Andrew Duff MEP: Proposal to improve MEP voting transparency postponed

Andrew Duff MEPFollowing opposition from the two largest groups in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) and Socialists and Democrats (S&D), a proposal to record and publish the results of how MEPs vote in committees has been postponed for the foreseeable future.

The proposal was due to be voted on next Wednesday 5th February by MEPs during the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg. However, it has now been delayed following this morning’s meeting of the European Parliament Conference of Presidents, who have taken it off the final Strasbourg agenda.

Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff called for all final votes in committee on draft laws to be made public back in 2012, but his proposal was rejected by EPP and S&D MEPs in the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

He now strongly supports the current proposal.

He commented:

“It is wrong to have delayed this important reform. People have a right to know how their elected representatives vote. The argument is not complicated.

“Many important legislative decisions are made at committee stage. MEPs should not hide the choices they make from voters, the media and lobbyists. I had hoped that the European Parliament would put in place higher standards of scrutiny and transparency than those that are met in national parliaments. Sadly we seem not quite ready for this.

“The democratic legitimacy of the European Union is being called into question. More openness about MEPs’ engagement in law making is an important element in the reform movement to which European Liberals are committed.”

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.’

Graham Watson MEP: Gibraltar protest Rocks the boat in Brussels

Sir Graham Watson MEPA group of protesters from the Concerned Citizens group in Gibraltar is currently in Brussels to hand over a petition to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee and protest in front of the European Parliament, Spanish EU Embassy and European Commission.

The group is in Brussels to protest against the continuing delays at the border with Spain due to the disproportionately heavy-handed customs checks when entering and leaving Gibraltar.

Gibraltar and South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson handed the petition over to the European Parliament Petitions Committee earlier today.

Sir Graham, who assisted with the logistics of the protest, commented:

“The continuing and disproportionate delays at the border are a scandal of the highest order.

“We have succeeded in our bid to Rock the boat in Brussels today – and will continue to do so tomorrow.

“It’s time that the EU realised the strength of feeling on the Rock about the issue. This problem cannot be solved by the UK and Spain simply agreeing to disagree, we need action from the European Commission to defend citizens’ rights to free movement and we need it now.”

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.”

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.”

Graham Watson: Airbus Group UK says EU single market key to its success

Sir Graham Watson MEP

Airbus Group UK has joined the growing list of major employers who have come out strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU.

Robin Southwell, President of Airbus Group UK has said that the company’s success depended on “an effective partnership of countries and companies within Europe, which only collectively can deliver the scale required to be globally successful”.

During his speech at a company event tonight in London, he also implied that eurosceptics must come up with a viable alternative economic model that would not undermine growth and employment in the UK.

Airbus currently employs 17,000 people in the UK, mostly at its plants at Filton near Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, where wings are made for the group’s civil aircraft. In total, the company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly and in the supply chain.

Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, commented:

“Airbus Group is one of the most successful companies in Europe and has created thousands of highly skilled manufacturing jobs in this country.

“Key to its success has been the ability to trade freely in a single market of over 500 million.

“Liberal Democrats, as the party of In, are determined to defend Britain’s membership of the EU and the massive economic benefits that it brings.

“We cannot let the eurosceptics win the argument and throw our economic recovery away.”

Notes to Editors

Robin Southwell is due to give a speech at an Airbus Group UK reception in London at 19:30 GMT, 21st January 2014

In his speech Mr Southwell will state that Airbus employs 17,000 people in the UK.

The company estimates that around 100,000 jobs are generated in the UK by Airbus wing work, both directly as well as indirectly through an extended supply chain of over 400 companies

Bowles: European Parliament approvals appointment of Sabine Lautenschläger to ECB Board

Sharon Bowles MEPMEPs in Strasbourg today have approved the appointment of Sabine Lautenschläger to the European Central Bank’s (ECB) executive board, who will replace fellow German Jörg Asmussen.

The report approving Ms Lautenschläger’s appointment, authored by Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles, was passed with an overwhelming majority with 443 MEPs in favour and just 47 against.

This follows a campaign by the European Parliament in 2012 for the appointment of a woman to the all-male ECB board.

Sharon Bowles, who spearheaded the campaign and chairs the Parliament’s influential Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, commented:

“I would like to congratulate Sabine Lautenschlager on her new post. The appointment of a well-qualified and highly experienced woman to the ECB board is well overdue.

“It is shameful that there has been no woman involved at the highest level of the ECB since 2011, and that Ms Lautenschläger will only be the third woman to serve on the ECB’s six-person board since the institution was founded in 1998. It is not the case that there is a shortage of suitable women, as has quite clearly been demonstrated.

“We have a long way to go still to achieve gender equality in the banking sector, but the Parliament’s insistence on more female candidates is clearly bearing results.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on all EU institutions to lead by example when it comes to promoting equal opportunities for men and women.”


Notes to Editors

Sharon Bowles’ report approving Sabine Lautenschläger’s appointment can be found here:

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.”

Ludford: Ford could reassess UK business in case of EU exit

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEPFord has warned that it could reassess its business in the UK if the country were to leave the EU.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Stephen Odell, Chief Executive of Ford Europe, said that by quitting the EU Britain would be “cutting its nose off to spite its face.”

He added: “I would strongly advise against leaving the EU for business purposes, and for employment purposes in the UK.”

Mr Odell said that while there was understandable concern about some of the rules and regulations coming from Brussels, the UK would still have to comply with many of these outside of the EU and that it was therefore better to push for reform from within.

Ford, which employs almost 15,000 people across the UK, is one of Britain’s largest foreign investors and manufacturers. A third of the world’s Ford engines are assembled at its plants in Bridgend and Dagenham.

London Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford commented:

“We cannot ignore the message from major employers about the importance of the EU for jobs and growth. Yanking us out of Europe, as UKIP and many Conservatives would like to do, would risk seriously damaging Britain’s economy.

“Foreign investment would go down, unemployment would go up and Britain’s influence on the rules that matter to businesses would be seriously diminished.

“Liberal Democrats, as the Party of In, are committed to reforming the EU from within to make it work better for Britain. Our focus must be on creating jobs and sustaining the economic recovery, not throwing it all away by turning our back on our biggest trading partner.”

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.