Vicky Ford MEP

Member of the European Parliament for the East of England

09 JUN 2017

Statement from Vicky Ford on being elected as Member of Parliament for Chelmsford

I am deeply honoured to have been elected as the Member of Parliament for Chelmsford. It is a brilliant city. I am continually impressed by the many local people I meet who are utterly committed to helping the community here in so many different ways. I would like to thank the people of Chelmsford for putting their trust in me. I promise I will do my best to honour that trust.

On Monday I will be travelling to Westminster to start the formal process of becoming a Member of Parliament. At that time I will stand down as a Member of the European Parliament, since under British and European law it is not compatible to hold both mandates at the same time.

It has been an enormous privilege to represent the East of England in the European Parliament for nearly 8 years and to work with so many great people and wonderful organisations across East Anglia, the UK and Europe.

Download this as a PDF


10 MAY 2017

Inquiry into French Property Scams Launched

Consumer watchdogs across Europe are stepping up investigations into how to help hundreds of British and Irish citizens allegedly duped into buying expensive French properties. This follows a call for action from the British MEP, Vicky Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee. Mrs Ford had been contacted by many distressed constituents from her own parliamentary region of the East of England. More than 300 Irish people also claim to have been missold similar leaseback properties with the promise of guaranteed rental income. A petition on change.org has amassed over 1,300 signatures challenging the potential unfair practices of French leaseback schemes.

The leaseback model, in which the purchaser acquires the freehold rights along with limited use of the property and a rental return for the remainder of the year, gained popularity before the financial crash.

"I understand that these schemes have become controversial with a number of leaseback owners throughout Europe and many of the purchasers of such properties take the view that they have been misled and have not been protected as consumers", says Mrs Ford, who represents the British Conservatives.

Mrs Ford raised these problems as a matter of urgency with Commissioner Vńõra Jourová, Commissioner for Consumers, and asked for an investigation as to whether the leaseback schemes are in contravention of EU law. The Commissioner has now asked national consumer organisations to look into the complaints.

Mrs Ford explained, "The purchasers tell me they believe the properties were mis-sold and advertised in a way as to mislead consumers; that the properties were vastly over-valued and that mortgages were extended to purchasers for sums reflective of this over-valuation. The purchasers involved say they received no protection or advice from lending institutions in relation to these leaseback purchases."

Download this as a PDF


05 MAY 2017

Statement on National Election Procedure for Sitting MEPs

I have have been asked what happens to my MEP role if I am elected to Westminster this June.

In 2002 a decision was taken by the national governments of the EU countries that said being an MEP and a member of a national parliament is incompatible. Therefore one person cannot hold both the position of MEP and MP at the same time.

Therefore if I am elected as MP, I will automatically cease to be an MEP. There will not be a by-election for the MEP role as, due to the proportional representation electoral process, it will pass on to one of my East of England Conservative colleagues from the last European elections.

We are about to commence complex negotiations with the EU on our exit. Having represented the East of England for the past eight years I can see how important the outcome of these negotiations will be for the jobs and security of local people.

It is important to have people with frontline experience of European negotiations in the Westminster Parliament. If elected I will bring unique, current and experience of European negotiations back to Westminster in order to support Theresa May and the strong and stable team she leads.

Download this as a PDF


04 MAY 2017

Thumbs up for the Collaborative Economy

The European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee yesterday voted to accept the 'Collaborative Economy' report after several months of negotiations and discussions. MEPs backed amendments to support innovation and give consumers choice in the market place.

Internal Market Committee Chairman Vicky Ford MEP (Conservative, East of England) said, "It is important to continue to support innovation which encourages entrepreneurs such as those who helped create Airbnb and BlaBlaCar. The collaborative economy has brought increased choice for consumers and the vote helps to ensure that those choices will not be restricted and the collaborative, or gig, economy is given space to flourish.

"It is important to recognise that changes have had an impact on traditional operators and therefore workers' rights and consumer protection issues need to be considered. However, there is already a lot of regulation that affects operators in the collaborative economy, instead of re-writing the complete rule book we need to make sure the one we have already it is for purpose."

'If we want digital giants to grow in Europe, we need to make sure we do not put a handbreak on innovation. As a result of the vote we are encouraging entrepreneurs and peer-to-peer platforms involved in diverse forms of the gig economy, including new ideas such as car sharing, co-boating and even co-cooking."

Download this as a PDF


25 APR 2017

Statement on Essex MPs Standing Down


I am sorry to hear that Sir Alan Haselhurst MP has decided to follow Sir Eric Pickles MP and Sir Simon Burns MP and will also be standing down from Parliament at the forthcoming General Election.

Between them they have served the people of Essex for over ninety years. Their knowledge and experience will be greatly missed.

I know that they will support their successors in their respective constituencies with wise council and that this will enable a smooth transition.

Download this as a PDF


18 APR 2017

Statement on General Election

In the past month I have been knocking on doors and talking to people in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk with our Conservative candidates for County Council elections. I have been in areas that have previously seen a strong vote for Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.

On the doorsteps there is massive support from voters for Theresa May. A General Election result with a significant majority will allow her to lead with increased certainty. This will strengthen her negotiation position in the important discussions ahead and deliver the best outcomes for the UK.

Download this as a PDF


05 APR 2017

Farage accused of being "no friend" of UK negotiations

To a round of applause in a packed Hemicycle in Strasbourg today East of England MEP Vicky Ford MEP hit out at "Mafia" comments made by Nigel Farage MEP.

"Calling other colleagues members of the Mafia or gangsters does not show mutual respect, it does not represent the views of the vast majority of the British people and it is not the view of the British Prime Minister who wants to remain friends, allies, and partners."

When Mr Farage took the floor, he accused MEPs of "...behaving like the Mafia", before qualifying following a rebuke from the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. Mr Farage went on to say, "I do understand national sensitivities, I'll change it to gangsters."

This morning MEPs had gathered in the Strasbourg Hemicycle to discuss and debate forthcoming negotiations with the United Kingdom, following the triggering of Article 50 last Wednesday.

Vicky Ford has been working with businesses and organisations across the East of England and UK since last June's vote to ensure that their views are taken into account in the forthcoming negotiations. She has backed Theresa May's call for an amicable separation and a constructive and deep future relationship between the UK and EU.

Mrs Ford sat through the three hour debate in the Parliament this morning in which over 60 MEPs spoke. She said "When negotiating a tricky separation one needs to keep calm, but when Farage spoke it was like a herd of bulls had just been driven straight through the china shop. Of course there will be times when negotiators disagree but chucking indiscriminate insults at those on the other side of the channel will not help get a good deal for the UK. It's important that people across Europe know that most Brits don't support this sort of language"

Download this as a PDF


21 MAR 2017

Meeting King's Lynn Engineering Firms

 

I was very inspired by my visit to three excellent local engineering firms in Kings Lynn with Sir Henry Bellingham MP; Chalcroft Construction, Shaun Hodgson Engineering Ltd and Dodman Ltd.

The skills and dedication of the people working in these businesses is deeply impressive, building on East Anglia's proud heritage of agricultural engineering. These are all represent excellent examples of British Engineering Companies - and it's important we negotiate good trade deals to allow them to continue to thrive!

Download this as a PDF


14 MAR 2017

Vicky Ford MEP's report closes firearms loophole exposed by Paris terror attacks

 

New firearms legislation which imposes restrictions on the type of guns used in the Paris terrorist attacks has today been steered through the European Parliament by East Anglia MEP Vicky Ford.

 

Revisions to the EU's Firearms Directive mean that guns converted to fire blanks will in future be licensed under the same rules as the original live firing version. Currently these are able to be sold freely in certain European countries despite the fact that some versions are easily converted to use with live ammunition.

Other measures tighten the rules on the ownership of semi-automatic weapons fitted with high capacity magazines, require national authorities to keep details needed to trace firearms and improve information sharing between Member States.

Speaking after her report was approved by MEPs by 491 votes to 178, Mrs Ford said: "The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters and at the Bataclan theatre in Paris exposed a dangerous loophole which allowed poorly deactivated firearms, known as salute and acoustic weapons, to be freely available. A number of similar items were amongst a cache of over 30 illegal firearms found by British police on a boat in a Kent marina in August 2015. Following today's vote, this loophole will be closed.

The European Parliament has spent 18 months scrutinising the issue and Mrs Ford met organisations from the UK and across the EU, including the Countryside Alliance, British Sports Shooting Council, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Royal Armouries, the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation and the Nordic Hunters' Alliance. The Imperial War Museum in Duxford also hosted a meeting for Mrs Ford to meet representatives from British museums and collectors. Mrs Ford's report makes sure that museums will be able to continue to hold category A firearms with strict safety and storage requirements, as is already the case in the UK.

She said: "It has been a long and difficult process to reach a compromise which protects the public by making it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to get hold of higher capacity firearms while also safeguarding the interests of lawful sports shooters, collectors, re-enactors and other groups.

"It was not helped by the European Commission's original proposals which were very poorly drafted, contained many technical errors and would have had many disproportionate restrictions on legal owners. However, I believe we have now achieved a sensible balance."

Under the new rules, Member States will be able to authorise target shooters to possess and use higher capacity semi-automatic firearms which are otherwise restricted provided they are training for, or taking part in, competitions. The changes have been drawn up in collaboration with sport shooting organisations, including the International Practical Shooting Confederation.

Exemptions are also made for military and civil defence personnel, especially in countries such as Finland, where reservists traditionally own their firearms and keep them at home.

Museums, military re-enactors and even film companies, whose ability to possess firearms would have been compromised by the Commission's proposals, are now catered for, subject to safeguards. Historically important firearms will not be covered by new marking requirements, nor will the rules apply to antiques.

The legislation now goes to the Council for formal approval, after which Member States will have 15 months to incorporate the new rules into national law.

Mrs Ford is the UK Conservative MEP for the East of England and Chair of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

 

Ends

 

Note for Editors
Background on the revised Firearms Directive can be found here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170126BKG59909/revision-of-the-eu-firearms-directive-an-overview

Download this as a PDF


10 MAR 2017

Vicky Ford: Brexit needs to work for consumers

Consumer organisations in the UK and the rest of the European Union should continue to help each other post-Brexit, Conservative MEP Vicky Ford said today.

Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee, has welcomed a report examining the potential impact of Brexit on consumers that has been published today by European Consumer Organisation BEUC and UK's Which?. It calls for decisions on issues such as safety and quality standards of household goods and products to be assessed against the impact on consumers. The two organisations want existing levels of co-operation maintained to ensure there is no erosion of consumer rights.

She said: "Currently consumer organisations and trading standards bodies all across Europe work with each other. They warn each other of dangerous products, faulty goods or scams and keep consumers informed.

"It is important that practical and pragmatic solutions are found to make sure that this vital work can continue. We hear a lot of people saying that Brexit needs to work for business but it is even more important that it works for consumers."

Mrs Ford (East of England), added: "This is an excellent piece of work. It is important that issues facing every day consumers on both sides of the Channel are put at the heart of the Brexit discussions."

Download this as a PDF


09 MAR 2017

Telecoms, TV and Media Execs Join Regulators to Discuss Consumer Access Rights in Brussels

Rural broadband, mobile phone contracts and calls to emergency services were on the agenda in Brussels this week. East Anglican MEP Vicky Ford brought together Executives from telecoms and media companies including BBC, BT, Vodafone, Sky, Telia and Deutsch Telekom, as well as the UK regulator, Ofcom, and representatives from European consumer groups to discuss new pan-European proposals on communications.

The group discussed the so called 'universal service obligation' which gives individuals the right to a phone service and the plans to extend this to include internet services.

