The economic advantages of Britain being a member of the European Union have always been pretty clear. The recent CBI report showing each household being, on average, £3000 a year better off as a result of the Single Market, has added to the evidence. If you then take into account the fact that three and a half million British jobs – at least 35,000 of them in Lincolnshire – are dependent on the EU, then it’s obvious that our interests lie in staying in Europe.
But what kind of Europe? Because it cannot just be a Europe that’s good for big business, it has to be a Europe with rights for people; as citizens, as employees, as consumers.
So I was pleased last week, as the European Parliament met in Strasbourg, that we voted overwhelmingly for new rights – this time for airline passengers.
Millions of people travel by air each year between the different countries of the EU – for holidays, for business, to see family and friends. Only with cross-border EU legislation can we actually ensure that this particular group of consumers have their rights protected.
What we agreed last week were new rights for passengers who have been denied boarding, been subject to long delays, and new rules to stop airlines avoiding paying compensation for delays by claiming the problem was outside their control.
As Britain is part of the EU, people in the UK are already covered by a range of rights when flying in Europe but at the moment only 2% of passengers who are entitled to compensation actually get it. That’s why we supported further improvements to the law, to protect passengers and make sure everyone knows what they’re entitled to.
Many passengers have come up against a brick wall when making a claim for compensation because the airlines argue they are not responsible for the delay or the cancellation of the flight, which is why we voted to make sure airlines no longer have any excuse.
We also supported changes to the compensation rules, which will mean passengers delayed by just three hours will be able to claim compensation, and we want to make sure that passengers who don’t use an outbound ticket are not prevented from using the return leg.
Parliament made its position clear last week, and there now has to be agreement with the European Council, which is made up of all EU governments.
I hope they will also take the side of the passenger. That will be another small part of the Europe that we want.
Column published in the Lincolnshire Echo 13.2.2014