A new plan to protect our oceans from ‘ghost fishing’ has been unveiled today by Conservative MEP John Flack. 
 
Marine wildlife and coral reefs are being destroyed as fishing nets continue to trawl the seas long after fisherman have lost or discarded them. The nets 'ghost fish' anything in their path as they are carried by the oceans' currents. Mr Flack is recommending that these new measures are included in the EU's new plastic strategy.
 
The proposals recommend that the EU and Member States:
  • Set up port reception schemes were financial incentives are offered to fishermen for returning unwanted nets.
  • Incentivise vessels to use technology to track and if necessary retrieve their lost nets
  • Support research into biodegradable nets to speed up their development
 
Mr Flack, who is leading the European Parliament's Fisheries committee's response to the EU's plastic strategy, said: "'Ghost fishing' is a hidden problem doing untold damage to our oceans. Fishermen do understand the value of our oceans and respect them, but their lost and discarded fishing nets continue to plague our seas.  
 
"Not only do the abandoned fishing nets contribute to the world's growing plastic waste problem but they indiscriminately trawl our seas of protected marine wildlife, damage coral reefs and waste our fishing stocks.
 
"My proposals are bold and ambitious, but also offer a realistic plan to significantly reduce the damage done to our oceans by 'ghost fishing'."  
 
 
Comprehensive measures to prevent a repeat of the Dieselgate scandal today secured final approval from MEPs.
 
Conservative Internal Market spokesman Daniel Dalton - who led the legislation through the European Parliament - described the previous regulations as "at best patchy and at worst ineffective" and said his report introduced a strong, transparent system to ensure cars are safe and meet emissions standards.
 
"Consumers have been cheated and their confidence in the system been undermined," he said. "My aim has been to clean up after Dieselgate and ensure that in future any manufacturer guilty of mis-selling and deliberate manipulation of test results will be caught.
 
"This legislation delivers for car owners and the environment while avoiding unnecessary burdens on manufacturers. Safety and emissions standards will finally be applied fairly and properly across the board."
 
The new system is the European Union's main legislative response to Volkswagen's deliberate falsifying of vehicle emissions tests. It introduces:
 
* Checks on hundreds of cars of various ages to ensure they continue to meet emission and safety standards in real driving conditions throughout their lives;
 
* For the first time national authorities are required to fine car makers guilty of significant failures;
 
* The European Commission will oversee national testing authorities and have powers to undertake spot checks on cars across the EU;
 
* Vehicles failing tests will be subject to a rapid EU-wide recall system.
 
The legislation also demands that independent garages are granted access to new vehicle information previously withheld by manufacturers, enabling them to compete for repairs and servicing work.
 
Mr Dalton said: "This has been a key issue for me as lead negotiator. It will open up the market and make repairs cheaper by introducing greater competition between independent businesses and franchise garages."  
 
MEPs passed the report at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this afternoon by 547 votes to 83, with 16 abstentions.
 
The new laws must be introduced in Member States by September 2020.

Measures unveiled today by the European Commission to tackle unfair practices in the food supply chain are an important step forward, according to Conservative Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre.

The proposed directive aims to protect farmers and suppliers from practices including the cancellation of contracts for fresh produce at short notice, late payments by retailers and by demanding more clarity in agreements.

It draws on the experience of the UK's Groceries Code Adjudicator, a position created in 2013 to re-evaluate the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.

Miss McIntyre told MEPs today that she warmly welcomed the Commission's proposals.

She said:  "Farmers don't always get a fair price and they don't always get fair treatment. Processors and supermarkets are often those who take the lion's share of the profit when of course they wouldn't take any profit at all were it not for the raw commodity provided by the farmers.

"The UK adjudicator is a very good example of how to make progress in this area and I am pleased to hear the Commission has used it as a model.  When the system was set up one of the worst practices I came across was of farmers being charged by supermarkets for replying to customers who wrote complementing the quality of a product.  

"Proof of the effectiveness of the adjudicator is that the number of complaints and issues raised by farmers has reduced year on year."

Introducing the proposed directive today, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed the UK "had been specifically looked at in drawing up this proposal."

He added: "Companies have come into line as a result of the work of the groceries adjudicator."

Mr Hogan stressed the EU measures would complement, not replace, steps already taken by Member States.

 

 

Measures which would have made it easier for companies to work across the European Union have been rejected today in a move branded protectionist by a senior Conservative MEP.

 

Daniel Dalton said the internal market committee's decision exposed politicians who claimed to support the internal market but then voted to restrict competition.

Mr Dalton, the Conservative's Internal Market spokesman, said: "Today the goal of opening up the internal market for services has been set back years.

"The report was backed by Europe's businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms, and would have helped consumers access a wider variety of services. Yet some MEPs chose narrow protectionism over a freer market. I was particularly disappointed to see British Labour and UKIP MEPs joining forces to help defeat sensible proposals that would have considerably reduced red tape for UK companies.

 

"In recent years we have made good progress in establishing a single market in goods but not nearly enough in services. Today the stalling continued."

 

Under the draft laws companies wishing to provide their services in another EU country would have been able to complete administrative formalities in their own country and language. While they would still have needed to adhere to local laws, such as labour rules, the so-called e-card aimed to reduce much of the bureaucracy that comes with offering services in another Member State. Construction was expected to be one of sectors to benefit most from the reforms.

 

Flemish MEP Anneleen Van Bossuyt, who belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group along with UK Conservatives, was a co-rapporteur for the report along with Morten Lokkegaard from ALDE. Both supported the proposals.

 

 

Responding to Jean-Claude Juncker's letter congratulating Vladimir Putin on his election victory, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:

"This is a disgraceful letter from Jean-Claude Juncker.  

"To congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election victory without referring to the clear ballot rigging that took place is bad enough. But his failure to mention Russian's responsibility for a military nerve agent attack on innocent people in my constituency is nauseating.

"The European Commission President is appeasing a man who poses a clear threat to western security."