Mrs Ford said, "As someone who lives in a small village I know what a struggle it can be to access modern communications when the internet service is poor, and what a difference it makes when the high speed line finally arrives. A universal service obligation will be extremely beneficial for rural areas but there are also important questions about how it is funded."

Experts at the Brussels meeting considered alternative funding mechanisms including public and private elements and contribution sharing between operators and content providers and how these could reflect different levels of service quality.

The informal roundtable also discussed the issue of consumer contracts which consumer groups say can be confusing. Questions of whether to introduce standard terms for easier comparison, maximum contract periods and rights for consumers to cancel contracts were also raised.

The group also looked at the issues relating to so-called 'over-the-top' communications services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype which are not currently covered by laws on security and data privacy in the same way as traditional voice and text services.

Mrs Ford explained "These new models are very popular and easy to use. We need to make sure that the legal framework is up-to-date whilst not overburdening companies like this with masses of extra red-tape."

Before entering politics Mrs Ford was involved in raising finance for infrastructure including many of the telecoms networks that consumers across the UK and Europe continue to use today.

Mrs Ford added, "It was extremely helpful to have Ofcom with us as many of the issues that we were discussing will continue to apply in the UK after Brexit. Communications technology is advancing at an extremely rapid rate and there is a strong interest from the UK to continue to work with other countries on developing policy."

Download this as a PDF


06 MAR 2017

Vicky Ford: Vauxhall sale shows need for a post-Brexit customs deal

Today's agreed sale of General Motors' European arm, including Vauxhall, to France's PSA Group, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, highlights the need for an EU/UK customs deal post-Brexit, says leading Conservative MEP for East of England and Internal Market Committee Chairman Vicky Ford.

Current EU Customs Union arrangements mean that a car or van can be made up of components sourced from all over the EU and sold as a European product to customers in non-EU countries under the beneficial tariff arrangements that the European Union has negotiated. This is the so-called "rules of origin" element of the Customs Union relationship

Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament committee for the Internal Market, which includes responsibility for Customs Union, said: "It is crucial for operations like the Vauxhall van manufacturing in Luton that new arrangements on rules of origin are clearly defined as soon as possible.

"This production line is one of the most efficient General Motors has anywhere in the world and has had close ties to Peugeot for many years. Peugeot has a production line in France that mirrors much of the British facility, making a different vehicle but using many similar parts. Hence why it makes logical commercial sense that many of the components used on the Luton assembly line are sourced from the French supply chain.

"There are similar supply chain arrangements all across the British automotive sector; the engines in a West Midlands-assembled Range Rover are made in Germany and Ford engines, made in Dagenham, are sent to Turkey to be put into vehicles. Restructuring supply chains is possible, though significant investment in time, capital and skill will be needed before the fruits will begin to show.

"In the immediate period as we leave the EU, we need to resolve how products made up of parts sourced from across Europe will be treated. If there is no new arrangement on country of origin rules then many British based manufacturers are concerned that they may not be able to benefit from any new UK trade deals that we ourselves negotiate as the assembled products may not be sufficiently 'British' under the WTO rules.

"Conversely, without a specific deal there is a risk that vans like those made in Luton would not be able to benefit from low tariff rates the EU has negotiated with those countries because significant parts of the vehicle will come from outside the EU27.

"Last week I met representatives from the European automotive suppliers association who pointed out that many continental manufacturers want the negotiations on cars to be resolved urgently. Not only are British buyers a large source of revenue but we are also Europe's most significant market for new vehicles. Without sales to British consumers it is likely that many continental companies will fail to achieve legally binding targets on sales of modern lower emissions products.

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that the UK intends to leave the Customs Union but has also stated that she wishes to see a new customs arrangement negotiated. There are countries outside the EU Customs Union which have specific relationships with it on country of origin rules. For example there are rules agreed with Norway that allow for cumulation, so that goods are counted together as coming from one country.

"Negotiations on EU/UK trade post Brexit will inevitably have a political dimension and General Motors may have concluded that finding a technical solution for the Vauxhall plants may be more amicably agreed with a French owner in the driving seat rather than an American one.

"This is a complex area, but it's also one where negotiators on both sides of the Channel need to invest energy in examining options and finding solutions that fit the needs of modern manufacturing economies."

Download this as a PDF


13 FEB 2017

Thalidomide Campaigner Takes Case to Brussels

Thalidomide Campaigner Takes Case to Brussels

A Suffolk campaigner, who is working with fellow Thalidomide survivors from across Europe has taken his case to Brussels. Roland Bareham, from Sudbury, joined campaigners from all across Europe when they held a special screening of a film about Thalidomide in the European Parliament.

Thalidomide, which caused defects at birth, was produced by a German company. Survivors believe they have a case for compensation from the German Government. There are over 450 survivors living in the UK today, aged between 55 and 59 years old, all affected in different ways. Many sufferers were born without fully formed limbs and as survivors approach retirement, their needs will become more specific and costly.

The Thalidomide campaigners have requested a meeting with the German Minister for Families to address the case for compensation. But the meeting has been refused.

Whilst in Brussels, Mr Bareham also met East Anglian Conservative MEP Vicky Ford to explain their case. Mrs Ford said, "It is clear that the survivors of Thalidomide believe that their case has never been treated seriously by the German authorities. It's pretty shocking that the German Minister, a socialist, has refused to even meet those who were affected. I have written to my German conservative MEP colleagues, from Angela Merkel's party, asking for their support."

For more information about Thalidomide and survivors go to www.thalidomidesociety.org

Download this as a PDF


09 FEB 2017

British negotiators secure new rules to stop car test cheats

British negotiators secure new rules to stop car test cheats

New measures to make sure vehicles have to meet emissions and safety standards once out of the showroom have been supported by MEPs.

A direct response to the VW emissions scandal, the revised market surveillance rules have been piloted through the European Parliament by British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton and were passed in a massive voting session overseen by the East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford.

The rules set out new tests for cars and other vehicles both in the factory and on the road, new reviews of the testors and crucially new penalties designed to prevent test cheats. Furthermore across Europe each country will test samples from 20 per cent of the car models on the market in their country every year. These will be of various ages and so ensure that vehicles still meet minimum standards when in use.

The report was approved today by members of the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee (IMCO) and is expected to be considered by the full Parliament in April.

West Midlands MEP Mr Dalton said: "When buying a car we expect it to perform to the manufacturer's specifications. This legislation reassures consumers that will be the case.

"One of the reasons the car emissions scandal went undetected for so long is that the current arrangements for market surveillance are at best patchy and at worst ineffective. Whilst we can never guarantee another VW will not happen again, my report, combined with the real driving emissions tests for new cars approved by the European Parliament last year, make it very unlikely that any manufacturer would take such a risk in future."

Under the proposed legislation, national market surveillance programmes will be subject to regular review. Cars can be tested at the roadside, be drawn from rental fleets or procured in other ways that do not inconvenience consumers. The Commission will be able to undertake its own testing when necessary and issue EU-wide model recalls and levy fines on manufacturers in the event of failures.

Mr Dalton added: "By addressing the loopholes that allowed the emissions scandal to take place we will begin to rebuild consumer confidence both in our testing systems and in the manufacturers who build our cars."

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who chairs the IMCO Committee, welcomed today's vote.

She said: "Buying a car is the single largest purchase most people ever face. These reforms are vital to restore consumer trust and hold manufacturers to account.

"Achieving this deal has involved deep and detailed work across Europe which was led by a British negotiator. I hope that the new relationship between the UK and the EU post Brexit will enable continued practical co-operation on issues of this nature."

Mrs Ford has worked with local car experts such as Ford in Dunton, Essex as well as consumer group in developing the new rules package.

ENDS

Download this as a PDF


03 FEB 2017

Cambridgeshire MEP Discusses Brexit with Local Business Leaders

Cambridgeshire MEP Discusses Brexit with Local Business Leaders

Local Euro MP Vicky Ford joined panellists at a Breakfast Discussion held by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) on Friday 3 February.

Audience members quizzed the panellists for 90 minutes on topics covering the current Brexit negotiations to the role that GCGP LEP has to play in encouraging and supporting local business growth.

Mrs Ford said "The questions coming from audience members today reinforce the importance of communication between local representatives and the public on how we approach the negotiations ahead. It's clear that whilst we can't reveal our whole hand, we can give insights and updates that demonstrate how things are going.

"A good example of this is the situation in Brussels, last week British MEPs, including myself, were re-elected to senior posts within the European Parliament. This is an extremely encouraging step towards the mature and cooperative relationship that the prime minister has been talking about.

"I'd like to thank Mark Reeve and the GCGP LEP for organising this morning's panel discussion, it was extremely helpful. The conversations going on over the next few weeks and months are going to redefine our relationship with our closest neighbours and allies, it is vital that we all understand the needs of local employers in this process."

Other panellists included local MP Jonathan Djanogly, Steve Elsom from Lloyds Bank and Chairman of the GCGP LEP Mark Reeve.

ENDS

Download this as a PDF


02 FEB 2017

Warning on Scam Business Directories

Warning on Scam Business Directories

One of the East of England's leading MEPs is warning local companies not to be taken in by a new "Business Directory" scam.

The purported directory service contacts local businesses and asks owners to sign and return documents to confirm business contact details, before following up with demands for payment. One local business has been targeted for over £3,000. The documents stipulate, in the fine print, that businesses who return and sign the papers opt into paying for the Directory's services.

Vicky Ford, the Conservative MEP for East Anglia said "This latest scheme, run by an operation calling themselves Portal Empresarial S.L., appears to be very similar to the 'European City Guide' scam which hit many small businesses in the past. I would strongly advise anyone who is approached by this type of organisation not to part with any cash, to take legal advice and contact Action Fraud."

Mrs Ford is working with colleagues from across Europe to tighten up laws in this area before the UK leaves the EU in May 2019.

Action Fraud can be contacted on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud

Mrs Ford has written to local Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business asking them to alert their members.

Download this as a PDF


26 JAN 2017

Revision of the EU Firearms Directive

Revision of the EU Firearms Directive

The provisional deal on the revision of the EU firearms directive, which sets out the conditions under which private persons may lawfully acquire and possess guns or transfer them to another EU country, was backed by the Internal Market Committee on 26 January 2017. The vote by the full Parliament is expected to take place in March.

Firearm types are defined as Category A, B or C. Category A firearms are prohibited except for certain types of individuals, Category B firearms need an "authorisation", and owners of Category C firearms need to declare their ownership but do not need authorisation.

The previous treatment of so-called "salute and acoustic firearms" raised security concerns. These are working firearms converted to fire blanks. Under the existing directive in certain countries these could be sold without authorisations and some were easily re-converted to live firearms. "This type of firearm was used in Paris terrorist attacks. A cache of over 30 were discovered in the UK in 2015", said Vicky Ford (ECR, UK), who is steering this legislation through Parliament.

The rules covering these firearms will now be tightened. Going forward any firearm which has been converted to fire blanks must remain licensed under the same rules as its original live-firing version.

In order to strengthen deactivation regimes, the European Commission introduced a new deactivation regulation which came into force in April 2016. This sets a single standard for deactivation of firearms. However, technical implementation issues have arisen and some countries were concerned that the new standard would be less secure than their previous national regimes. Following pressure from Parliament, the European Commission has now re-convened a working group of experts from the EU member states to review the regulation. The Commission has pledged that a revision will be completed by early 2017.

