MEPs vote to end mobile roaming charges by December 2015 despite Conservative opposition – Fiona Hall

140204 - No Roaming Fees _ with N  Kroes - IMG_3498 (2)Mobile roaming charges across the EU are set to be abolished altogether by December 2015 following a vote in the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee today. These include costly charges for data roaming, which are currently capped at £376 per gigabyte in the EU.

However, Conservatives voted for an amendment that would reject the proposals altogether. Meanwhile UKIP MEPs did not turn up for the vote but have made it clear in the past that they oppose efforts to cut the costly fees.

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

“UKIP and the Tories have once again put their anti-EU ideology ahead of the interests of British consumers and businesses.

“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.

“But a more connected continent will also benefit Britain’s thriving digital economy, including app designers who currently lose out because people don’t use their phones abroad.

“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.”

Notes to Editors

The report voted today in the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee can be found here. It is scheduled to be voted on by the full European Parliament on the 3rd April during a mini plenary session in Brussels. The negotiations on the final legislation with EU national governments in the Council are due to take place after the European elections in the second half of 2014.

Amendment 154 tabled by Conservative MEP Giles Chichester proposed to reject the EU proposal altogether. Conservative MEPs voted for it but it was overwhelmingly rejected by the ITRE committee.

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. Thanks to EU-wide caps data roaming in Croatia is now 15 times cheaper than one year ago, when the country was not yet part of the EU. For more details on current and future EU caps on roaming fees see here.

A recent survey by the European Commission found that 47% of EU citizens avoid using mobile internet when travelling in another EU country and that telecoms companies are missing out on a market of around 300 million phone users because of current pricing strategies.

Fiona Hall MEP: Steps must be taken to stand up for Ugandan human rights

Fiona HallLib Dem MEPs have written to the European Commission urging for action to be taken over new anti-homosexual laws introduced in Uganda this week. The law will result in sentences of life imprisonment being handed out to those accused of acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

This comes as today a national newspaper in Uganda published a list of the ‘top 200 homosexuals’ as a means to draw attention to high profile figures within Ugandan society who now potentially face prosecution due to the new legislation.

Leader of the Lib Dems, Fiona Hall MEP said:

“The situation in Uganda is deeply concerning and warrants steps to be taken by the EU to stand up for Ugandan human rights.

“We are calling for an LGBT protection clause to be inserted into the current Cotonou Agreement between the EU and developing nations in order to prevent the further erosion of the rights of sexual minorities.

“As Liberals we believe the EU should use its soft power to stand up for people’s rights and freedoms wherever they are in the world.”

Lib Dem MEP Leader Fiona Hall on Business for Britain report

Commenting on the report by campaigning group Business for Britain which calls for firms that do not export to the rest of the EU to be exempt from EU regulations, Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall said:

“Ironically, this proposal would lead to less business for Britain and an increase in red tape. Having multiple sets of rules would carve the British economy in two and create a bureaucratic nightmare for businesses seeking to expand into the rest of Europe. 

“Liberal Democrats have led on reforming the EU to improve its competitiveness, including by exempting small businesses from costly accounting requirements. This should be everybody’s priority. 

“Rather than putting forward half-baked proposals, Business for Britain should be honest and admit that their real intention is to pull us out of the EU altogether, something which businesses in the UK are overwhelmingly against.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable added:

“One in 10 jobs in the UK rely on trade with the EU. By being in the EU, British businesses also benefit from a common set of rules to do business and attract foreign investors. We should be supporting all British businesses to take advantage of the single market, not holding them back by shutting the door on the biggest trading block in the world.”

Hall: New opportunities for UK universities and businesses as £12.5bn EU research funding announced

The European Commission has announced that from today, universities and businesses across the UK can apply for £12.5 billion worth of European funding under the first of two years of the EU’s latest research programme.  The new EU framework, Horizon 2020, will be the world’s largest research programme with an overall budget of over £65 billion over the next seven years. Areas due to be prioritised in 2014 and 2015 include energy efficiency, digital security and healthcare.

