Posting of workers vote shows being at the EU table gets a better deal for the UK

Groupe ALDEMEPs voted yesterday to adopt the posting of workers directive, which deals with enforcement of the rules when businesses send workers to another EU country for a temporary period. Under the new rules there will be a clearer definition of posted workers to combat bogus-self-employment and other forms of abuse, so as to ensure that home country governments remain responsible for the welfare provision of workers posted abroad.

The European Commission estimates that there are around 1 million workers posted each year in the EU. The UK sends around 38,000 workers each year, primarily in the services sector, and receives around 37,000 per year across different sectors including health, finance and manufacturing.

European Labour and Greens pushed for damaging measures which would have limited the single market in services and introduced heavy-handed liability for contractors across all EU countries. These proposals were adopted as the Parliament’s position back in July, despite strong opposition from Liberal Democrats.

During the negotiations between Parliament and EU national ministers, Phil Bennion MEP employment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament ensured that these damaging proposals were rejected in favour of a more balanced approach. This approach took UK ministers from blocking the text to supporting it.

This balanced outcome was voted yesterday in the Parliament and received overwhelming support. A last-ditch attempt by Labour MEP Stephen Hughes to re-table the damaging proposals was also rejected.

Commenting, Phil Bennion said:

“This deal strikes a good balance between the protection of posted workers and opening up the EU’s single market in services, the sector that provides the biggest potential for future growth in Europe.

“Labour and the Greens wanted the UK to completely turn its liability regime for subcontracting on its head, which would have required massive and unnecessary changes to our legal system.

“This just shows that Labour do not have British interests at heart in Europe, and that the way to get the best deal for Britain is to have Liberal Democrat MEPs at the table.

“But it also shows the importance of having a say in the EU so we can stand up for British interests. As this is a single market measure, we would have had to comply even if we were outside the EU in order to maintain free trade.

“Leaving Europe would mean losing influence over important decisions that affect British workers and the British economy.”


Notes to editors

The Directive was passed with 474 votes in favour

The full text can be found here

According to government figures the UK sends around 38,000 posted workers receives around 37,000 per year

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.

Tory scaremongering on Europe shows they are running scared of UKIP

Groupe ALDEThis morning Conservative MEP Leader Syed Kamall criticised a suggestion put forward by MEPs for number plates across the EU to be standardised, describing it as “idiotic” and saying it was being forced on the UK by “eurocrats.”

However, it has now emerged that the proposal was co-tabled by his senior Conservative colleague Malcolm Harbour MEP.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MEP and Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament Phil Bennion said:

“We agree that a common EU number plate is completely unnecessary, and so I’m glad this proposal won’t be becoming law and is just a vague suggestion.

“But embarrassingly for the Conservatives, it turns out this was actually co-tabled by one of their own MEPs. This shows just how divided they have become when it comes to the EU.

“The truth is that neither the Conservatives nor Labour know where they stand on Europe.

“Liberal Democrats are the Party of In, UKIP are the Party of Out, while Cameron and Miliband are too weak to take a clear position.”

Notes to editors

Leader of the Conservative MEPs Syed Kamall was quote in the Daily Mail as saying the proposal was “idiotic” and was being forced on the UK by “eurocrats.”

The amendment co-tabled by Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour can be found here. It was added to a report which will be voted on in the European Parliament on Tuesday, 15th April in Strasbourg

The amendment says the European Commission should “consider whether the obstacles faced by citizens and businesses when transferring their vehicles from one Member State to another could be further offset if there were a possibility of equipping their vehicles with number plates in common colours.” There is no indication that the Commission will make such a proposal and even if it did, it would have to be approved by national governments including the UK and MEPs.

MEPs approve proposals for safer lorries but Conservatives abstain – Phil Bennion

Groupe ALDEMEPs in the European Parliament Transport Committee have approved measures to improve lorry safety which could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents a year.
Numerous road safety campaigns across the UK have stressed the urgent need for safer lorry designs to help protect vulnerable road users.

Under the proposed changes, pushed for by Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion, lorry drivers’ sightlines would be improved by reducing the blind spots under the front windscreen and the side of lorry cabs. The new designs would also include safer cab fronts to reduce the damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians.

