Welcome to my seasonal newsletter series. This is where you can read about just some of the work I have been up to as an MEP in both the European Parliament and around the North West of England. As you can see from these newsletters, I regularly attend local events and meet many different groups in the North West region, so feel free to contact me if you would like me to attend an upcoming event.
News Articles31 Dec 2018. S&D welcomes EU limit on industrial transfats in food across Europe
S&D welcomes EU limit on industrial transfats in food across Europe
The European Council has approved legislation to introduce an EU-wide legal limit on the use of industrially produced transfats in foods. This policy, advocated by S&D, requested by the European Parliament and proposed by the European Commission two years ago, will reduce the public health burden of transfats in Europe.
On 7th December 2018, the European Council adopted a piece of legislation that will restrict transfat content to a maximum of 2 grams per 100 grams of fat in food intended for the final consumer. The EuropeanCommission concluded this to be the optimal policy and transfat limit for the protection of public health based on its impact assessment.
Food manufacturers have used artificial transfats or trans fatty acids (TFAs) for commercial benefits such as increased shelf life since 1911.1 However, since the early 1990s research has shown a causal relationship between transfat consumption and health risks, including cardiovascular diseases, infertility, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and obesity.1,2
S&D alongside other public health advocates have called for transfat limits for many years1,2 and have worked with the Commission to provide expert advice for its impact assessment, including the adopted 2% transfat limit.3 While many EU countries, including Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway have already introduced legal limits, other have not. The EU-wide transfat limit would ensure that all countries take this measure to protect public health. S&D therefore welcomes the Council’s decision for member states to accept the legal transfat limit in foods. The decision of the Council to adopt this European Parliament resolution on transfats will likely be passed by the European Parliament in the next two months. The subsequent implementation of this EU regulation should improve the nutritional intake of people in Europe, which would improve health outcomes across Europe, including for a range of gastroenterology-related indicators.
- Brownell, K.D. and Pomeranz, J.L., 2014. The trans-fat ban—food regulation and long-term health. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(19), pp.1773-1775. Available at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1314072 Last accessed: 31 December 2018
- EPHA. 2017. Declaration of support I Romanian Bill on trans fats. European Public Health Alliance. Available at: https://epha.org/declaration-of-support-i-romanian-bill-on-trans-fats/ Last accessed: 31 December 2018.
- EPHA. 2016. EPHA Response to Inception Impact Assessment on Trans Fats. European Public Health Alliance. Available at: https://epha.org/epha-response-to-inception-impact-assessment-on-trans-fats/ Last accessed: 31 December 2018.
Fighting to end energy poverty in the EU
Article for a new book ‘Women in Energy’ by the Womens Energy Club at the invitation of Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP).
Energy poverty is one of the major inequalities in today’s society and one that I have fought tirelessly to bring to the forefront of European energy policy. Currently, more than 50 million people in Europe cannot afford to pay their energy bill. In the UK, more than one in ten households suffer from energy poverty and, in more deprived regions, such as the North West of England, which I represent, this figure is even higher. Indeed, Liverpool, the city I live in, has the highest energy poverty levels of all local authorities, with 17% of households in energy poverty.
Women are also more vulnerable to energy poverty as elderly women and children are the most vulnerable to poor health from inadequate living temperatures, and women tend to be poorer due to the gender pay and pension gap. This is a serious concern for women across Europe, from the single low-paid mother who has to choose between feeding her children and paying for their heating bill, to the Maltese or Spanish women pensioners who cannot afford to turn on their air conditioning in the summer.
In 2016, the S&D group in the European Parliament, to which I belong as a Labour MEP, spearheaded a manifesto with three main dimensions of recommendations to address the issues of energy poverty:
- Establishing an EU framework dedicated to fighting energy poverty;
- Targeting energy efficiency measures on energy poor citizens, and
- Improving retail market conditions to support energy-poor citizens.
This year we witnessed the official launch of the EU Energy Poverty Observatory, whose objective is to understand the causes of energy poverty, to collate relevant data, and most importantly, to make recommendations on how we tackle this issue as a social ill in its own right. In my own committee, the Industry, Research and Energy committee, my fellow S&D MEPs and I have succeeded in creating an EU framework for energy poverty, including the Actions in low income households to improve energy efficiency through visits and energy diagnosis (ACHIEVE) EU framework programme. We have also succeeded in improving the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive, reducing energy costs and, therefore, energy poverty. For example, we now have a minimum EU binding target of 32.5% energy efficiency by 2030 and Member States need to make social provisions to alleviate energy poverty when designing policy measures aimed at achieving energy savings. This is a great accomplishment because we know that for every 1% increase in energy efficiency, 3 million homes can be renovated and 7 million people lifted out of energy poverty. For the first time fighting energy poverty is enshrined in EU law! We have also passed EU legislation that makes it more difficult for energy suppliers to shift people onto expensive default renewal contracts. This will protect vulnerable citizens, including women, and help to reduce the number of people falling into energy poverty across Europe, because in 2019, no one should have to choose between eating, heating or cooling!
