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.”

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.

Companies chase Davies’ billions

Britain stands to gain more than €1 billion of investment capital from Europe for innovative green energy projects.

Seven British companies dominate the 14 from across Europe that are now bidding for financial support to build carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects.

The technology, which many consider a vital tool in fighting climate change, involves the removal of carbon dioxide from the fuel burnt in power stations and industrial plants, and its injection into rocks far beneath the North Sea.

Up to €5 billion is expected to be released through the sale of surplus carbon allowances, a resource made possible thanks to a proposal put to EU Prime Ministers through work in 2008 by Tameside Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies.

Davies described his success at the time as “the greatest political achievement of his life”.

The funds are expected to be shared between 8 large CCS projects and a number of smaller schemes intended to develop innovative renewable energy schemes. No one country can win more than three in total.

The projects are now being appraised, with the winners to be announced towards the end of next year.

Although Yorkshire is prominent amongst the CCS bidders, the North West is certain to lose out. Initial interest shown by major companies close to the Mersey and Dee estuaries in piping CO2 out to storage sites in depleted Irish Sea gas fields came to nothing.

Bumblebee motorways could be key to flowery future

A Tameside Euro-MP is calling for a national network of flower filled “rivers” to be introduced across the UK in an effort to preserve vital insects for future generations. Many plants reproduce by bumblebees and other insects carrying pollen from plant to plant and a recent dramatic decline in the number of bugs could endanger commercial crops such as apples.

Environmentalist group Buglife is pushing for local authorities to provide strips of wildflowers across the country to provide habitats for butterflies, moths, bumblebees and hoverflies and routes for them to move along. The flower filled strips would be 50 metres wide and would run alongside existing footpaths and roads.

Tameside Liberal Democrat Chris Davies MEP wants to see the environment section of the EU agricultural budget used to pay for the scheme. He said, “These corridors of wildflowers will provide beautiful walkways while helping to maintain insect species and wild pollinators that contribute an impressive £400 million to the UK economy each year.

“People have motorways to move around the country for work and now we need similar facilities for the tiny unsung heroes of our farming community, the humble bugs.”

The huge pathways, known as B-lines would cross the country providing nectar for insects to eat and pollen for them to spread. Each county of England would have two lines, one running north to south and one running east to west joining together to make a national network to bring back vital bugs to Tameside.

Chris says, “Everyone would win with this scheme from the biggest industrial farming company through the family farmer and nature enthusiasts to the tiny fauna that make our green and pleasant land what it is.”

“Die in Tameside not Zurich,” says MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Lib Dem Euro-MP Chris Davies says that people seeking medical help to die should be able to do so at home in Tameside and not be forced to travel to Zurich.

Liberal Democrat Chris Davies has welcomed the result of a referendum in Switzerland rejecting a proposed ban on foreigners taking advantage of the country’s law permitting medically assisted suicide.

More than 150 people from Britain have travelled to Switzerland to seek help from the organisation Dignitas, based in Zurich.

Davies, who has written about Swiss practice and met on several occasions with Ludwig Minelli, who founded Dignitas in 1998, described the law in Britain as “cruel and inhumane.”

He said: “In a civilised country the freedom should exist for people who are suffering unendurably to seek medical assistance to due. It amounts to little less than torture to force people to live against their will in circumstances that most of us hope we will never experience. (more…)

Local MEP calls for Arrest Warrant changes

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Tameside’s Lib Dem Euro-MP is backing a call for changes to the European Arrest Warrant.

A report from the European Commission urges EU countries to stop using the warrant for petty crimes such as bicycle theft.  The result has been a huge increase in the number of arrest warrants issued – currently 1,000 a month across the EU.

Supporters say that since its introduction in 2004 the warrants have been used to smash paedophile rings and to extradite terrorists from other EU countries back to Britain to face the courts.

But local Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies says that they should only be used for serious crimes.  He wants provision made for a national court to be able to refuse extradition to a second country if there is a real danger of them not getting fair treatment.

He said, “The days of the Costa del Crime are gone thanks to the EU and the European Arrest Warrant is an extremely useful tool to fight terrorism.

“If police forces are using it to chase down bike thieves who have crossed a border though then that is clearly ridiculous.

“The EU needs to be honest about the fact that the quality of the legal system is better in some countries than others and take action to bring the worst legal systems up to the standard of the best.

“In the meantime, there needs to be a judicial safety valve in place to stop people being extradited to face uncertain justice.”

Former Tameside MEP Den Dover could face jail

Den Dover, the former Tameside Conservative MEP, has been ordered to pay back £345,289 to the European Parliament and could now face prosecution for fraud.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today dismissed attempts by Dover to avoid repayment of the money that the European Parliament stated was wrongly claimed between 1999 and 2008.

