In a near unanimous vote the European Parliament’s Fishing Committee has backed Ian Duncan MEP’s plan for a workable fish discard ban.
Committee members voted 17 to 1 in favour of Dr Duncan’s proposal, which will give Fishermen two years to adapt to new rules banning the discard of fish. The discard ban is part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, brought in to stop caught fish being thrown back into the sea. Dr Duncan has campaigned in support of the ban but raised concerns that the European Commission was trying to push the reforms through too quickly and without the proper legal basis.
Dr Duncan said: "This entire episode has been a case of bad law-making and could have left fishermen in a legal no man’s land. From the outset, the European Commission was wrong in trying to treat all fisheries alike.
"I was clear that the pelagic species (Mackerel and Herring) could have been dealt with first, as they are a clean fishery, and then the more complicated demersal stock (Haddock, Whiting). Now all Fishermen have two years to adjust to the new rules and will be able to fish without fear of breaking the law.
"No one wants to throw back caught fish, least of all fishermen, but we need the right rules in place. The vote last night was another step down that road before the whole Parliament votes in April.
"I am however disappointed that my fellow Fishing Committee member David Coburn (UKIP) was not present for the vote. This could have had major consequences for the Scottish Fishing industry and as an MEP representing Scotland I would have expected Mr Coburn to be fully engaged in the process, especially as he was oddly in favour of the original Commission proposal."
British Conservative Energy Spokesman Dr Ian Duncan MEP has intervened to halt the European Commission adding substantial financial burden to the UK's hard pressed offshore oil and gas industry.
The European Commission has proposed to limit the emissions produced by medium-sized engines and generators, which are integral to every offshore oil platform. The Medium Sized Combustion Plant Directive would require the installation of expensive new equipment on gas and diesel engines and generators. The characteristics of the UK offshore oil and gas sector mean that compliance with the Commission's plans would be extremely challenging and in some cases unfeasible.
The plans would create huge costs, which could accelerate early decommissioning of the platforms. This would have an impact on energy security and thousands of UK jobs, while providing only minimal air quality benefits on land.
Dr Duncan has tabled an amendment in the European Parliament's Environment Committee that would mean the directive will not apply to the 194 UK offshore installations. The UK Government already regulates the air quality of North Sea Oil and gas rigs, which are only granted permits if they comply with maximum emission limits.
Dr Duncan commented:
'I am all for reducing emissions but what the European Commission has failed to consider is that their latest plans would have a disproportionate impact on oil rigs. The Commission want to force platforms to fit large, heavy and expensive new equipment on their generators. Anyone who has been on an oil rig will tell you that more space and extra weight are the two things you simply don't have.
"At a time of falling oil prices and job losses, these plans are not going to encourage the industry to keep pumping oil in the North Sea and will lead to faster decommissioning.
"They are also unnecessary given that the British Government already has world-leading emissions rules with which the rigs have to comply. I hope my colleagues on the Environment Committee will support my plan and help protect an industry already enduring challenging times."
Around 8% -10% of the European Union's oil and gas consumption is produced on the UK Continental Shelf, and accelerated decommissioning would impact the future recovery of proven reserves by as much as 45%-60% during the period up to 2030. This would compound the EU’s significant dependence on energy imports (53% in 2013) and an energy import bill of over €1bn per day.
In the UK the oil and gas industry supports employment for around 450,000 people, almost half in Scotland. Accelerated decommissioning would affect employment, leading to thousands of job losses across the UK by 2030. (SOURCE – Department of Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA))
Notes to editors
- More detail on the Medium Sized Combustion Plant Directive http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/clean_air_policy.htm
- The Environment Committee will consider the amendment on 13th of April 2015 before a vote in Parliament later this year
- Dr Ian Duncan is the Conservative MEP for Scotland and Energy Spokesman for British Conservatives in the European Parliament.
British Conservative Energy Spokesman Ian Duncan MEP has welcomed today's European Commission announcement on the creation of an 'Energy Union', but has called for greater clarity about how new infrastructure will be funded, and in particular the support that will be available for a North Sea Electricity grid to connect neighbouring markets.
Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič announced that an Energy Union would prioritise the completion of the internal energy market in order for energy to move more freely across the EU, enabling more competition and diversification. That should drive down prices for consumers and businesses and increase the security of our energy supplies.
The Energy Union represents a more concerted attempt to end over-reliance on Russian gas, with the EU currently importing 53% of its energy. The bulk of Russian gas imports to the EU pass through Ukraine, and the recent unrest in the region has raised concerns that Russia could once again turn off supplies to Europe, as it did in 2009.
Dr Duncan said: "Energy is one area where a Europe-wide market makes sense. In Britain we have huge energy resources but difficulty delivering it to our European neighbours.
"My constituency, Scotland, has significant scope for renewable energy, be it wind or pump storage hydro, and it has significant resources of offshore and onshore gas to generate electricity, but without interconnectors both consumers and our energy producers are at a disadvantage.
"At present the only region of Europe 'shovel ready' in terms of delivering on the Energy Union commitments is the North Sea. A North Sea grid, able to connect the renewable and conventional energy generation of Scotland and the wider UK directly into the European mainland will be a vital step forward in attaining energy security for the whole continent.
"I was therefore disappointed that the Commissioner failed to mention the North Sea Grid in his remarks. This is all the more concerning given the fact that his predecessor cut the funds available for such interconnectivity.
"The cost of completing the grid, according to the Commission, is in the region of €300 billion. If we want to get this important initiative moving forward we will need more than vague predictions. We need a concerted effort to raise the finance to get the projects and grid up and running.
"An Energy Union has the potential to lower prices and create jobs. It will make a difference the length and breadth of the UK, but we must get it right, and get it right now."
The European Parliament today called on the Commission to introduce new measures to improve labelling on foodstuffs containing processed meat. The measures, if pursued by the European Commission, would oblige producers of processed products such as lasagne and cottage pies to give clear information on labels about the country of origin of the meat content.
Conservative MEPs supported the measures as a major step forward for transparency and consumer choice.
Research carried out by the European Commission suggests that more than 90% of consumer respondents consider it important that meat-origin should be labelled on processed food products.
Environment spokesman Julie Girling said: "It is clear that consumers and farmers want more and better country of origin labelling. Not only will it help producers promote high-quality British food, it will also enable consumers to make informed decisions.
"We favour this greater transparency in the food supply chain which will help restore consumer confidence and trust. The horse-meat scandal was down to fraud rather than a lack of labelling – but it highlighted the desire of consumers to have the fullest information that is practically possible about what they are eating and where it comes from."
Responding to today's ECHR ruling on prisoner votes, Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "While this is a technical ruling – it has no implications for the UK in terms of compensation or costs - it is still a disappointing one.
"Our view has not changed – that prisoners forfeit their right to vote along with other freedoms when they commit the crimes that get them sent down. It is they who break their contract with society, not the other way round. That is how the vast majority of the public in Britain see things too."
Mr Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on justice and home affairs in the European Parliament, added: "The court is asking the UK to bring forward legislation to address this issue, so that will have to be considered; but in the current mood I cannot see ballot boxes in prisons as something a Government will want to rush to provide."
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