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today and energy poverty is one of the major inequalities that persists in today’s society. A ‘Just Transition’ to a Clean Energy Economy is one that moves towards a carbon neutral economy without leaving anyone behind. This includes ensuring that fuel poverty is reduced during the transition so that all people living in Europe can benefit from clean energy.
More than 50 million people in Europe cannot afford to pay for their energy bill. In my own country more than one in ten households suffer from energy poverty and in more deprived regions this figure is higher, such as in the region of North West England that I represent. Indeed the city I live in, Liverpool, has the highest energy poverty levels of all Local Authorities, with 17% of households in energy poverty. Fuel poverty can have a detrimental effect on people’s health and wellbeing. The UK has the second-worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe, 32% of which are attributable to energy poverty and cold homes.
Not only is there an income inequality in fuel poverty, but there is also a gender inequality. Elderly women and children are the most vulnerable to poor health from inadequate living temperatures. As women tend to be poorer due to the gender pay (16%) and pension (37%) gap, they are more likely to experience energy poverty. Elderly women and single mothers with children are therefore the most vulnerable to energy poverty and the fact that women live longer and are more likely than men to be single parents further exacerbates this gender inequality. Energy poverty is a serious concern for women across Europe, from the single low paid mother that has to choose between feeding her children and paying for their heating bill in a cold English winter, to the Maltese women pensioner who simply cannot afford to turn on her air conditioning in summer. As a Labour MEP, I fundamentally believe that no one should have to make the choice between heating/cooling and eating!
To address the issues of climate change and energy poverty, the European Commission produced a Clean Energy for All Europeans package in 2015, with the three key priorities; putting energy efficiency first, achieving global leadership in renewable energies, and providing a fair deal for consumers. In 2016 the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament adopted manifestos on climate action and energy poverty in line with our Labour views. As a member of the Industry, Research and Energy committee in the European Parliament I have worked with my S&D colleagues to build a progressive majority in the European Parliament to demand the European Council and Commission endorse progressive improvements to this Clean Energy for All Europeans package that will better deliver on a Just Transition to a carbon neutral economy that benefits all citizens in Europe.
The political trialogue negotiations on the Clean Energy for All Europeans package have now been concluded with the new rules having been provisionally agreed by negotiators from the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission. My fellow Labour S&D MEPs and I have succeeded in passing policies that will deliver a Just Transition, with the EU institutions agreeing to strengthen the EU’s climate targets for CO2 reduction, energy efficiency and renewable energy. They have passed EU legislation that reduce energy costs and therefore energy poverty. Under the new package, EU member states must develop ten-year Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) to meet the EU 2030 climate and energy targets, including using 32% renewable energy and achieving 32.5% energy efficiency by 2030. Member states are required to report their levels of fuel poverty and, where these levels are significant, they must set energy poverty reduction objectives. They must also make social provisions to take into account the need to alleviate energy poverty when designing policy measures aimed at achieving energy savings. We have also managed to get passed EU legislation that makes it more difficult for energy suppliers to shift people onto expensive default renewal contracts. Further, S&D have supported the creation of an EU framework for energy poverty, including the ACtions in low income Households to Improve energy efficiency through Visits and Energy diagnosis (ACHIEVE) EU framework programme. Not only will these measures increase the rate of Europe’s Just Transition to a net-zero emission economy by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement, but they will also protect vulnerable citizens and help to reduce the number of people falling into energy poverty across Europe whilst paving the way for a Clean Energy Economy. This will greatly benefit the millions of people suffering from energy poverty across Europe, which will particularly help the communities that currently have high levels of energy poverty, including my hometown of Liverpool.
The S&D have succeeded in setting the EU on the right track towards achieving a Just Transition to a sustainable carbon neural energy sector in which people in Europe have access to affordable, secure and sustainable energy. This Just Transition will ensure that all Europeans benefit from increased climate action without leaving anyone behind. As the US withdraws from its climate commitments, Europe is leading the way towards a carbon neutral future without fuel poverty where consumers get a fair deal for their energy. The S&D party will ensure that this Just Transition is achieved in line with the targets it has set in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package.
Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive
There exists a large ‘value gap’ in the digital market in the UK and across Europe. The ‘value gap’ is the large discrepancy between the value of digital platforms and the proportion of their revenue that is returned to the market through remuneration to rightholders. The value gap has been generated by online user upload video streaming services, particularly YouTube, free riding ‘safe harbour’ online liability privilege laws to exploit rightholders in order to accumulate extravagant levels of wealth. They claim to have special privileges and that they are not obliged to fairly pay rightholders for content uploaded and published on their platforms. This is in clearly opposition to the Labour values of fairness and market sustainability. Labour supports the principle of reducing value gaps in an economy, whether it is the gender pay gap, NHS funding gap or the revenue-remuneration value gap in the digital market.
The exploitation of rightholders has enabled privileged video streaming platforms to grow rich. They have the largest on-demand music audience in the world, with over 1.3 billion users, but some of the lowest levels of rightholder remuneration (US $856 million; Fig 1). Conversely, audio subscription services without safe harbour privileges, have a user base of only 272 million collectively and lower revenues, yet they return far more of to their revenues to rightholders (US $5.6 billion; Fig 1). Privileged platforms, such as YouTube, have an unfair competitive advantage over fairly licensed platforms, such as Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer and Apple Music, yet it returns considerably less revenue per user to the market (US $1 annual revenue per user), than the fairly licensed platforms (e.g. Spotify paid record companies US $20 annual revenue per user; Fig 1). This threatens the sustainability of the digital market. With ever growing streaming revenues (Fig 1), the value gap will continue to grow wider. There is an urgent need to address this is. This abuse of rightholders and the market cannot be allowed to stand any longer.
Figure 1. Statistics on the global use of and revenues from audio and visual streaming.
Source: International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Global Music Report 2018.
This is especially true in Europe and the UK. The UK is one of the countries in the EU with the highest proportion of people who regularly use the internet (Fig 2). The UK has one of the largest digital markets in Europe, alongside Germany and France, and has the second greatest growth in streaming revenue (41.1%), just behind that of Germany (46.2%). The UK also has one of the largest recorded music markets in Europe, alongside Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden. In Europe in 2017 there was a 30.3% rise in streaming and paid subscription audio streaming (including YouTube) accounted for 70% of total digital revenues.
Figure 2. Proportion (%) of all individuals who were regular internet users (accessed the internet on average at least once per week) in the three months prior to the survey, by NUT 2 regions, 2016.
Source: Eurostat 2016.
Reducing the ‘value gap’ in the European Digital Single Market is one of the key aims of the EU Copyright Directive that was proposed by the European Commission in 2016. The Copyright Directive will ensure a fair remuneration in the digital market in the UK and Europe, with rightholders being paid fairly by large platforms. This will increase the level of fairness and sustainability in the digital market.
Over 150 artists have called on MEPs to vote in favour of the Copyright Directive and Article 13 in order to solving the value gap. Many other key people in the creative digital industry have also voiced their support for the Copyright Directive, particularly Article 13, which would reduce the value gap:
Google is “behaving like a corporate vulture feeding off the creators and investors who generate the music content shared by hundreds of millions on YouTube”. (Michael Dugher, UK Music CEO)
“Unfortunately, the value gap jeopardizes the music ecosystem. We need an Internet that is fair and sustainable for all. But today some User Upload Content platforms refuse to compensate artists and all music creators fairly for their work, while they exploit it for their own profit. … The proposed Copyright Directive and its Article 13 would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans and digital music services alike.” (Sir Paul McCartney)
As a UK Labour Member of the European Parliament on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee that has been working on improving the laws of the Digital Single Market, I fully support this Directive. Unfortunately, in July 2018 the Copyright Directive was rejected by 318 votes to 278, with 31 abstentions. I have worked hard since then to garner support for this Directive to reduce the value gap. Today I voted in favour of the Copyright Directive in the European Parliament and it was accepted by 438 votes to 226, with 39 abstentions. We can now look forward to a future with fair rightholder remuneration, fair competition and a more sustainable digital market.
The UK must strive to exceed new climate targets post-Brexit
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. The International Panel on Climate Change has warned that the world has 12 years to limit climate change to avoid a catastrophe. In response to this mounting challenge, the European Commission produced a Clean Energy for All Europeans Package in 2015, with the three key priorities; putting energy efficiency first; achieving global leadership in renewable energies; and providing a fair deal for consumers.
