Andrew Duff MEP reacts to House of Commons report on on EU Charter: Britain should uphold best European standard of fundemental rights

Andrew Duff MEP‘The House of Commons is wrong to seek to weaken the protection afforded by the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights’. That is the conclusion of Andrew Duff MEP, European Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional affairs, reacting to the Report of the European Scrutiny Committee published today (Wednesday), on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the United Kingdom (HC 979).

In his statement, Duff says:

‘This enquiry is the first serious effort by the British Parliament to recognise the importance of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was made binding under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon. The Scrutiny Committee is absolutely right to conclude that the Charter is fully applicable in the UK despite the fact that Protocol 30 of the Treaty appears to make an exception of the UK (and Poland) on how the Charter should be used by the British (and Polish) courts. The fact is that, contrary to the claims of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, the UK has no opt-out from the Charter.

‘On the other hand, Tory MPs are entirely wrong to be intimidated by the Charter, whose purpose is to offer a higher level of protection and a more modern standard of fundamental rights to EU citizens than that offered by the older European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Why the UK should not benefit from the full force and scope of the Charter is not explained in the Commons Report.

‘The eurosceptic bias of the EU Scrutiny Committee is all too clear. Its final proposal that the European Communities Act 1972 should be amended to disapply the Charter to the UK is preposterous. It would result in legal chaos and would breach the EU Treaty. Such a move would effectively pull the plug on British membership of the European Union.

‘Instead, at the next general revision of the EU Treaties, the UK and Poland should ditch Protocol 30 altogether. It is encouraging that the Czech Republic, which had applied eccentrically to join the Protocol, has now changed its mind.

‘The European Court of Justice is right to insist that the level of rights protection in every Member State of the Union must be at least as high as that of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The EU’s imminent accession to the ECHR will further secure the equal application of rights law to all tiers of European Union government. At a time when human rights are under attack elsewhere in Europe, Britain should be in the forefront of their promotion.’

END

Notes to Editors:

Andrew Duff, who gave evidence to Commons enquiry, was a member of the Convention which drafted the Charter and is the European Parliament’s long-standing rapporteur on its application.

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.”

Catherine Bearder MEP: Arms Treaty must receive more global cooperation

Catherine Bearder MEP - South East EnglandThe ratification of the United Nation’s Arms Treaty by the European Parliament this week is welcomed news for those campaigning for better control over the trade of arms. Last year world leaders voted by a large majority to pass the treaty which prohibits states from exporting conventional weapons in violation of arms embargoes, or weapons that would be used for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or terrorism.

MEPs backed several recommendations calling for the EU to take a leading role in the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty; including the provision to closely monitor the progress made by nations through close cooperation between governments.

Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP for South East said:

“After a long diplomatic process, I am very pleased that we have reached the stage where we can turn our words into action and turn the Arms Trade Treaty into action. However, the treaty has still not been agreed to by both China and Russia who export large amounts of arms every year. Until we receive their support, we will lack a global solution to a truly global issue”

“The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for a universal arms treaty in order to create a safer world in which dangerous weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. By working alongside our EU partners, we can work to prevent future lives being lost from the irresponsible trading in arms”

Sarah Ludford MEP: MEPs back action against LGBT discrimination despite Tory/UKIP opposition

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEPThe European Parliament has today overwhelmingly approved a new European Union ‘LGBT roadmap’ to help tackle widespread discrimination against the gay community across Europe.

The Lunacek report calls for:
• Legislation to prohibit incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity
• Proposals for the mutual recognition of documents across the EU to reduce barriers on same-sex couples in exercising their right to freedom of movement
• The monitoring of equal treatment in employment, with 1 in 5 LGBT people feeling they were discriminated against at work or when looking for a job
• Protection of LGBT freedom of expression.

While Liberal Democrat MEPs strongly supported these measures to tackle LGBT discrimination, Conservative and UKIP MEPs abstained.

Liberal Democrat MEP for London & vice-president of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats Sarah Ludford said:

“With half of LGBT people in Europe subject to some form of discrimination, urgent action is needed to ensure the gay community is protected. As a Liberal Democrat, I want to see equal treatment become the norm across Europe.”

“The roadmap is not about giving the LGBT community special privileges. It’s simply a recognition that existing rights applicable to everyone are not being properly enforced for LGBT people.”

“It’s a disgrace that Conservative MEPs failed to support action to tackle LGBT discrimination, following in the footsteps of their ideological bedfellows UKIP. While UKIP and the Tories continue to ignore the injustices that LGBT citizens face, Liberal Democrat MEPs will keep putting gay rights, as part of human rights, a core focus of our work in the European Parliament.”

Graham Watson MEP: EU should consider sanctions on Ukraine

Sir Graham Watson MEPCommenting on the deaths of two protestors in Ukraine today following a police crackdown, Liberal Democrat MEP and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson in the European Parliament Sir Graham Watson commented:

“I deplore President Viktor Yanukovych’s heavy-handed approach which appears to have cost the lives of two protestors in the streets of Kiev today.”

“While the Ukrainian government has turned its back on Europe, we must not turn our back on the people of Ukraine.”

“The European Union should consider imposing sanctions on Ukraine until this brutal repression is brought to an end and a political settlement reached.”

Ludford: European Arrest Warrant reform one step closer

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP MEPs on the European Parliament LIBE committee yesterday approved a report by Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford calling for major changes to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), including the introduction of a human rights’ clause to prevent miscarriages of justice and a proportionality test to prevent the warrant being used for petty crimes.

