With both Labour
and the Tories
split on Europe, the LibDems are the only party that can lead the campaign to stay in Europe that is so crucial to the future of our country. That’s why we are calling on businesses, organisations and individuals to show their support for continued British membership in a reformed EU. Business leaders have traditionally been wary of speaking out publicly, even though 73 per cent of them said that leaving the EU would damage Britain’s economy in a Captains of Industry poll
. I welcome the fact that Nissan
have already responded by stressing that it is essential for Britain to stay in Europe.
We should be in the EU because it’s best for our economy to keep the three million jobs and billions of pounds of investment linked to the European Single Market. I heard Business Secretary Vince Cable say just this at Haringey LibDems’ excellent dinner last night and as Nick said in his speech, it would be “economic suicide” for us to pull out. You can find out how many EU- dependent jobs there are in your area here.
We’re In Europe, In Work, so please sign up to support my campaign to protect jobs:http://www.sarahludfordmep.org.uk/jobs. You can express your support for Britain remaining in the EU at: http://www.amillionjobs.org/in_europe or by tweeting me@SarahLudfordMEP using the hashtag #whyiamIN. Please do!
Another reason for why we should be fully engaged in European cooperation is that it’s impossible for a single nation to deal with cross-border crime. This is why I have campaigned so strongly against Conservative plans for the UK to pull out of the European Arrest Warrant and Europol (despite the latter having a British Director). In July it was announced that, after heroic LibDem efforts the coalition government would, while exercising a mass ‘opt-out’ from over 130 European police cooperation measures, seek to opt back in to 35 of these including all of those regarded by senior police as key tools
in the fight against crime. (Yes the process is a complicated but what do you expect of something devised by Gordon Brown?!).
I regret that Tories are still dithering on Europol and the European Arrest Warrant despite a stern warning from the head of the new National Crime Agency to say committed to these essential crime-fighting instruments. Liberal Democrats believe that it’s vital that our police keep the tools they need to catch criminals and keep the public safe. Please sign my petition calling for the Government to continue working with our EU partners to fight crime: http://www.sarahludfordmep.org.uk/crimepetition.
It’s also important that people are guaranteed a fair trial. I have worked in this cause for many years, not only regarding EU cases but also concerning the ‘war on terror’ abuses of rendition, disappearances, torture and Guantanamo (on which I helped pass yet another EP resolution this week demanding full accountability, you can watch or read the debate). A new EU Directive that I worked on has now become law. It will guarantee people facing criminal proceedings within the EU the right to get assistance from a lawyer, from the time of arrest through to the conclusion of their case. (It does not cover who pays – legal aid – that’s for the future and will be a difficult negotiation.)
This ‘right to lawyer’ Directive is the third in a series of Directives protecting the basic rights of people facing criminal prosecution in the EU, following laws on interpretation and translation – which I helped to deliver as lead negotiator in the European Parliament – and on the right to get information on your rights if arrested. The UK can decide on all new justice measures whether it takes part, and I am hoping that there will be a positive decision on the ‘right to lawyer’ measure as there was on the first two. Our law already complies but there were a few questions about a good fit with the details of UK practice. I worked hard to solve these in negotiations and I am looking forward to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling agreeing.
This week LibDem MEPs today won a major victory for users of electronic cigarette, which although they deliver addictive nicotine are free of the tar and other elements which poison lungs. The European Parliament backed our amendment which will ensure e-cigs are available for sale on the same basis as tobacco cigarettes, and not over-regulated as medicines as the European Commission and the Labour MEP leading on the legislation wanted. This would have made them harder to buy than tobacco, which on any criterion of harm reduction was barmy. Every year 700,000 people in Europe die of smoking-related disease. Many of my constituents have written to tell me how they have quit tobacco by switching to e-cigs and the European Parliament vote will help more of them to do so. As an ex-smoker I’m proud to have helped secure that result. You can listen to my BBC world service interview at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01hts03
, starting 9.00 minutes in.
The publication of the Immigration Bill
has caused quite a stir, with the Conservatives set on creating a “hostile environment” for immigrants. Of course I believe that our immigration and asylum systems should be well-managed, and I am dismayed at 2 reports this week highlighting poor management, see here
. But hostile Tory rhetoric and gimmicks are no substitute for good management, they will just have a negative effect on the Britain’s efforts to attract skilled and talented people to this country and create problems of practicality.
The Home Secretary seems to want landlords, bank staff and even hospital workers to detect illegal immigrants to make up for the failings of those responsible for policing our borders. I welcome the fact that the LibDems have blocked a national roll-out of Theresa May’s plans for immigration checks by landlords on all tenants, so that instead the scheme must be piloted in one area before any decision over national implementation. LibDems were concerned that this policy may discriminate against people with a legitimate right to rent private accommodation and increase the burden of regulation on small businesses. It is also likely to move many illegal migrants into the black market and the hands of rogue landlords, which won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration. There is also a danger that the proposal for there to be a new assumption that appeals should only take place after deportations could not only infringe rights but also increase costs if people win their appeals and have to be flown back to the UK!
