Mr President, I believe climate change does pose a real threat to our futures, as does energy security. We do need to move to a lower carbon economy and especially to investment in new nuclear.Long-term investment like this does need a long-term strategy, but right now today, high energy prices are also causing real problems for many millions of households, and the EU's energy policies have caused many businesses to relocate to other parts of the globe. We therefore need a global approach, and it is good to know that other parts of the world are now also setting up their own emissions trading schemes.
This back-loading vote has been difficult, but fundamentally we know that the back-loading was a poor sticking plaster which did not solve the problems with the ETS. I hope the Commission will look rapidly at proposals for a significant long-term structural and affordable reform.
Mr President, the banking industry is ever more global and it requires global regulation. I have supported moves towards the global standard and towards a more level playing field. In the committee vote a year ago, a number of changes were made to try to align EU legislation with global standards. However, many of these were given up during negotiations and, as a result, we have a package which is not compliant with Basel in a number of areas.My own group wanted to make sure not only that banks are strengthened but also that taxpayers' money is protected. In particular, we believe it is important that losses are borne by equity holders and subordinated debtors before pain is shared with senior debtors, depositors or the state. The Cyprus situation shows how critical this is, and a key amendment, to us, was the ability for regulators to write down or convert junior tiers of capital or subordinated debt prior to any taxpayer-funded bailout. That amendment has been dropped from the text since the committee vote in May last year.
The legislation does not provide for a level playing field in the single market either. In particular, the bank assurance model is a very material divergence from the global standard. Strengthening banks' balance sheets must be done in a way that does not strangle investment in the wider economy. It has been very good to work at length with colleagues from across this Parliament to secure safeguards to support SMEs, trade finance and corporates hedging business risks, as well as to recognise the special status for building societies and protect mortgage holders who run into temporary difficulties. I have fought through many hours of negotiations to protect national powers. The ability for Member States to introduce their own higher standards is sometimes vital, and the UK's ability to implement a ring fence must not be lost.
On the issue of bankers' remuneration, we know that remuneration packages can increase risk-taking dramatically and do need global regulation. Indeed, I have supported measures to bring a remuneration package that is more long-dated and risk-sensitive, but the bonus cap is a blunt tool which can result in being front-loaded. It sets a bad investment precedent. This legislation makes many moves towards a global standard. My group will not vote against.
Mr President, economic times are difficult and our people deserve politicians who tell them the truth, not just play party politics. I am very pleased to have voted with the centre-right majority on a proposal for growth-friendly fiscal consolidation.The left have stripped their names off this report, saying it is about cuts, cuts, cuts. It is not. This report actually calls for intensifying investment in areas such as research and innovation. It is also not about spend, spend, spend and going back to the policies of the past that the left wanted to take us to. We refused their demands to give Parliament a say over how national governments make their budgets. I am pleased with that. They wanted us not only to work on tax evasion together, but to go towards tax harmonisation and we said 'no'. They wanted us to condemn our national leaders, who are going into today's budget negotiations looking for the same care in how money is spent at home as in Europe. I actually say 'Well done' to those leaders. It is public money, we are in difficult times and we need to be careful with it. So 'no' to the left and 'yes' to the right.
Madam President, it is rare that I feel so pleased about a vote in this Parliament, but the abhorrent system whereby perfectly edible food was thrown back into the seas because of the EU Brussels-set fishing quota has got to end, and today we have moved in the right direction.
In my region I have seen packets of cod labelled 'local' in Lowestoft which has actually been caught by vast trawlers in seas off the coast of Russia. In the meantime my local fishermen in small boats using lines, not nets, with no discards – they are sustainable fishermen – are not allowed to fish. So bringing back the decision-making to our local regional panels is absolutely key. This has started to turn the tide for the fish in our sea and for those of us who want to be able to eat our fish and chips for many more years to come.
Madam President, I have long argued that we need to make sure that our smaller companies are exempted from European legislation.A few months ago I went to visit a company called Radical Cars. It is a fantastic flagship for the single market. They were the first company to get single-type approval, which means that, instead of getting their new car adopted in 27 countries, they just do the paperwork once.
But then this Noise Directive arrives, and a bit of legislation which is meant to deal with Golfs, Fiestas and Renault Clios is suddenly imposed on this little tiny company which sells 100 cars, not thousands or tens of thousands, every year. Suddenly their entire business model is under threat.
