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Labour MEPs vote to slash plastic carrier bag use

ocean pollution plastic bagLabour MEPs voted yesterday for measures to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, including a binding target to cut use by 80 per cent and mandatory charges for bags.

Other measures in the proposals include a mandatory charge for plastic carrier bags in the food sector, and increasing the use of biodegradable plastic bags over conventional bags.

Conservative MEPs, however, opposed some of the proposals, tabling amendments to weaken the legislation.

East Midlands Labour MEP, Glenis Willmott said:

“Labour MEPs have supported ambitious measures to crack down on plastic bag waste across Europe. Single-use plastic bags are only used for a few seconds, yet it takes hundreds of years for them to degrade, and many end up floating in our oceans and seas, poisoning wildlife.

“Only binding targets will do the job – we are delighted Tory plans to water these down were not accepted.

“We also voted to introduce a Europe-wide charge for single-use plastic bags in supermarkets and other food shops, bringing the rest of the EU in line with what the UK has already legislated to do.

‘Wales sets a particularly good example for other countries: three years after bringing in a 5p charge for plastic bags at the check-out, the Welsh use fewer plastic bags than most other countries, and they have already met the 80% reduction target we voted for.”

 ENDS

Local MEP demands tougher food inspections

burgerAn East Midlands Euro MP voted yesterday for stricter inspections across the food chain and stringent penalties for food fraud.

The European Parliament voted through measures to ensure inspections on food businesses are independent, transparent and rigorous, with MEPs also voting for protection for whistle blowers and for financial penalties in cases of fraud to be at least double the expected gain.

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s leader in Europe and spokesperson on food safety, said:

“The horsemeat scandal exposed large-scale fraud in the meat industry and made it clear we need to take action to ensure inspections are effective at identifying and dealing with this sort of criminality.

“Inspections should be unannounced wherever possible and the penalties for those who break the law should act as a real deterrent and show we’re serious about cracking down on those who deliberately mislead consumers as to the nature of their food.”

Under the proposals, operators would have to produce traceability records showing who supplies them and who they supply in turn, with MEPs voting to restore the requirement for an official veterinarian to be present in abattoirs, following reports last week that rules on meat inspections were being watered down.

East Midlands MEP, Glenis Willmott, added:

“Producers and suppliers simply have to get a grip on their supply chains. If they don’t know where their meat has come from, they have no way of knowing if it’s safe for human consumption.

“The decision to cut back on meat inspections was just another example of the drive to reduce regulation at the expense of consumer safety.  All inspections should be carried out by a suitably qualified and independent official.”

Labour MEPs also voted to exempt small businesses from fees for inspections.

Glenis Willmott said:

“We agree that food inspections must be properly funded.  The horsemeat scandal highlighted the way that food can pass through several different countries before it ends up on your plate, so cuts in one country will affect food safety elsewhere.

“But we believe Member States should have the flexibility to decide how they finance inspections, and we certainly don’t want to see small businesses facing additional costs that many will struggle to afford.

“Yesterday’s vote delivered a fair report, which should take us a step further toward restoring consumer confidence in the food industry.

ENDS

Government should use EU food bank fund urgently

imagesCASN3YD2It’s shocking to hear that nearly one million people have needed food parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust over the last year. In the UK, one of the most developed countries in the world, too many people are simply not able to feed their families. With the cost of living going up, wages going down, and more people on zero hour and other precarious contracts, it’s no wonder that people are struggling to keep their homes warm and put food on the table.

Across Europe millions of people are struggling to afford food. Those without enough money to buy adequate nutritious food have to rely on cheap, processed food, if they can afford anything at all. In 2009 there were 43 million people across Europe in food poverty, and we know it is a worsening problem in the wake of the financial crisis. We have seen aid agencies working on the streets of Athens, and food banks spring up across the UK and elsewhere.

So we need action at European level. I have asked the European Commission to produce new data on the scale of the problem, and to look at more long term options to ensure everyone has access to nutritious food. But in this time of crisis we need emergency measures. This February MEPs voted overwhelmingly for a new Fund for the Most Deprived; £2.5 billion to help with the costs of running food banks. Shockingly, Tory MEPs were in the very small minority voting against these measures, and the UK government has already decided not to use this money to help fund food banks.

Tens of thousands of children in our country are going hungry, and we have a government that prioritises a tax cut for millionaires, and refuses to use EU money to help struggling families. It is just not acceptable.

Labour MEPs say no to mega trucks

mega trucksLabour MEPs voted today to keep Britain’s roads free from mega trucks, which weigh up to 60 tonnes and reaching 25 metres in length.  Mega trucks are already used for freight transportation in some European countries but are not able to cross borders. Labour today voted to maintain these strict border controls and prevent the proliferation of longer and heavier lorries in the UK.

East Midlands Labour MEP Glenis Willmott said:

“Labour has always fiercely opposed allowing mega trucks to cross borders, because of our concerns about the threat they pose to road safety in Britain.

“Investigation into the dangers of mega trucks is on-going, but it is not difficult to imagine who’ll come out worse off in a collision between a bicycle and a 60 tonne lorry.

“We are also unconvinced the UK has the infrastructure in place to cope with these longer and heavier vehicles. Roads, bridges and older metal crash barriers were simply not designed for these types of monster trucks, and neither are the streets of our smaller towns and villages.”

 Glenis added:

“At a time when we are trying to encourage greener freight transportation using rail rather than roads, we are concerned at the impact mega trucks would have on congestion and pollution.

“Frankly, these ‘travelling warehouses’ are not fit for Britain’s roads.”

ENDS

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