A Labour MEP has criticised European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for his record on tax avoidance and has called on him to clamp down on it in the EU. Mr Juncker was grilled by MEPs yesterday after it was claimed he encouraged tax avoidance when he was Prime Minister of Luxembourg.
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, said:
“Aggressive tax avoidance on this scale is unacceptable, and Mr Juncker must apologise for the policies of his government and the race to the bottom they created.”
Mr Juncker took over as Commission President this month and will be responsible for tackling tax avoidance across the EU. It was revealed last week that major international companies secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining a low presence in the country. The companies appear to have funnelled hundreds of billions of euros through the Grand Duchy, saving them billions in taxes.
Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“The European Commission needs to outline the urgent action it will take to fight this kind of deliberate tax dodging, as public coffers throughout Europe are denied billions in unpaid tax. Labour, in Britain and in Brussels, will continue to lead the fight to clamp down on tax havens, evasion and avoidance.”
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, has voiced her support for Ed Miliband’s speech to the Confederation of British Industry today. He told its annual conference that a shake-up of the British economy is needed to address the deep-rooted discontent that is threatening Britain’s membership of the EU. Mr. Miliband warned that the economic recovery is only benefiting a wealthy few which is leading many frustrated voters to believe Britain would be better off out of Europe.
Glenis Willmott MEP said:
“Ed was very clear in his speech today: leaving the EU would risk millions of British jobs, but we need a recovery for the many to convince people that Britain is better off in. He set out Labour’s plan to give our towns and cities more powers, encourage investment in infrastructure and give our young people the skills to succeed in skilled professions.”
Mr. Miliband also pledged to tackle many of the issues people associate with EU migration. He said that low pay and exploitation are driving migration in the EU and promised to confront this by raising the minimum wage and ending the abuse of zero-hour contracts.
Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“David Cameron’s failed diplomacy has scuppered his chances of securing reform in Europe. Ed has clearly set out the steps a Labour government would take to work with Britain’s allies to reform the EU. As Prime Minister, he would not play political games with our membership of the EU but would make it work even better for Britain, protecting millions of jobs and building a recovery for the many, not the few.”
Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, chair of the European Parliament Access to Medicines working group, today called for any Ebola vaccine to be affordable, with open access to the research.
Mrs Willmott was responding to the €280 million pledge for research into Ebola vaccines and diagnostics from The Innovative Medicines Initiative, a joint programme between the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry.
“We absolutely need to be investing resources into stopping this terrible virus, and I really hope the research funded by this project finds some solutions for the current crisis. My concern is whether any vaccines that are developed will be accessible to those that need them the most.
“The Innovative Medicines Initiative is a joint project between the pharmaceutical industry and the EU – half of the money is public money. So any results from this project must be used for the public good.
“Unfortunately, unlike other projects funded by the EU, there is no requirement for the results of Innovative Medicines Initiative projects to be published with open access. There are also no rules about how affordable or accessible any medicines would have to be.
“I call on the Innovative Medicines Initiative to allow open access to results from any trials related to Ebola, and to pledge that any successful vaccines or diagnostics developed will be truly affordable. This is a humanitarian crisis with the potential to be global in scale, we must ensure that everyone can be protected from this deadly disease.”
Now that funding for a brilliant project restoring natural peat moors in the East Midlands is coming to an end, I want the EU to continue its commitment to this unique natural habitat.
The Peak District is a stunningly beautiful example of natural England at its best and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors from across the East Midlands each year. This precious area of untouched wilderness appears at first glance to be completely free from the negative effects of human actions. But unfortunately this is not the case and since the Industrial Revolution, thousands of acres of peat moorland have been lost. Over the past four years, EU funding has been used by the brilliant Moors for the Future Partnership to restore plant life to huge areas of barren land which has helped bring back wildlife and fight climate change.
Just like global warming, we have only recently begun to wake up to the destruction of this unique habitat. Pollution from Manchester and the textile towns of the North West has caused the peat that forms much of the Peak District landscape to become as acidic as vinegar. This has meant that the soil cannot sustain plant life without special treatment. Wildfires on the moors, mostly caused by visitors carelessly dropping cigarettes, have wiped out large areas of vegetation that have never grown back since. These barren areas cannot support animal life either, and release carbon into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change.
But all is not lost, and work is well underway to reverse this decline. In 2003, a partnership was set up by the National Trust, Natural England, Severn Trent Water and many others to improve research, build visitor centres and plant millions of moorland trees and mosses. Over the past five years, their £5.5 million MoorLIFE project has restored 2,000 acres of moorland partly thanks to funding from the EU’s LIFE programme which supports environmental and conservation projects across Europe. This fantastic work has rescued the moors so that they can be enjoyed by future generations, but much more land is still to be revived.
The Moors for the Future Partnership are eager to continue this work and offer their services to a much wider market over the coming five years. Their MoorLIFE 2020 proposals are even more ambitious than their current project and they are bidding for further grants from the government and the EU. I am wholeheartedly supporting their plans to increase the moorlands’ resilience against climate change and widen their citizens’ programme to inspire more volunteers and communities to get involved. I hope that the EU sees the continued value of this project and commits the funding to make MoorLIFE 2020 a reality.