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Parliamentary Highlights

This is for people who want more information on actual reports/legislation going through the Parliament.

Summary of Strasbourg Session (29 March - 1 April 2004)

Transparency for Securities Traded on a Regulated Market - Skinner Report

Parliament approved proposals on the transparency requirements directive. The report rejected a clause providing for mandatory quarterly reporting by share-trading companies. The overall aim of this directive, which is part of the Financial Services Action Plan agreed at the Lisbon summit, is to further harmonise disclosure requirements for companies trading in regulated markets. An article which required all issuers of shares admitted to trading on a regulated market to disclose financial information on a quarterly basis was deleted. The report argues that this would impose an unnecessary burden on companies and encourage management to focus on short-term profitability. Conservative MEPs voted supported this report.

Theresa Villiers MEP said: "This is a significant victory in the battle against unnecessary EU red tape. Companies will not be required to file quarterly accounts, which would have been an onerous and expensive burden on business that would not have produced any proportionate benefits to investors. We have also removed the big threat to the bond markets contained in the Commission proposal. Companies were already de-listing their bonds in response to the uncertainty caused by the Commission's threat that third country issuers would have to issue half yearly reports and draw up a second set of accounts in addition to those compiled under their home country rules."

ISD - Villiers Report

MEPs supported the Council's compromise position, backed by all 15 Member States - unlike the previous Common Position, which had been opposed by the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg. The directive, a key part of the Financial Services Action Plan, updates legislation dating from 1993 which established a single passport for investment firms providing services in Europe. The new legislation enlarges the range of products that can be offered by firms enjoying the single passport, increases competition between traditional exchange markets and investment firms, establishes common rules for the negotiation and execution of financial transactions and harmonises requirements governing the activities of intermediaries to protect investors. Amendments proposed for second reading insisted on the main issue of pre trade transparency and try to clarify dispositions concerning the size at which there is an obligation to quote. Conservatives MEPs were in favour of this move.

Theresa Villiers MEP said: "A number of very big problems with the new ISD have been solved; in particular the danger that firms would be compelled to make public quotes in millions of Euros worth of shares has been averted. The text agreed today will open the possibility of more competition between investment firms and exchanges. It is also a big relief that "execution-only services" have been saved. However, on a number of key issues, I can't pretend this is anything other than a very disappointing result. This deal from the Irish Presidency is the least worst option available."

Fight against Fraud - Bosch Report

A report was passed which called on Member States to take the reporting and the follow-up of irregularities and fraud more seriously. The outsourcing of Commission activities was another point of grave concern to MEPs. They found that the Commission had paid almost 115m between 1998 and the first half of 2003 to the five most important international consultancy firms. They also refer to the bad impression left by the award in 2002 of a contract worth 23m to a consortium in which a Commission spokesman was involved. The report raises general disappointment with OLAF's annual report for the year ending June 2003 and particularly with the express omission from that report of the Eurostat case. Conservative MEPs voted for this report which was vital in the campaign to clean up the Commission's accounting system.

Protection of Animals - Maat Report

This report calling for substantial changes to a draft regulation laying down strict new rules against the ill-treatment of animals on long journeys was approved by MEPs. Many animals carried in international transport are intended for slaughter in their country of destination but some die during the journey due to stress or lack of space and ventilation. This report calls for a reduction in the frequency of animal transport, arguing for the development of local slaughterhouses. To protect animal welfare, the Commission's draft regulation suggests that in road journeys of more than 50km, the driver should stop every 9 hours and let the animals rest for 12 hours. MEPs regard this as impractical. They prefer instead to limit the travel times to a maximum of 9 hours in total for animals intended for slaughter, in journeys exceeding 100 km. Conservative MEPs tabled amendments to allow for an opt-out for the live export of horses. This option was accepted by Parliament, leaving the door open for the British Government to now take up the opt-out.

Neil Parish MEP said: "We are a nation of animal lovers, and very few people in the UK support this trade. It is important to keep up the pressure on our government to maintain this ban. There is substantial evidence that low-value horses; ponies and donkeys which are transported for slaughter experience very considerable welfare problems during transport. Those who do not share the seriousness with which we treat animal welfare in the UK must not change our laws. We must not see the resumption of the export of horses in squalid and appalling conditions for slaughter abroad."

Environmental Liability - Manders Report

Parliament approved a conciliation agreement which has been reached on the environmental liability directive. EU governments will in future have to ensure either that environmental damage is prevented or that the mess is soon cleaned up again. This is a clear shift towards the "polluter pays" principle, the cost of cleaning up will be borne by the company or other operator that caused the damage. Rules on environmental liability will be standardised throughout the EU. Conservative MEPs backed the agreement.

Greenhouse Gases - Goodwill Report

Parliament supported Mr Goodwill's report on a draft regulation on fluorinated gases aimed at reducing emissions powerful greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol. The Commission's proposal for regulation aims to improve the containment of HFCs in systems like refrigerators and secondly to change the gases used in car air conditioning systems. The Commission proposed banning gases with a global warming potential higher than 150 from that date but the reports calls for a limit tightening of the limit to 50. In trying to tackle the leaking of fluorinated gases, the report requires all measures that are technically and economically feasible to be taken to prevent and minimise emissions of fluorinated gases. Conservative MEPs supported this report.