"The introduction of the deactivation regulation caused problems for legitimate holders of deactivated firearms such as historical re-enactors and those involved in film making etc, as it prohibits them from selling or transferring across borders any items deactivated prior to April 2016 unless the items are re-deactivated to the new standard, which is not technically possible in many cases. Following pressure from Parliament there will now be a process to assess national standards in use prior to April 2016. If the standards are accepted by the working group and Commission as equivalent, then items deactivated to that previous regime will be able to be bought, sold and transferred without requiring further modification", explained Vicky Ford (ECR, UK).

The Commission proposed that all deactivated firearms would become subject to the same registration and authorisation procedures as firearms. This was rejected by the co-legislators. Instead the negotiators agreed that newly deactivated firearms should be categorised in Category C and need to be declared to national authorities but will not require an authorisation or licence. This will not apply to existing deactivated firearms.

Firearm types are defined as Category A, B or C. Category A firearms are prohibited except for certain types of individuals, Category B firearms need an "authorisation", and owners of Category C firearms need to declare their ownership but do not need authorisation.

Category A

The Commission's original proposal added:
Category A6 "Automatic firearms which have been converted into semi-automatic firearms" and Category A7 "Semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms."

These were both rejected by Parliament´s negotiators, as "there is experience that categorising items based on the subjectivity of resemblance creates legal uncertainty", said Vicky Ford (ECR, UK).

Category A6

Parliament's initial committee approach was that "Automatic firearms which have been converted into semi-automatic firearms" should remain in Category B if the conversion was irreversible and be placed in Category A only if the conversion was reversible. "Parliament's team proposed that the Commission should develop new technical standards to define which conversions were irreversible. However, the Commission was not prepared to accept responsibility for preparing technical specifications on these conversions", said Ms Ford.

"To reach agreement, negotiators representing the majority of Parliament conceded that automatic firearms converted into semi-automatic firearms should be Category A, but added new authorisation procedures so that, at the discretion of the member state, reservists, target shooters and others with special licences would be permitted to hold these. In addition, a 'grandfathering' clause is added so that existing owners can continue to own, transfer, inherit or sell these firearms to others who have appropriate authorisation. Again this is at the discretion of the member state", explained the rapporteur.

Category A7

Instead of using "resemblance" criteria both Parliament and Council negotiators proposed to add to Category A semi-automatic centre-fire firearms when a high-capacity loading device is fitted. Firearms have been categorised according to loading capacity already in the current directive, and the new rules extend this approach. This only affects firearms which use centre-fire and not rimfire percussion ammunition.

The categorisation applies when the firearm and magazine is in combination together, and does not depend merely on whether the firearm is capable of having a higher capacity magazine inserted. This has been explained in the text:

"The mere possibility of fitting a loading device with the capacity over 10 rounds for long firearms and 20 rounds for short firearms does not determine the categorization of the firearm."

"Therefore a semi-automatic firearm remains Category B unless the high capacity magazine is fitted", explained Ms Ford.

Following lengthy negotiations, it was agreed that for long firearms exceeding 60 cm, a magazine with a capacity greater than 10 rounds would be restricted, while for a short firearm the limit would be set at 20 rounds. This was a major negotiating point for the Council.

Member states will be able to give authorisations for reservists, target shooters and others with special licences for these firearms. As for those firearms that now fall under Category A6, there is a "grandfathering" clause.

"The European Commission proposed to reference specific types of firearms and derivations thereof. However, Parliament rejected this approach as it was considered impracticable for the same reasons as resemblance-based criteria. A clarification has been added in a recital that selective fire firearms are treated as Category A, which accords with current practice. There are no other references to specific types of firearms anywhere else in the text", explained Vicky Ford (ECR, UK).

Recital: "Firearms designed for military use, which are equipped to operate on the basis of selective fire, such as AK47, M16, where they may be manually adjusted between automatic and semi-automatic firing modes should fall within category A, therefore should not be available for civilians and if converted into semi-automatic firearms should fall within category A6."

"Loading devices themselves, including magazines, are not restricted per se. Semi-automatic centre fire firearms which allow the firing of more than a certain number of rounds without reloading will now become Category A firearms only if a loading device with a capacity exceeding that capacity is inserted into it or is part of the firearm", stressed Vicky Ford (ECR, UK).

Member states are able to give authorisation for such Category A firearms for sport shooters, existing holders, collectors, reservists and certain other specialist users.

People with a Category B firearm who are found in possession of a high capacity magazine will risk having their authorisation to hold firearms removed unless they have a Category A authorisation. There is no restriction on re-applying for an authorisation in the future.

New purchases of high capacity magazines are restricted to those with a Category A authorisation.

"This was a major issue for the 28 national government ministers in the Council and the European Commission who both proposed an overall ban on all high-capacity magazines. This was rejected by Parliament as impractical to enforce. This intermediate approach was accepted by negotiators representing the majority of the members of the European Parliament in order to achieve agreement", said Ms Ford.

Member states will be able to give Category A authorisations to individuals for the protection of the security of critical infrastructure, commercial shipping, high-value convoys and sensitive premises, as well as for national defence, educational, cultural, research and historical purposes

Museums and collectors: member states will be able to give Category A authorisations to recognised museums and in exceptional and duly reasoned cases to collectors, subject to strict security measures. The collection of ammunition is permitted.

Target shooters: member states will be able to give Category A authorisations to target shooters provided the individual is actively practising for or participating in shooting competitions. Vicky Ford (ECR, UK) explained that "the authorisation covers those entering the sport as well as those already competing. The current freedom of choice of equipment used by competitors in their shooting disciplines is not restricted. To facilitate continued participation in international competitions, the rules governing the European Firearms Pass will be updated to cover firearms, including Category A firearms, held by such target shooters".

Reservists: armed forces, the police and the public authorities are outside the scope of the directive. The provisions for authorisation for national defence also enables member states to issue reservists with firearms.

Switzerland: Language is introduced to cover the Swiss system based on general conscription which enables the transfer of military firearms to persons leaving the army.

Film industry: many film productions in Europe use firearms including deactivated firearms, purpose-built blank firing firearms as well as live firearms, usually firing blanks, all depending on the nature of the production. "The Commission's initial proposals would have jeopardised this but the Parliament text has re-instated the ability for special authorisations for the film industry under strict controls", said Ms Ford.

Re-enactors: the European Firearms Pass enables legitimate owners to move firearms across borders. This has been updated to assist historical re-enactors.

Private modifications

Hand-loading and reloading of ammunition will remain permitted. Modifications of firearms for private use are also still permitted by private owners and not restricted only to dealers or brokers.

The existing law states that authorisations are only permitted for those who "are not likely to be a danger to themselves or others". The Commission suggested that medical tests should be required for each authorisation and these should be reviewed every five years. Parliament's lead negotiator, Vicky Ford (ECR, UK) believed that "point-in-time medical tests are not necessarily effective". Instead, it was agreed that each member state must have a monitoring system to assess relevant medical and psychological information which they may operate on a continuous or non-continuous basis.

Authorisation will be withdrawn if any of the conditions on which it was granted are no longer met, or may be renewed or prolonged if the conditions are still fulfilled. Member states may decide whether or not the assessment involves a prior medical or psychological test. This does not change national approaches or introduce new EU-wide requirements for medical testing.

The current directive requires firearms to be marked and registered so that each firearm can be linked to its owner. Law enforcement and Europol noted the risk of sales of parts. Going forward the essential components of a firearm also need to be marked and registered. To avoid risk of confusion, the main identifier will be the mark affixed to the frame or receiver. The new marking requirements will not apply to existing firearms. Firearms of historical importance may not need markings depending on national law.

To improve information sharing, dealers and brokers will need to inform national authorities of transfers through electronic means and member states will share information on firearms held in their country.

All information needed to trace and identify firearms will have to be recorded in "computerised data-filing systems." These records should be kept for 30 years after the destruction of the firearms and essential components.

A module of the Internal Market Information System (IMI), specifically customised for firearms, may be used to exchange information between member states.

The provisional deal still needs to be voted by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session (probably in March 2017) and formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers.

Member states will have 15 months after the date of entry into force of the directive to transpose the new rules into national law and 30 months to introduce new systems for sharing of information. They may decide to suspend the requirement for declaring deactivated weapons and prior category D firearms for 30 months from the entry into force of the directive.

ENDS

Download this as a PDF


25 JAN 2017

European Parliament Internal Market Committee Re-elects Vicky Ford as Chairman

European Parliament Internal Market Committee Re-elects Vicky Ford as Chairman


The EU Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee (IMCO) today re-elected Vicky Ford MEP (ECR, East of England) as Chairman through to May 2019.

Mrs Ford, who first became Chairman of the IMCO Committee in 2014, said "I am pleased to be able to continue this work and to do all I can to help maintain amicable and open dialogue across Europe and between the UK and the EU-27.

"The IMCO Committee looks at the practical elements of removing barriers to trade across Europe. I hope that many of these practical cooperation networks will continue for both the UK and the rest of the EU post-Brexit.

"Committee Chair roles are allocated to political groups according to how many votes they achieved in the European Elections. If this role had been removed from the UK Conservatives it would have been perceived to have set a tone that is markedly less cooperative and collegiate than that which Michel Barnier and Theresa May have been calling for."

The re-election of Mrs Ford emphasises the determination of UK MEPs to continue to fulfil their role in the Parliament's work and maintain active representation of UK interests through to May 2019. Voting took place as part of the midterm review of the 8th Parliament and follow's the election of the President and Vice Presidents of the European Parliament last week in Strasbourg.

 

ENDS

Download this as a PDF


18 JAN 2017

Good News for Addenbrooke's

Good News for Addenbrooke's

Vicky Ford, MEP for East of England, has welcomed the decision of the Care and Quality Commission's (CQC) to change the rating for Cambridge University Hospital Trust from "inadequate" to "good" after a visit by inspectors in September.

Mrs Ford said "Many, many congratulations to all at Addenbrooke's on getting out of special measures in such a record quick time. I know how incredibly hard staff at the hospital have worked to deliver this and they should all be so very proud of what they have done.

"Residents across Cambridgeshire frequently tell me how impressed they are by the hospital. Cambridge is home to many world leading experts in health care and medical research.

"I hope this news means all at Addenbrooke's will be able to send any mention of special measures to the history books and move forward with the confidence they rightly deserve."

The Trust, which runs Addenbrooke's, was put into Special Measures by the CQC in April 2015 amid staffing problems and management failings.

Download this as a PDF


17 JAN 2017

Time to move beyond 'in' and 'out' of the Single Market, and towards a mutually beneficial partnership

Time to move beyond 'in' and 'out' of the Single Market, and towards a mutually beneficial partnership

Theresa May's speech on Brexit now offers both the EU and UK an opportunity to move beyond simplistic 'in or out' scenarios on the EU Single Market and Customs Union, and instead focus on finding a new partnership – according to Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's internal market committee.

Speaking from the parliament in Strasbourg, Mrs Ford said:

"We now need to move beyond the simplistic and binary view that we must either be in or out of the Single Market and Customs Union. Theresa May's speech now sets the scene for the kind of detailed and nuanced discussion that is needed once Article 50 is triggered.

"Many countries have preferential access to the Single Market, and an enhanced relationship on Customs matters. None of the existing models fit perfectly with the UK's position, and the extent to which the economic ties between the UK and the rest of Europe have become intertwined. It is in the interest of all parties to find an arrangement that maximises market access and maintains close regulatory cooperation.

"This new relationship needs to work practically as well as politically. I hope that moving past this binary 'in or out' discussion will mean all negotiators can now roll up their sleeves and start focussing on the specific details of a new partnership that benefits both sides."

