La Treizième Étoile: 10/02/13 - 17/02/13 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
SW MEP implicated in 'copy paste Amazon and Google lobbyist text' amendment row

Saturday, 16 February 2013
South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester has been named as one of a number of British Conservative MEPs accused of cutting and pasting text from lobbyists from Amazon, Google and other major online enterprises directly into legal amendments to European Union legislation on consumer data protection.

The accusations, published by the Telegraph, come from campaigners for tighter privacy laws covering social media and online retailers who have published research at showing the similarities between the wording of amendment proposals put forward to MEPs by firms in the industry and amendments tabled in the European Parliament's committees.

Mr Chichester is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), one of the committees where this report (2012/0011(COD) Personal data protection: processing and free movement of data) is currently being formulated and scrutinised. The campaigners say Mr Chichester tabled "over 22 per cent copy-pasted content".

While there have been no rules broken, the campaigners fear that MEPs are listening to rice and powerful industry and not to consumers. In a press statement, Anna Fielder of Privacy International, said: “We would hope that MEPs are taking all sides of the argument into account when making law, not just the richest and most powerful corporate interests.”

Since MEPs are rarely all experts on the technical minutiae of each and every legislative dossier that they are party to and industry and vested interests will always their own interests to preserve, lobbying is an evident part of the legislative process. While I disagree with the campaigner’s view that this is a ‘scandal’, the ‘revelations’ are a welcome step in the name of transparency.

It is also worth noting that Conservative MEPs are the only ones that currently make public lists of their meetings with lobbyists, updated periodically.

SEE ALSO: ‘It isn’t wrong for politicians to table lobbyists’ amendments but they should be transparent about it’ Liberal Laboratory (22/02)


BIG NEWS: Devon in line for EU funding boost as PM says county will be defined as a ‘transition region’

Wednesday, 13 February 2013
The county of Devon is in line to benefit from an EU funding boost after Prime Minister confirmed it would be defined as a 'transition region' and is one of 11 UK regions that will share around £2.5 billion of regeneration money to revive their flagging economies from next year.

The Prime Minister David Cameron was responding to questions from MPs after delivering a statement to the House on Monday on the outcome of last week’s European Council summit and the negotiations over the EU’s overall budget for the 2014-2022 period.

He said:

I can confirm that Britain will benefit in terms of transition regions. We always go into these negotiations arguing that we need to look at all levels of spending and all economies, because it is rather hypocritical to argue, ‘You’ve got to cut the overall spending but you’ve got to protect every single bit of what Britain receives.’ The good news is that 11 regions are likely to benefit: Tees Valley and Durham, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Shropshire and Staffordshire, Highlands and Islands, South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, East Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, Northern Ireland and Devon. Those will all, we hope, be transition regions under the new plans.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are already set to receive additional EU money through its structural fund programme as its GDP remains below 75% of the European Average and England's poorest region. Two seven-year investment programmes – Objective One followed by Convergence – will have pumped close to £1 billion of taxpayers' money into Cornwall between 1999 and the end of next year.

There were fears that Devon would get left behind, and nine members of the UK parliament representing Devon and parts of Somerset handed a letter to the Prime Minister in December urging him to support plans for a series of ‘transition zones’. Somerset appears to have missed out.

South West Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson was delighted at the news. Speaking to the Western Morning News he said: "Extra European money for Devon will bring new jobs, will bring economic growth and will provide the funding needed to expand our skills base in the Westcountry.

"It is now up to businesses, voluntary groups, local councils and the local economic partnership to come up with the best plan for how to spend this extra funding."


South West MEPs pleased as silent cars are to make noise in the name of safety

Sunday, 10 February 2013
South West MEPs have praised the introduction of mandatory acoustic vehicle alerting systems (AVAS) in quiet vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars to protect vulnerable road users, following a vote earlier this week in the European Parliament.

Meeting in Strasbourg this week, MEPs approved an EU regulation on the sound level of motor vehicles by 401 votes to 228, with 22 abstentions that includes an amendment stipulating that car manufacturers shall be required to install AVAS in vehicles. The exact nature of the sound that the cars will be required to emit has still to be determined, and the ministers from each EU member state will now have to agree to the plan before a standard becomes European law.

Reacting to the vote, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said: "Quiet cars are to be welcomed, but not if they are so quiet that safety is put at risk. The sound of a braking car can provide a signal to a blind or partially sighted person that it is safe to cross, but if this is too quiet on an electric car, AVAS can solve this problem by providing a warning."

"Silent vehicles are not only an issue for blind and partially sighted people but also for children, cyclists and other vulnerable road users. That's why Liberal Democrats voted in favour of mandatory acoustic warning devices in silent cars today."

Conservative MEP Julie Girling, speaking to Radio EP and recalling her time behind the wheel of a hybrid car, said they are “very quiet […] and when it is in quiet mode there is no noise at all and people would constantly step off pavements when you’re at low speeds in built-up areas.

She added that this move by the Parliament is intended to put such measures in place before more and more hybrid and electric vehicles roll onto the roads to ensure that everyone is best protected.

UPDATE (15/02, 20.10):
Following a recent visit to the regional headquarters of Guide Dogs for the Blind in Exeter, SW Conservative MEP Ashley Fox wrote on his Facebook page: “When we cross the road a fully sighted person uses a combination of sight and sound to identify whether it is safe to cross or not. For a blind person, they have to rely on their hearing alone. The increase in the number of quiet vehicles, such as hybrid or electric cars, on our roads therefore poses a real threat to blind people in our communities.

I am delighted to say that AVAS will now be mandatory in quiet vehicles. Our roads are already dangerous enough for everyone and we need as many of our senses as possible working to identify where the threat is coming from and how we can avoid it.

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South West 'the Cinderella region of the British railway network' - MEP calls for fair share of rail investment

South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester has welcomed the news of the UK’s government’s investment plans for HS2 which will have little effect on the South West region, by penning a letter to the press.

He joins UKIP MEP the Earl of Dartmouth who expressed similar regrets the region was not to profit from the HS2 development in January 2012 when he said: “This project will cost taxpayers in the South West almost £110 million and will have absolutely no benefits whatsoever for local people”.

Mr Chichester's letter reads:

"The good people of Leeds and Manchester must be experiencing a warm glow now they know the Government is to lavish more than £30 billion of investment on speeding up their journeys to London through the High Speed 2 rail link. It must be nice to be so loved.

The journey between London and the farther reaches of the West Country is just as long and just as important to our economy.

Would it be too much to ask for the Department of Transport to spare a fraction of the cost of HS2 to at the very least electrify our railway links to London? It would, after all, only be bringing us into line with the level of infrastructure the rest of the country has enjoyed for decades. A few extra carriages and locomotives which do not belong in a museum would be nice too.

We have been the Cinderella region of the British railway network far too long. Whitehall has rightly recognised through HS2 the importance of fast rail travel to the economy and to regional prosperity. Now let's have some fare shares.

I fully agree with Mr Chichester, the rail links to the South West are long overdue for investment.

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