I am sorry to hear that Sir Alan Haselhurst MP has decided to follow Sir Eric Pickles MP and Sir Simon Burns MP and will also be standing down from Parliament at the forthcoming General Election.
Between them they have served the people of Essex for over ninety years. Their knowledge and experience will be greatly missed.
I know that they will support their successors in their respective constituencies with wise council and that this will enable a smooth transition.
In the past month I have been knocking on doors and talking to people in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk with our Conservative candidates for County Council elections. I have been in areas that have previously seen a strong vote for Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.
On the doorsteps there is massive support from voters for Theresa May. A General Election result with a significant majority will allow her to lead with increased certainty. This will strengthen her negotiation position in the important discussions ahead and deliver the best outcomes for the UK.
To a round of applause in a packed Hemicycle in Strasbourg today East of England MEP Vicky Ford MEP hit out at "Mafia" comments made by Nigel Farage MEP.
"Calling other colleagues members of the Mafia or gangsters does not show mutual respect, it does not represent the views of the vast majority of the British people and it is not the view of the British Prime Minister who wants to remain friends, allies, and partners."
When Mr Farage took the floor, he accused MEPs of "...behaving like the Mafia", before qualifying following a rebuke from the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. Mr Farage went on to say, "I do understand national sensitivities, I'll change it to gangsters."
This morning MEPs had gathered in the Strasbourg Hemicycle to discuss and debate forthcoming negotiations with the United Kingdom, following the triggering of Article 50 last Wednesday.
Vicky Ford has been working with businesses and organisations across the East of England and UK since last June's vote to ensure that their views are taken into account in the forthcoming negotiations. She has backed Theresa May's call for an amicable separation and a constructive and deep future relationship between the UK and EU.
Mrs Ford sat through the three hour debate in the Parliament this morning in which over 60 MEPs spoke. She said "When negotiating a tricky separation one needs to keep calm, but when Farage spoke it was like a herd of bulls had just been driven straight through the china shop. Of course there will be times when negotiators disagree but chucking indiscriminate insults at those on the other side of the channel will not help get a good deal for the UK. It's important that people across Europe know that most Brits don't support this sort of language"
I was very inspired by my visit to three excellent local engineering firms in Kings Lynn with Sir Henry Bellingham MP; Chalcroft Construction, Shaun Hodgson Engineering Ltd and Dodman Ltd.
The skills and dedication of the people working in these businesses is deeply impressive, building on East Anglia's proud heritage of agricultural engineering. These are all represent excellent examples of British Engineering Companies - and it's important we negotiate good trade deals to allow them to continue to thrive!
New firearms legislation which imposes restrictions on the type of guns used in the Paris terrorist attacks has today been steered through the European Parliament by East Anglia MEP Vicky Ford.
Revisions to the EU's Firearms Directive mean that guns converted to fire blanks will in future be licensed under the same rules as the original live firing version. Currently these are able to be sold freely in certain European countries despite the fact that some versions are easily converted to use with live ammunition.
Other measures tighten the rules on the ownership of semi-automatic weapons fitted with high capacity magazines, require national authorities to keep details needed to trace firearms and improve information sharing between Member States.
Speaking after her report was approved by MEPs by 491 votes to 178, Mrs Ford said: "The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters and at the Bataclan theatre in Paris exposed a dangerous loophole which allowed poorly deactivated firearms, known as salute and acoustic weapons, to be freely available. A number of similar items were amongst a cache of over 30 illegal firearms found by British police on a boat in a Kent marina in August 2015. Following today's vote, this loophole will be closed.
The European Parliament has spent 18 months scrutinising the issue and Mrs Ford met organisations from the UK and across the EU, including the Countryside Alliance, British Sports Shooting Council, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Royal Armouries, the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation and the Nordic Hunters' Alliance. The Imperial War Museum in Duxford also hosted a meeting for Mrs Ford to meet representatives from British museums and collectors. Mrs Ford's report makes sure that museums will be able to continue to hold category A firearms with strict safety and storage requirements, as is already the case in the UK.
She said: "It has been a long and difficult process to reach a compromise which protects the public by making it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to get hold of higher capacity firearms while also safeguarding the interests of lawful sports shooters, collectors, re-enactors and other groups.
"It was not helped by the European Commission's original proposals which were very poorly drafted, contained many technical errors and would have had many disproportionate restrictions on legal owners. However, I believe we have now achieved a sensible balance."
Under the new rules, Member States will be able to authorise target shooters to possess and use higher capacity semi-automatic firearms which are otherwise restricted provided they are training for, or taking part in, competitions. The changes have been drawn up in collaboration with sport shooting organisations, including the International Practical Shooting Confederation.
Exemptions are also made for military and civil defence personnel, especially in countries such as Finland, where reservists traditionally own their firearms and keep them at home.
