigarettes. I am currently verifying European Parliament procedural rules to ascertain what further action can be taken. As I have always argued, it would have been far better to have created bespoke regulation for e-cigarettes rather than shoehorn them into legislation intended to regulate tobacco products, but we are where we are.”

“I look forward to working with like-minded groups to see how we can achieve a better outcome for e-cig users, while maintaining measures to reduce the appeal of harmful tobacco products.”

Bennion: Employee financial participation can power inclusive growth

Phillip Bennion_Bundestag

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed a report by Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion calling for the encouragement of employee financial participation (EFP). EFP schemes provide opportunities for companies and employees to work together for the benefit of wider society through measures such as share ownership and profit sharing.

Dr Bennion commented:

“The time is ripe to assess modern forms of employee financial participation and how they could be used as an engine for inclusive growth.

“Britain and most economies in Europe have long lagged behind America in involving employees directly in the performance or the ownership of the enterprises they work for. We need to break away from the ‘them and us’ stereotypes of the 1970s and 1980s, while avoiding the atomised social Darwinism promoted by some on the right.

“My report offers an analysis of ways to empower workers in an increasingly globalised world. If handled properly, employee financial participation can not only increase companies’ productivity, competitiveness and profitability but also increase the quality of employment and contribute to greater social cohesion.”

Notes to Editors

The full report can be found here: The report ties in closely to the European Commission’s current pilot project on the same topic which will look at how employee ownership can be encouraged and facilitated and what barriers currently exist.

Rebecca Taylor: E-cigarettes – The current state of play following last night’s negotiations

Negotiations between MEPs and national governments represented by the Lithuanian Presidency on how best to regulate e-cigarettes effectively came to an end last night (Monday 17th December). Further negotiations will take place tomorrow between all EU governments who must approve on the deal reached, which will then be subject to a final vote in the European Parliament next spring.

The current state of play on these products following last night’s negotiations is:

- E-cigs are defined as a “product for consumption” and not as a medicinal product.

-E-cigs are to be regulated according to the provisions of Article 18 of the Tobacco Products Directive concerning nicotine containing products.
-There is an exemption for products “subject to an authorisation requirement” under the Directives for medicinal products or medical devices. This essentially means that Member States could apply pharmaceutical legislation, but only if they can justify it. They are likely to encounter the problem of legal challenges referencing the EU law specifically tailored to e-cigs.

-Flavourings will not be regulated at EU level. Member States can regulate them but may not ban flavours allowed in another Member State as EU treaties forbid trade restriction in the single market.

Cross-border Sales
-Will be allowed according to Article. 16 of the TPD

-All current types of e-cigs are allowed (disposable, refillable by means of a refill container or rechargeable with single use cartridges)
-In case a national competent authority finds evidence that specific electronic cigarette
products or refill containers present a serious risk to human health, it can take appropriate measures and communicate that to the Commission and other Member States. The Commission will then assess the evidence and justifications. If such measures are taken in three or more Member States (who apply the TPD to e-cigs and not pharma legislation), the Commission will be empowered to extend these measures to products in all Member States. But this could then be blocked by a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament.

Product requirements
-Refill containers for nicotine-containing liquid may not exceed a volume of 10ml.
-Disposable cigarettes or single use cartridge for nicotine-containing liquid may not exceed a volume of 1ml.
-The liquid may not contain more than 20mg/ml nicotine.
-E-cigs and refill containers need to be child and tamper-proof. They need to be protected against breakage & leakage and have a mechanism ensuring leakage-free refilling.

Labelling and consumer information
-E-cig packs need to include a leaflet with instructions for use and information on potential adverse effects.
-There needs to be a reference that the product is not recommended for the use of young people and non-smokers.
-Unit packs need a list of all ingredients and detailed information on the nicotine dosage.
-The packs need to carry one of two health warnings.

Advertising and promotion
-Will be prohibited in press and other printed publications, in the radio or on TV (with exception for publications for trade professionals).

Detailed reporting obligations
-Will apply to manufacturers and importers while Member States shall monitor the market development, including on evidence for gateway use of young people.

Significant ground had been won in the rejection of Europe wide medicines licensing. But the decision to potentially ban refillable cartridges and devices in future would be a backward step.

The fight is now on to show that it would not be justifiable to ban refillable cartridges on health and safety grounds.

Rebecca Taylor MEP and Chris Davies MEP: Medicinal regulation avoided but fight for ecigs not over yet

There are better ways to regulate

Liberal Democrat MEP and Health Spokeswoman in the European Parliament Rebecca Taylor welcomed the fact that mandatory medicinal regulation of electronic cigarettes was rejected in negotiations on the EU Tobacco Products Directive, but expressed her disappointment over some aspects of the outcome.

In negotiations last night (Monday), proposals from the European Commission that all electronic cigarettes should be controlled by pharmaceutical legislation were rejected by MEPs. Governments will now have to propose special legal justifications if they wish electronic cigarettes to be treated differently from conventional tobacco cigarettes.

