In a landmark vote, the European Parliament today took a major step towards scrapping the notorious Strasbourg Travelling Circus.
A plenary session of the parliament approved by 483 votes to 141 a report setting out a roadmap for reform, jointly authored by SouthWest Conservative MEP Ashley Fox.
After the vote, Mr Fox said: "This vote is anoverwhelming endorsement of our campaign to scrap the parliament's dual seatsystem. So long as such outrageous wastefulness continues, I do not think MEPs can look voters in the eye. Today's vote is not the end of the travelling circus, but it may be the beginning of the end."
His report, drafted jointly with German Green MEP Gerald Hafner, focuses on the economic and environmental costs of the dual-seatsystem, as well as the weight of public sentiment which is deeply opposed. The present arrangement is simply unsustainable, it argues, and MEPs should beallowed to decide for themselves where the parliament sits.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 766 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all de-camp to Strasbourg in France to sit there for three days.
A report by the Parliament Secretary General recently put the annual cost at €102 million, but Conservative MEPs say "invisible" costs such as the ongoing costs of the buildings, and money wasted on unused floor space make the true cost much higher. It also needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Mr Fox said: "Over the parliament's seven-year long-term budget this will in fact cost taxpayers a staggering £928 million. In hard economic times, there are so many better things that could be spent on rather than empty buildings and needless journeys."
The Conservative Employment spokesman in Europe, Anthea McIntyre MEP, has welcomed the report by the Prime Minister’s business taskforce that found that EU red-tape is costing UK firms billions of pounds.
Some of the UK's leading figures, including the bosses of Kingfisher and Diageo, presented their findings to a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday.
The prime minister said EU rules were too often a "handicap" to firms and Brussels must move "further and faster" to curb them.
“This report is very welcome because it endorses the campaign against unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy that I have been waging in Brussels,” said Miss McIntyre.
“I am particularly pleased about the report's call for the EU to adopt a version of the UK's ‘one-in, two-out rule’, where no new regulation can be adopted unless there is an equivalent reduction elsewhere.
“It is important for the EU to understand that free-enterprise creates jobs and that each unnecessary burden imposed on business simply destroys jobs. The unemployment rates in mainland Europe compared to the UK are a stark demonstration of that fact.
“Many of the report’s recommendations could be easily implemented and would provide a real boost for the millions of self-employed and very small businesses that are the life-blood of our economy.”
Representatives from many parts of the British Horticultural industry gathered in Ross-on-Wye to consider their response to an important EU draft report “The Future of the EU Horticulture Sector and Strategies for Growth”.
The report written by West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre, is the first of its kind dealing exclusively with horticulture ever prepared for the EU’s Agriculture Committee and covers not only fruit and vegetable growers but also ‘ornamentals’ (flowers, bulbs etc) and vineyards.
“I am grateful to everybody who submitted suggestions for the initial draft and especially to those who opened their farms to me and gave so willingly of their time”, said Miss McIntyre.
“This meeting was an opportunity to review my findings and proposals and to prepare amendments that can be proposed when I present the draft at a meeting of the Agriculture Committee in November
“The sheer scale and diversity of the Horticultural sector in the UK is staggering with the West Midlands alone producing crops worth over £350million at farm-gate prices and food-processors add a further £600million of Gross Value Added.”
Miss McIntyre’s report looks at the needs of both the industry and consumer and strongly supports increased innovation and research into methods of growing crops that increase yields and quality.
The work of a group of dedicated volunteers providing practical support and assistance to young people late at night, often when they are suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, was the topic of a presentation to Hereford Conservative Business Forum last week.
Robert Thomas of Vennture, the charity behind Hereford Street Pastors, was introduced to the audience of more than 20 local business men and women gathered at the Pengethly Manor Hotel, Ross-on-Wye by West Midlands MEP Anthea McIntyre.
Mr Thomas explained that: “locally, 16 to 24 year olds are the group most likely to become victims of crime and the majority become victims in Hereford between 10pm Saturday and 4am Sunday.
“This is a national issue highlighted in the recent drunk tank headlines and more hospitals concerned about drunk young people filling in A&E on Saturday nights.”
Whilst some cases that the Street Pastors deal with are amusing – such as the boy dressed in drag for a stag night who finds walking in high heels impossible or the lad thinking he can swallow dive from a litter bin into a flower bed – many are more concerning.
Lost handbags is a big one. No handbag means... No phone. No money. No way home. No id. No way anywhere. To be clear the girls know where their handbag is; they just don’t know where the friend who they gave it to, to look after, has gone.
“The lad who at 2.15am can’t think where his mates have gone. He’s not feeling anything – especially not the cold. This alley will do.
“Some stuff has no funny side at all…it’s 3am. The young girl is very drunk and being controlled by someone much older who is coercing them.”
In their first qurater the Street Pastors helped 775 people; have kept 4 or 5 vulnerable people safe each Saturday; saved 2 or 3 Ambulance call outs each week, kept those people out of A&E and ensured they are cared for more appropriately so they get home safe to someone who has been instructed in how to look after them.
Speaking after the presentation, Anthea McIntyre said: “When it is a busy night it can take 30 or 40 minutes for emergency services to attend even a high level incident. The Street Pastors can be anywhere in the area they patrol in under three minutes – the speed of response, the ability to deal appropriately with a wide variety of problems and to provide practical help are hugely impressive.
“By working closely with the door-staff of the various venues, and both the police and ambulance service, the Street Pastors are providing an amazing service to our community and allowing ‘official’ resources to be used more effectively.
“I have asked to spend a night with the Street Pastors as an Observer and am very much looking forward to seeing first hand this stunning example of real care in action.”
Always keen to talk about her work as a West Midlands Conservative MEP, Anthea McIntyre was the guest at a lunch in Defford, Worcestershire.
Miss McIntyre, who took her seat in the European Parliament in December 2011, is the Conservative’s Employment spokesman in Europe – a role that has seen her constantly campaigning against unnecessary additional burdens being imposed on businesses.
“Before becoming an MEP I had run a successful small business for a number of years and knew from my own experience that creating and sustaining a business and the jobs that follow is tough. It is easy for a bureaucrat to have a ‘good idea’ that actually ends up increasing costs, reducing flexibility and ultimately destroying jobs.”
“Let there be no mistake – I am not advocating a wholesale abolition of all regulation but it is vital that the full impact on businesses are taken in to account before any extra burden is imposed.
“Most businesses are small - they employ less than 10 people – yet they have to comply with the same massive weight of regulation as a huge multi-national company, a company that can afford to employ either their own staff or external specialists to read through, digest and implement every regulation. Small business owners, and especially the self-employed, simply don’t have those resources.
“It is this reflection of reality that I have been forcing the EU Employment Committee to face with some success. There is now agreement that the specific impacts of any proposed regulation on micro-businesses will be assessed and mitigated before approval. This is a significant improvement and a first step on the long road that leads to freeing the business community from red-tape and over-regulation.”
Page 64 of 75