EU rule breakers left with egg on their faces over battery hens

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Tameside Lib Dem Euro-MP Chris Davies has received a personal assurance from the European Commission that countries which do not comply with new welfare rules for laying hens will be closely investigated and, if appropriate, taken to court.

Under intense political pressure from Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, the Commission confirmed its commitment to put in place infringement procedures as of January 2012.

Davies met with EU Commissioner Dalli to push for swift actions against any country ignoring the new EU ban on battery cages.

Davies said, “It is great news that the Commission refuses to postpone the legal deadline for a ban of battery  cages for chicken and will hold to account countries who try and cheat.

“The Commission must also support those countries such as the UK who are using every means at their disposal to try and ban illegally produced eggs from entering their markets.

“Egg farmers in Britain and other countries that have met the new standards must not face competition from those with less concern for animal welfare.

“Until a full ban on illegal eggs and egg products is put in place, consumers can take care to only buy products labelled free range or organic with regard to their egg content.”

According to EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli, inspection teams will start their investigations in targeted EU countries as of January 2012 to collect evidence of non-compliance to back up the prosecution when it goes to court.

Davies pointed out that the Commissioner will be limited in what he can do. Davies said, “When I met him, John Dalli pointed out that he has no police force and no army.  He only has court processes and sometimes these take time!”

In the UK, Defra has revealed that 30 UK farms still use battery cages for up to 500,000 laying hens. However, the Government announced that it expected full compliance with the new hen welfare law by February and would prosecute any farmers using battery cages after this date.

Responsible Capitalism

Nick Clegg MP

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg MP

This morning, Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech at Mansion House on the economy.

Read the full speech here:

Another week, another speech about the evils of capitalism. Let me start by asking: who here is in favour of irresponsible capitalism? Because you won’t find many people arguing for more recklessness, more short-termism or greater rewards at the top. On the contrary – the growing consensus is that we need the opposite: a more sustainable economy; a more balanced economy, where rewards are proportionate and relate to real success.

That consensus, emerging among the political parties, has attracted a little cynicism.
I can understand that. It is, after all, bonus season in our banks. But there is a more generous interpretation of the shifting political mood. One that says: perhaps the penny has finally dropped.

Liberal Democrats have been arguing for a more balanced capitalism for many years. Vince Cable warned in 2006 that bank lending levels were “recklessly irresponsible” at a time that “bad debts were growing.” We saw the gulf emerging in our economy between a small number of winners and everyone else. And we warned against the corrosive effects. So we welcome the new political vogue – although it is not so new for us. And we want to seize on growing support for so-called ‘responsible capitalism’ and actually deliver it.

To do that, as this debate moves forward, we need to be clear about what we mean.
Because, whether you call it a new economy, an ethical economy, moral markets, responsible capitalism, there is a big difference between having strong views on bonus culture or excessive top pay and wanting real change in the practices and principles that guide corporate life. A bit of wrist slapping or moralising at the worst offenders will not be enough. This should not be a war of words but a real contest of ideas about how to reform our economy.

So this morning I want to offer a liberal diagnosis of what’s wrong; and then a liberal remedy. (more…)

Ed Balls’ admission better late than never

Tim Farron MP

Tim Farron

Responding to Ed Balls’ speech on the economy, Liberal Democrat Party President, Tim Farron said:

“After nearly two years of opposing every saving the Coalition Government has made at least Ed Balls has finally admitted there is a deficit problem.

“However, he still refuses to take any responsibility for Labour’s 13 years in power where they failed to balance the books and get to grips with reckless behaviour in the City, even when he was City Minister.

“Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government are doing the right thing, taking the difficult decisions to protect Britain from the same fate as some euro zone countries while at the same time pursuing progressive policies such as reducing taxes for the lowest earners, making sure pensioners get a fair deal and providing a fair start for every child through the pupil premium.

“Ed Balls’ admission is better late than never, but he and Labour still owe Britain an apology for 13 years of poor government and 18 months of lies in opposition.”

Nuttall insults war dead

UKIP chairman Paul Nuttall has been accused of insulting the memory of those who fought for freedom in two world wars by describing the EU symbol as “a flag of occupation.”

Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat MEP who represents the same North West region in the European Parliament, claimed that the words amounted to xenophobia and were unacceptable.

Davies said, “This is grossly insulting to the memory of all those who died in the two world wars of the 20th century.

“Whatever people may think of the European Union as an organisation, no-one can deny that it was created by people determined to ensure such tragic and unnecessary conflicts could never happen again.

“Like every part of government the European Union is imperfect, but it is a voluntary partnership between 27 countries committed to the principles of democracy, freedom and justice.  It exists to ensure that conflicts between nations that in the past led to the bloody deaths of millions can instead be resolved by peaceful means.

“In his desire for publicity Paul Nuttall should try and be mature enough never to pander to xenophobia of the most vile kind.”