Dover made the following illegitimate payments from the allowance paid to MEPs to meet the costs of paying for staff:

  • £101,068 for three cars
  • £15,404 for office supplies and equipment, £89,235 for postage and stationery, £100,735 for the costs of rent and renovation of Den Dover’s ‘office’, which just happened to be in his private home, and £20,767 for telephone costs (MEPs get a separate allowance for all these office expenses, and none of them are supposed to be paid from the staff budget)
  • £17,880 for ‘entertainment expenses’
  • £200 in donations to the Conservative Party

The Parliament also sought the repayment of £167,903 it claimed represented the costs of VAT that had not been paid. But the Court concluded that this was a matter for dispute between the British authorities and the former MEP.

Dover was ordered to pay his own costs.

Tameside’s Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, a longstanding campaigner for tighter rules on the use of public money, is calling on the police to investigate former Tory MEP Den Dover and believes he could go to jail.

Chris, who in 2008 made public the contents of a secret auditors’ report into financial malpractices by European MPs, commented: “Most MEPs know the difference between right and wrong when spending public money, but Dover treated the European Parliament like a private piggy bank and let greed overtake honour.

“The Parliament has been shamefully weak in the past and has too often turned a blind eye to abuses, but it is now demonstrating that such behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

“I am calling on the police here to investigate whether Dover’s actions were fraudulent and warrant criminal prosecution. I expect the parliamentary authorities in Brussels to provide them with full cooperation. In my view Dover tried to cheat the public purse and should go to jail.”

UK signs up to fight human trafficking

Police forces across Europe will have more power to crack down on human traffickers after the UK signed up to support tougher measures today.  Tameside’s Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, who has campaigned for the UK to sign up to the new anti-trafficking directive, said:

“The UK has long been a leader in the fight against human trafficking and today’s announcement sends a powerful message that we intend to maintain that position.

“Along with fellow MEPs I helped to lobby the Government to opt in to this directive after they initially decided against doing so. Certain issues are more easily tackled by 27 countries acting together than by each acting alone. Had the UK failed to opt in, efforts to curtail this abhorrent practice would have been hampered.

“EU involvement in this issue may have caused arguments within the coalition but as a Lib Dem I welcome this as a victory for the protection of vulnerable people.”

‘Save Our Fish’ Group Formed

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

A cross-party campaign group of European MPs has been formed to prevent the “hijack” of plans for radical reform of EU fisheries policies. Tameside Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies took the initiative to create the ‘Fish for the Future’ group. He says its objective is to ensure that there are more fish in the sea and more jobs for fishermen.

The new body already has the support of MEPs from 14 countries, including Tameside Conservative Sir Robert Atkins and Labour’s Linda McAvan (Yorkshire). With up to 80% of fisheries being managed unsustainably the European Commission intends to propose major policy reforms later this year.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has already announced that she wants a science-led approach and aims to ban the wasteful practice of discarding fish into the sea, dead, when quotas have been exceeded. Fisheries management will be transferred from Brussels to regional organisations involving local fishermen, food companies and environmentalists.

But Chris Davies warns that the reforms are likely to face tough political opposition and are at risk of being hijacked. He said: “In many European waters there are too many boats chasing too few fish. Capacity must be reduced and that will be fiercely resisted.

“Our seas are capable of supporting many more fish than now exist after so much overfishing. We cannot allow the agenda to be set by short term thinking that ignores the need to ensure that we have fish on the table in 50 or 100 years’ time.”

The MEP claims that support for reform has the support of all parties in Britain but faces likely challenges from MEPs and ministers representing Spain, France, Italy and Portugal.

He said: “The Coalition Government’s fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, is arguing the case for change at every opportunity, but the extent of opposition he faces will become known only when the European Commission publishes the details of its plans.”

Brits get new rights to foreign healthcare under EU rules

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Tameside’s Liberal Democrat Euro-MP has welcomed moves to allow people to travel to other EU countries for operations if the NHS is too slow. New rules approved by the European Parliament will allow people to receive medical treatment in other EU Member States if their home country is unable to provide essential medical care within a reasonable timeframe.

Patients will be able to have the treatment paid for or claim back the money if they pay upfront. The new rules are due to take effect in 2013.

Chris Davies MEP who is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the Environment and Public Health Committee of the Parliament said, “This new system will protect our NHS but provide options for people who need  treatment.

“NHS hospitals will get the full costs of treating other EU nationals paid and Tameside people will have the option of travelling if that is what it takes to get treatment.”

UK citizens who fall ill abroad can already get emergency care across the EU with their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  The new scheme expands this to ‘elective’ treatment’ when a particular treatment can be provided faster or more expertly abroad.

NHS doctors will have to give prior authorisation for treatments abroad that can be reimbursed, patients will only be entitled to reimbursement for treatment that their home health authority would normally provide, and
travel or hotel costs cannot be claimed back.