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For further details visit the Press Service section of the European Parliament website

Review of Brussels Session (9 - 10 May 2007)

Victims Of Equitable Life Disaster deserve full compensation

The British Government must ensure that victims of the Equitable Life scandal are fully compensated, Conservative Spokesman on Petitions in the European Parliament, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, said this week. His call came as the European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry into the company's collapse voted on the adoption on its findings on Tuesday in Brussels.

Established on behalf of the one million policyholders who have seen prospects of compensation ebb away, the Committee heard evidence from policyholders, European Commission officials, Equitable Life Assurance Society managers and financial regulators from across the EU.

Aided by incisive questioning from Sir Robert and other Conservative MEPs, the blame for the failings can largely be apportioned to company executives, although regulators were lamentably deficient in supervising, investigating and regulating the company's operation. Lord Neill, a former chairman of the Committee of Standards in Public Life, stated that the British Financial Ombudsman Service failed in its duty to give unbiased support to victims of the affair.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP said:

"I believe that due to its failure to adequately protect policy holders in accordance with EU legislation, the UK Government is obliged to devise an appropriate scheme to ensure full compensation for victims of the debacle.

"Having categorically proven that the UK and EU financial redress systems are unsatisfactory and lack the requisite level of security that one would expect from the Single Market, the EU institutions and British Government must urgently combine forces to ensure that higher standards of investor protection and security are legally enforced. This is imperative if people are to be expected to save judiciously for their retirements."

Safer roads as left-hand drive lorries required to add "fourth mirror"

A new law requiring heavy goods vehicles to introduce blind spot mirrors - which would prevent "side sweep" incidents on motorways - has been approved by the European Parliament this week in Brussels.
Conservative Leader in the European Parliament and Transport Spokesman, Timothy Kirkhope MEP, has campaigned for the mirrors to be made mandatory after British police said a 'fourth mirror' would act as a cheap but highly effective way of cutting down on unnecessary accidents on busy freight corridors.

Drivers in left-hand drive large goods vehicles can have a blind spot on the right-hand side of the lorry. The blind spot is between what the driver can see in his mirrors and what he can see out of the front window. This means drivers of left-hand drive heavy vehicles are sometimes unable to fully see what is alongside them before pulling out, resulting in a spate of 'side sweep' incidents.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP said:

"Local police officers have told me how an extra blind spot mirror would significantly reduce the number of accidents involving lorries in the region.

"Many motorists will recall a lorry pulling out in front of them, or forcing them into another lane. The chances are the driver couldn't even see them in his conventional mirrors, and it is pure luck that a collision does not occur.

"This is a proposal that would cost hauliers a few pounds, but it will save a fortune in damaged vehicles and could save a few lives on roads across the country."

Preserving British loaf as we know it is perfect start to National Bread Week

British pre-packed loaves will continue to be available on shop shelves in their traditional sizes thanks to the efforts of Conservative Internal Market and Consumer Protection Spokesman, Malcolm Harbour MEP.

Concerns that the size of the traditional British loaf would be affected were voiced in relation to the Directive on Nominal Quantities for Pre-Packed Products. Malcolm Harbour's amendment to the Directive, which means loaves can continue to be bought at the sizes people are used to, was confirmed in the European Parliament in Brussels this week.

Malcolm Harbour MEP said:

"This is good news in "National Bread Week". British people are used to buying their pre-packed bread in traditional sizes and will be able to carry on doing so.

"The EU Nominal Quantities Directive is generally a liberalising proposal, which I very much support. Obligatory national sizes for products will be lifted giving greater flexibility to producers.

"This means bakers can now have the best of both worlds. They can continue to sell bread in the traditional sizes customers are used to, despite initial concerns that the proposed Directive might change that, but they also have the freedom to opt for other sizes if they wish to cater for particular groups of customers like single people who may prefer smaller loaves."

Framework for the approval of motor vehicles

The European Parliament, this week adopted, with a very large majority, Malcolm Harbour MEP's report on the Directive establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers in Brussels.

According to the Conservatives Spokesman on the Internal Market in the European Parliament, Malcolm Harbour MEP, once vehicles are approved for sale in one EU country, they can then be marketed anywhere in the European Union without further tests. Consumer security will therefore benefit from proper testing and the possibility to gain just one approval will open up new markets for producers. What’s more, the Directive shall also apply for buses, coaches, trailers and trucks where previously only national approval was available.

Malcolm Harbour MEP said:

“The revised legislation will also benefit companies that produce cars at relatively low volumes which will now be able to produce 1000 cars per year with simplified and less expensive test procedures. Local vehicle inspection will still be able to approve individual vehicles, but there will be stricter testing specifications and reduced numbers to avoid exploitation”.