Download this as a PDF


08 DEC 2016

Britain and Europe need to find a "bespoke" solution or risk economic fallout

Britain and Europe need to find a "bespoke" solution or risk economic fallout

The leading European Parliamentarian for the Single Market and East Anglian Euro MP, Vicky Ford has warned that negotiators on both sides of the channel need to find new solutions for the future EU/UK relationship, or risk economic disruption.

Addressing the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) Autumn Lecture in Edinburgh last night, Mrs Ford warned that no "off the shelf" solution met the needs of the UK or EU and that it is important to find a deal which delivers Brexit, whilst reassuring those who voted remain in the referendum.

Mrs Ford said,

"The Swiss solution does not give stability for those seeking to invest in our economy, our trade is too diverse for the Norwegian solution which requires national legislators to cut and paste EU laws onto domestic statue books and the Canada model would not cover key sectors like digital, financial services or medical research.

It is in both sides interests to find an alternative solution. Both the UK and the EU will be stronger when addressing global challenges if we develop a model which enables close cooperation but respects our different approaches to certain issues."

Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament Single Market Committee, has spent the past six months meeting industry leaders across the UK and EU and identifying key priorities to focus on in negotiations.

In a stark warning to politicians on both sides of the channel, Mrs Ford warned that both sides risk falling into a more detached relationship than necessary because of the rigid positions currently being taken on migration controls.

"We in the UK need to remember that free movement is a deeply cherished right to many in Europe, especially in former Soviet states where travel and relocation was often not permitted. It is also important that negotiators across the EU are honest and accept there are a number of interpretations as to what free movement means. Many countries already have migration controls as well as preferential access to the European Single Market."

LINK TO SPEECH - http://www.vickyford.org/communications/speeches/britain-and-europe-alimony-custody-and-eating-cake/835

Download this as a PDF


06 DEC 2016

Outcome of the trilogue on firearms: Statement by Parliament's lead negotiator

Outcome of the trilogue on firearms: Statement by Parliament's lead negotiator

Following a fourth round of three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission (trilogue) on the revision of the EU firearms directive, Vicky Ford, on behalf of the European Parliament's negotiating team, issued the following statement:

"There has been an agreement in principle between the Council and Parliament on the key issues. We now need to see the consolidated text and discuss the details with COREPER [EU member states' permanent representatives] and with our political groups in the Parliament.

We appreciate the joint efforts of the Slovak Presidency and Parliament negotiators to ensure that issues raised were understood and both sides have made efforts to meet each other. We continue to be committed to ensure security in Europe."

Download this as a PDF


25 NOV 2016

Regional Consultation on Trade and Industry Comes To Luton

Regional Consultation on Trade and Industry Comes To Luton

Leading Euro MP Vicky Ford met with staff and management of the Luton Vauxhall Commercial Vehicle manufacturing facility, one of Luton's largest employers, this week. The visit, part of Mrs Ford's consultation with job creators on the priorities for trade, industry and jobs, comes as the government makes preparations for Brexit negotiations.

Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, said, "The Prime Minister has promised that we will make Brexit work. Therefore, it is vital that we continue listening to employers, small and large, to fully understand their needs and challenges. That's why I have come to the UKs longest running automobile factory today."

"General Motors (GM) is a major inward investor in the UK, employing more than 2,000 local people and the Luton Vauxhall manufacturing facility is a testament to the importance of the UKs vehicle industry. Over the years I have had the privilege of visiting the Luton facility on many occasions and have seen the constant improvements that workers and management have made to their methods of working here, becoming the most efficient factory in the GM family and was handpicked by GM to build the Vivaro Van. The facility and its workers are part of global and interconnected supply chains and need to be able to continue to sell into the EU's Single Market with the minimum amount of extra cost or bureaucracy.

It is vital that the innovators and workers at this important regional employer have their voices heard; they make a quality product but, like so many UK manufacturers, they use a significant number of components from across the Single Market to build their market leading products. Complex tariffs could make it very difficult for such a competitive and innovation driven employer to operate at this level in the UK."

Vauxhall Plant Director, Mike Wright stated, "There is too much uncertainty on the future relationship with the EU to comment on how any changes will impact our business. What is important for our business is continued access to the single market, with no tariffs and non-tariff barriers, remaining part of the Customs Union is very important to our operations, no divergence of regulatory standards for vehicles and the free movement of talent and skills."

"We appreciate Mrs Ford taking time out to listen to us, it is much appreciated."

Topics up for discussion between the company and Mrs Ford included customs duties, regulations and tariffs.

Mrs Ford has been meeting regularly with UK government ministers and is helping The UK Manufacturers' Association, EFF, to develop its Brexit strategy.

Download this as a PDF


24 NOV 2016

Statement from Mrs Vicky Ford MEP on Chancellor's support for improved road and rail links between Cambridge and Oxford

Statement from Mrs Vicky Ford MEP on Chancellor's support for improved road and rail links between Cambridge and Oxford

Mrs Ford, who has campaigned for better road and rail links for over a decade, said, "This is excellent news for the Cambridge area, the East of England and the continued development of the U.K. as a leading 21st Century Economy."

"Between Cambridge, Oxford and London we have three of the world's top ten universities but travelling between Cambridge and Oxford is a three hour train trip at best or a struggle with permanent congestion in a car. Enabling our leading scientists, researchers and thinkers at our top universities cities to easily share knowledge and ideas is key to maintaining and accelerating their leadership, keeping us at the forefront of innovation and delivering new jobs, opportunities and growth."

Download this as a PDF


21 NOV 2016

New Science And Research Funding Is Fantastic News

NEW SCIENCE AND RESEARCH FUNDING IS FANTASTIC NEWS

The new £2billion annual fund to science and research is excellent news for the East of England.

It firmly underpins the both the government's commitment to ensure that Britain stays at the forefront of global science and to delivering a 21st century economy.

In the East of England, we have world leaders in medical research, agricultural science and next generation industrial research and development.

Investing this new money to support industry-led science means we can back our winners, and help them to build technologies and jobs for the future.

Mrs Ford said, "The Prime Minister's commitment to make our strength in science and innovation the cornerstone of the UK's future couldn't be clearer. This commitment sends a strong signal of intent to the watching world, injecting much needed confidence and optimism."

"The East of England is one of the most innovative areas in the UK economy attracting scientists and start-ups from all over the world. The right support for the UK's research and development capabilities will underpin economic growth and better health; this is why I have campaigned for it."

"As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, it is critical to remain attractive to the international talent that science and innovation require."

Vicky recently did a speech at the Science Business Conference in Brussels on the importance of Tech Clusters in the East of England, which you can read here: http://www.vickyford.org/communications/speeches/speech-to-the-science-business-conference-on/819

Download this as a PDF


18 NOV 2016

Local MEP meets Caterpillar to discuss priorities for Brexit negotiations

LOCAL MEP MEETS CATERPILLAR TO DISCUSS PRIORITIES FOR BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS

Local Euro MP Vicky Ford and Peterborough's MP Stewart Jackson met with staff and management of Caterpillar, one of Peterborough's largest employers this week. The visit, part of Mrs Ford's consultation with job creators on the priorities for trade, industry and jobs, comes as the government makes preparations for Brexit negotiations.

Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, said, "The Prime Minister has promised that we will make Brexit work. Therefore, it is vital that we continue listening to employers, small and large, to fully understand their needs and challenges."

The Peterborough facility employs 2500 people, and has the capacity to manufacture over half a million Cat® and Perkins engines a year. It is the largest Caterpillar facility in Europe. Almost half of its engines are exported into the European single market.

Mrs Ford said, "Caterpillar is a major inward investor in the UK, employing more than 8,000 people at 20 facilities across the UK and after we leave the EU, companies like Caterpillar which have global and interconnected supply chains will want to be able to continue to sell into the EU's Single Market with the minimum amount of extra cost or bureaucracy. Therefore, it is important to understand how the nitty gritty detail of the negotiations ahead will impact them and thus minimise uncertainty for local jobs."

David Goldspink, General Manager of Operations said, "Maintaining full access to and from the Single Market is critical to Caterpillar for the future competitiveness of our business and to be able to serve our customers both here in the UK and around the world."

Topics up for discussion between the company and Mrs Ford included customs duties, regulations and tariffs.

Mrs Ford has been meeting regularly with UK government ministers and is helping The UK Manufacturers' Association, EFF, to develop its Brexit strategy.

Mrs Ford added, "It's in the interests of both the UK and the EU that we listen to real businesses like Caterpillar and have their needs reflected in the trade negotiations. In short, the government is getting on with Brexit and we need to make sure it works not just in Whitehall and Westminster, but in places like Peterborough."

Mrs Ford also met with leaders of Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to discuss similar issues.

Download this as a PDF


20 OCT 2016

Ordinary people must be winners from international trade deals or they will fail

Ordinary people must be winners from international trade deals or they will fail

One of East Anglia's top EuroMPs has warned trade negotiators in Brussels and Britain that they must engage with ordinary people and address consumer concerns if they are to gain public support for new international trade deals and the Single Market.

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, told a major conference that too much attention had been paid to an elite group of consumers.

And she stressed that the Single Market was not just a trading system but "the practical co-operation that lies behind each consumer transaction."

She said: "We will not regain support for trade if we only focus on the small minority of consumers who shop online across borders, the handful who care about cross-border digital downloads or the elite who follow the debate on geo-blocking.

"The vast majority of European consumers consume in their local area. We need to show how it is because of the Single Market that retailers can offer such choice and diversity and prices at a local level too. The recent rows about Marmite and Cookie Dough ice cream may have felt quite amusing but remind us of the serious issue that where trade relationships between countries are unstable this can lead to real price hikes.

"Unless we all, in the UK and across Europe, re-grasp the conversation with ordinary consumers on the benefits of trade for them, we will lose their confidence not only for international trade deals but also in the Single Market as a whole."

Reminding the audience that the core benefits of free trade for consumers is that it brings them greater choice, greater diversity and lower prices, she went on to warn that "Every time politicians in Brussels ban a product, limit a service or add extra costs into the supply chain we undermine that core message" and urged the 500 plus audience of stakeholders and policy makers "not to reduce choice or add costs unless we are absolutely convinced that this is what consumers want"

Mrs Ford pointed out that the Single Market delivered benefits beyond tariff-free trade. These include:

* the Rapex alert programme, which enables faulty or dangerous toys or cars to be recalled quickly throughout Europe;

* the single payments area system which helps small businesses trade easily across 34 European countries;

* the single approval system allowing new products to come to market faster, such as a new asthma inhaler which Mrs Ford saw in production in Hertfordshire last month.

Mrs Ford's speech to the European Consumer Summit in Brussels comes as the EU-Canada trade deal is in doubt after being rejected by the Wallonian regional parliament in Belgium.

She concluded: "In my lifetime I have seen a world that has worked to tear down barriers to trade, but now increasingly I see that we risk tipping into a new era fuelled by protectionism. Trade deals, including a new EU/UK relationship must work for all consumers not just the elite few who shop across borders."

Download this as a PDF


20 OCT 2016

Clarify rules on "Special Offers" to protect shoppers, says local MEP

Clarify rules on "Special Offers" to protect shoppers, says local MEP

Shoppers should be provided with more information about special promotions as part of the current review of EU consumer legislation.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford, who also chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, wants to ensure retailers always disclose the price per unit of goods, even on promotional items. This would enable consumers to see whether a "special offer" was cheaper than the same product when packaged in a different way or quantity.

She said: "We should avoid overloading people with information that is often disregarded – how many of us ever read all those terms and conditions? – while also making it easier to compare and analyse different offers. Information on 'special offers' is often misleading or confusing.