The good news is that the appointment of LibDem Norman Barker as the Home Office Minister apparently had Theresa May “spitting tacks”. I hope that Norman will be a strong liberal voice in his department and stop offensive and inflammatory policies like the infamous ‘Go Home’ vans. Instead, we want to see the coalition government to pursue sensible policies like the reintroduction of exit checks, so we know who is coming in and who is going out.
ETS reform crucial for green investment
My colleague Chris Davies MEP has asked the European Commission to push forward
the reform of the EU’s emissions trading system so that investors have real confidence in the future of green technologies. Chris’ work goes hand-in-hand with the efforts of London MP and Energy Secretary Ed Davey to meet the EU’s 2050 climate change objectives and promote the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Unfortunately, Green London Assembly Member Jenny Jones doesn’t seem to recognise the benefits of being in Europe for the environment, as she said that she wanted the UK to be out of the EU on the Daily Politics this week. This shows that those wanting a party that can deliver on its green credentials – which can only be realised through European and international cooperation – must vote Liberal Democrat.
Brit wins Physics Nobel Prize
I congratulate Peter Higgs
who, alongside his Belgian colleague François Englert, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the ‘Higgs boson’ – aka the ‘God particle’ – to explain why the most basic building blocks of the universe have mass. This further highlights the UK’s proud history in scientific innovation and research which Vince Cable is working hard to boost. The EU is helping, with funding through the new Horizon 2020
programme. Due to Liberal Democrat support this funding package will provide huge benefits
to our businesses and universities.
Malala Yousafzai wins EU’s Sakharov human rights prize
You may remember last week that I said that I would have my fingers crossed this Thursday for Malala Yousafzai to win EU’s Sakharov human rights prize for her bravery in standing up for women’s rights in Pakistan despite being subject to a horrid violent attack by the Taliban. I’m delighted to let you know that Malala, who now resides in Birmingham,won
! The Liberal group in the European Parliament (ALDE) nominated
Malala for the award. She is a true inspiration and has a bright future ahead of her.
City Hall transparency
As a Liberal Democrat committed to the highest standards of transparency, I was pleased to find out from my LibDem colleague on the London Assembly, Caroline Pidgeon, that City Hall has pledged
to implement all eight recommendations of a report on transparency published in June. This will allow for the release of all City Hall contracts and will be in line with the government’s recommended code of practice
LibDem membership increases
There was good news for the LibDems this week as new figures showed that our membership increased in the last quarter for the first time outside an election period for 13 years. This is in stark contrast to the Conservatives’ membership, which is falling
. Maybe this is because Liberal Democrats value our members who actually get to decide party policy in contrast to the other main parties. If you aren’t already a member, you can join here
Speaking of opportunities to make policy, our London regional conference is coming up on Thursday 24th October. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go as I will be in Washington talking to Congressmen about an EU-US free trade deal that would be worth £2 billion to London’s economy: high level talks in Brussels that were set to take place soon have regrettably been cancelled due to the US government shutdown, but Congress has its own budget!. Nevertheless there is a packed agenda at the London LibDem conference and it will be an important opportunity to make sure we’re ready for a crucial year in 2014, so please register here to attend.
Campaigning in Lambeth
Last Saturday I was out campaigning in Streatham with Lambeth Liberal Democrats for October’s regional action day. As usual our Euro-candidates were well-represented – Turhan Ozen and Rosina Robson are pictured with me. I look forward to the next regional action day, which is in Sutton on Saturday 2nd
November. Do grab the chance to get out on the doorsteps if you can, you might be surprised at how receptive voters now are. The policy we can perhaps be proudest of is the raising of the income tax threshold so that by next April low and middle earners will have had a £700 tax cut. Vince pioneered the policy for us in opposition and we’ve delivered it (unlike some people we could mention whose priority is looking after the rich…)
The Conservative party’s desire to sound “tough” on immigration is partly fuelled by the right-wing press eg the Daily Express report
that EU “crackpots” were going to ‘impose gypsy candidates’ on the British electorate and get ‘them’ into Parliament. UKIP MEP for London Gerald Batten duly responded that a plan for greater representation for minority groups in politics was ‘highly dangerous’. The story itself was in fact completely fabricated. The EU has no power whatsoever to intervene in how candidates for national elections are nominated. In fact, the policy in question – the European Framework for Roma inclusion – said nothing at all about political representation, let alone quotas as the Express claimed.