Strasbourg Commentary Plenary session 14th – 17th April 2014
This week was the busiest week for many a long year or five. They packed extra voting sessions into this, the last Strasbourg week of this legislature, as they so grandly like to describe it. But never votes on Monday as business does not start until 5.00pm, it being so difficult to get to there. Ditto getting home, so votes on Thursday always very thin as lots of MEPs leave on Weds evening or Thursday morning. I always stay until late afternoon since I think I am paid to do so. It also keeps my attendance up in the 80% mark and you have all seen the newspaper comments this week.
Nigel is an exception. You all know how hard he works at home, you are supporting him on May 1st in Derby, aren’t you? Not even he can be in two places at once. Easy for any UK MP to criticise when all they have to do is catch a train, direct to London from practically anywhere in the UK. Let them try Strasbourg, two flights (or two trains for twice as long) and the change over times do not match well. My visit this week was via Brussels with a 3 hour stop over between flights on way out, 2 and a half on return. Each leg an hour plus and no, this is not a moan, just a fact of my life for the last ten years!
Regarding Nigel please watch the video of his speech on Wednesday, before he dashed off needed by his family, via this link,-
Really you should also see the other group leaders’ collective ramble, claptrap, nonsense and wishful thinking. They really do believe that the EU can solve everything, like the Ukraine!!
So to voting. Two sessions on each of Tuesday and Wednesday, one at about mid-day (as usual), about 1hour, the second at 6.00pm, (very unusual), about 45 minutes. Thursday the usual 45 minutes only. Totals,-
Tues 1st = 38 reports with 1004 amendments. 2nd = 45 reports with 2216 amendments
Weds 1st = 35 reports with 875 amendments 2nd =14 reports with 186 amendments
Thurs = 15 reports with 189 amendments.
TOTALS = 147 reports with 4470 amendments,- all done in about 4 and a half hours, all of which conducted with a scrupulous sense of honesty and seriousness, all votes prepared beforehand with care and dedication! Do you still want to know why some MEPs pike off early on Thursday? And then we get the odd email demanding why we/I voted “For” or “Against” on a certain Amendment in a particular report! (Yes, I can always answer that because I always bring the voting lists home with me. There’s a considerable set of files in the office. Happy to bequeath them!)
Fidanza report, passed by 622 – 29 pushing all kinds of non-combustion systems to produce electricity, target of only 60% of current levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
De Backer report, passed by 620 – 20, fitting of new cars with the e-call system mentioned in previous commentary. Means that a crash is known to police immediately, rescuers sent out even if occupants are unconscious, also means that police will know where you are at any given time.
Thein report, passed by 590 – 79, ECJ to have 28 judges, plus 12 from new member states, max 2 from each. Does not say they have to be actual judges (several of them are not).
Jazlowiecka report, posting of workers (to which I spoke in the House) The rapporteur opposed all 75 amendments but only 7 of them were defeated and the whole report passed by 474 – 158.
Auken report, to reduce use of plastic carrier bags, most of the 54 amendments passed, as was the whole report by 539 – 51
Zalewski report, “Investors disputes international settlement courts” Passed easily, even ‘though there was a proposal to refer it back to Cttee.
Giannakou report, Statute and Funding of political parties. Passed easily. NB the Commissioner was allowed to speak to support it BEFORE the vote was taken.
Resolution on, ”Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries, particularly the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine”. There was no named rapporteur, draw your own conclusions, it was adopted. We abstained all the way through, not our business, which is more than Mr Griffin, he of the BNP, did. He called a ‘point of order’ which is reserved for comments about the way votes are being taken. He used it as a tirade against Communism so his microphone was cut off, which did not stop him shouting his message across the chamber!
For your information it is prohibited to display in the debating chamber any political placards or messages. We tried 7 years ago to display placards objecting to the proposed European Constitution and, when we refused to take them down, the Ushers were sent in! We cooperated with them, reluctantly, because they are neutral servants and we are not hooligans. In passing it should be noted that we are on good terms with that body. You should know that I treat them, and all other EU functionaries courteously and receive their response accordingly. I do not make war on the servants of this rotten empire; the institutions yes, employees no.
Incidentally Jane came over with me this last time and fell foul of their regulations. She was in the visitor’s gallery to hear me speak on “Posted Workers”, see this link,-
Jane applauded my effort and was promptly told off by an official in no uncertain terms, for applause in the public gallery is forbidden. But, just before, a whole visitor group in the gallery had warmly applauded a speech by their man and were not corrected. So Jane responded,- “those people there applauded, you did not stop them, and you don’t stop me!”
However, since that early episode of ours there have been a small number of outbreaks of other MEPs wearing “T” shirts with messages relevant to the business of the day. I remember one time when the communists all stood up proudly showing their message, whatever it was. Nothing was said or done. A few months ago, when the internal politics of the Ukraine started to make the news, when president Tymoshenko (hope I’ve got that right) was released from jail, there was a demo in the Parliament. About 50 or 60 MEPs of the left rose, draped in the Ukrainian flag. Much applause!! (but not from us). Nothing was done then and there were one or two Ukrainian Flags on show this week in the chamber. These breaches in the rules went entirely unremarked and without reprimand, still less forcible removal.
So if you wonder why the situation in the Ukraine is getting out of hand and why mixed messages are coming through from the EU there, perhaps, is the answer. I do not like Putin, he is an unreconstructed communist, but he is a smart operator and is playing the EU along. Every reason to keep out. Every reason for our own Parliament to repeat its vote on the appalling Cameron suggestion to bomb Syria.
A personal note to end with. Attendance records were mentioned in the press and I commented on mine above. You have a right to know why I am less than 90%. I missed the whole of a Strasbourg week on two occasions, each time in the early part of the year due to bronchitis. Gardening wearing insufficient warm clothing and forgetting that I was not as young as I used to be! Missed two days of another Strasbourg, returning early so as to get to “Defra” and argue the case for Lincolnshire sausages.
Last year I missed the whole of a Strasbourg week due to a family funeral. Thursday in Exeter for my brother-in-law, ex Parachute Regiment, who was on the beach on D-Day. Start early on Wednesday so as to stay over with remaining sister in Bristol and take her down as well.
Cttee meetings are usually on the afternoon of one day and the morning of the next, making a sensible two day visit. Several times this year they have been just a morning session and I have not attended. Waste of time and of taxpayers money.
Last week I cleared my Brussels office, stacking all the EU literature outside the door for clearance. Yesterday I did the same in Strasbourg. Keys to both offices handed in. I am writing this on Good Friday, there being no time yesterday in Strasbourg, and will be doing nothing until Tuesday morning, when I am due to speak at a school in Louth.
Thanks to all my readers and the best of good luck to those of UKIP who take my place.
Derek Clark MEP Strasbourg April18th 2014