UK universities have been particularly successful at accessing funding under the current framework, receiving more than higher education institutions in any other EU member state. In total, the UK has received almost £4 billion of EU research funding since 2007.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall commented:

“EU research funding brings huge benefits to the UK economy, helping to drive innovation and create jobs in some of our most cutting-edge sectors. Every £1 of EU research spending leads to an estimated £11 of added value to industry. Continue reading

Hall: Siemens to stop investment if Britain leaves EU

The managing director of Siemens UK, which employs 13,000 people across the country, has warned that his company would stop investing in factories in the UK if it was not part of the EU. He added that leaving the EU would be “disastrous” for British manufacturers. This follows a poll last month which found that eight out of ten manufacturers want to remain in the EU.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall commented:

“The message from business is loud and clear, it’s in Europe in work.

“Thousands of jobs are created each year by foreign investors who see Britain as a launch-pad into the world’s largest single market. Leaving the EU would mean losing that status and putting crucial jobs and investment at risk.” Continue reading

Fiona Hall and Danny Alexander: The message from manufacturers is clear – in Europe, in work

Commenting on today’s EEF report, ‘Manufacturing: Our Future in Europe,’ leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs Fiona Hall said:

“The message from manufacturers is clear: in Europe, in work. Our priority should be creating more jobs by reforming the EU, not putting them at risk by pulling out.”

Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

““Entertaining the idea of UK exit from the EU risks throwing our recovery away. Our focus must be on jobs and growth. Continue reading

Liberal Democrats deliver billions of EU research funding for small businesses

MEPs voted today to approve the EU’s new science programme, Horizon 2020, which will invest almost £60 billion in research and innovation over the next seven years.

Fiona Hall, leader of the UK Liberal Democrat MEPs and European industry spokesperson, commented:

“This is an exciting time for the research community and for businesses up and down the country. Liberal Democrats have ensured that over £2.3 billion will be allocated to small innovative businesses, which provide the key to creating new skilled jobs and rebalancing the economy. We also pushed for simpler rules to reduce administrative costs and make it easier for smaller firms to apply for funding.” Continue reading

Hall: EU telecoms proposal can cement UK’s place as a leading digital economy

In his annual State of the Union speech today at the European Parliament, Commission President Barroso unveiled proposals to create a single telecoms market in the EU which could boost annual GDP growth across the EU by around 0.9%. The proposals include phasing out mobile phone roaming charges and new rules to improve consumer protection.

Fiona Hall MEP, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, commented:

“A truly integrated telecoms sector will mean lower prices and more choice for customers. Putting an end to mobile roaming charges will mean people can go on holiday in Europe without having to worry about racking up large bills while they’re abroad. And new measures will prevent the misleading advertising of internet speeds so you can be sure that you are getting what you pay for.” Continue reading

Hall: Biofuel vote is step in the right direction

MEPs today voted in favour of a 6% cap on the amount of crops that can be used to generate energy for transport and in favour of taking indirect land use change (ILUC) factors into account, but postponed a final vote on biofuels until further deliberations.

The leader of the Lib Dem MEPs and European energy spokesperson, Fiona Hall, commented after the vote:

“Indirect land use change (ILUC) needs to be taken into account when evaluating biofuels and their potential to decarbonise the transport sector. The European Parliament signalled today that from 2020 crop-specific ILUC will indeed be factored into the calculations in the Fuel Quality Directive. Continue reading

Hall: Government review shows EU membership vital for jobs in UK

Today the UK government published the first six reports of its balance of competences review, launched in July 2012, which aims to provide a comprehensive audit of the impact of EU membership on the UK.

Fiona Hall MEP, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, commented:

“This review should inject a welcome dose of realism into the current debate on Britain ‘s EU membership. Most importantly, it underlines that being an influential member of the EU single market is vital for jobs and growth in the UK . Continue reading