I am so glad that the amendment to help these smaller cars went through today. But it went through with only 15 votes, and we have left them with months of uncertainty. So colleagues, please, when we ask to exempt small businesses from EU legislation, let us be serious about this.
The European debate and how it is likely to affect the agri-food sector in Suffolk
Thank you for inviting me to speak today.
I think that every politician in East Anglia from local councillor to MP and MEP should have part of themselves focusing on food.
There is an ever-growing world food crisis, not just developing countries where families can't afford to feed themselves. I recently visited the food bank in Haverhill where they now have twice as many people coming to them because they cant afford food than they did a year ago.
On the positive side our East Anglian farms are the breadbasket and sugar bowl of the UK, and we are vital to pigs, poultry and potato production too.
We are home to some of the most productive farms not just in the UK, but in Europe and across the world.
And because we are the best place to grow crops, we are also home to some of the world's leading crop research and science.
EU legislation affects the whole of our food chain, from what seeds the farmer can plant right through to what is printed on the product label.
You may have noticed that some of us think we might need to reform our relationship with the EU. And, with 40% of the EU budget still going to agriculture food is going to be right at the middle of those discussions. Last week Farmers weekly ran an in out poll on their website. The responses can come 58 to 42.
Even though I sit in the European Parliament, I certainly do not agree with everything that is said in Brussels and believe you me there is an awful lot going on at the moment.
I want to give you an update on:
CFP and CAP, both of which are in the middle of their once every seven years renegotiation
Welfare issues and in particular hen cages and sow stalls
Campaigns that have the potential to become gathering storms
-> leadshot, biofuels
Let's start with the good news. Tomorrow the Parliament will vote in Strasbourg and we will end fish discards. This means that the ludicrous and immoral situation whereby fishermen are forced to chuck perfectly edible food overboard will stop. Furthermore, there will be sustainability criteria so huge boats stop hoovering up fish stocks to unrecoverable levels AND there will be extra support for smaller boats.
I've more emails from members of the public about wanting to save fish stocks than on any other subject. Consumers care. I have also seen packets of cod labelled "local" in Lowestoft that has been caught by a trawler in Russia.
In the meantime, our Suffolk fishermen are in small boats, they are using lines not nets and have no discards and the fish is better quality, they are much more sustainable but because of Brussels quota rules they are not allowed to fish. But they need MEPs to change the law, which we are doing, and people to pay for their products. Food retailers and restauranteurs, if you're listening, please show our Suffolk fishermen your support and help promote our locally caught fish.
From sea to land. The Common Agricultural Policy is also another once in every 7 years negotiation. This is not so positive I remember writing essays on the CAP reform when I was in university in the 1980s. I didn't get what I wanted then and I'm not going to get what I want now.
In other industries we don't use public money to subsidise less productive businesses at the expense of more efficient ones. I think every industry works best when it's a level playing field and actually, every time I speak to an East Anglian farmer, thats what they say they want. The CAP does not provide a level playing field and it won't after this 'reform'.
But there is also a balance between farming, biodiversity and the environment. I've seen some excellent agri-environmental stewardship schemes locally. And that is the sort of best practice that it would be good to export across the continent.
However, this CAP reform is probably going to be a step backwards. In the past the CAP has been a negotiation between Government ministers but this time the European Parliament has had a say. There were over 8000 amendments tabled by MEPs. Those amendments were voted on in the agricultural committee 2 weeks ago.
The text is not good for big farmers, who are often our most productive but will be penalised. Furthermore some of the language on coupling and intervention measures, especially if the intervention levels are set high prices, risks breaking the link between producer and the market could take us back towards butter mountains of the past.
I'm not convinced that intervention in food markets is the right way to deal with excessive price volatility. Prices on the whole move because of supply demand differences. Forwards markets were invented by farmers trying to mange volatility, we do need these markets. The concern is whether activities of certain financial traders exacerbate peaks and troughs and rig prices. Separately to the CAP reforms there is a huge review of commodity trading regulations going on and there will be new tools for national and international regulators to intervene to prevent market abuse.
The CAP negotiations have a long way to run, the Prime Minister and the 26 other leaders this week, before the CAP can move onwards they have to agree unanimously on the next 7 years of all EU budget spending. Then there will be detailed negotiations on the amendments, we are meant to be voting in March but I suspect that will slip.