Museums, military re-enactors and even film companies, whose ability to possess firearms would have been compromised by the Commission's proposals, are now catered for, subject to safeguards. Historically important firearms will not be covered by new marking requirements, nor will the rules apply to antiques.
The legislation now goes to the Council for formal approval, after which Member States will have 15 months to incorporate the new rules into national law.
Mrs Ford is the UK Conservative MEP for the East of England and Chair of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.
Note for Editors
Background on the revised Firearms Directive can be found here:
Consumer organisations in the UK and the rest of the European Union should continue to help each other post-Brexit, Conservative MEP Vicky Ford said today.
Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee, has welcomed a report examining the potential impact of Brexit on consumers that has been published today by European Consumer Organisation BEUC and UK's Which?. It calls for decisions on issues such as safety and quality standards of household goods and products to be assessed against the impact on consumers. The two organisations want existing levels of co-operation maintained to ensure there is no erosion of consumer rights.
She said: "Currently consumer organisations and trading standards bodies all across Europe work with each other. They warn each other of dangerous products, faulty goods or scams and keep consumers informed.
"It is important that practical and pragmatic solutions are found to make sure that this vital work can continue. We hear a lot of people saying that Brexit needs to work for business but it is even more important that it works for consumers."
Mrs Ford (East of England), added: "This is an excellent piece of work. It is important that issues facing every day consumers on both sides of the Channel are put at the heart of the Brexit discussions."
Rural broadband, mobile phone contracts and calls to emergency services were on the agenda in Brussels this week. East Anglican MEP Vicky Ford brought together Executives from telecoms and media companies including BBC, BT, Vodafone, Sky, Telia and Deutsch Telekom, as well as the UK regulator, Ofcom, and representatives from European consumer groups to discuss new pan-European proposals on communications.
The group discussed the so called 'universal service obligation' which gives individuals the right to a phone service and the plans to extend this to include internet services.
Mrs Ford said, "As someone who lives in a small village I know what a struggle it can be to access modern communications when the internet service is poor, and what a difference it makes when the high speed line finally arrives. A universal service obligation will be extremely beneficial for rural areas but there are also important questions about how it is funded."
Experts at the Brussels meeting considered alternative funding mechanisms including public and private elements and contribution sharing between operators and content providers and how these could reflect different levels of service quality.
The informal roundtable also discussed the issue of consumer contracts which consumer groups say can be confusing. Questions of whether to introduce standard terms for easier comparison, maximum contract periods and rights for consumers to cancel contracts were also raised.
The group also looked at the issues relating to so-called 'over-the-top' communications services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype which are not currently covered by laws on security and data privacy in the same way as traditional voice and text services.
Mrs Ford explained "These new models are very popular and easy to use. We need to make sure that the legal framework is up-to-date whilst not overburdening companies like this with masses of extra red-tape."
Before entering politics Mrs Ford was involved in raising finance for infrastructure including many of the telecoms networks that consumers across the UK and Europe continue to use today.
Mrs Ford added, "It was extremely helpful to have Ofcom with us as many of the issues that we were discussing will continue to apply in the UK after Brexit. Communications technology is advancing at an extremely rapid rate and there is a strong interest from the UK to continue to work with other countries on developing policy."
Today's agreed sale of General Motors' European arm, including Vauxhall, to France's PSA Group, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, highlights the need for an EU/UK customs deal post-Brexit, says leading Conservative MEP for East of England and Internal Market Committee Chairman Vicky Ford.
Current EU Customs Union arrangements mean that a car or van can be made up of components sourced from all over the EU and sold as a European product to customers in non-EU countries under the beneficial tariff arrangements that the European Union has negotiated. This is the so-called "rules of origin" element of the Customs Union relationship
Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament committee for the Internal Market, which includes responsibility for Customs Union, said: "It is crucial for operations like the Vauxhall van manufacturing in Luton that new arrangements on rules of origin are clearly defined as soon as possible.
"This production line is one of the most efficient General Motors has anywhere in the world and has had close ties to Peugeot for many years. Peugeot has a production line in France that mirrors much of the British facility, making a different vehicle but using many similar parts. Hence why it makes logical commercial sense that many of the components used on the Luton assembly line are sourced from the French supply chain.
"There are similar supply chain arrangements all across the British automotive sector; the engines in a West Midlands-assembled Range Rover are made in Germany and Ford engines, made in Dagenham, are sent to Turkey to be put into vehicles. Restructuring supply chains is possible, though significant investment in time, capital and skill will be needed before the fruits will begin to show.
"In the immediate period as we leave the EU, we need to resolve how products made up of parts sourced from across Europe will be treated. If there is no new arrangement on country of origin rules then many British based manufacturers are concerned that they may not be able to benefit from any new UK trade deals that we ourselves negotiate as the assembled products may not be sufficiently 'British' under the WTO rules.
"Conversely, without a specific deal there is a risk that vans like those made in Luton would not be able to benefit from low tariff rates the EU has negotiated with those countries because significant parts of the vehicle will come from outside the EU27.