Local shale gas extraction needs targeted regulation

Liberal Democrats from across the North West joined to demand a moratorium on shale gas exploration at their policymaking regional conference. Regional Chair and Southport Councillor Sue McGuire, called for a halt to further drilling until the environmental impacts were better understood. Shale gas recovery involves hard to reach reserves of methane being extracted by cracking porous rocks containing the gas using the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique known as ‘fracking’. Exploration companies are investigating shale gas reserves within the Bowland Shale Basin which covers a large part of Lancashire with test wells being drilled near both Blackpool and Southport. There are serious engineering and environmental concerns about the impact of fracking on low level seismic activity and on the possible contamination of water tables by the chemicals used in the process. (more…)

Tameside MEP pushes for peace

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies, Tameside’s Lib Dem MEP who met with the father of Gilad Shalit to discuss prospects for his release, has welcomed the return home of the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas. Chris says that Israel’s decision to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners opens a prospect for progress towards Middle East peace that must not be missed.

The Liberal Democrat MEP, who will later this month be making a fifth visit to Gaza, said that the Israeli Government had taken a brave decision.

He said: “I am a strong critic of Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian land, but I do not underestimate the difficulties that Israel has faced in this instance. Israel has negotiated with Hamas, its bitter enemy, and although many of the prisoners released were guilty only of resisting occupation their numbers included some who had killed innocent people.”

Chris also praised the Israeli government for demonstrating that it was prepared to make decisions that would be opposed by many of its citizens. He said: “An agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will require many tough decisions that will be unpopular with people on both sides. Every effort should be made to build on this small step forward and press for progress on peace and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.”

Good pension news for women

Welcoming the Government’s announcement of changes to the planned increase in the state pension age for women, Jenny Willott MP today said: “I welcome today’s announcement that shows the Government has listened to the concerns of thousands of women and capped the maximum increase that women will see. This will protect half a million people, including hundreds of thousands of women who would have been worst affected by the change.

“Liberal Democrats had made clear to the Government that the proposal to raise the age of the state pension was unfair on many women and we were joined by campaigners in urging a rethink.  With life expectancy set to increase, the Government’s aim is a simple, decent state pension which is easy to understand, efficient to deliver and affordable.”

Jenny is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Work and Pensions.

Office for Fair Access must be given teeth

Simon Hughes MP

Responding to today’s [Thursday] Office for Fair Access (OFFA) report, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and the Government’s Advocate for Access to Education, Simon Hughes, said the body must be given the power to punish universities that fail to offer places to enough students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Simon Hughes said, “This is further confirmation of how many English universities are failing to advance social mobility. This report confirms why the new Government has been right to make widening access to higher education a priority for this parliament. The spotlight is now well and truly on our top academic institutions and from now on they will have nowhere to hide.

“In my report to the Prime Minister in July, I made clear that the powers of OFFA should be strengthened in the higher education bill that will be coming soon. OFFA must be given the power to use sanctions against those institutions which do not deliver more places to young people from less privileged backgrounds. In every region of England, all universities should also co-ordinate outreach so that no secondary school or college student does not know the opportunities and benefits of going to university.

“Top universities must work much harder to increase their number of students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds.

And in the next few weeks, everyone who is doing A-levels next year- whatever their background- should consider Cambridge and Oxford as well as every other university, and to rule nowhere out. “

Copies of the full access report can be found at

Nick Clegg’s speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

Nick Clegg MP

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg MP

Speaking at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today [Wednesday], Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

Liberal Democrats, we have now been in Government for 500 days. Not easy, is it? None of us thought it would be a walk in the park, but I suspect none of us predicted just how tough it would turn out to be. We’ve lost support, we’ve lost councillors, and we lost a referendum. I know how painful it has been to face anger and frustration on the doorstep.

Some of you may have even wondered: Will it all be worth it in the end? It will be. And today I want to explain why.

But above all I want to pay tribute to you. Your resilience. Your grace under fire. I have been genuinely moved by your spirit and your strength. Thank you. Thank you, above all, for never forgetting what we are in politics for. After the May elections, Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of our defeated candidates in Edinburgh said that if losing was part payment for ending child detention then, as he said: “I accept it, with all my heart.”

That is the liberal spirit and that is something we will never lose. The spirit that gave birth to our party a century and half ago, that kept us alive when the other two parties tried to kill us off. The spirit that means however great our past, our fight will always be for a better future. (more…)

Phone costs down!

British residents travelling elsewhere in Europe this summer will find the cost of using their mobile telephones further reduced from this month.

An EU law has forced telephone operators to drop the ‘roaming charges’ incurred when making or receiving calls by 60% compared to the pre-2009 average. The maximum price for outgoing calls is cut to 31p per minute, and to a maximum of 9p per minute for calls received when abroad. Text messages will cost no more than 9p.

Local Liberal Democrat Euro-MP, Chris Davies, said that the EU was doing the job that people wanted it to do by protecting consumers and keeping down prices.

He said: “Although the actual cost of making calls to British mobile phones when abroad is very small the operators were making huge profits out of inflated charges. It was exactly a situation when EU action was needed.”

The European Commission has already warned telephone operators that it will next year propose further reductions in the charges they are allowed to make.