Some of the amendments that were passed will make some minor improvement. For example the support for young farmers is
helpful and the initial language which would have taken us back to set-aside is now amended so it can be offset with environmental schemes. Its not yet clear whether current ELS and HLS schemes in the UK can continue, an indeed what the cost will be if they do - to fund these schemes the UK needs the so called voluntary modulation, this would allow countries to move 15% of payments between different Pillars. But other countries could use this to increase direct subsidies and thus make the playing field even less level.
Talking of unlevel playing fields, Lets move on to chickens and pigs. Which came first?
One of the things which makes me really cross is when countries sign up to international rules, but then don't implement them. If they cant even implement something as simple as chicken laying eggs then what hope do I have on how we regulate nternational banks.
I've discovered that if you want to get people from lots of different countries to come to a meeting you invite them to a British Bacon and Eggs breakfast. - I can not tell you how many forms one has to fill out to get Newmarket Sausages served in the European Parliament.
The first issue was the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive whereby countries agreed to a 10 year period to get rid of tiny battery cages. First of January last year UK farmers had invested over £400 million and whole load of countries not paid attention (including bits of Wales and NI). Year on latest update apparently only Italy and Greece who are still non-compliant, but still issues with products which use eggs.
Pig Welfare Directive, similar but different story. UK unilaterally introduced higher welfare standards when we banned sow stalls in 1999, vast swathe of UK pig industry went bust due to the fact that other countries could produce for less. Big lesson on needing international agreement. Welfare of pigs was signed in 2001, deadline was Jan 1 this year. 17 countries still non compliant.
Well done to the National Pig Association is currently naming and shaming supermarkets and other food retailers on their website.
A year ago I also wrote to all the big supermarkets asking where their eggs come from and just before Christmas I wrote to them all again. Every big Supermarket told me that no shelf would stock a single piece of pork from any creature which had ever suckled from a sow from a stall.
Now I realise the question I should have asked is whether they can tell a horse from a cow?
Lessons from the horseburger saga.
Number one, buy the little red tractor label. Number two, we do need country of origin food labelling, I've been saying this since 2006, 2007 well before I was an MEP and well back before the whole Hungary via suffolk Turkey bird flu situation. The labelling is coming in for chops and steaks, and I know its complicated but we need country of origin labelling for sausages, pies, burgers too. To me this is not about protectionism but it is about disease prevention.
Disease Prevention is going to take me beautifully into discussing food research. If farmers are to feed the planets growing population we need an agricultural revolution, based on crop research, disease prevention, biotechnology - and precision farming , which is our next talk. We here are critical to delivering that.
Despite the English weather we have the best climate conditions and soil types to test crops. We in East Anglia are home to many of the worlds leading food and crop researchers. We should be really proud of them.
Rothamstead is the longest running agricultural research station in the world. They do their sugar beet trials in Suffolk near Bury St Edmunds, and their wheat trails are HQed in Hertfordshire. I was with their scientists one day last summer when "protestors" tried to destroy their wheat trial and the worlds media gathered. One by one they explained exactly what their
trial was doing, what the risks were, and why not all GM crops are "good" and why not all are "bad". And in that day a handful of scientists helped to shape a more informed public understanding of food science and even the Daily Mail supported them.
Science and Research is one area where working internationally sometimes has benefits. The EU budget is far to big, and hugely wasteful but investment in science and research is important. On the Research Committee we are currently negotiating an €80 billion investment in research over the next 7 years. Its one of the few bits of EU spending where the UK gets back what we put into the budget. And I would like more of it to come into food and agricultural research.
Its no good investing in new research if politicians then ban any new products as soon as they are arrive without taking account of the evidence.
The European Parliament very fond of banning things. The EU doesn't actively ban new GM varieties, it just makes it virtually impossible to approve them.(which amounts to a de facto ban) The process needs the approval of all 27 M-S, and as some are adamantly against GM they block virtually every approval even if the science says that it is completely safe. As of 2012, only two GM crops have been approved for cultivation in Europe. Last year we had flashed through the Parliament a recommendation to ban "smart breeding' patents, Most MEPS didn't have a clue what they were even voting on. This system must be reformed so that those countries which want to use GM can do so, abet selectively - apart from anything else otherwise the EU is open to a WTO challenge.