"Currently measures protecting consumers are scattered across many different legal instruments. We need to change that and create a clear, simple and readily enforceable approach that delivers real protection while supporting innovation and growth."

Mrs Ford told the European Consumer Summit in Brussels that the revised legislation needs to recognise that there is no such thing as an average consumer.

"Older people are increasingly targeted by fraudsters on and off-line," she said. "Is it fair to expect this group to be as well informed as someone who has grown up in the digital age?"

Mrs Ford is also calling on the EU to:

* Reconsider the goal of harmonised consumer laws across the EU. People in countries where consumer rights already exceed those proposed by the EU, including the UK, could see their protection reduced.

* Look again at proposals covering data collection and storage by retailers. The need to track and return data would hamper start-ups, especially App developers.

* Make sure legal protections are properly enforced so that consumers who fall victim to illegal practices, such as in the Volkswagen emissions case, can receive compensation.

END

Download this as a PDF


18 OCT 2016

Cambridge MEP: It's Cambridge England or Cambridge Massachusetts

CAMBRIDGE MEP: IT'S CAMBRIDGE ENGLAND OR CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS


Leaders of industry and Europe's top universities have been warned not to cut Cambridge out of its science networks.

The Cambridge-based East of England MEP, Vicky Ford, told a Brussels conference on tech clusters that UK scientists and innovators will move to the US or China if the BREXIT deal fails to address the ability to share ideas and collaborate. (SPEECH PRINTED BELOW).

The Conference took place 90 years after Marie Curie met Albert Einstein to discuss science in the same Brussels venue.

Mrs Ford said, "The world wants to copy what we do in Cambridge because of they see how successful our tech cluster is. The Cambridge cluster is a unique asset to the whole of Europe and we need to work together to maintain it."

Cambridge is Europe's largest and fastest growing technology cluster with twice as many start up as anywhere else in the UK and fifteen home grown companies now worth over one billion pounds – more than anywhere else.

"What has made Cambridge successful is individuals. It is the combination of the outstanding research work, largely from its University, indeed Universities, with the entrepreneurial networks around it. It is also a great place to live.

"In a post-Brexit relationship, the number one priority for researchers and innovators in and around Cambridge, is to keep the free and easy exchange of knowledge, skills and talent with other clusters. Cambridge scientists currently collaborate with scientists all over Europe. Let's not lose that value."

"Clusters like Cambridge also promote the cross sharing of scientific disciplines. For instance, our astronomers are using their algorithms to map breast cancer and our oncologists are using that data to save lives. If we lose this co-operation we lose the knowledge."

"We have bio-tech, agri-tech and manufacturing and I am frequently told by local organisations that if they were not in Cambridge they would consider relocating to the US or even further."

END

 

 

Vicky Ford - Speech to the Science Business Conference on Europe's Tech Clusters

Bibliotheque Solvay, Brussels, 18th October 2016

Thank you for inviting me to speak at today's conference. We are meeting in the park where Einstein met Marie Curie 90 years ago. What a fitting place for this conference looking at Europe's top tech clusters. It is good to see what is working well, learn from each other's experience, and, better understand how we can help them grow.

The region that I represent, the East of England, has many different clusters. Our energy innovators on our coastline are pioneering new wind, wave and the next generation of nuclear power. We are home to two agri-tech clusters at John Innes Centre in Norwich, and Rothamsted, the world's oldest agricultural research centre. There is the biotech cluster around the home of Glaxo Smith Kline in Hertfordshire and the outstanding aerospace & industrial research taking place at Cranfield University.

Smart specialisation has many positives but it is important to also protect our special multi-disciplinary cluster. At the heart of my constituency, the East of England, is the Cambridge cluster. This is Europe's fastest growing tech cluster, one that adds value all over Europe and I would like to explain why I believe that is in all of our interests to keep close collaboration between the clusters of the UK and the rest of the EU.

The Cambridge cluster started from the bottom-up led by a couple of entrepreneurial chemical engineers from the University in the 1960s. The first four hundred enterprises founded were all in the ICT sector. Now five decades on and it is home to over four thousand tech companies from many sectors; Biotech, Medical, Clean-tech, Agritech and Fintech have all been added into the mix.

Cambridge has twice as many start-ups per head as anywhere else in the UK; and our start-ups live longer than anywhere else. Cambridge is Europe's most successful 'Scale Up City', with 15 home grown firms valued at $1 billion or more; this is two more than London. Of the 200,000 local jobs over 20,000 are in biotechnology alone. This is why Astra Zeneca decided to move its global HQ to Cambridge. This summer, the local firm ARM was sold for £24 billion, which is the equivalent of nearly £200,000 for every man, woman and child living in the city.

What makes Cambridge successful is the combination of the outstanding research work, largely from its University, indeed Universities, with the entrepreneurial networks around it. Networks of expertise, resources and goodwill. It is also a great place to live. As a leading entrepreneur told me, "Cambridge's first thought is how do I make this successful, not how much money can I make from it."

Many studies tell us that innovation is most dynamic where two or more disciplines interface; in Cambridge this happens all the time. It is a multi-disciplinary cluster where the different spheres of science collide and generate solutions. In Cambridge this happens all the time. Let me give you an example, the astronomy department adapted their algorithms for watching the night sky to help the oncologists map out how different breast cancers grow, this has led to developments of new personalised treatments and improved cure rates. Literally, using star gazing to cure cancer. In Cambridge, this is quite normal. It is not driven by money.

Many technology clusters around the world are 'top-down' where politicians decide they want the local economy to move from area like manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture to knowledge intensive sectors. Politicians set up science parks and believe that buildings and money will encourage entrepreneurial behaviour. Yes, facilities and infrastructure are important but money will not solve the problem alone. The Cambridge Phenomenon shows that success is led by enterprising individuals working together.

Individuals collaborating between clusters also drives innovation. Look at the links between Heidelberg and Cambridge, which are keeping Europe at the forefront of world genetics and bio informatics. For many years, there have been more British researchers participating in EU funded Research Networks than from any other country, and under the Horizon 2020 Program, more of those individuals have been from Cambridge than any other British University cluster.

Researchers take part in collaborative networks not just because of the money but because it makes it easier for them to share ideas and find solutions. Evidence shows that where scientists collaborate together in their research they are likely to have a greater impact.

There are many other links between Cambridge and Europe, which are not EU funded or government run. The ties between Cambridge and the European Alpbach Forum for entrepreneurship, and between Cambridge Angels investors and similar networks in Denmark and France. The Cambridge Cluster adds real value to research all across Europe.

In a post-Brexit relationship, the number one priority for researchers and innovators in and around Cambridge, is to keep the free and easy exchange of knowledge, skills and talent with other clusters.

A successful cluster is built around individuals, if individuals cannot share their knowledge easily, they may disperse. It took 50 years to create the Cambridge Cluster, and these valuable networks will not be easily rebuilt elsewhere.

If the clusters of the UK are blocked out of the EU Research Networks, the talent will not necessarily flow from the UK to the continent, but risks being lost to Europe as a whole. Many of those active in the Cambridge cluster do have strong links to Europe, but they have links to the US and China too. If we don't get future collaboration right, it won't be a case of those individuals relocating to Germany or France. The choice is between Cambridge, England, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, between Silicon Fen or Silicon Valley. Europe as a whole will miss out.

This is not in the interest of science or innovation to erect a barricade between scientists in the UK and those in the rest of Europe. I hope that all of us here who care about innovation will help find a way for the collaboration between the UK and EU to continue.

Download this as a PDF


05 OCT 2016

New GBP 60 million investment into East Anglia trains - comment from MEP

New £60 million investment into East Anglia trains - comment from MEP

Below is a copy of a press release regarding East Anglia trains and a comment from the East of England MEP Vicky Ford.

Mrs Ford commented, "As long as we are in the EU we should continue to benefit from its funding streams. The European Investment Bank is able to give longer dated loans than normal High Street banks which means that more trains and carriages can be upgraded. This is good news for passengers across East Anglia."

 

Please find below the press release from EIB on 5 October 2016

European Investment Bank agrees GBP 60 million backing for new East Anglia trains

The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide GBP 60 million for the purchase of new trains that will improve passenger services in East Anglia on key London, intercity, airport and local services. The 378 new train carriages will be used by franchise operator Abellio and replace outdated existing electric and diesel trains currently used on the routes. The EIB loan is guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) under the Investment Plan for Europe, and this is the first EFSI transport loan in the United Kingdom.

"Investment in new trains, upgrading rail infrastructure and building new lines has transformed UK local and national rail use in recent years and helped to double the number of rail passengers over the last 20 years. The European Investment Bank is pleased to support investment in new trains that will benefit both commuters to Europe's biggest city and local travel on Abellio operated lines. This builds on our strong track record of supporting sustainable transport investment across the UK and around the world." said Jonathan Taylor, European Investment Bank Vice President.

"The Investment Plan for Europe continues to make a real difference to our daily lives. Thanks to this fresh financing from the EIB, rail passenger services in East Anglia improve, making the commuter's experience more comfortable. I am proud that we can support the upgrading of transport infrastructure in this way." said European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.

"We are delighted to close our second rolling stock financing, especially in what have been volatile markets post Brexit. The highly competitive long term nature of funding provided by our Blue Chip institutional investors delivers best value for money to the East Anglia passengers and tax payer over the life of the trains." confirmed Mark Swindell, founder of Rock Rail.

"We are very pleased to be funding this important upgrade to rail services on East Anglian and with the continued success of our joint venture with Rock Rail. We are particularly excited as we see significant further potential to provide competitive funding for new rolling across the UK rail network." said Dominic Helmsley, Head of SL Capital Infrastructure, a subsidiary of Standard Life Investments.

The 28 year European Investment Bank loan will finance purchase of new rolling stock by Rock Rail East Anglia PLC for use by Abellio East Anglia Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dutch national rail company Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Funding of these new trains was led by Rock Rail and SL Capital with additional co-investment equity being provided by GLIL, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and London Pensions Fund Authority infrastructure investment joint venture.

Over the last decade the European Investment Bank has provided more than GBP 8.4 billion for transport investment across the UK and nearly EUR 160 billion worldwide. Past European Investment Bank lending has included support for investment in new Eurostar, Intercity and London Underground trains, backing for Crossrail and the Northern Line extension, and new tram networks in Manchester and Nottingham.

Lending by the EIB in the UK last year totalled GBP 5.6 billion and represented the largest annual engagement since the start of EIB lending in the UK in 1973. This supported nearly GBP 16 billion of overall investment in 40 projects across the UK, which schools, university campuses, hospitals, upgraded energy links, renewable energy projects and water infrastructure.

Background information:

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.

The Investment Plan for Europe focuses on strengthening European investments to create jobs and growth. It does so by making smarter use of new and existing financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects. The Investment Plan is already showing results. The European Investment Bank (EIB) estimates that the projects and agreements approved for financing under the EFSI so far (by 26 September 2016) are expected to mobilise EUR 127.2 billion in total investments across 27 Member States and to support almost 290,000 SMEs.

Building on this success, the European Commission on 14 September 2016 proposed extending the EFSI by increasing its firepower and duration as well as reinforcing its strengths. Find the latest EFSI figures including a break-down by sector and by country here. For more information see the FAQs.

Press contacts:

Richard Willis, r.willis@eib.org, tel.: +352 43 79 82155 / Mobile: +352 621 55 57 58
Website: www.eib.org/press - Press Office: +352 4379 21000 – press@eib.org
Follow us on Twitter @eib

Download this as a PDF


16 SEP 2016

Ray of Sunshine for UK Researchers

Ray of Sunshine for UK Researchers

Scientists from across the UK have successfully secured nearly one in five of the prestigious grants from the European Research Council in the latest funding round announced last week. This comes as some good news for British researchers who have been increasingly concerned that they are finding it harder to raise funds post the EU referendum.

