In April, new proposals for HGV vehicles were published by the European Commission. They’re causing a bit of a stir as critics are saying they could potentially allow so-called mega trucks to become the norm across Europe.
Labour MEPs have always opposed any relaxation of the rules that would allow for the proliferation of longer and heavier lorries.
Quite simply we do not want to see travelling warehouses on UK roads, and we very much fear the impact they would have on road safety, particularly on more vulnerable road users.
Of equal concern is the impact they would have on congestion and pollution at a time when we are trying to encourage freight off the roads and onto rail. We are simply not convinced that the UK has the infrastructure in place to cope with these longer and heavier vehicles. Roads, bridges and crash barriers were simply not designed for these types of trucks.
We are worried that the changes proposed by the European Commission could be the start of a slippery slope to megatrucks becoming the norm across Europe. This would inevitably make it very difficult to prevent them from coming to the UK.
So we will be opposing those changes that seek to expand the numbers of these longer and heavier trucks across Europe, and over the coming months we will seek to get majority support within the European Parliament for this position.
This is only the start of a fairly long legislative process, which involves both the European Parliament and the Council (where the 27 national Governments sit).
But we are fully aware of constituents concerns and we will do all we can to fight back against the expansion of megatrucks across Europe, and stop them coming to Britain.
European oil, mining, gas and logging companies will have to disclose the payments they make to governments for access to natural resources, following a vote in the European Parliament today.
Speaking in Strasbourg, Labour MEP Glenis Wilmott said: “The new rules are good news for resource rich countries in the developing world.”
“What we’ve agreed today will provide a major new weapon in the global fight against corruption.
“Citizens of resource rich countries will be able to hold their governments to account for the exploitation of their natural resources, with 70% of the world’s extractive industries covered by tough transparency rules”
“This is of huge importance. In 2008 alone, African oil, gas and mineral exports were worth nine times the value of international aid (296 billion Euros vs 33 billion Euros).”
News of widespread state spying rightly makes us concerned. Why are decisions about how much of our personal information governments see and store being made without our knowing? Government policies on such important issues must be transparent. But the problem runs deeper. Across the world decisions made by transnational corporations affect our everyday lives, but we often know very little about them.
Take the example of clinical trials, which I am leading on in the European Parliament. Medical research is vital to discover new drugs and assess the safety and effectiveness of treatments. But the results of these trials, which are carried out on ordinary patients, are too often not reported. Around half of all clinical trials have never been published in academic journals, and trials with positive results are twice as likely to be published as others. Unless information about unsuccessful research is made public the same trials can be tried time and time again, sometimes endangering lives. Although many pharmaceutical companies and researchers do report results, it is on a voluntary basis and still too much data is missing. That is why I have been working with the AllTrials campaign to enshrine transparency measures into the new EU Clinical Trials Regulation. The European Parliament has approved my proposals for a publicly accessible database with information on all trials, and now the challenge will be to get EU governments to agree.
Which brings me on to the problem of transparency in EU decision making. Too often British governments blame ‘Brussels’ for unpopular measures, and take the glory when the EU does something good. The fact is that for every piece of legislation the British government and British MEPs are sat round the negotiating table and voting on proposals right from the start.
Two years ago, for example, I proposed that EU food labelling laws included requirements to label the country of origin for all meat, including meat in processed foods. Although the European Parliament backed my plans, the UK government worked with others to block them. After the horsemeat scandal ministers across Europe were quick to blame “weak” EU labelling laws, with Owen Paterson demanding the “acceleration” of the report into labelling meat in ready meals. I had to point out that in 2011 the UK government tried to delay this report, which I insisted on. These positions must be reported more fairly, and that is why Labour MEP Michael Cashman has been working for years to open up the decision making process of governments when they vote in Brussels.
EU decisions can be hugely powerful, especially when taking on transnational corporations. In the globalised world the UK government alone cannot regulate the global pharmaceutical or food industries. The same is true of oil, mining, gas and logging companies. This week my Labour colleague Arlene McCarthy finalised new EU measures obliging extractive industries to disclose the payments they make to governments for access to natural resources. Arlene has been working with the Publish What You Pay campaign, and the new rules will be a major new weapon in the global fight against corruption, ensuring that citizens can hold their governments to account for the exploitation of their natural resources. Working together as the EU, representing 27 countries and the world’s largest trading bloc, we can lead the way globally in transparency measures.
That is why it is the EU fighting for our privacy against the US, led by Labour MEP Claude Moraes. Claude is calling for the US to respect our EU data protection standards calling the PRISM case a “major breach of trust”. It shows there will always be more work to do, which is why we need serious MEPs willing to stand up to vested interests, engage with the reality of the globalised world and give voices to civil society campaigns such as AllTrials and Publish What You Pay. Transparency is something that we must continue to fight for in every policy, and that Labour MEPs will continue to fight for at European level.
An East Midlands MEP has written to the company that created Thalidomide, calling on them to finally compensate those who continue to suffer the consequences of the tragedy.
Thalidomide was manufactured and marketed by the German company Grünenthal and was promoted to women in the 1950s and 60s as an antidote to morning sickness.
However, the drug led to the deaths of tens of thousands of babies, while thousands more were born with severe birth defects.
In 2012, Grünenthal publicly apologised for the tragedy but they have still not compensated the victims. Now UK Thalidomide survivors are asking people to support their campaign, calling for real compensation and an end to what they see as 50 years of injustice.
Euro MP Glenis Willmott has written to the Chief Executive of Grünenthal to add her support to the campaign.
Glenis said, “I find it shocking that after more than 50 years, the company that manufactured Thalidomide still refuses to accept responsibility and properly compensate the victims.”
“With most survivors now in their fifties, they are experiencing additional health problems, such as chronic muscular and joint pain, and finding their health is deteriorating faster than for other people of the same age.”
“Thalidomide survivors have shown remarkable courage and resilience in their determination to live as normal lives as possible. Meanwhile the company that is responsible for their suffering refuses to help them by providing the compensation they deserve.”
1. The Show Your Hand campaign website can be found here: http://www.showyourhand.org/en/.
2. To date, UK Thalidomide survivors have received compensation and financial assistance from the UK distributor of the drug, now Diageo, and from the UK Government.
3. There are around 6,000 Thalidomide survivors worldwide, of which around 467 live in the UK.