Mr Harbour made it clear that the closing of this former loophole will not have a negative effect on wheelchair accessible vehicles because Parliament has introduced a new category of safety testing specifications especially for these vehicles with unlimited production numbers. Moreover, the promotion of virtual testing methods, exploiting devices in digital design systems, and measures to approve new technology vehicles, including hybrids, is a step forward and will be important for the European industry in progressive technologies:

"The revised directive will thus have major benefits for vehicle safety, the environment and European competitiveness. It is also a further important step in completing the internal market by balancing consumer and producer interests while maintaining competitiveness of the European automotive industry”.

Russia needs "tough love" from the EU not a cold shoulder

The forthcoming EU-Russia summit on 18 May must go ahead say the Conservatives, repudiating the call from Graham Watson MEP, Leader of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament, to cancel the summit.

Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European Parliament, Charles Tannock MEP, said:

"EU-Russia relations ahead of the summit on 18 May are at a critical juncture. Trying to divide and rule Europe over energy policy and bullying its neighbours over issues like the meat ban from Poland and the Estonian statue issue is unhelpful.

"Russia must now wake-up to the new geopolitical reality that the "near abroad", where they used to call the shots no longer exists, and it must realise that new Member States can now call on the support of an EU and NATO firmly resolved now to protect their sovereignty."

No more metric martyrs after Conservative lobbying pays off

The threat to miles, yards and pints is off the agenda after Conservative Industry Spokesman in the European Parliament, Giles Chichester MEP, received confirmation from Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen in Brussels this week that "dual marking" of goods in imperial and metric will "continue indefinitely".

Following intense lobbying by the Conservatives, Commissioner Verheugen agreed that it was good news for British and European industry to keep imperial measurements as it would make it easier for them to sell to the United States.

Giles Chichester MEP said:

"After saving the crown on the British pint, I am happy the Conservatives have persuaded the Commission that it is good not only for international business but also for the British people that traditional measurements are kept. I just hope there won't be any more need for metric martyrs and that the government will avoid forcing metrication down the public's throat."

Results of the votes:

Reynaud - Simplification of Community legislation
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Meijer - Public passenger transport by rail and road
There is no final vote at second reading.

Toubon - Rules on nominal quantities for pre-packed products
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Harbour - Approval of motor vehicles and their trailers
There is no final vote at second reading.

Costa - Retrofitting of mirrors to heavy goods vehicles
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Appointments to the Temporary Committee on Climate Change
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Motion for Resolution - EU-Russia summit
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Rocard - EU strategy for reform in the Arab world
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Kaczmarek - EU partnership in the Horn of Africa
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Maldeikis - Assessing Euratom
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Wallis - Environmental protection from radiation following the crash of a military aircraft in Greenland (Petition No 720/2002)
Adopted - Conservatives in favour

Andria - Housing and regional policy
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Janowski - Future regional policy and innovation
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Motion for Resolution - Strengthening European legislation in the field of information and consultation of workers
Adopted - Conservatives abstained

Party watch - where different from Conservatives in recorded final votes:

(0)  Reynaud - Simplification of Community legislation (A6-0143/2007)
(+/-/0)  Maldeikis - Assessing Euratom (A6-0129/2007)
(+)  Andria - Housing and regional policy (A6-0090/2007)

(0)  Maldeikis - Assessing Euratom (A6-0129/2007)
(+)  Andria - Housing and regional policy (A6-0090/2007)

(0)  Reynaud - Simplification of Community legislation (A6-0143/2007)
(-)  Maldeikis - Assessing Euratom (A6-0129/2007)
(-)  Wallis - Environmental protection from radiation following the crash of a military aircraft in Greenland (A6-0156/2007)
(-)  Andria - Housing and regional policy (A6-0090/2007)

  Plenary Highlights 12 - 15 March 2007
  Plenary Highlights 12 - 15 February 2007
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 31 Jan - 1 Feb 2007
  Plenary Highlights 11-14 December 2006
  Plenary Highlights 13-16 November 2006
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 11 - 12 October 2006
  Plenary Highlights 25 - 28 September 2006
  Plenary Highlights 3 - 6 July 2006
  Plenary Highlights 3 - 6 April 2006
  Plenary Highlights 13 - 16 March 2006
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 1 - 2 February 2006
  Plenary Highlights 16 - 19 January 2006
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 12 - 13 October 2005
  Plenary Highlights 5 - 8 September 2005
  Plenary Highlights 4 - 8 July 2005
  Plenary Highlights 9 - 12 May 2005
  "Mini" Plenary Highlights 25 - 26 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
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  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