Not all bans are bad. The ban shark finning, fine. Stopping a ban is possible but it is hard work. Before Christmas we stopped a ban on Stem Cell Research - many of the scientists didn't believe we would succeed but we had a huge amount of help from patient organisations who worked to inform MEPs in many different countries.
My point here is that once a campaign for a ban gets momentum its often difficult to stop it, so we need to be more aware of campaigns early on.
"Food Not Fuel" debate is making a valid point about the ethics of policies which force land from food production to fuel production, and especially the first generation bio fuel crops. Not all bio fuels are bad, not all are good.
Last week the European Commission floated the suggestion to ban Neonicotinoids. This is a pesticide and pesticides kill pests, and if you spray it on pollenating flowers it will kill bees. We need bees. But do we need to outlaw the entire chemical or can you have it for controlled use on non-pollenating crops?
Lead Shot - I told you I get lots of emails about fish but I've had hundreds and hundreds about lead shot - and I take these emails very seriously, these people have got guns. Shooting plays a very important part in our our countryside is managed and for biodiversity. Game is very good food, a bit of lead shot doesn't poison humans, even if you eat a lot. There is no ban proposed on lead shot, but there is a study which could lead to one. Lead shot is bad for wildfowl i.e. ducks, swans geese etc, but less so for game birds. An outright ban would be in appropriate, but many water birds migrate They don't recognise national borders so we do need to work internationally. Encouraging other countries to adopt the UK approach of bans over water areas, and encouraging materials scientists to look at lead alternatives is I think the intelligent way forward.
To conclude, as one of suffolk MEPs over the past 3 years I've learnt that food and farming is incredibly important, and its changing. Our little corner of the world will play a vital part in delivering that change especially in the science, research. We should be very proud of this.
Change is Brussels is also possible, but not always change in the right direction - but its not always the wrong direction either - fish, and fishermen should be happier.
Pigs taught us that even in simple things we sometimes need international agreement. But if we make agreements then we have to also make sure that we or others don't just break.
Finally I've learnt that its much easier to bring in a ban than to stop it.
If you want to beat off a ban you need all your ducks in a row.
Mr President, tomorrow in Westminster the Fresh Start Group of MPs will launch its manifesto. This manifesto describes possible changes to the UK's relationship with the EU whilst staying in the single market. Instead of sweeping generalisations, Fresh Start looks at details and options, and I welcome this. The current proposal on rating agencies is just another example of why legislation designed by the eurozone should not be cut and pasted into the UK. The UK wants international investment, and when our rating is threatened, we try to improve the credit worthiness, not gag the agency. It is these details that can drive a wedge between a free-market, trading-nation vision of the EU, and a sometimes protectionist, often inflexible European Union.To my colleagues from other countries, I say this: if you want to use the single currency to turn the single market into a federation, then the UK cannot be part of it, but if you want to keep the single market as a free market, then you should want to keep the UK in. If you want to do that, then you need to listen to the reformists when they ask for some renegotiations.
Mr President, too often we see Members of this Chamber passing international law on things that could be decided nationally and then turning a blind eye to issues where we actually do need international agreement. I am pleased, therefore, that we voted on new rules for horses travelling to slaughterhouses.In my constituency is the home of World Horse Welfare, which has exposed horrific images of horses travelling from the eastern borders of Europe, across country after country after country, to slaughterhouses in central and southern Europe. These really horrific pictures show how those horses were treated on that journey.
We have to agree journey time limits. We do not want to stop farmers with other species of livestock from being able to get their animals to slaughterhouses in remote areas, but this treatment of horses crossing border after border without rest is cruel and must stop.
I have voted against the Regulation on air traffic related noise because time and time again we see decisions being taken at a European level which could be taken better at a national or local level.
Introducing a law by means of a Regulation, as opposed to a Directive, makes it much more difficult for Member States to actually meet local concerns.
Of course I believe that local people should be listened to and their voices heard when it comes to issues like health and noise. And yes, we must phase out older, noisier aircraft, and actually I support international collaboration in the EU towards the development and introduction of those cleaner, greener, quieter, more efficient aircraft.
But, we do not need to do all of this with a one-size-fits-all EU Regulation.
Vicky gave a speech at an event organised jointly by Open Europe and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation on Wednesday 5th December 2012. The debate was entitled "European challenges - the German and UK approach."
Vicky Ford MEP UK Office
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