The European commission must renew its alcohol strategy if it is to tackle the huge health and societal impacts associated with drinking, argues Glenis Willmott.
Tonight MEPs in the European parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee are voting on a resolution focused on alcohol. Europe has the highest consumption of alcohol of any region in the world; therefore it is vital that we take action at EU level to reduce alcohol related harm.
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East Midlands Labour MEP, Glenis Willmott, joined with Labour colleagues in the European Parliament this week to celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight by tucking into some fair trade banana bread.
This year’s campaign is asking people to ‘Stick with Foncho’, a banana farmer from Colombia who is travelling to the UK to ask business secretary Vince Cable to investigate unfair supermarket pricing practices and act to protect the producers of the UK’s favourite fruit.
In the last 10 years, the shelf price of loose bananas in UK supermarkets has almost halved even though the cost of producing bananas has doubled.
Glenis Willmott MEP said:
“Apples which are grown in the UK are sold at nearly twice the price of bananas which are grown in tropical climates. We have to stop this economic imbalance and ensure banana farmers are getting a fair price for their produce.
“Cheap bananas trap farmers and workers in poverty, and we now pay on average only 11p for a loose banana compared to 20p for a loose UK grown apple.”
Bananas are the most popular and traded fruit in the world – annually, one hundred million tonnes are produced worldwide. In the UK, £550 million is spent on bananas each year, with 1.2 billion bananas fair trade, a third of all bananas sold in Britain.
“It is high time British supermarkets take a responsible and sustainable approach to purchasing bananas. You can help by signing Foncho’s petition and buying fair trade produce, helping lift banana farmers like Foncho out of poverty.”
Labour MEPs voted last week for measures that will save children from taking up smoking and becoming addicted to tobacco.
The measures would bring in larger picture warnings covering two-thirds of each cigarette pack, with governments free to introduce full standardised packaging. The law also bans an array of gimmicky products that tobacco companies use to target young people, such as flavoured cigarettes and lipstick and perfume packs. Additionally, e-cigarettes will be regulated for the first time.
East Midlands Labour MEP, Glenis Willmott said:
“Last year, according to figures from Cancer Research, 14,300 people took up smoking in the East Midlands – that’s 1,200 a month. Each day in our region alone, 39 children are taking up smoking.
“We voted last week to pave the way for the government to introduce standardised packs for cigarettes. With picture warnings due to cover two-thirds of the pack, it makes it easier for the government to go that extra step, and take away the branding in the remaining space.”
“These measures will protect children from being cynically targeted by tobacco companies with their chocolate and strawberry flavoured cigarettes, designed to lure young people into a life-long addiction.”
Tobacco is the cause of more than 100,000 deaths each year in the UK – nearly half of smokers will die from a smoking related disease – and remains the leading cause of preventable premature deaths across Europe.
More than 700,000 people a year die in the European Union as a result of smoking and 70% of those started smoking before the age of 18.
Labour MEPs this week called on David Cameron to apply now for European Union aid for flood-hit areas.
East Midlands Euro MP Glenis Willmott, Labour Leader in the European Parliament, said:
“The damage the floods have caused to people’s homes and businesses has been devastating for many people. We must make sure these areas receive as much support as possible.
“The EU can help provide financial assistance to the damaged areas and I very much hope the UK government will apply for these funds. So far this has not happened.”
Governments can apply to the EU Solidarity Fund for aid for disaster-stricken regions following natural disasters. It has been used for 56 disasters since being set up in 2002, covering a range of severe events including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought; €3.5 billion in aid has been used in 23 European countries thus far.
Labour MEPs have been urging the UK government to apply to the Solidarity Fund to help the stricken areas.
“The EU money is there for exactly this purpose. People affected by the floods will rightly want to know why the Tory-led government isn’t applying for these funds when they are in desperate need of help.”