My Year in the European Parliament
Over the last Parliamentary year Labour MEPs have worked to support our communities, regions, industries and businesses. I have focussed my work particularly on supporting our most vulnerable communities. The North West is a diverse region, both geographically and culturally, which is one of its great strengths. My legislative work has centred upon ensuring that all of our region benefits from participating in Europe. Take a look at some of the key achievements from the past 12 months.
Energy Poverty Manifesto
As many of you know I have been doing a lot of work on tackling energy poverty. This year I presented the Socialists and Democrats Energy Poverty Manifesto – gaining overwhelming support. The manifesto aims to tackle the growing issue of energy poverty through the promotion of energy efficiency, targeting of individuals who are energy poor and fairer energy tariffs. You can read the manifesto here: http://goo.gl/XwBMSz
New Deal for Energy Consumers
I also authored the report ‘A New Deal for Energy Consumers’ – securing significant support among MEPs. The report calls on the EU to tackle energy poverty by putting people at the heart of the Energy Union and protecting citizens from unfair supplier practices. Recommendations include requesting suppliers to notify customers when cheaper tariffs exist, the end of termination fees when switching suppliers, fairer taxes for those who produce their own energy and guidelines urging the European Commission to prioritise energy poor people in energy legislation. You can read the report here: https://goo.gl/viYHI0
Emissions Trading System
Throughout the year I have worked closely with Labour MEPs on the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The EU ETS works on a ‘cap and trade’ principle – a ‘cap’ or limit is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by factories, power plants and other installations in the system. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions fall. Labour MEPs are determined to ensure that ETS is both sustainable and competitive for our industries. Learn more here: http://goo.gl/HmhFjZ
North Sea Grid and Renewables
In December, twenty MEPs (including myself) from five different political groups presented our manifesto to harness North Sea renewable energy. The manifesto not only aims to protect the environment, but encourage the development of high-tech industries, jobs, growth and innovation in the UK. Fundamentally, this is about eight countries coming together to make renewable energy and bring energy prices down. You can read the manifesto here: https://goo.gl/IC6MRR
Security of Gas Supply
Another piece of legislation I have been drafting is the EU Security of Gas Supply. About one quarter of all energy used in the EU is natural gas and many EU countries import (nearly) all of their supplies. Most of these countries are heavily reliant on a single source or a single transport route for their gas. Disruptions along this route caused by infrastructure failure or political disputes can endanger supplies. This is an ongoing file and I will update you during the new Parliamentary year.
Liquefied Natural Gas
I am also working on a strategy for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) – similar to Security of Gas Supply. The EU has a major opportunity to improve its energy security and its competitiveness due to the development of the global LNG market. Ensuring that all Member States have access to liquid gas markets and diversified sources of supply is a key objective of the EU’s Energy Union. However, it is important that LNG does not encourage the overuse of fossil fuels and complies with our collective climate objectives. Once again, this is an ongoing file and I will keep you posted.
Digital Single Market
Another key priority has been to end the digital divide throughout Europe. In the UK, Labour MEPs have made it our mission to provide high speed broadband for all our communities – especially those in rural areas – alongside equal access to e-health and skills, training and lifelong learning to ensure that young people and returners to work can access high quality jobs. We are currently waiting for new legislation to be proposed after the recess.
Trade and Investment Strategy (Save Our Steel)
Throughout the year, Labour MEPs have worked with steel workers, trade union representatives and Labour leaders to solve the on-going steel crisis. In March 2016, I authored the report ‘A New Forward-Looking and Innovative Future Strategy on Trade and Investment’. The report calls on the EU to prevent trading partners from unfairly undercutting European industries and outlines the disastrous effects anti-competitive practices are having on EU markets, including the dumping of steel into UK markets. It further actions the EU to prevent the granting of market economy status to China, one of the biggest contributors of dumping into EU markets. You can read the report in full here: http://goo.gl/W7XTJc
Solidarity Funds for Communities by Flooding
Another critical campaign was securing EU Solidarity Funds for the North West Region after flooding devastated communities in Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester. After months of sustained pressure and countless letters to the government – Cameron finally applied for EU Solidarity Funds. Labour MEPs and MPs welcomed the government’s belated application but warned that it must go directly to affected communities – we will continue to work with Labour leaders to ensure money goes into the right hands: http://goo.gl/QvlBFe
EU Referendum (What is next?)
The last couple of weeks have seen our political landscape change dramatically – with the UK voting to Leave the EU. Nonetheless, until the UK negotiates an exit from the European Union, it remains a member, and as Labour MEPs we will continue working to ensure our constituents are represented.
At the moment any future deal looks very uncertain. Leave campaigners have made several claims that we knew were unachievable – including £350 million for the NHS and access to the single market without free movement of people. As more and more promises come undone it has left many voters, both Remain and Leave, confused about our future post referendum.
In and amongst this deceit and uncertainty I want to make one thing clear – as long as I am your elected representative, I will endeavour to do whatever I can to support the North West and the UK. Labour MEPs will continue to protect employment and consumer rights, jobs and the economy, and security and safety. We will continue to take a stand on these issues and we will work to make sure our hard won rights are not lost.
Since the referendum I have been continuing to work on all the issues above, including giving a keynote speech to the Council of European Energy Regulators and Chairing an S&D workshop on Energy Market Design. We are still MEPs, and I am still your MEP and will continue to fight hard for you.
I have been holding meetings with local government leaders, businesses, trade unions, universities and the health sector to find the best way forward through Brexit – now more than ever we need devolved government that works. The North West has benefited hugely from being part of the EU, be that through structural funds, investment in research and innovation or access to the single market of 500 million people for our industries. I will work with key partners in the North West to try to get the best for our region.
Finally, I want to thank everyone that has supported Labour campaigns locally and nationally, to everyone that has supported my work at home and in the Parliament and to everyone that has worked tirelessly to create a fairer society through Labour values. It has been an incredibly busy year across the North West, with the local, Police & Crime Commissioner, Mayoral elections and then the EU Referendum. It has been a pleasure to meet members, activists and constituents from Carlisle to Crewe and to form firmer friendships around the region. Don’t forget, if you’d like me to come to your CLP or Labour Group to speak and listen – please get in touch.
The Parliament is now in recess and we will be back at the end of August to pick up where we left off. In the meantime, you can follow my work on Twitter, Facebook and my website.
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