Conservative MEPs Jacqueline Foster and Philip Bradbourn abstained on the final vote, while former UKIP MEP Mike Natrass voted against.

Mr Bennion commented:

“More than half of all cycling fatalities on Britain’s roads are caused by accidents involving lorries. Making a few small changes to lorry design will save lives by getting rid of dangerous blind spots and reducing the damage caused by collisions.

“I am glad to see that these changes were approved by MEPs after months of campaigning. However it’s a shame that my Conservative colleagues did not give these proposals their full backing.

“I will now be putting pressure on them to change their minds so we can reach a consensus before the final vote in Strasbourg next month.”

Phil Bennion MEP: New compensation rights for UK package holidaymakers

Groupe ALDEConsumer rights for package holidays are set to be brought into line with the internet age after they were given the go-ahead today by MEPs today in the European Parliament.

Liberal Democrat MEP Phil Bennion is leading calls for the existing EU rules, which date back to 1990, to be updated to improve compensation rights and ensure that people who book custom holiday packages online are protected.

The new rights would make it clear who is liable for each service being provided and give customers the right to compensation if services provided are not up to standard or a holiday is spoilt. Buyers of a package holiday will be given more flexibility to cancel their booking as long as they pay a small compensation fee, or for free in case of an unforeseen event such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

In the case of an unforeseen event, such as a natural disaster, which makes it impossible to return home on time, organisers would have to arrange accommodation for stranded travellers for up to 5 nights.

There would also be a 8% cap on price increases, and any price reductions of more than 3% would have to be passed on to consumers.

Phil Bennion commented:

“For over 20 years EU consumer rights have ensured that British travellers are well protected when they book package holidays in Europe.”

“But the internet has led to a dramatic change in the way people book their holidays. More and more people are no longer going to their local travel agent but arranging package holidays online, and we need to change the rules to reflect this.”

“These new rights will give holidaymakers peace of mind before jetting off and ensure they are protected and entitled to compensation if things go wrong.”

“It is also good news that tour operators will now have to pass on savings to customers instead of just saddling them with extra costs.”

“Reductions in red tape, including getting rid of outdated requirements to reprint brochures, will save businesses an estimated £336 million a year.”

Phil Bennion MEP: EU minimum standards will improve safety on UK roads

Groupe ALDEMEPs today voted to set minimum EU standards for the roadworthiness of vehicles through MoT safety tests and roadside inspections, following over a year and a half of negotiations. It is hoped that these new measures will contribute to reducing the number of road deaths by 50% over the period of 2010 – 2020.

Currently the UK has one of the best road safety records across the whole of the EU, with recent figures showing that road deaths dropped by 10% from 1,870 in 2012 to 1,680 in 2013. These proposed measures will raise the safety standards of vehicles from other EU countries using Britain’s roads.

Within the package there are also plans to make it easier for EU countries to swap information on vehicles, including their legal status, through the setting up of an online platform.

Liberal Democrat European Transport spokesperson Phil Bennion MEP commented:

“The UK has been leading the way when it comes to making our roads safer and today’s vote will ensure that these life-saving measures are extended across the EU.”

“Every year thousands of vehicles from the EU use our roads and so it’s vital that they are properly maintained and tested. That is exactly what this new package will deliver.”

Phil Bennion MEP: EU railway package will cut costs for passengers

Groupe ALDEThe European Parliament today adopted a variety of measures aimed at reducing costs to railway companies and train manufacturers that should in turn reduce the cost of passenger fares.

In 2012 alone, 9.9 million passengers travelled by Eurostar to and from mainland Europe. This package will make it easier for other operators to bid to run services on the line by harmonising technical and safety standards and reducing administrative barriers.

Currently train manufacturers have to apply for certificates to sell rolling stock in each EU member state, while train companies have to deal with around 11,000 different safety rules to run trains across the EU. The introduction of new EU- wide rules will reduce costs, increase competition and make it easier for trains to travel across borders, leading to a reduction in passenger fares.

However, protectionist MEPs blocked ambitious proposals to open up the domestic rail markets of other EU countries to greater competition, a move that would have benefitted UK firms.

Liberal Democrat European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion commented:

“These new rules will bring down the costs of operating railways, that can only be good news for passengers as it will lead to cheaper fares.