Equality of Access to Supply of Goods and Services - Prets Report

MEPs adopted this non-binding resolution which aims to make it illegal for companies to take into account differences between men and women as drivers in setting premiums. The directive is aimed above all at the insurance and private pension industries. According to the latest research, private insurance companies often base their calculations on the gender of their customers. Since women statistically live longer than men, they constitute a 'risk group' in the eyes of insurers and so pay higher premiums. However, the reverse is true for car insurance. Statistics show that women have fewer road accidents than men: they therefore pay lower premiums. The report argues that insurance premiums and pension contributions should not vary according to the gender of the customer and welcomes the fact that such practices will be radically changed by the new legislation. Conservative MEPs voted against this report as it will unfairly punish women drivers who are proven to be safer drivers as we believe that businesses should be able to make their own decisions.

Robert Goodwill MEP said: "By insisting that no business could give different deals to men and women, the proposed law would wipe out the advantages women enjoy in buying car insurance. Businesses should be free to make their own decisions. It is not for the European Parliament to tell insurers what they charge people."

Middle East - Council and Commission Statements

The Council and Commission made statements on Peace, stability and democracy in the Middle East. MEPs debated the issues but did not agree on a resolution.

Charles Tannock MEP said: "Conservative MEPs welcome the initiative that will further the cause of democracy, rule of law, human rights and the free press in this politically unstable region of the world. Development between the EU and the Muslim world will further mutual understanding on both sides and reduce support for international terrorist organisations. The successful reconstruction of Iraq as a democratic society could serve as a role model and inspire other states to follow their lead in the future."

Spring Summit - Economy, EU Constitution and terrorism - Council and Commission Statements

Parliament adopted a resolution on the outcome of the European Council meeting in Brussels on 25-26 March 2004. Heads of State agreed to conclude the IGC negotiations by the June Summit, and took decisions on the fight against terrorism, including the appointment of a new anti-terror Tsar following the recent terrorist attacks in Madrid. Conservative MEPs abstained on the resolution.

Jonathan Evans MEP said: "Either Tony Blair is deliberately misleading the British people or he just doesn't understand what he is agreeing to in this Constitution. The Prime Minister's interpretation of the current Constitution text wouldn't get him a pass mark at a beginner's course in legal principles. No wonder the British people don't trust Tony Blair. We say trust the people and let them decide in a referendum."

Preventing Foot and Mouth Infection from Imported Animals - Doyle Report

MEPs voted for a non-binding report on a proposed directive which lays down animal health requirements for live imports of ungulates, which calls for the directive to apply to animals transiting the EU as well as being imported to it, and for derogations from import restrictions to be made only on a case by case basis. Following the outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever in the last few years, the Commission is proposing to consolidate and update legislation on imports of wild and domestic animals to strengthen protection against these and other diseases. Conservative MEPs were in favour of this.

John Bowis MEP said: "This is one part of the ongoing review of strengthening measures to prevent and combat foot-and-mouth and classical swine fever."

Fundamental Rights in the EU - Boumediene-Thiery Report

MEPs rejected the annual report on fundamental rights in the EU, covering the year 2003 focusing on the increase in racism and xenophobia, asylum, domestic slavery and fight against poverty. It urges the Council to make EU policy on fundamental rights more consistent within and outside the Union. The report calls for the EU to appoint a Commissioner responsible for fundamental rights. The committee voices concern at misconduct by the police and other law enforcement officers and abuses at police stations and prisons. In addition, the Member States are asked to ensure that legislation on the protection of workers is properly applied, in particular with a view to combating child labour, domestic slavery and the exploitation of migrant workers. The report expresses concern at the United Kingdom's continued derogation from Article 5 of the ECHR, the continued application of Part 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 and the announcement of government intentions to widen its application. Conservative MEPs voted against this report.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said: "It is wrong for the EU to interfere in matters in which it has no competence. The UK is entitled to make its own laws in this area without being subjected to EU criticism. Indeed, as recent events in Spain have shown, it is imperative that Member States take tough measures against terrorism."

Importation of Meat Products - Jackson Report

MEPs voted for a non-binding resolution on the import of meat products. The proposed directive sets out the animal health requirements for the importation of meat and meat products in relation to the production, processing, distribution and introduction of products of animal origin for human consumption. This is due to come into force in Member States by 1 January 2005. Conservative MEPs supported this resolution.

  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 25-26 February 2004
  Plenary Highlights 9-12 February 2004
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 28-29 January 2004
  Plenary Highlights 12-15 January 2004
  Plenary Highlights 17-20 November 2003
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 5-6 November 2003
  Plenary Highlights 20-23 October 2003
  Plenary Highlights 22-25 September 2003
  Plenary Highlights 1-4 September 2003
  Plenary Highlights 30 June - 3 July 2003
  Plenary Highlights 2-5 June 2003
  Plenary Highlights 12-15 May 2003
    Plenary Highlights 7-10 April 2003
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 26-27 March 2003
  Plenary Highlights 10-13 March 2003
  Plenary Highlights 10-13 February 2003
  Plenary Highlights 13-16 January 2003
  Plenary Highlights 17-20 December 2002
  Plenary Highlights 18-21 November 2002
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 6-7 November 2002
  Plenary Highlights 21-24 October 2002
  Plenary Highlights 23-26 September 2002
  Plenary Highlights 2-7 September 2002