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..working towards the divorce of the UK and the EU...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Plenary Session Strasbourg 22nd - 23rd & 25th -26th Oct 2012

Plenary Session            Strasbourg                22nd - 23rd & 25th -26th Oct 2012 
If this seems a rather strange heading well, it was a strange week. You see, Strasbourg is normally a matter of 12 weeks (Mon - Thurs) once a month. This is by order of the treaty and now enshrined in law. Parliament being in recess for August poses a problem in accommodating the 12 monthly sessions, solved by having two sessions in Sept. But some MEPs dislike travelling twice in the month to Strasbourg, esp we Brits, there being no airline to carry us in one hop from anywhere in then UK. So a gallant Tory, Ashley Fox came up with the solution. Let’s have two in one week, Monday & Tuesday then Thursday & Friday, each to be officially two sessions, thus satisfying the law.
So it came to pass, and here I am on Friday afternoon, at 3.30pm, writing this, when I usually do it on Thursday. Do I like the arrangement? As a result I get home at 11.30 pm tonight, if I'm lucky, because I stayed for all the votes this lunchtime, which is more than many MEPs did. Actually, I think I'd rather get home on Thursday, leaving Friday clear; the extra week is not really material.
In any case, would you believe, this week has gone ahead but the Court is still considering the issue. So the whole thing could be thrown out, after letting it happen once, and revert to normal. That could not possibly be the reason for the lop-sided voting lists of this week of two sessions could it? Perish the thought, but see next para.
There are 760 MEPs and today's voting record shows that there were up to 540 voting today. Earlier in the week the figures are 650 plus. Draw your own conclusions.
All this is compounded by the collapse of the ceiling of the Brussels debating chamber; you have probably read about this in the press. The same thing happened in Strasbourg two years ago. Wonderful! I mean, there we have St Paul's Cathedral, completed in 1710 and still in one piece, with numerous other examples of the same era to be seen across Europe, none of them built of reinforced concrete, steel skeletons & stainless steel, and not a JCB in sight.
 Because of this modernistic jerry building, closing the debating chamber in Brussels, the Conference of Presidents (!) decided to transfer as much business as possible to Strasbourg. So we had extra voting this week. Why not, after all that's what we are paid for. So why did they not spread it out during the week?  Sorry, I mean over the two official sessions of this week. What they actually did was to have two long voting sessions on Tuesday, one in the morning (ie coming up to lunch-time), the other in the evening, ie at 6.00 pm. (There is never a vote on Monday because it is so difficult getting to Strasbourg that hardly anyone is there before 5.00/ 6.00pm.) We then had more votes on Thursday, when the attendance was similar to Tuesday, and on Friday, with the figures shown above.
The Friday attendance was not just because of the day but also reflects interest in the topics. Let me bore you with Friday's list; "Human rights in the United Arab Emirates, Discrimination against girls in Pakistan, situation in Cambodia, Energy efficient labelling programs for office equipment, Markets in financial instruments, (2 versions), 2012 priorities, EU- Russia trade, elections in Belarus, elections in Georgia.
Of the rest of voting two items stand out. On Thursday we voted on the Bauer report. This was adopted by 596 - 56 and so paves the way for the compulsory giving of aid in other countries to those who require it. That's always been the case, but by the British consulate aiding a British passport holder, ditto French consulate helping French people as son on. This report makes it compulsory for the UK embassy or consulate to help EU citizens, whether UK or not. The same will apply across the EU range of member states. Think about it.
The other report of note was to vote on the budget. There were 113 budget lines to vote on, although some were taken out as superfluous, when the previous one was adopted. Among these there were16 lines showing a decrease, 6 were adopted and 5 were overtaken by the previous vote, noted above, the rest were outvoted.
Cue David Cameron. Remember, he is in favour of our continued membership of the EU, he keeps on saying so. That means, as a democrat, that he holds the EU to be democratic. Well, we all have our own views on that but there is one certain aspect of this. The European Parliament is composed exclusively of elected members, including your humble servant. But D. Cameron is to try to reduce the budget, with increases, which has just been voted in by the European Parliament, the only democratic element of the EU!

Derek Clark    MEP                                     Strasbourg  26thOct 2012.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Strasbourg Commentary Employment Committee 8th/9th October 2012

Monday In order to cope with growing anti- EU feeling, I suppose, the
president of the committee suggested that the EU should use a "Green
Card". In this National governments would be invited to ask the Commission
to propose Regulations and Directives of their choice, to turn it all on
its head. What would D. Cameron make of that?

At least we might get something original. I have remarked before that the
same old plans keep on getting trotted out, especially on coping with the
financial crisis. Well, this week we had a debate on "Erasmus for All".
This is a long standing program and it is now suggested that several other
similar programs be rolled into it, at a cost of 19.1 billion Euros!
Comments for its content included,-

adult learning, apprenticeships, like-long learning, adult learners, youth
employment schemes, adult citizenship, youth forums, youth work, training
at all levels, sport, vocational education, visits.  Anything new there?

In a debate on the financial situation it emerged that members were very
worried, -there is s serious social situation developing! Nothing is being
done, could have told them that, but better that they say it for
themselves. Likewise the remark by a senior member that 80% of people say
we are wrong, we must do something about it!

At the end of the day the debate was on, "...exposure of workers to risks
from physics agents". By which they mean electromagnetic fields, why they
can not say so is beyond me. This includes MRI scanning but at first
attempt, in 2005, they set exposure limits so low that MRI scanning would
stop. Fortunately, they invited experts from two London Hospitals, St
Thomas and Barts, to address the committee. These two managed to convince
the committee to revise their ideas. It was debated again a few months ago
when all seemed well, but I still contacted the London experts. As a
result Dr Keevil of Kings College, a St Thomas consultant, kindly made
time to see me, when in Brussels with other experts. He gave a guarded OK
to the revised document.  I'm glad of that because more amendments have
now appeared which foul it up again. Hence my contribution of today, on my
web site soonest. If that appears rushed it is because this was the last
item of the day, we were well over time, the translators were beyond their
hours of duty, so we all had to be very brief.

Tuesday A long voting session, scheduled for 2 hours, completed with half
an hour to spare. Included no less than 8 awards of money under the
Globalisation Adjustment Fund, all nodded through without comment. The GAF
is used to help displaced workers to re-train and find new work when a
company closes. Never anything for a UK situation, but then, its up to the
government of the country concerned to claim.

The Erasmus project was voted in, of course, 40 votes to 1.

The vote on the "Economic and Monetary Union" report, commented on above,
came out at 27 - 16, a very unconvincing "yes", given the usual majorities

If anyone queries the length of time to vote on these reports please
realise that after the GAF awards there were 6 more reports each
containing multiple amendments, up to 170 or more, all of which require a

Finally, you will see my letters to the papers on my web site. One of my
recent letters was quoted in part by the Derby Telegraph, extract below.
It all helps.

Derek Clark   MEP                               Brussels 9th Oct 2012

MEPs locally  6th Oct 2012

RAILWAYS - Euro MP calls for review of rail contract decision (Derby
Evening Telegraph, 6/10/2012, p.6): "A EURO MP has become the latest to
demand the Government looks again at its decision not to award Derby
train-maker Bombardier a lucrative contract following the recent furore
over its handling of the bidding process for the West Coast Main Line rail
franchise. (...) Derek Clark, UK Independence Party MEP, said: "This is a
public procurement situation echoing the mismanagement of Thameslink.
"That contract should have gone to Bombardier of Derby not Siemens of
Germany. (...) "Once again, straightforward British bidding has lost out
to EU smoke and mirrors so our operators or manufacturers don't get a look