“However, I am disappointed that MEPs did not support increasing competition in domestic markets which could have reduced operating costs by almost a third.

“Opening up the single market in rail would lead to better and more affordable train travel across Europe.”

MEPs vote to end “one-bag rule” and boost air passenger rights

Groupe ALDEMEPs have voted to strengthen air passenger rights in Europe including clearer rules on compensation and carry-on luggage and the right to free food and accommodation in the case of severe delays.

For short-haul flights, passengers will be entitled to £250 (300 euro) compensation after three hours delay, and will be given the right to disembark after a maximum of three hours waiting on the runway.

The new rules were welcomed by Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion, who also pushed for seats required for carers accompanying disabled people or for musical instruments to be exempt from tax.

Commenting, he said:

“The most important change is that the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ has been tightened, meaning airlines will only be able to avoid paying compensation under specifically defined situations outside of their control.”

“The confusion over hand baggage allowances that currently plagues our airports will also thankfully be brought to an end. Each passenger will be allowed one handbag, one coat, one bag of duty-free goods and one item of carry-on luggage.”

Phil Bennion MEP: New lorry safety rules will save fuel and save lives

Groupe ALDEEvery year hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians die on Britain’s roads as a result of accidents involving lorries, but many of these deaths could be prevented by improving lorry designs and reducing dangerous blind-spots.

Today MEPs met with safety campaigners in Brussels who are calling 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 London’s Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gillighan. Lorry manufacturers Laing O’Rourke and Cemex were also in Brussels to show off new designs that incorporate a number of safety features, including wing mirrors and camera systems specially designed to improve a driver’s field of vision.

Next month the European Parliament will vote on an EU proposal concerning the weights and dimensions of lorries which includes requirements for new, lifesaving designs of lorry cabs.

Liberal Democrat MEP and European Transport Spokesman Phil Bennion has tabled amendments that will require improved drivers’ sightlines and safer cab fronts to reduce the damage caused by impacts with cyclists and pedestrians.

Commenting, he said:

“Improving the design of lorries will save fuel, but more importantly it will save lives. Redesigned lorry cabs with a curvy nose, a crash box and better vision for drivers could drastically improve lorry safety and prevent hundreds of fatal accidents every year.”

“The lorries on our roads come from all over Europe so it is particularly important that we act at the European level on this issue. That is why I am pressing for EU-wide changes that will make lorries both safer and greener. “

Chris Boardman commented:

“The measures that we are urging the EU to take today will demonstrably improve the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists, making these environmentally friendly forms of transport more appealing. By adopting these recommendations the EU could play an important role in changing our transport habits to benefit us all. It would be criminal for us to know how to save lives and then choose not to take action.”

Kate Cairns said:

‘It is exactly five years since we lost my sister, Eilidh Cairns, after she was run down from behind by a tipper lorry. The driver didn’t see her. The See Me Save Me campaign calls for mandatory elimination of lorry blind spots”.

“It’s a painfully slow process with much tragedy in the meantime but I am encouraged by this momentum and welcome this opportunity to join forces and continue the fight to reduce such violent death and injury on our roads.’

Bennion: Labour and Tories are “dancing to the UKIP tune” on EU free movement

Groupe ALDELiberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands Phil Bennion has criticised Labour and the Conservative Party for “dancing to the UKIP tune,” during a debate on EU freedom of movement in the European Parliament today.

Mr Bennion said:

“Both the Conservatives and Labour are dancing to the tune of UKIP on EU migration. It falls to Liberal Democrats to set the record straight and defend the benefits that freedom of movement brings, including for the 2.2 million or so British citizens who live and work across the EU.

“Of course, freedom to move shouldn’t mean freedom to access benefits, and it is right that the UK government is taking action to prevent any abuse of our welfare system.

“But all the evidence shows that EU migration has brought huge economic benefits to the UK and has made a significant net contribution to the public purse. Moreover, many EU migrants are highly-skilled and filling vital job shortages, including 19,000 doctors working for the NHS.

“So while we should respond to citizens’ justifiable concerns about pressure on public services and social integration, let’s not pander to UKIP by fuelling inaccurate stereotypes.”