"Last week I met representatives from the European automotive suppliers association who pointed out that many continental manufacturers want the negotiations on cars to be resolved urgently. Not only are British buyers a large source of revenue but we are also Europe's most significant market for new vehicles. Without sales to British consumers it is likely that many continental companies will fail to achieve legally binding targets on sales of modern lower emissions products.
"The Prime Minister has made it clear that the UK intends to leave the Customs Union but has also stated that she wishes to see a new customs arrangement negotiated. There are countries outside the EU Customs Union which have specific relationships with it on country of origin rules. For example there are rules agreed with Norway that allow for cumulation, so that goods are counted together as coming from one country.
"Negotiations on EU/UK trade post Brexit will inevitably have a political dimension and General Motors may have concluded that finding a technical solution for the Vauxhall plants may be more amicably agreed with a French owner in the driving seat rather than an American one.
"This is a complex area, but it's also one where negotiators on both sides of the Channel need to invest energy in examining options and finding solutions that fit the needs of modern manufacturing economies."
Thalidomide Campaigner Takes Case to Brussels
A Suffolk campaigner, who is working with fellow Thalidomide survivors from across Europe has taken his case to Brussels. Roland Bareham, from Sudbury, joined campaigners from all across Europe when they held a special screening of a film about Thalidomide in the European Parliament.
Thalidomide, which caused defects at birth, was produced by a German company. Survivors believe they have a case for compensation from the German Government. There are over 450 survivors living in the UK today, aged between 55 and 59 years old, all affected in different ways. Many sufferers were born without fully formed limbs and as survivors approach retirement, their needs will become more specific and costly.
The Thalidomide campaigners have requested a meeting with the German Minister for Families to address the case for compensation. But the meeting has been refused.
Whilst in Brussels, Mr Bareham also met East Anglian Conservative MEP Vicky Ford to explain their case. Mrs Ford said, "It is clear that the survivors of Thalidomide believe that their case has never been treated seriously by the German authorities. It's pretty shocking that the German Minister, a socialist, has refused to even meet those who were affected. I have written to my German conservative MEP colleagues, from Angela Merkel's party, asking for their support."
For more information about Thalidomide and survivors go to www.thalidomidesociety.org
British negotiators secure new rules to stop car test cheats
New measures to make sure vehicles have to meet emissions and safety standards once out of the showroom have been supported by MEPs.
A direct response to the VW emissions scandal, the revised market surveillance rules have been piloted through the European Parliament by British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton and were passed in a massive voting session overseen by the East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford.
The rules set out new tests for cars and other vehicles both in the factory and on the road, new reviews of the testors and crucially new penalties designed to prevent test cheats. Furthermore across Europe each country will test samples from 20 per cent of the car models on the market in their country every year. These will be of various ages and so ensure that vehicles still meet minimum standards when in use.
The report was approved today by members of the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee (IMCO) and is expected to be considered by the full Parliament in April.
West Midlands MEP Mr Dalton said: "When buying a car we expect it to perform to the manufacturer's specifications. This legislation reassures consumers that will be the case.
"One of the reasons the car emissions scandal went undetected for so long is that the current arrangements for market surveillance are at best patchy and at worst ineffective. Whilst we can never guarantee another VW will not happen again, my report, combined with the real driving emissions tests for new cars approved by the European Parliament last year, make it very unlikely that any manufacturer would take such a risk in future."
Under the proposed legislation, national market surveillance programmes will be subject to regular review. Cars can be tested at the roadside, be drawn from rental fleets or procured in other ways that do not inconvenience consumers. The Commission will be able to undertake its own testing when necessary and issue EU-wide model recalls and levy fines on manufacturers in the event of failures.
Mr Dalton added: "By addressing the loopholes that allowed the emissions scandal to take place we will begin to rebuild consumer confidence both in our testing systems and in the manufacturers who build our cars."
Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who chairs the IMCO Committee, welcomed today's vote.
She said: "Buying a car is the single largest purchase most people ever face. These reforms are vital to restore consumer trust and hold manufacturers to account.
"Achieving this deal has involved deep and detailed work across Europe which was led by a British negotiator. I hope that the new relationship between the UK and the EU post Brexit will enable continued practical co-operation on issues of this nature."
Mrs Ford has worked with local car experts such as Ford in Dunton, Essex as well as consumer group in developing the new rules package.
My Political Priorities
Economic Stability must come first. Without a strong economy we can not deliver a strong society. I work with businesses and consumers to keep Britain open for business, cutting red tape, boosting trade opportunities and helping to deliver jobs and growth for all.
I support Science and Research which is key to delivering better medical care, healthy food as well as the Innovation and Creative Industries which bring improved lifestyles for all our families.
Strong home Security is vital in today's uncertain world, which requires robust policing and defence and deep international relationships that we can depend on. I work with others to achieve this.
I care about the Countryside and the Environment and making sure that rural and urban communities flourish.