Vicky Ford was the UK's lead MEP negotiator on the EU's £70 billion Horizon 2020 fund for research. She explained that whilst this was a positive sign the situation needs to be watched very carefully. She pointed that in the past applicants from the UK have succeeded in winning more ERC grants than any other country but in this latest round the UK had dropped to number two, with 59 grant winners behind Germany´s 61.

The European Research Council grants support to individual researchers in frontier research, especially for pioneering ideas in new and emerging fields. The UK has championed the ERC since it was established less than 10 years ago. Winning an ERC grant is now considered a global badge of excellence. The latest awards are "starter grants" for early-career researchers and the winners will be able to use the funds to build their own teams of post-docs and PhD students.

Mrs Ford said, "These grants are extremely valuable to British universities and to innovation in the UK. For so long as we remain a member of the EU our researchers are entitled to apply and should not be treated like second-class citizens with regards to continued access. It is important that we keep a close eye on this. If there is a significant drop off in grants to the UK we will need to treat this very seriously at the highest level."

Six grants were awarded to individuals at Cambridge University in a wide array of subjects from number theory to neuroscience which Mrs Ford said was "excellent news, reflecting the world class expertise that we are so privileged to have in Cambridge."

In Bedfordshire, a grant was awarded to Ewan McAdam at Cranfield University for a research project on 'Sustainable Chemical Alternatives for Re-use in the Circular Economy'. Mrs Ford said "Cranfield has a unique reputation for turning academic study into industrial success and its excellent news that they will be involved in this vital area of making production more sustainable."

At the John Innes centre in Norfolk, a grant was awarded to Diane Saunders for 'Decoding the Molecular Mechanisms Driving Host Adaptation of Yellow Rust on Cereal Crops and Grasses'. Mrs Ford explained "John Innes is considered one of the very top institutions in the world for plant sciences. Finding new ways to combat plant disease in a changing climate is key for the future of food and farming. "

Reflecting on the future of research funding post Brexit Mrs Ford said, "If we want to continue being world leaders in research we need to make sure that our researchers can access world class grants and work easily with experts in other countries. We should consider either negotiating to continue participating in the European Research Council or establish a parallel complementary system."

Download this as a PDF


16 SEP 2016

Leading MEP warns against a simplistic 'tearing out' of Britain from the EU Single Market

Leading MEP warns against a simplistic 'tearing out' of Britain from the EU Single Market

Strasbourg, 15th September 2016 - Tearing the UK from the Single Market - as advocated by some politicians in the UK and European Commission President Juncker - will hit jobs in Britain and the EU, according to British Conservative Vicky Ford MEP, the Chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee.

She has hit out at the 'overly simplistic' arguments being deployed on both sides, saying that it would take 'a good decade' to unravel the complex manufacturing supply chains that have been built across the EU's Single Market, if the UK were to leave, creating enormous uncertainty across the EU.

President Juncker has pushed for the UK to activate Article 50 as soon as possible, so that the legal process of divorce can begin as swiftly as possible, but Mrs Ford says the practical work for businesses will take far longer. She confronted President Juncker in the chamber.

She said:

"We need to get away from these overly simplistic arguments that Single Market access can either just happen outside of the EU without a new agreement, or that we can have no access without unfettered free movement. The reality is far more complex.

"From its post-war beginnings the EU has bound together manufacturing and industrial capabilities. Unravelling these meshed supply chains could take a good decade and the uncertainty risks being extremely painful on both sides of the Channel.

"It is not enough to keep saying that Germans will want to sell us cars and Europe will want to buy whisky - there are real practical issues that need to be worked out. At the moment one can move everything from lettuces to laptops between the UK and Europe on a common set of rules, but products coming from outside the EU face thousands of pages of different customs regulations. Changing from one regime to the other needs to be properly planned or risks severe disruption especially to the high value manufacturing industries which rely on supply chains moving parts right across the Single Market.

"In Harlow there is a factory that literally makes the nuts and bolts to hold on an Airbus wing. If there are production delays or added costs then airlines will just buy planes from Boeing, putting thousands of jobs across Britain and Europe at risk.

"Picking the Norwegian, Swiss or even Canadian model off the shelf is not going to work for the future EU/UK relationship. The former means the UK has no final say in the rules that affect our manufacturers, the latter is such a weak cooperation agreement that there's no guarantee that our manufacturers would even be consulted."

"Jean-Claude Juncker and some British politicians are risking British and European jobs with this overly simplistic approach to the EU Single Market. If we tear the UK out of the Single Market without a clear road map in place then there will be serious negative consequences for both sides, and possibly in the long term there would be even worse consequences for European manufacturers than for those in the UK. We need to take time to get this right."

Download this as a PDF


15 SEP 2016

Statement on new nuclear - Keeping a golden share is sensible and prudent

Statement on new nuclear - Keeping a golden share is sensible and prudent

East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford has issued the following statement on the government approval for new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

After Hinkley the two next nuclear power stations under consideration for the UK are both in the East of England at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex. Mrs Ford has visited both sites recently and met the senior management team of EDF, the owners.

"Nuclear will play a vital part to our long term energy mix and is key to the UK's energy security strategy. I am pleased to see the Hinkley deal approved which sets the scene for future progress in the East.

"This deal with EDF underpins the strong Anglo French commitment to lead global excellence in the field of nuclear energy."

"I am also pleased to see that the UK government will take a golden-share in future plants. This means the UK government will have the final say on who owns our nuclear power stations in the future. Given the importance of these plants to our national security this a sensible and prudent decision.

"Local concerns on the logistics of the building project including transport and housing will need to be addressed and it is vital that the UK regulators have the final say on all safety and environmental issues."

Download this as a PDF


14 SEP 2016

Local Euro MP tells the European Commission to calm down and take time to get Brexit right

Local Euro MP tells the European Commission to calm down and take time to get Brexit right

"Calm down Mr Juncker" was the warning of local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford to the President of the European Commission during his annual State of the Union Speech today.

In his hour long speech Juncker mentioned the murder of Arek Jozwik in Harlow, Essex. Mrs Ford, whose Euro constituency includes Essex said "Hate crime is despicable, six people have been arrested for this murder but Mr Juncker should also remember that hundreds and hundreds of local people stand united to condemn this crime. The vast majority of British people want peaceful and calm negotiations for their future relationship with Europe and not hate".

Speaking on Brexit Mr Juncker told MEPs that there would be no access to Europe's single market for the UK unless there is also free movement of goods and people. Mrs Ford who chairs the Parliament's committee for the internal market believes that this threat is over-simplistic. She pointed to the deep trade links between the UK and other European countries and said "If we are forced to rip the UK out of the single market with no long term plan then economies across all of Europe will suffer. Negotiators on both sides of the English Channel need to take time to get this right."

Download this as a PDF


06 SEP 2016

Vicky Ford MEP: Access to the Single Market must include the ability to shape its rules.

VICKY FORD MEP: ACCESS TO THE SINGLE MARKET MUST INCLUDE THE ABILITY TO SHAPE ITS RULES.

The leading MEP and Chairman of the European Parliament's influential Single Market Committee has warned Brexit negotiators that access to the single market must include an ability to shape its future rules.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, was speaking to leading British manufacturers at EEF (the manufacturers' organisation) in London (Tuesday 6th September). She said, "British industry needs to be allowed a say on the regulations that govern the markets they trade in. It is vital for them that Britain has the ability and the right to shape those rules and their implementation."

The MEP has steered key legislation through the Parliament and today she met with representatives from companies like BAE Systems, Airbus and Rolls Royce (extended list below).

"It has been suggested that a new UK and EU relationship should be based on the regulatory cooperation chapter in the latest EU/Canada trade deal. But, if we accept this approach, there is no assurance that UK based companies will be consulted at all. This has to be considered unacceptable."

"Instead, I think we are more likely to achieve a more balanced co-operative relationship if we work on a sector by sector approach, focusing cooperation primarily where there is true international need for a cross border consensus; certain areas of financial services and the digital economy as well as key manufacturing sectors come to mind."

 

Notes to editors:

Attendees at the Conference include representatives from Caterpillar, BASF, Rolls Royce, Airbus, Toyota, BAE Systems, Siemens, Babcock and BMW.

Download this as a PDF


31 AUG 2016

Leading British Universities lobby Brussels to support students and science

Leading British Universities lobby Brussels to support students and science

Leaders of some of the U.K.'s top universities were in Brussels on the first day of the new term to discuss how they may continue to collaborate with EU partners post-Brexit.

The Russell Group delegation was led by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, and had representatives from the universities of York, Exeter, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Imperial College London. They met leading British MEPs, Carlos Moedas the Commissioner for Science and Research and leading officials.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the numbers of students from other parts of the EU coming to study in UK universities as well as British students going to European universities. The university leaders explained how students from the UK benefited through the increased sharing of knowledge and extra income to fund education.

Scientists at British universities have also received significant grants from the EU for research projects, mostly via the £70 billion EU Horizon 2020 program. The University leaders explained that they wished to be able to continue to take part in this type of cross border research.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, said "As the Government prepares to negotiate Brexit it is important to understand that our universities have long thrived on global collaboration and international interaction – be it through European staff and students coming to our universities, or when our best researchers work with colleagues across Europe to tackle big social and scientific challenges."

Vicky Ford MEP who hosted the meeting with MEPs said "Our students and scientists benefit from being able to share ideas with those from other countries. For our Universities being able to take part in EU programs is not just about the money, if we in the UK are to remain global leaders in science and research then we need our experts to be able to collaborate with others easily."

Download this as a PDF


13 JUL 2016

EU firearms laws amended to tackle illicit weapons, not law-abiding gun owners

EU firearms laws amended to tackle illicit weapons, not law-abiding gun owners

Brussels, 13th July 2016 -- An update to the EU's firearms directive - that would have banned many firearms used by hunters and sportsmen - has been reformed by a series of amendments voted by the European Parliament's internal market committee today.

The directive, steered through the parliament by Vicky Ford MEP, will instead focus on closing loopholes on so-called 'acoustic' firearms (typically guns converted to fire blanks for ceremonial purposes). Some of these have been used in recent terror attacks, including at Charlie Hebdo.

The European Commission published a proposal to update the firearms legislation last November. The commission's changes were poorly drafted and led to many concerns about their impact on hunters, sports shooters, museums and re-enactments with many of the firearms that they use or display being placed in the Category A list which prohibits them for civilian use.

The position adopted by the committee today will limit the reclassification to semi-automatic firearms capable of firing more than 21 rounds, and some folding or telescopic firearms, as Category A. An exemption will also be possible by Member States for sport shooters in recognised clubs. The Point 22 rifles used in the UK for pest control or by game keepers will not be added to the Category A list.

On 'acoustic' firearms – often known as 'blank' guns – the rules will ensure that a live firearm that is converted to a 'blank' will continue to have the same level of control as in its original status.

Film makers, theatre producers and those involved in military re-enactments had raised problems with the new European standards on deactivation which were introduced last November. These contained a number of technical irregularities which have also been addressed in the parliament's new text, as have concerns raised by museums including the Imperial War Museum and Royal Armouries.

