Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

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

We’re still digesting results from last night and I know they leave us with a mixed picture with winners and losers both.  In Portsmouth and Eastleigh the voters clearly trust Lib Dems to run their councils and the results have shown that, allowing them to grow.  However, the greatest shame of being in a mid-term government getting a kicking is all the excellent councillors we have lost. I’ve tried to get round to see as many of you campaigning as I could over the last few weeks and the thing that most strikes me is how good Lib Dem action continues.  The work is still being done, we will always be a party that can only survive and grow through the work of committed local activists.

Sometimes, no matter how much work you put in, the result doesn’t go your way (I know this as well as anyone through my own career!), but the work doesn’t, and can’t, stop.  It’s more important than ever that we have strong teams of Lib Dems standing up for their communities and fighting for the ideals that we all share.

I have now had all of our freedom of information requests back for our Don’t Rubbish Our Recycling campaign and have put together campaign packs based on the county and in some cases district figures that we’ve discovered.  If you’re interested in learning how this campaign could be used in your area then email info@bearder.eu.  You can find out more information about the campaign here.

Is Your Council Barking Up the right Tree?

This month, I’ve been urging councils across the South East to chop down on the amount of illegal timber they use.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has ranked all councils in the UK based on their timber policies. This was as we in the parliament voted in favour of two agreements with Liberia and Central African Republic (CAR) to stop illegally felled timber from entering the EU.

Illegal logging is a major reason behind deforestation claiming 350 to 650 million cubic metres of woodland every year and local authorities buy a wide range of wood products every year from building materials to toilet paper. The picture on the left is me at a busy (but illegal) timber market in Cameroon.

We need all councils in the region to review their timber and paper policies.  Illegal logging has caused major damage to previously untouched swathes of tropical forests.  A great deal of work has been done at EU level to stop this happening. Now I want to see more councils ensuring they are careful about where they get their paper and timber products.

The public sector is thought to account for up to 40 per cent of all wood products entering the UK market.  And, it is estimated 10 per cent of wood products entering the UK from outside Europe come from illegal sources.

But, from March next year, because of EU Timber Regulation, all illegally harvested timber and timber products in the UK will banned.  People are starting to ask for proof that products come from a legal and sustainable source. Maybe this will make councils think more carefully.  See how your council did in the WWF report here.

Lib Dem MEPs kill ACTA

After careful consideration, Lib Dem MEPs have decided to reject the controversial and much debated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the European Parliament. There is now a majority in the Parliament that will reject the ratification of this treaty originally designed to establish international standards for intellectual property rights.

In principle, Lib Dems support the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the fight against counterfeiting – in particular when it comes to dangerous counterfeit medicines, electronics and toys. But we are also champions of fundamental rights and freedoms and we must weigh up carefully between the need to protect property rights and our knowledge-based economy and these fundamental freedoms.

ACTA falls short in both regards. On the one hand, it is ‘an anti-counterfeiting agreement without the counterfeiters’ as countries such as China, which is a major source of counterfeit products, have not signed up to it. This undermines the entire creditability of ACTA and demonstrates that it cannot achieve its aim to combat global counterfeiting. At the same time, ACTA poses serious risks to the fundamental rights of people in the UK and EU in its provisions on digital goods and obligations on internet service providers.

Without the support of the Liberal and Democrat Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament, ACTA is dead in the water. We now need to get back to the drawing board to find a more suitable multilateral solution to protect IPRs and safeguard consumers from harmful products.  This is not an issue that’s going away!

Sweet deal to combat child slavery

A positive step in the fight against slavery in the cocoa industry was taken this month.  Child labour and slavery will be wiped out at cocoa farms used by Ferrero within the next eight years.

Ferrero are one of the really big player’s in the chocolate industry and their stand follows anti-slavery moves by Nestle and Hershey.

The Italian firm, which produces Ferrero Rocher, Nutella spread and Kinder eggs, said it will eradicate child and forced labour on plantations by 2020.

This is good news but I expect you’ll agree with me that 2020 is a long way off! I will be keeping a close eye on progress the company makes. There are still thousands of children working on plantations and that is unacceptable.

While the companies are getting their act together to eradicate child and slave labour from the cocoa plantations (75% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa and there are an estimated 200,000 children working on the plantations) we can all play our part to put a bit of financial pressure on them and the shops that stock their products.

You can be sure that fair trade chocolate has not been made using slave labour so look out for that and if you can’t find it in your local shop, ask!

This Month’s Euromyth

This story was reported in several newspapers last month.

“Barmy EU to ban stylist’s ring & heels”

Recent press coverage on “EU’s high heel ban for salon staff” and “Barmy EU to ban stylist’s ring & heels” are misleading and reports of a new health and safety directive are untrue.

What lies behind the “hair-raising” headlines is an initiative by salon owners and hairdressers to help better protect the health and safety of all those working in the industry in the EU.

The draft agreement builds upon existing national best practices and existing regulations in member states. Such as the current HSE guidelines on the provision of gloves. It will mean little change for those hairdressers – salon owners and workers – who already follow the law and health and safety guidance.

Scientific evidence shows hairdressers are exposed to a high risk of occupational disease, such as muscular-skeletal disorders and skin diseases in particular. Failure to adequately address health risks lead to increased absenteeism and early retirement from the profession.

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!

Save the Bees

This month, I backed a petition making a call to the biggest producer of neonicotinoid pesticides to stop production until and unless new independent scientific studies prove they are safe.

I’ve spoken before about how the catastrophic demise of bee colonies could put our whole food chain in danger and billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But, if Bayer stops selling one group of pesticides, we could save bees from extinction.

Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. But Bayer, the largest producer, has lobbied hard to keep them on the market.

The petition aimed to influence the Bayer shareholders before their meeting last month but unfortunately they still voted to keep selling neonicotinoid pesticides.  However the fight doesn’t end there and once a million signatures are reached (they’re nearly there so you could be the one to push it over!) they will deliver the petition to the board.

You can sign the petition here and please do forward this to anyone you feel might be interested.

I will be keeping these newsletters coming out regularly to keep you all up to date with my work in the European parliament and the region but if there’s anything you want to see in these pages or any issues or problems you feel I should be looking at then don’t hesitate to contact me at catherine@bearder.eu.  My Lib Dem colleague in the European Parliament, Sharon Bowles has now started her own monthly newsletter and you can sign up by visiting her website at www.sharonbowles.org.uk

With best wishes,

Catherine Bearder

Member of the European Parliament for South East England