In negotiations with representatives of EU governments, MEPs agreed on a compromise that the maximum nicotine content of e-cigs available for general sale should be 20mg/ml, a major increase on the 4mg/ml originally proposed by the Commission and above the average routinely used. The nicotine level agreed is regarded as closely comparable to that derived from smoking conventional cigarettes.

It was agreed that the flavourings that can be used in e-cigs will be specified by national governments rather than specified by EU legislation.  Refillable units, which are widely used at present, will continue to be available. They will however be subject to a safeguard clause meaning that Member States can introduce stringent national measures including a prohibition against concerned products – if justified by evidence of a serious risk to public health. If refillable e-cigarettes have been prohibited in at least three Member States, the Commission would be able to extend the ban to all Member States through a delegated act but that could be blocked by a majority in the European Parliament. The Commission was also asked to report on health and safety risks of refillables within two years’ time.

Rebecca Taylor commented:

 “Significant ground had been won in the rejection of Europe wide medicines licensing. But the decision to potentially ban refillable cartridges and devices in future would be a backward step.”

 “Second and third generation e-cigarette devices, which are used by around 80% of long term e-cigarette consumers, allow users to mix and match their desired flavours and nicotine strengths. They are a key part of what attracts someone to quit smoking tobacco and switch to e-cigarettes and to stick to vaping rather than go back to smoking.”

 “Unless manufacturers are able to adapt their products to accommodate disposable cartridges, I worry that a substantial number of e-cigarette users may be pushed back to tobacco, which is the exact opposite of what the tobacco directive is supposed to achieve.”

 “The fight is now on to show that it would not be justifiable to ban refillable cartridges on health and safety grounds.”

Chris Davies MEP added:

“We have seen a massive turnaround in the approach towards e-cigs and that is very much to be welcomed. These things can save lives because smokers find them pleasurable to use.”

“But we are determined to fight to the end on behalf of e-cig users.  Their health benefits are enormous compared to smoking tobacco and they can be a game-changer in the fight against smoking-related disease.  They should never have been included within legislation intended to regulate tobacco products.”

“So long as conventional cigarettes are available everywhere the restrictions on e-cigs should be minimal.  Too many EU governments simply don’t get it. The controls they favour will lead to people dying unnecessarily who might otherwise have switched from smoking cigarettes to using a product not now associated with any deaths at all.”



Sharon Bowles: Excessive online card fees banned under new EU consumer rights law

Sharon Bowles MEP

Excessive surcharges on card payments and pre-ticked boxes on websites are to be banned following the coming into force of new EU consumer rights legislation today. Under the new rules, which must be fully implemented by 13th June 2014, retailers across the EU will also have to give clearer price information and provide shoppers with longer cooling-off periods to cancel orders and return goods.

Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, who helped to steer the EU legislation though the European Parliament, commented:

“These new rules will finally bring consumer law into line with the digital era. This is particularly welcome news for customers in the UK, who now do more of their shopping online than almost any other country in the world. Continue reading

Bennion: New EU rules allow use of electronic devices on planes during take-off and landing

The EU’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has ruled that electronic devices can be kept switched on during the total duration of flights, including take-off and landing, as long as they are in “flight mode.”

Phil Bennion, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman, called on the European Commission to review the ban on the use of mobile phones in planes back in March 2013.

Commenting, he said:

“I’m glad that the rules are being updated in line with scientific evidence and the latest technology. Using smartphones, tablets and e-readers has become part and parcel of modern travel, and so it’s good news that passengers will now be able to keep reading and working while in flight-mode.” Continue reading

Taylor: UKIP parental leave views are ‘straight out of the Victorian era’

Liberal Democrat MEP Rebecca Taylor has launched a scathing attack on UKIP’s sexist and patronising approach to women, following comments made by UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall over Nick Clegg’s proposals to update the system of parental leave.

Nuttall, UKIP’s Deputy Leader, claimed that “new mums can hardly breast-feed – as everyone knows is best – if they’ve gone back to work after a fortnight leaving dad in charge.”

Currently fathers have less right to parental leave than mothers but under Clegg’s proposals, both parents would have the right to choose whether to share parental leave.

Rebecca Taylor commented: Continue reading

Ludford: Tory eurosceptics’ proposals would be a Fresh Start for criminals

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

Tory Eurosceptic group Fresh Start yesterday published a report calling for the UK to withdraw from all EU policing and criminal justice measures.

Commenting, Sarah Ludford MEP said:

“These proposals would indeed be a fresh start, for the thousands of criminals who would find it far easier to escape justice.

“UK police chiefs have made it clear: you cannot fight cross-border crime without cross-border police cooperation. Pulling out of EU crime-fighting measures altogether would be a gift to drug-smugglers, human-traffickers and online sex offenders. Continue reading