The report calls for the European Commission to come forward with legislative proposals to reform the EAW at the EU level.

Sarah Ludford said:

“I’m delighted that reform of the European Arrest Warrant is now one step closer after my report was approved by the LIBE committee. The warrant needs to be used not only effectively but proportionately, with guarantees that safeguards are respected and human rights are not abused in the process. This will help prevent miscarriages of justice in the future.”

“My report seeks to achieve this reform with EU-wide support, rather than ad hoc and uncoordinated action by individual member states which would fail to deliver real justice for European citizens.”

“The Euro-warrant will remain a crucial crime-fighting tool, delivering swift justice compared to previous long and cumbersome extradition procedures, ensuring that criminals cannot escape the long arm of the law by crossing into another European country. With the reforms I and my MEP colleagues are calling for – and we expect the Commission to act on – all our citizens will be able to have full confidence in its fairness as well as its effectiveness.”

Notes to Editors

The report will be voted on by all MEPs in plenary in February.

A list of case studies of miscarriages of justice arising through use of the European Arrest Warrant can be found on the Fair Trials international website here.

London bomber Hussain Osman and school teacher Jeremy Forrest are among those who have been brought to justice to the UK thanks to the EAW.

Lynne Featherstone and Sarah Ludford: Tory and UKIP MEPs fail to condemn female genital mutilation

Lynne Featherstone MP and Liberal Democrat European human rights spokeswoman Sarah Ludford MEP have strongly criticised Conservatives MEPs who voted against a European Parliament resolution today condemning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Four Conservative MEPs – Marta Andreasen, Nirj Deva, Sajjad Karim and Timothy Kirkhope – voted against the motion to condemn FGM, and several UKIP and Conservative MEPs including Nigel Farage abstained.

Lynne Featherstone commented:

“It is deeply shocking that so many Tory and UKIP MEPs today refused to condemn female genital mutilation.

“I have made it a priority of this government to end this horrific practice within a generation. That means working through international organisations like the EU to help shape cultural attitudes worldwide.

“Sending out mixed signals like this completely undermines the global fight against FGM on which Britain is playing a leading role in support of the many African countries who have already banned the practice.”

Sarah Ludford added:

“Today’s vote was a betrayal of the millions of young girls who have been subjected to genital mutilation the world over.

“Tory and UKIP MEPs would do better to put their personal attitudes towards the EU aside when it comes to something as important as the fight against FGM. Surely we should be standing united in condemning this barbaric practice and working together to end it.”

Notes to editors:

Lynne Featherstone MP is a minister in the Department for International Development and UK Ministerial Champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas. In March this year she announced a £35m DFID programme to help end FGM worldwide within a generation.

Today’s European Parliament resolution stated: “strongly condemns the disgraceful practice of female genital mutilation in certain parts of Africa, honour killings, gender-based abortion and forced marriage;”

Four Conservative MEPs voted against (p.61-62), four Conservative MEPs and five UKIP MEPs abstained: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sed/doc/votingResult/P7_PV(2013)12-11(RCV)_en.pdf

The coalition government has set up a new NSPCC helpline to allow children affected by FGM to talk to someone in confidence: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/news-and-views/our-news/child-protection-news/female-genital-mutilation-helpline/fgm-helpline-launched_wda96863.html

The coalition government has also established a £35m fund to help communities across Africa get the support they need to reject this barbaric practice: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-help-end-female-genital-mutilation

 

 

Newton Dunn: Billions of pounds in taxes and thousands of jobs being lost to organised crime

Bill Newton-Dunn MEPThe European Parliament today voted on a report calling more European coopeation to address organised crime, corruption and money-laundering in the EU. The report calls for stronger maritime cooperation and border management to stamp out human-trafficking and the smuggling of counterfeit products, weapons and illegal drugs. It also calls for better information-sharing and coordination between national authorities to enable them to fight organised crime and confiscate criminal assets more effectively.

Bill Newton Dunn MEP, the Liberal Democrat Coordinator on the European Parliament’s committee on Organised Crime, commented:

“Shockingly, at a time when governments across Europe are struggling to balance the books, we are losing billions of pounds worth of tax revenue each year to gangs of ruthless criminals. VAT fraud alone is estimated to account for €100 billion of lost revenue a year to the EU, while £4.7 billion of taxes are being lost to criminals annually in the UK. Continue reading

Ludford: EU privacy law – Liberals achieve good balance

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEPCo-negotiator for the Liberal group in the European Parliament (ALDE) and Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford has welcomed an MEP compromise agreement on the new EU Data Protection Regulation to be voted on in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee later today.

Sarah Ludford said:

I’m extremely proud of the crucial leading role played by Liberal Democrats in securing a balanced text which will both guarantee substantive privacy rights across Europe and permit technological innovations that benefit customers.”

“The end result is very different to either of the extremes we faced: reams of prescriptive bureaucracy from one side and a desire to allow businesses free rein on the other. Continue reading

Ludford: EU law on legal advice will protect Brits abroad

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEPThe European Parliament has approved the text of a new EU Directive to guarantee all suspects and accused persons the right to have a lawyer so that they are able to defend themselves and have a fair trial wherever they are in the EU.

Although the right of defence for anyone suspected of a crime is widely recognised as a basic element of a fair trial, the conditions under which suspects may consult a lawyer differ among Member States. Continue reading