Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Update from Catherine Bearder – Member of the European Parliament for South East England

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I hope you’ll be able to get a well-earned break with the double bank holiday weekend coming up.  Whether you are a republican or a monarchist, there can be no doubting that 60 years is certainly something worth celebrating, and I am really looking forward to seeing the flotilla on the Thames on Sunday (see below).  The weather isn’t looking fantastic unfortunately but I’m sure that won’t dampen the thousands of street parties and events planned!

I was asked recently about the ban on battery hens across the EU and whether UK farmers were losing out for following the rules.  I’m pleased to say there have been some positive developments and you can read more here.

Many of you will remember me writing about an amazing team of girls who rowed the Atlantic a few months ago to raise awareness of human trafficking and money for charities helping victims.  If you don’t know about them, then visit www.rowforfreedom.org to learn their amazing story.  I’ll be proudly watching on Sunday as they take their place in the Jubilee flotilla along the Thames! I’ll also be hosting them and others in Brussels next month to talk about human trafficking and the importance of countries working together and will let you know how it goes in the next newsletter.

Fight against elephant poachers has only just begun

This month I’ve spoken about how Europe must take the lead in wiping out the ivory industry as poachers continue to massacre Africa’s elephants.

The European Commission has vowed to fight gangs after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reported the death of 350 elephants in Cameroon since January.  It has admitted it is “very concerned” at figures which show elephant poaching and seizures of ivory have hit record highs.

But, as I told the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen, more must be done to stem the flow of ivory to China.

There is no doubt 2011 was the worst year for elephants since the 1989 international ivory trade ban came into force.  China is the largest destination for illegal ivory. We know where it is going and must do all we can to stop it.  The gangs will be forced to stop if there is no market, but – at the moment – their merciless cull is profitable. I am encouraged by the Commission’s response, but this is only the beginning.

I’m calling for a halt to further ivory sales until an independent impact assessment on elephant populations has been carried out following 2008’s legal sale of 107 tonnes to China and Japan.  The EU has spent 10 million Euros funding the Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) over the last ten years and said the next raft of funding is being considered.

It also said it intends to raise the issue of illegal ivory trade with countries such as China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.  Last month, I wrote to the President of the Republic of Cameroon to offer EU support following the elephant attacks in the Bouba N’jida National Park.  To many of us murdering elephants is unacceptable, but it is time we made sure the whole world understands the industry’s true impact.

Tory MEPs vote against narrowing gender pay gap

Tory MEPs have been criticised after this month voting against European Parliament proposals to tackle the pay gap between men and women.

The vote came after it emerged women in the UK still earn around 10 per cent less than their male colleagues for the same work.  The UK’s Office for National Statistics reported in 2011 the median gross earnings for full-time employees were £498-a-week.  However, men were bringing in £538-a-week compared to the £440 median full-time wage for women.

I, and all my Lib Dem colleagues, of course voted in favour of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work, or work of equal value. It is a complete disgrace that the work of women in the UK and across Europe remains so greatly undervalued.  And it is utterly shameful the Conservatives in the European Parliament voted against concrete proposals to tackle this persistent gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap varies between 4.4 per and 27.6 per cent across the European Union.  MEPs called for a Europe-wide strategy to address the problem by coordinating policies and involving businesses, as well as other relevant non-governmental organisations. Reversing a centuries old trend which has seen women struggle for parity with men in the workplace is difficult.  Economies across Europe are feeling the pinch, but we must not allow this to be a reason for shelving the gender pay problem.

South East beaches fit for the summer holidays

Families can head to the seaside in the South East with peace of mind this summer!

The latest European Environment Agency (EAA) and European Commission Bathing Water Report has analysed 22,000 locations around the EU.  And the brilliant news is that it has given a clean bill of health to almost all the South East’s beaches!

The standard of beaches in the UK and the South East has improved immeasurably.  We understand the importance of looking after our shorelines for the environment, as well as for the economies of our seaside towns.  The South East is leading the way when it comes to keeping Europe’s beaches clean, tidy and safe to use.

Bathing water in Europe needs to comply with standards set in the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive, which must be implemented by December 2014.  However, Margate’s Walpole Bay beach failed to pass the grade, despite the town boasting a series of blue flags for its other seaside spots.

I’ve written to Kent County Council, which is responsible for making sure water quality is improved at beaches in the area as I’m really concerned this particular Margate beach is failing to meet the standards set down by the EU in 2011. This seems to be a blip affecting one beach in the area and hopefully it’ll be up to scratch very soon.  In the meantime, I hope you get the chance (and the weather) to enjoy our lovely beaches over the bank holiday weekend.

This Month’s Euromyth

This story was reported in the Daily Mail recently.

“EU law means UK hospitals have to employ people who do not speak English”

This story has appeared in many forms over the last year or so and I think it’s important to set the record straight!

There is nothing in EU law that prevents the UK from checking the language skills of doctors and nurses from elsewhere in the EU.

There is no “new Brussels Directive against language checks”.  Instead, proposed revisions to EU rules will make even clearer that all EU-qualified health professionals can be subject to checks before they take up a post.  Far from EU law “taking precedence” over the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans to reinforce such checks, the European Commission has welcomed those plans.

Hopefully this mistake won’t be printed again, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  If you see this Euromyth, or any other story that you might suspect, in print then let me know.

For more myth-busting, have a look at the Euromyth section on my website. Hopefully our responses to these myths will help all of you if you’re challenged about them in a heated European debate!

Cheaper European mobile phone use this summer

Making a call or sending a text while on holiday or business in an EU country is set to become cheaper this summer.

MEPs voted this month for a cut in the price companies can bill customers for calls and texts, while also rubberstamping a maximum fee for data usage.  The move will prevent any nasty surprises when people return home and open their phone bills!

Mobile phone companies have been able to get away with, frankly, rip off charges for far too long in my opinion.  The costs make it prohibitive to use a phone or tablet while in the EU, and the tariffs cause confusion for customers.  However, MEPs and national Governments struck a deal that has been rubberstamped which will see costs reduced from Sunday, July 1.

It means the cost of making a call will be limited to 23p per minute, sending a text will cost 7p and data will be pegged at 56p per megabyte. At the moment, the top charge for making a call is around 28p, sending a text is about 8p and there is no cap on what firms can charge for data.

But the aim is by 2014 operators will not be able to charge more than 15p for making a call, 5p for sending text and 16p for a megabyte of data.