Speaking after today's vote, Vicky Ford MEP, the European Conservatives and Reformists' chair of the parliament's internal market committee, said:

"The Paris and Charlie Hebdo attacks highlighted the potential dangers of blank firing or 'acoustic' weapons being reactivated. We have taken action to close that loophole and make it more difficult for these firearms to fall into the hands of terrorists who use them for such bloody carnage.

"The commission's proposal was poorly drafted in many parts. We have tried to take into consideration all the concerns of law-abiding citizens to make sure that they can continue with their sports, military enactments and traditional hunting.

"My priority will continue to be closing the loopholes, without causing unintended consequences for legitimate gun owners. I will continue with this approach as we start talks with EU governments to deliver the final directive."

ENDS

Download this as a PDF


11 JUL 2016

Statement from Vicky Ford MEP

Statement from Vicky Ford MEP

I am very pleased that Theresa May has been confirmed as leader of the Conservative Party. She will give the UK strong leadership and stability at this vital time.

I have worked with Theresa May's team to introduce the cross-border criminal records checks which are now delivering real results in crime-prevention in the East of England. I have seen first hand how she goes the extra mile to help Conservative candidates in our most challenging seats, campaigning with her in Castle Point in the last general election, in Norwich North in the 2009 parliamentary by-election and in Birmingham Northfield when I was the candidate during the 2005 MG Rover crisis.

Theresa May has the experience and the credibility to lead our country at this critical juncture. She has put together a deep and experienced team of Conservatives from all sides of the party. She has a reputation across the country and overseas for being a calm and wise leader at difficult times.

Download this as a PDF


06 JUL 2016

Brexit negotiators warned to take care over cyber security

Brexit negotiators warned to take care over cyber security

A leading UK MEP has warned that Brexit negotiators should seek to retain British cooperation in new EU cyber security networks in order to protect critical infrastructure from hackers.

New measures agreed in the European Parliament this week focus on key area such as power stations, banking networks and air traffic control systems.

The legislation builds on existing practice in the UK and represents a levelling up of security across the EU. It sets out basic standards of resilience and establishes procedures for EU countries to work together to prevent and detect network disruptions in critical infrastructure.

Member states will set up their own expert teams, share early warnings of risks and learn from each other's experiences.

The measures follow three years of negotiations chaired by British Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. She hopes such co-operation will continue in Britain's future relations with the EU.

She said: "Cyber crime knows no borders and international cooperation is needed.

"This has been an extremely complex and sensitive negotiation and ensures that best practice is spread to other Member States. It is an important step forward.

"National security decisions will not be compromised and countries will not be forced to disclose sensitive information. On-line companies were concerned about bureaucracy if they needed to report the same incident in 28 different countries. A light touch and common approach has been agreed to address this.

"When we negotiate our new UK/EU relationship I hope space and time will be given for us to continue to work together when necessary on security issues such as this."

Download this as a PDF


29 JUN 2016

Vicky Ford MEP - Advice to UK based scientists

East of England Euro MP has sought some reassurance for British scientists taking part in the £70 billion Horizon 2020 EU research programme. Mrs Ford was one of the lead negotiators on establishing this programme. She spoke today to the EU Research Commissioner, Carlos Moedas. He confirmed that at the moment, UK researchers remain eligible to apply for EU funding grants as from a legal point of view, the referendum itself has not changed the position and the UK is still a member of the Single Market and a full member of the EU until the end of negotiations.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Monday that all existing Horizon 2020 contracts will be honoured, however he also pointed out that it is not clear how these will be treated post leaving, or how science and research will be prioritised in negotiations by a future Prime Minister.

Mrs Ford says, "The East of England is home to world class scientists and more British based researchers apply to take part in EU collaborative projects than from any other country. The Commissioner has confirmed the comments he gave to the press on Monday that British scientists should continue to be treated on an equal basis with those from across the rest of Europe, at least at the moment. I will continue to watch this closely."

Download this as a PDF


28 JUN 2016

Statement from Vicky Ford MEP

As you may know I campaigned for a Remain vote because I was deeply concerned about the economic impact of a "Leave outcome" and the instability that was likely to occur. Now that results of the referendum are known, as much as I would have preferred an alternative outcome, I will do what I can to try to minimise negative impacts.

It is essential that we all now work together to ensure that we secure the best terms possible for UK businesses, services and people to access the EU single market.

I am spending this week consulting colleagues and contacts in Brussels and London, including meeting the Foreign Secretary yesterday. The UK has not yet triggered the Article 50 and it is important that all options and influence are kept open for the negotiations ahead. Therefore at least for the time being, I remain Chairman of the Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

This morning there was a long debate of the full parliament on the situation. I have never known so many MEPs to listen so intensely. The UK's Commissioner Lord Hill, who has now resigned, was given a massive standing ovation by the vast majority of the Parliament and many spoke of how they had valued the work and advice of colleagues from the UK. However, there was a great deal of tension and discord when both Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen spoke. I do not believe this helps the UK negotiation. We are going to need cool heads as well as assistance from the friends that we have in other member states in the EU.

It was comforting in today's debate to hear the Dutch minister speaking on behalf of the 27 other countries about the need to find a mutually beneficial solution. The leader of the European People's Party (Merkel's allies) promised they would not let down the young people of the UK.

I know many people are concerned about science and research programmes. I managed to have a brief exchange with the Commissioner for Research, Carlos Moedas, yesterday and have scheduled a longer call for tomorrow. I am not sure how much clarity I can get at the moment as President Juncker has said there will be no negotiation until Article 50 is triggered. I will issue a press release if I hear more. Please do contact me if you have specific issues in this area.

It is a huge honour to represent the people of the East of England and I cannot thank you enough for the support and advice many of you have given me over recent years. We face uncertain times but will be stronger by continuing to work together. I remain committed to represent you to the best of my ability.

Download this as a PDF


14 JUN 2016

EU firearms law: Local MEP to lead reforms

EU firearms law: Local MEP to lead reforms

Members of the European Parliament's Internal Market committee are expected to debate amendments to the EU's Firearms Directive this Tuesday. The debate will be led by East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford (Conservative) who is overseeing the negotiations across all of Europe. There has been a common European firearms law for over 25 years but far-reaching reforms were proposed by the Commission following the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks last year.

The first draft of the proposals was widely considered to be very poorly drafted and would have had many unintended consequences. Members of the European Parliament have tabled a further 800 amendments to the Commission's proposal, which will be discussed on Tuesday.

Mrs Ford will put forward a series of proposals.

Mrs Ford will say:

'It is absolutely right that we close the specific loophole that was exploited by terrorists involved in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. These firearms that were supposedly only able to fire blanks, and hence could be bought and sold by individuals who did not have any firearms certificate, license or permit. These guns had not been irreversibly converted and were easily turned back into live firearms. Many similar firearms were found in a marina in Kent and it is absolutely vital that we work with our neighbours across Europe to close this loophole to make us all secure."

Mrs Ford's proposals will also introduce robust measures to make sure that permits or licenses are not given to individuals who are likely to pose a risk to public safety. Countries will be expected to have in place a monitoring system and new measures will be introduced to ensure that if a person is refused a permit in one country, then the police in another country will be made aware. MEPs will vote on whether or not medical checks should be required.

Mrs Ford will propose additional votes on whether specific types of firearms such as those which are easier to conceal or those with larger firing capacity should be banned at a European level. She will also introduce very specific technical criteria for deactivated firearms in order to make sure that military re-enactors, museums and film makers do not find themselves in a legal limbo due to contradictory language in the technical standards.

She is intending to have another month of negotiations with colleagues before voting on the proposals next month.

Mrs Ford will say:

"You should not be able to buy any firearm in Europe without a permit or license. You should not be able to get a permit or license if you are considered by authorities to be likely to pose a risk to public order. If in any doubt, the authorities should say "no".

"This is a sensitive issue, and we must get it right. We need to have effective crossborder laws but this also needs to be done in a way that it does not have unintended consequences for legitimate owners, sportsmen, national defence or museums."

ENDS

Notes: watch the debate Tuesday at 09.50 CET via this link: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20160614-0900-COMMITTEE-IMCO

Download this as a PDF


01 JUN 2016

SOUTH WEST BEDFORDSHIRE MP ANDREW SELOUS AND VICKY FORD MEP VISIT B/E AEROSPACE AS PART OF THE BRITAIN STRONGER IN EUROPE CAMPAIGN

SOUTH WEST BEDFORDSHIRE MP ANDREW SELOUS AND VICKY FORD MEP VISIT B/E AEROSPACE AS PART OF THE BRITAIN STRONGER IN EUROPE CAMPAIGN

B/E Aerospace's site on Grovebury Road in Leighton Buzzard invited their local Euro MP Vicky Ford and local MP Andrew Selous to visit its Bedfordshire site to hear how the EU and its single market help their trade and support exports. Mrs Ford is the Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament for the East of England and Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee.

They were taken on a tour of the site and introduced to employees working at the site. The Managing Director Keith Delderfield explained that the long period of uncertainty following a vote to leave the EU and the fluctuation in exchange rates would hurt their business. B/E Aerospace exports over a third of its turnover to Europe and any negative impact on the ease of carrying out business within the EU would make B/E Aerospace review their current operating strategy.

South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous said;

"We have 700 high skilled engineering jobs here in Leighton Buzzard that we are extremely proud of and I don't want anything to happen after the 23rd June that would make life more difficult for everyone who works here. B/E Aerospace have been very clear that their business will hugely benefit from the United Kingdom remaining within the European Union and will be harmed if the UK leaves".

Mrs Ford said of the tour:

"It's good to see a global business like B/E Aerospace committed to the local area and manufacturing leading products in Bedfordshire. The company is selling a huge amount in to the EU. They are affected by EU laws on consumer and environmental safety. It is important that we have a voice and a vote on how those laws are made. I am concerned that if we vote leave in the referendum we give up that voice. Real employers and real local jobs could be seriously affected."

Download this as a PDF


20 MAY 2016

Dow Chemical Company meets with local MEP, Vicky Ford

Dow Chemical Company meets with local MEP, Vicky Ford

Leading manufacturer discusses local community support, sustainability and UK manufacturing

The Dow Chemical Company in Kings Lynn invited their local Euro MP Vicky Ford to visit its Norfolk site and hear about their new energy saving construction product. Mrs Ford is the Conservative Party Member of the European Parliament for the East of England and Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee.

Mrs Ford was welcomed to the site by the newly appointed Regional Leader for the UK, Ireland and Nordic, Andrew Jones, as well as the King's Lynn Site Leader Julian Beresford-Peirse. Ms Ford was taken on a tour of the site and introduced to employees working at the site.

Dow Chemicals has manufactured Styrofoam at its Estuary Road site in King's Lynn for 40 years along with insecticide and fungicide products. Mrs Ford was impressed to learn that XENERGY™, a recently launched product, had been awarded a BRE A+ rating - this independent rating is given to construction products that meet very specific and stringent environmental and ethical standards. The site exports almost two thirds of its products into the Europe's Single Market every year. It employs almost one hundred people.

In addition, Mrs Ford learnt about Dow's work in the local community, including its project with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to buy the Delft plot near Roydon Common and restore its rare heath habitat.

Mrs Ford said of the tour:

"Its good to see a global business like Dow committed to the local area and manufacturing leading products in Norfolk. The company is selling a huge amount in to the EU. They are affected by EU laws on consumer and environmental safety. It is important that we have a voice and a vote on how those laws are made. I am concerned that if we vote leave in the referendum we give up that voice. Real employers and real local jobs could be seriously affected."

