Conservative MEPs today condemned attempts in the European Parliament to derail plans for an important new security agreement to boost counter-terrorism.
Conservatives opposed attempts by Liberal, Green, Socialist and Communist MEPs to undermine the proposed EU-Canada deal on the transfer and processing of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. The left groups of the parliament are attempting to question the legality of the agreement by suggesting that it breaches the Data Retention Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Treaties. Despite Conservative opposition, the Left succeeded in pushing though a vote referring the proposals to the European Court of Justice for an opinion.
Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on Justice and Home Affairs, said: "Unfortunately these are people who put their own political ideology ahead of the urgency of tackling terrorism. They are more worried about proving a political point over human rights and personal privacy than they are about the real-life problems of protecting the public from the very real and current threat of terrorists and organised crime."
Currently, EU citizens’ data is being exchanged with Canada under the old agreement (2006), which has fewer legal and administrative rights and lacks comprehensive independent oversight. Therefore Conservatives have always supported the swift adoption of the new EU-Canada PNR Agreement. The request for an ECJ opinion could delay the adoption of the agreement by years. The fact that the left are happy for data to be exchanged for possibly another couple of years with fewer legal rights for citizens than if the new agreement was adopted, shows the hypocrisy of their arguments, and their willingness to compromise the rights and safety of Europeans to prove a political point.
Mr Kirkhope added: "In fact, the ECJ has already given its opinion on the Data Retention Directive before the summer. The European Conservatives and Reformists Group has always supported international PNR Agreements in order to combat the threat of serious organised crime, child exploitation, human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism. These agreements are particularly important to the security of the EU given the current threat of EU foreign fighters. We cannot afford this delay, which will leave the World much less safe."
Today's legal advice on bankers' bonuses risks driving a further wedge between Britain and the EU, a senior Conservative said.
Syed Kamall, leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs warned that if the advice were accepted by the European Court of Justice it would have a negative impact on the City of London and further tarnish UK public opinion on Europe.
The London MEP was speaking after legal opinion was issued by the court's senior adviser the Advocate General over a legal challenge by the UK to EU rules limiting bankers' bonuses to 100 per cent of salary. The advice is to reject Britain's appeal and to confirm that the legislation is valid. In the vast majority of cases, the court will ultimately adopt the Advocate General's opinion as EU law.
Dr Kamall said: "Part of the advice says that a limit on bonuses will not limit overall pay – and that is exactly the problem. Banks will still find ways of rewarding talented and hardworking staff in a global employment marketplace, but if bonuses are capped that will mean increasing salaries. That will lead to less alignment between performance and pay, meaning bankers would be paid well even if they performed badly.
"I see this as a gross interference in the way a key sector of the British economy organises its staff remuneration. If the advice is adopted it could drive another wedge between Britain and the EU and further offend public opinion over Europe."
Three weeks of intense negotiation over the European Union's 2015 budget ended in stalemate last night.
No agreement was reached in the three-way negotiations between the EU Parliament, Council and Commission before a midnight deadline passed. The Commission must now come forward with a completely new budget proposal.
Conservative budget spokesman Richard Ashworth MEP said: "It should recalibrate and re-focus the budget.
"What is clear is that the overall budget is not going to get any bigger. That would be entirely wrong given the budgetary restraint being shown by individual countries, including the Conservative-led government in the UK.
"The Parliament cannot and will not agree a budget for 2015 until all issues to do with the 2014 budget have been resolved - including what is to be done about €23 billion-worth of unpaid bills from member states.
"In addition, the current proposals themselves are ill-focused and unsustainable. When a budget has €146 billion in spending commitments but makes less than €142 billion available, it doesn't take a genius to realise that doesn't add up.
Mr Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, pointed out that the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had made it clear he wanted greater investment in growth and jobs. The failed budget had been drawn up by former Budget Commissioner Janus Lewandowski, but this was an opportunity for his successor Kristalina Giorgieva to put forward her own strategic changes to reflect these priorities.
"We need sensible proposals to cut spending where it is ineffective and allow better investment in areas that will be a catalyst for employment and productivity. If the Commission cannot deliver that by January the Parliament should simply take two per cent of every budget heading - right across the board. That is how urgent matters are."
Conservatives in the European Parliament today hailed a pledge by the Prime Minister's to put "rocket boosters" behind the planned EU-US trade deal.
Tory MEPs have played a key role in driving forward negotiations on the so-called Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which they believe can be worth billions to Britain's economy.
Emma McClarkin, joint Conservative spokesman on trade, is also leading a policy working group of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the parliament which aims to set the agenda for the talks.
She said: "It is inspiring to hear David Cameron talk with such passion and urgency about TTIP. He understands how much benefit a deal could bring – and he knows the importance of exploding some of the myths surrounding it."
The East Midlands MEP was speaking following the Prime Minister's comments at the G20 summit in Brisbane. He spoke to dispel false fears created by the Left that the deal might allow the NHS to be 'sold' to American companies.
He called the suggestion of damage to the NHS "nonsense" and stressed: "It's in the public sector, it will stay in the public sector. That's not going to change. It will remain free at the point of use."
Miss McClarkin said: "Free-trade deals are good for growth and jobs, and this one is especially important because of its sheer scale. The Prime Minister's backing demonstrates his commitment to improving the British economy and to a deal that can benefit the economy of the whole EU by £100 billion a year.
"Some people have been eager to make political capital by misrepresenting what the deal could mean to public services. David Cameron has today made it clear – the claims are false and the scaremongering has to stop."
Today London MEP Syed Kamall launches a hi-tech campaign to tackle poor mobile reception across London.
The innovative No Bars campaign will harness information direct from Londoners themselves to pinpoint and highlight areas of poor phone reception.
The crowd-sourced data will build into an interactive map showing where so co-called "not spots" leave mobile-users struggling for a signal.
Dr Kamall will use information the information gathered to pressure providers and politicians to get to grips with the problem.
The Conservative MEP said: "A first class global city should not have to put up with third rate communications. To lead the world, we must be able to speak to the world – whichever part of town we happen to be in.
"People find it infuriating when they rely on their phones, but then find it difficult or impossible to make a simple call or access emails or the internet.
“London is the most important communications hub in the world. It is unacceptable that so much of the city has a poor signal or no signal at all. Londoners are increasingly angry about it.”
Through the campaign, frustrated callers can now access a user-generated map showing the holes or ‘not spots’ in London’s mobile phone networks. They can quickly add the places where their network has let them down. The map is the centrepiece of the ‘No Bars’ campaign.
The campaign will let customers, instead of the network service providers, set the agenda on mobile-signal coverage. By comparing information from phone users across the city a clear and complete picture of the daily failings of each network service provider can be obtained.
All that a frustrated phone user needs to do is visit www.nobarscampaign.co.uk and stick a pin on the interactive map to show where the phone signal on their network is poor or non-existent.
Dr Kamall said: “Londoners rely on mobile phones to keep in touch with their children when they are out with their friends. They are a lifeline for sick and elderly people, and are essential for the modern workplace. It’s frustrating when we are let down by poor service."
The campaign data will be collated into a report which Dr Kamall will present to the Government, the Mayor of London and the network providers, demanding they address this serious problem.
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