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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 (9th - 12th May 2005)

Main Events of the Session:

60th anniversary of the Second World War

Parliament adopted the resolution marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War by an overwhelming majority. Conservative MEPs voted in favour of this Motion which commemorates the suffering of the millions who died at the hands of Nazi tyranny.

Timothy Kirkhope, Leader of the Delegation, said:

"We fully endorse gratitude expressed in the motion for those who gave their lives in the liberation of Europe. In particular, we give thanks for the bravery and sacrifice of the millions of British men and women who, under the leadership of Winston Churchill, played such a crucial part in liberating so many people.

"We endorse the motion's recognition of the freeing of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe from the yoke of Communism and their fight for liberty.

"The enlargement of the European Union to include the former Communist states is something British Conservatives have long sought. Their role in our future is of vital importance.

"However, we requested a number of separate votes in this motion where the text refers to 'European integration', a term associated with political integration. British Conservatives acknowledge that the EU has made a significant contribution to peace among the nations of our Continent. But, we believe that the EU should develop as a partnership of independent nation states, not as a single federal entity."

Working Time

Parliament voted in favour of ending the UK's opt-out from the European Working Time Directive on health and safety grounds. MEPs voted by 378 to 262 in support of a number of changes to the directive. The decision by Labour MEPs to vote in favour of scrapping Britain's individual opt-out from the 48-hour maximum working week, in clear defiance of the Labour government, shows the extent to which Tony Blair has lost his grip on his government and party.

The Labour government says it is in favour of retaining the opt-out. Labour's 2005 election manifesto says: "Working hard with Labour MEPs, we are determined to remain leaders [in Europe]...we will take further action in Europe to ensure that EU regulations are proportionate and better designed."

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament, said:

"There could be no clearer sign of Tony Blair's waning authority than the decision of Labour MEPs to vote in favour of abolishing the opt-out. The only alternative view is that the government is in fact quite prepared to see the opt-out go, and has been happy to let Labour MEPs follow their own agenda while spinning a very different line from London to woo the business vote.

"Either way, the abolition of the opt-out will have a devastating effect on British business. It's also a serious blow to the two million workers who take advantage of the right to choose how long they work and how much they earn - a right that was secured for them by a Conservative government in 1993.

"If Europe is serious about reforming its economy to become more competitive, it should be seeking to legislate in favour of flexibility and growth, not in favour of excessive social regulation and red tape.

"Britain's opt-out has been invaluable to our country's economic flexibility, faster growth and attractiveness to investors."

Nick Goulding, Chief Executive of the Forum for Private Business said:

"Labour MEPs have sold British business down the drain. They should hang their heads in shame."

Michael Templeman, Director-General of the Institute of Directors said:

"Business is trying to face up to the challenges of the 21st century but MEPs have voted for a policy straight out of the 1970s."

Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI said:

"Presumably these are the same MEPs who will be complaining about employers relocating to China and India in the years to come."

Professional Qualifications

Conservative Spokesman on the Internal Market in the European Parliament, Malcolm Harbour MEP, has welcomed proposals approved by the European Parliament that will simplify the rules governing the recognition of professional qualifications across all EU Member States. The proposals will encourage qualified professionals to offer their services across the whole of the EU and assist in strengthening the Internal Market. Conservatives also hope that this initiative will pave the way towards a European market for services. Under the current arrangements, many professionals have found their freedom to work in other Member States has been frustrated by bureaucratic obstacles. The proposals for reform would make it easier for qualified professionals to offer their services across the EU as a whole.

Mr Harbour said:

"These new proposals will merge 15 EU directives into just one. The recognition of professional qualifications across the EU is a positive step towards creating a genuine internal market. Skilled professionals will soon find it much easier to respond to demands for their services in the European market because of these proposals. This directive will give European enterprise a much larger pool of skilled professionals from which to recruit, meaning that they can find the right person for the job. The acceptance of these proposals will be welcome news for both business and the millions of European professionals who currently face a mountain of bureaucratic hurdles in order to get their achievements recorded in another EU Member State."

Bathing Water

Conservative MEPs have been successful in preventing the Bathing Water Directive from being extended to cover recreational waters, despite intense lobbying from pressure group "Surfers Against Sewage", said Dr Caroline Jackson MEP, Conservative spokesman on environmental issues.

The directive is designed to regulate the quality of bathing water and replaces legislation from 1976. Some MEPs, mainly from the Green group, had wanted to extend the standards of bathing water quality to all recreational waters. But the move - which would potentially include vast swathes of sea, rivers and lakes - was rejected by MEPs from across the political spectrum, who adopted the Conservative view that such a move would have been too restrictive and vastly expensive.

Dr Jackson said:

"Further astronomical rises in British water bills have been avoided and damaging down grades in bathing beach quality designations are off the agenda.

"Conservative MEPs played a prominent part in injecting some realism and common sense into this new law. I am sure that many of our continental colleagues did not appreciate the question of how much all the changes might cost until we pointed it out to them.

