Thursday, March 25, 2010

Robin Hood

I have added my support to the campaign for a Robin Hood tax or financial transaction tax. This campaign, involving charities such as Oxfam and Friends of the Earth is calling for a tiny levy to be placed on the international operations of big banks.

The idea is that the money raised would be used to support public services and help tackle global poverty and climate change.

As Leader of Labours' MEPs, I have backed the idea of a levy on international financial transactions, and the need for this to be a global agreement. I know this is currently being discussed among world leaders, with Gordon Brown taking a leading role, having already put it on the G20 agenda last November.

It really is time for the banks and international finance institutions to make amends for their role in the global economic crisis, to take social responsibility and start paying their fair share.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food for thought...

Yesterday I spent 6 hours in a mammoth voting session in the Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee.

The main issue was food information to consumers, which if you've been reading this blog you will know is something I have been doing much work on.

I'm pleased to say that many of my proposals were accepted. The key one was for consumers to have the right to know where their food comes from. The committee backed my amendment by 32 votes to 29 to require mandatory labelling for all single-ingredient foods and on meat, poultry and fish when used in multi-ingredient foods, such as ready meals, prepacked sandwiches, burgers and sausages.

My proposals to require mandatory labelling of calories, sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat on the front of pack were also approved, again by a narrow majority of 35 votes to 26. This is good news for consumers and if this makes it to the final legislation will stop companies hiding this key information on the back of pack.

One issue on which I was flooded with correspondence from constituents was that of the inclusion of farming production method (eg battery cages or free range) in multi-ingredient foods such as quiches, scotch eggs or any other food. I recommended that my group (Socialists and Democrats) back this amendment and it made all the difference as it was accepted by the committee.

I had also tabled amendments seeking to include calorie content on alcoholic drinks and seeking to include mandatory traffic light labelling on ready meals, soft drinks and breakfast cereals. I believe consumers don't realise just how many calories alcoholic drinks have and I know that for complex foods it is often difficult to ascertain the nutritional content of these foods.

To my regret, and disgust, the heavy lobbying from the food and alcohol industries won the day for the moment and convinced the majority of my colleagues to reject my amendments. I certainly intend to retable them for the final vote of all MEPs in May and I hope the majority will support them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Traffic lights - an excellent video

I've just been sent this excellent video from a German NGO describing clearly the issue at stake in the proposed food information directive which I am working on at the moment.

They are supporting the British traffic light scheme and my efforts to convince my colleagues from other countries of the benefits

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Constructive meeting with European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy

I attended a meeting this morning with the recently appointed President of the European Council and ex-Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy.

We had a serious debate about the way forward and the European Union's role in steering Europe out of the current economic crisis and how Member States can take coordinated action to bolster our economies and create jobs and combat climate change.

It was a frank but constructive exchange of views and I also took the opportunity to remind Mr Van Rompuy that Nigel Farage, who launched such an undignified personal and vitriolic attack on both Mr Van Rompuy and Belgium last week in the chamber, does not reflect the mainstream views of the British people.