The EU has now passed its Clean Energy Package the set out targets for Member States to strengthen their commitments to climate action. Th Clean Energy Package will reduction CO2 and GHG emissions, increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. It will increase consumers’ access to secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy.
Under the Clean Energy Package EU countries must develop ten-year Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) to meet the EU 2030 climate and energy targets, including using 32% renewable energy by 2030. These measures will increase the rate of Europe’s just transition to a net-zero emission economy by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement. It will also help to tackle fuel poverty. Under the new Governance of the Energy Union regulation, EU countries are required to report their levels of fuel poverty and where these levels are significant they must set energy poverty reduction objectives. This would greatly benefit the millions of Brits suffering from energy poverty. Europe is leading the way towards a carbon neutral future without fuel poverty where consumers get a fair deal for their energy. The EU’s new energy package protects citizens and the environment. The UK government must not fail to uphold these commitments. The energy targets set under the EU’s Clean Energy Package are a minimum requirement, not an ambitious target and the UK must strive to achieve progress above and beyond these targets if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe.
UK creative industries set to lose funding post-Brexit
It has become irrefutably apparent as the government’s Brexit talks plunge into ever greater farcical turmoil that Brexit will be leave citizens, businesses and other stakeholders from all industries across the UK worse off. This is especially true for the UK’s creative industries which will face a £8.4bn funding gap post-Brexit.
Already worth £91.8bn to the UK economy, more than oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and life sciences combined, the creative industries are growing at twice the rate of and creating jobs four times as quickly as the wider economy, with 95% of the UK’s creative businesses employing fewer than 10 people. They account for nearly 10% of all UK service exports. Given this, a threat to the creative industries is a threat to jobs and economic growth across the UK.
Our creative industries currently benefit from a range of EU funding schemes, such as the €1.5bn Creative Europe fund that supports the performing and visual arts and audiovisual sectors, and the over €450bn European Structural and Investment Funds that support infrastructure and job creation. The UK is also a net beneficiary of the €79bn Horizon 2020 research fund which makes up a quarter of all public investment in UK research and has enabled the UK to be a world leader in research. The UK economy profits from the European Investment Fund (EIF) through its support of banks and funds to offer loans to SMEs, which make up 89% of all creative businesses and create jobs and fuel innovation, driving economic growth and international competitiveness. Perhaps the fund for whose loss would be the most unjust is the Erasmus+ fund. Millions of young people have benefited from receiving Erasmus+ funding for education, training and youth opportunities, including university exchange programmes. Now many young people who were too young to vote at the time of the referendum are watching as a government that claims to provide opportunities, threatens to remove this source of EU funding that is vital for their future opportunities.
Not only would leaving the EU jeopardise these funding streams, but the loss of free movement and reduction in professionals applying to work in the UK would be detrimental to well established European networks and collaborations that underpin the success of the UK’s creative industries and thereby UK jobs and economic growth. The government champions a new immigration policy of accepting only high skilled workers into the UK, yet its disregard for the creative sectors is putting off many high skilled European workers from working in or with the UK and its creative industries and is stalling the progress of important existing EU-UK collaborations.
The UK government plans to replace EU structural funds with a UK Shared Prosperity Fund; however, as it plans to finance this though a “Brexit divided” that will never exist, the economy will likely suffer a £8.4bn shortfall. They have also considered paying for continued access to some schemes, such as Creative Europe and Horizon 2020; however, the UK would do so as a third country that cannot lead on collaborative projects and cross-border projects would be severely limited without freedom of movement. Moreover, as strong international networks and plans to increase cross-border collaboration are key criteria for Creative Europe, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ funding, UK companies could find it increasingly difficult to compete for these grants. This would reduce UK businesses access to new innovations, expertise and markets, again reducing opportunities. Remaining in the single market or ideally within the EU would prevent all of these problems, yet the government has failed to find a workable Brexit deal that maintains the full single market access that the creative industries needs and is refusing to allow a People’s Vote of the final deal. The final deal is likely to make the creative and many other industries worse off. This is why I support the People’s Vote campaign to allow the people a final say on the Tory government’s Brexit deal, with status quo full EU membership as the alternative. Over the next two month we will likely see the government fudge a Brexit deal that is bad for the UK in order to save face and placate the hard-line Tory Brexiteers. This will not be the deal that anyone voted for and it is not what the people deserve. With so many polls now showing that the UK public would now vote overwhelmingly to remain in the EU the people deserve a say on the final deal. The government should stop trying to sell them an adapted Chequers deal and offer them a meaningful say on their future access to opportunities that the Tory party claim to care about.