"We do need to act to protect the environment, but we have to do so at reasonable cost. Water companies have already spent billions of pounds cleaning up our beaches and water bills are increasing every year. However much noise "Surfers Against Sewage" makes, the point of view of the thousands of people who pay water bills and never surf has to be taken into account.

"There was no definition of what recreational waters meant so that it could have applied very widely at huge cost. Over time I am sure that the enormous investments being made by water companies will bring improvements to all waters anyway. But it was ridiculous to try to apply very strict standards, implying frequent and expensive sampling, wherever people sailed, surfed or canoed.

"Another proposed change, the deletion of the 'sufficient' standard, might have meant the rapid downgrading of many well-known beaches from 'good' to 'poor' status on the basis of a few random samples of water, perhaps affected by agricultural run-off following rain. This deletion was rejected too and the 'sufficient' designation will stay. That is important because the 'good' and 'excellent' categories have become more difficult to reach with the upgrading of the directive".

McCartney family

Jim Nicholson MEP denounced Sinn Fein's "weasel words" after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a joint resolution submitted by five of the Parliament's largest political groups (627 of 732 MEPs), condemning Sinn Fein and the IRA over the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January 2005, and calling for financial assistance to be provided to the McCartney family in the event of a civil lawsuit against his alleged killers.

Earlier, as relatives of Mr McCartney made their second visit to the Parliament in as many months, MEPs rejected an alternative resolution tabled by Sinn Fein under the umbrella of the GUE/NGL group in the Parliament.

The GUE/NGL motion rejected the Parliament's idea of giving financial assistance to any civil lawsuit launched by the McCartney family. It contained none of the strident condemnation of Sinn Fein and the IRA which features in the resolution adopted by MEPs. The document rejected the Parliament's call for Sinn Fein to insist that Mr McCartney's killers cooperate directly with the police. It also failed to mention the insidious whispering campaign aimed at intimidating the McCartney family which was highlighted in the resolution passed by the Parliament.

Mr Nicholson said:

"Everyone knows that Sinn Fιin and the IRA are inextricably linked. They have simply stonewalled all appeals to bring those responsible for this evil deed to justice.

"The document's meticulous and crafty wording sought to enable Sinn Fein to wriggle out of its embarrassment over the outrage provoked by the murder. But the Parliament's resolution is condemnation of Sinn Fein and the IRA as much as it is condemnation of Robert McCartney's murder.

"Democracy brings obligations. The Parliament has clearly stated those obligations to Sinn Fein. But I fear Sinn Fein will once again duck its responsibility. Nevertheless, the rest of us are committed to justice for Robert McCartney and his family."

Votes this week

Brok - Framework Agreements - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM, Serbia and Montenegro
Adopted - Conservatives against

Consultation of the Committee of the Regions
Adopted - Conservatives against

Brok - Implementation of Community Assistance
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Chichester - Scientific and technological cooperation agreement between the EC and Brazil
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Chichester - Scientific and technological cooperation agreement between the EC and Mexico
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Kirkhope - Protocol to the Agreement with Switzerland on the free movement of persons
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Coelho - Schengen Information System - access for vehicle registration services
2nd reading approved - Conservatives abstained

Klass - Protection of groundwater against pollution
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Harkin - European Foundation for the improvement of Living and Working Conditions
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Hughes - European Agency for Safety and health at work
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Lax - Reciprocity mechanism
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Handzlik - Internal Market in the new Member States
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Coveney - Human Rights in the world (2004) and the EU's policy
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Resolution - Situation of the Roma in the EU
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Cabrnoch - Social protection and good quality healthcare
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Van den Burg - Financial markets
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Resolution - Persistent organic pollutants
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Party Watch - where different from Conservatives

(+) Cercas - Organisation of Working Time (A6-105/2005)
(+) Herrero-Tejedor - EU information and communication strategy (A6-0111/2005)

Liberal Democrats
(+) Cercas - Organisation of Working Time (A6-105/2005) (Ludford/Newton-Dunn/Nicholson/Watson (-))
(+) Herrero-Tejedor - EU information and communication strategy (A6-0111/2005)

(-) Florenz - EC-Switzerland Agreement (A6-0088/2005)
(-) Daul - International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (A6-0052/2005)
(0) Resolution - McCartney Family (RC-B6-0281/2005)
(-) Gargani - Foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses (A6-0110/2005)
(-) Wojciechowski - Potato starch quotas (A6-0096/2005)
(-) Resolution - 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War (B6-0290/2005)
(-) Moreno Sαnchez - Doha Development Agenda (A6-0095/2005)
(-) Herrero-Tejedor - EU information and communication strategy (A6-0111/2005)
(-) Rule 115 - Resolution - Togo (RC - B6-0282/2005)
(0) Rule 115 - Resolution - Burma/Myanmar (RC - B6-0284/2005)

•  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 25th & 26th April 2005
•  Plenary Highlights 7 - 10 March 2005
•  Plenary Highlights 10 - 13 January 2005
•  Plenary Highlights 15 - 18 November 2004
•  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 13 - 14 October 2004
•  Plenary Highlights 13-16 September 2004
•  Plenary Highlights 29 March - 1 April 2004
•  "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