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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Strasbourg Commentary Plenary Session March 11th - 14th 2013

Strasbourg Commentary Plenary Session March 11th - 14th 2013

Tuesday Votes on greenhouse gas emissions, consumer protection, the economy, gender and women's rights (esp in North Africa)

Wednesday and the Multiannual framework vote, ie the size of the EU budget. You will have seen in the press that Parliament voted to reject the planned cuts, we voted to support them. In the course of that the motion to have a secret ballot on it was rejected. But beware, it is not over yet and, even if the cuts remain we will still end up paying more than at present. We are one of the biggest contributors and its the small countries who will benefit. How will Cameron cover that one?

That was followed by 4 different reports on the CAP with a total of 800+ amendments. We were there for over two and a half hours in spite of calls to spread it over two days. The vote to return it to committee to cut it down to size were rejected by MEP vote. Ask yourself, how reliable is the voting on an issue like the CAP, which absorbs the greatest share of EU funding, after over 2 hours of concentrated voting?

The CAP voting was all concluded but there were other votes to come, in the course of which the president of the day called a short recess, turned to leave the platform and collapsed. Several doctors rushed to his aid and the ambulance took 30 minutes to get there. Not sure of the reason but it was either a heart attack or, some say, a stroke. Business halted and remaining votes put off until Thursday.

Thursday Any day always starts with comments from the president of the day and, believe it or not, no mention was made of the president who had collapsed in the course of duty on Wednesday. No progress report, nothing!

One of the votes was on "Integration of migrants..... social security coordination". It passed by 334 - 247 votes, not that anyone took any notice of my 2 minute speech on the previous evening. Video on my web site, and, just to illustrate how difficult it can be here,-

You may notice that I got the gavel for running over time allocated, 2 mins! That was partly due to altering my speech just before delivery. I was in the house to hear the rapporteur start the debate. Her address included a phrase, " if an Indian cannot get a job here he can always go to the US". Wonderful, my original script said that the prior claim for Bulgarians and Romanians over non- EU workers would act against members of our Commonwealth, to whom we owe a debt. So I took that out, replaced by the bit you will find.

You see, I was due to speak at 8.0 pm, the normal time for our weekly "Gadfly" dinner. That timing allowed me to speak and get to the restaurant, except that it did not. Speakers always run over time and, these days, there is the possibility of a "Blue card" question from the floor of the House. So I kept an eye on the electronic list on my office computer and, as 8.00 pm approached, my start time slipped to 8.30pm, to 9.00pm and, when, at 8.00 pm, the computer showed my start time to be 9.30 pm I left for the restaurant, having ordered a car to bring me back from dinner at 9.15pm.

I got the first course in, we are always late starting, warned the friendly restaurateur, and the car got me to the House by 9.30, spoke at about 9.50, left for the restaurant again and finished my dinner. Indigestion again!

All that illustrates that we have to be flexible, especially with regards to time of speaking. My delay on Tuesday was not unusual. That it caused me to eat dinner in two parts an hour apart will not have bothered the powers that be.

Derek Clark MEP Strasbourg March 14th 2013

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