Download this as a PDF


17 MAY 2016

ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH TELLS MEP THAT EU IS VITAL FOR SCIENCE

ROTHAMSTED RESEARCH TELLS MEP THAT EU IS VITAL FOR SCIENCE

Harpenden's world leading plant scientists at Rothamsted have spelled out the case for science in Europe to a top MEP. The leading Conservative MEP Vicky Ford visited the world's oldest agricultural research centre on Tuesday.

With over 200 scientists working at the cutting edge of crop science and biotechnology, Rothamsted has benefited from EU grants and has led many international research projects which help to ensure its status as a global centre for science.

Cambridge-based Vicky Ford was the UK lead negotiator on Europe's £70 billion fund for research, known as the Horizon 2020 program. During the five year negotiations she worked with Rothamsted and other expert organisations across Britain to prioritise areas like plant science, medical research and next generation transport: all areas where the UK excels.

"Science and research is key to driving innovation and economic growth and jobs, as well as to solving some of our biggest problems such as how to grow new crops that can adapt to developing disease and drought. It is vital that our scientists in Britain can work easily with others all across the world and that we do not walk away from European neighbours in this referendum", said Mrs Ford.

Professor Achim Dobermann, Director and Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research commented: "The sustainability, food security and nutrition challenges we are facing are global. Providing solutions for those challenges requires coordinated international efforts. Science can only thrive through collaborative endeavours that enable sharing if know-how, data and resources. Researchers need wide access to international science collaboration mechanisms as well as funding and there must be easy movement of people across countries. Remaining in the EU and working towards even more efficient ways of collaboration will greatly benefit science and innovation and thus also agricultural businesses and consumers in the UK".

This week's visit was the fourth time Mrs Ford has visited the company in the past six years. Last month 150 of Britain's leading Royal Society scientists, including Stephen Hawking, warned that voting to leave the EU would cut ties to funding and damage Britain's global status as a hub for knowledge and innovation.

Pic: Vicky with Dr Jonathan Storkey and Prof Achim Dobermann (Director of Rothamsted).

 

Download this as a PDF


13 MAY 2016

NASA SUPPLIER TELLS MEP EU IS VITAL FOR TRADE

NASA SUPPLIER TELLS MEP EU IS VITAL FOR TRADE

A Cambridgeshire company and supplier of NASA has called in their local Conservative MEP, Vicky Ford, to hear how the EU and its Single Market are vital for British trade.

Almath Crucibles in Burrough Green manufacture scientific products for Rolls Royce, the University of Cambridge, Red Bull Formula One as well as NASA. It exports almost half of its products into the Europe's Single Market every year.

Touring the factory near Newmarket, Mrs Ford, who chairs the European Parliament's Single Market Committee, said, "It's not just big businesses that face an uncertain time ahead if we vote to leave and need to re-negotiate all our trade deals, small companies like Almath will be affected too."

"We currently participate in all trade negotiations and I personally lead many. Almath is representative of UK business, like the rest of Britain, half its exports go into the EU and the uncertainty that will be created by voting to leave would damage our economy and thwart the ambitions of innovative companies".


Download this as a PDF


03 MAY 2016

Overseas phone bills drop again

Overseas phone bills drop again

From the beginning of this month people using their mobile phones in the EU will see yet another reduction in roaming charges. From summer next year, mobile phone users will pay the same price as at home when on holiday in Europe.

As of last Saturday, mobile service providers can charge customers no more than 4 pence on top of the domestic price for one minute of an outgoing call, or 1MB of data. Meanwhile, a new cap of 1.6 pence has been applied for sent text messages.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford, who help scrutinise the new law, said: "For far too long people's holidays have been ruined by a huge phone bill waiting for them at home. This is another great win for British holidaymakers and I look forward to next summer and the end to excessive roaming charges once and for all."

Download this as a PDF


21 APR 2016

LEADING MEP: SHILLING CASE PROVES NEED FOR FIREARMS REFORM

LEADING MEP: SHILLING CASE PROVES NEED FOR FIREARMS REFORM

(We have video and audio footage available with Mrs Ford's remarks on request)

The MEP leading the European review into firearm legislation is welcoming the successful conviction of a gang, led by Harry Shilling from Swanley in Kent, charged with illegally and importing and owning firearms.

Officers seized 22 automatic assault rifles, 9 Skorpion machine pistols, 58 magazines, 2 silencers and around 1000 live rounds of ammunition following an operation in Kent last August.

The guns were sold in Slovakia as blank firing weapons, such as those used by some film makers, which currently are not covered by existing European gun laws. They were then converted back into live weapons. The same company also sold weapons that ended being used in the Charlie Hebdo early attack last year. The Home Secretary, Theresa May has called for a tightening of gun laws across the continent.

Mrs Ford added, "Criminals do not respect borders and this case shows exactly why we need to work with other countries across Europe for our own safety and security. We have had shared EU law on firearms since the 1990s. It is vital we now update the law to close this loop hole".

Mrs Ford is leading the negotiations in the European Parliament for the update of the law. This will ensure that work done to deactivate guns can not be reversed. Mrs Ford's recommendations are currently being considered by MEPs ahead of a vote scheduled for the summer.

"The police and its partner agencies are to be congratulated following the conclusion of this case and I will continue working with MEPs and governments from across Europe to plug these gaps in European law." 

Download this as a PDF


14 APR 2016

Europe must act urgently to help British Steel

Europe must act urgently to help British Steel

One of East Anglia's leading Euro MPs took a stand for British steelworkers yesterday demanding that the EU officials take more urgent action. Vicky Ford seized the opportunity to speak up for steel in a key debate with both the president of the European Commission and the leading representative of all 28 countries from across the European Union.

Mrs Ford said "Steel is a key strategic sector and jobs are on the line. Urgent action is needed." She called for vital anti-dumping measures and pledged that both the UK government and her Conservative MEP colleagues would support efforts to make them more effective. Mrs Ford also met representatives from UK Steel and the British manufacturing organisation, EEF who had travelled to the European Parliament seeking support.

Mrs Ford said "Our steel experts have asked why it seems to be taking a long time for the EU officials to make decisions. I have immediately asked the Commissioner at the top of the competition authority to look into this. They have also made some technical suggestions for how European trade investigations could be made more effective. We are looking into this.

British ministers voted for tariffs on wire rods last July, steel pipes in October and reinforcing bars in February. "The UK has repeatedly demanded and voted for tariffs on unfairly traded Chinese steel, and we will continue to do so. I am keen to hear good ideas for how the tariff mechanism can be improved so we can help the steel industry without having a negative consequence for other manufacturing sectors." added Mrs Ford.

Data released by the Manufacturing Organisation shows that East of England has the third largest manufacturing sector in the whole of the UK, with over 13,000 businesses of which over half were small or mediums sized.

Download this as a PDF


14 APR 2016

EAST OF ENGLAND MEP: Britain is not alone in calling for EU reform

EAST OF ENGLAND MEP: Britain is not alone in calling for EU reform

One of the East of England's leading representatives in the Europe is celebrating success after a large majority of Members of the European Parliament supported British calls to roll back red tape and cut EU law.

Euro MP Vicky Ford has held meetings all across East Anglia since the referendum was called. She says that members of the public ask her again and again whether the UK is the only country asking for EU reform.

The 'Towards Improved Single Market Regulation' report was approved by the European Parliament yesterday by a majority of 387 in favour to 293 against. It states that Europe should only make new rules where this helps the economy to grow and create jobs, that rules should be simple and easy to apply and that small businesses in particular should be not be overburdened. It also says that National Parliaments should have a stronger voice and be able to use a proper red card to block unwanted laws. These have all been top priorities of the UK for reforming the EU.

East of England MEP and the Conservative Internal Market and Consumer Protection spokesman Vicky Ford said: "People tell me that they want to keep the single market for trade but without the red tape. It was great to see so many MEPS from so many different countries support our campaign"

"The single market is meant to make it easier for businesses to trade across 28 countries with 500 million consumers. It is meant to remove unnecessary costs, not to add more. This is key for the UK as 45% of our exports go to other countries in the EU."

Mrs Ford is currently speaking at and hosting events across the East of England to discuss the EU and its single market ahead of June's referendum. She added, "This issue about EU red tape comes up at every event. Today's vote shows we are winning the argument as it's not just Britain that wants reform."

Download this as a PDF


21 MAR 2016

PROTECT THE EAST OF ENGLAND'S TURTLE DOVE

PROTECT THE EAST OF ENGLAND'S TURTLE DOVE

The East of England MEP Vicky Ford is calling on the EU Commission to do more to protect Europe's declining Tuttle Dove population.

The MEP was responding to Malta's decision to allow 5000 of the doves to be shot next month as they pass over the island on their migratory route. Although their initial plans were to allow 11,000 to be hunted.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put the bird on its red list of animals that are threatened.

Mrs. Ford, took up the case after being contacted by many constituents, said, "Experts say Malta's decision to allow the bird to still be hunted will directly lead to its demise."

"Turtle doves are summer visitors to the UK, and are most prevalent in the East of England. Their distinctive, gentle, purring song used to be a characteristic sound of summer. Sadly, it is now very rare to hear their calls."

According to the nature union (IUCN), the bird's population size in Europe is estimated to be decreasing at a rate of 30% to 49% every three generations. Other studies have shown that in the UK specifically, the population has decreased 93% since 1970, and scientists have warned that turtle doves may be lost as a UK breeding bird by 2021.

In October, Mrs. Ford helped sign up over 90 MEPs from 23 countries calling for urgent interim measures to help protect the bird.

A year ago Maltese citizens were asked in a referendum of they wished to continue spring hunting. The result was narrowly in favour of retaining the spring hunt, with 50.4% voting for the existing law to remain in place.

Mrs. Ford said, "It is illegal to shoot birds in the spring on their way home to nest. The law must be upheld. There is a will among MEPs for action and if Malta are not prepared to do what is needed then the EU Commission must be quick and robust."

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Turtle doves are known for forming strong pair bonds and for having soft, melodic voices, making them popular symbols representing love in songs, poems and bible references. When the nature union upgraded the bird's status from "least concern" to "vulnerable," animal rights groups reacted with petitions and websites.

Download this as a PDF


18 MAR 2016

MEP WELCOMES TAMPON TAX DEAL

MEP WELCOMES TAMPON TAX DEAL

The East of England MEP and Conservative Consumer Rights spokesman Vicky Ford has welcomed a deal reached to remove women's sanitary products from VAT.

The issue was raised in March last year by Conservative MEPs who questioned why the EU countries had not zero-rated the products.

Mrs Ford said, "These products are essentials and not luxuries and never should have had VAT imposed on them in first place, common sense has prevailed."

"This should be the start of a much wider reform of VAT as there are other areas where the full rate of VAT shouldn't be applied, including energy saving products"

At the European Council summit in Brussels, the 28 leaders agreed a statement welcoming "the intention of the Commission to include proposals for increased flexibility for member states with respect to reduced rates of VAT, which will provide the option to member states of VAT zero-rating sanitary products".

Download this as a PDF


22 FEB 2016

How I will be voting in the up coming UK referendum and why

How I will be voting in the up coming UK referendum and why

Ever since I became an MEP I have said that the status quo could not continue. Europe needs to change and our relationship with it needs to change.

In just seven years the Eurozone has gone from a Monetary Union to a Fiscal Union and Banking Union - now they are discussing "Social Union" too. This is a massive fundamental change to the governance of the economies of countries in the euro. We, outside the Eurozone, could not keep muddling along without change. The Prime Minister's negotiation keeps the UK out of the euro, safeguards our economic independence, cements the independence of the Bank of England, and protects the pound. It takes us out of the "ever-closer union" and importantly prevents those within the euro from forming a cartel and discriminating against those outside. This has always been a red line for me in the renegotiation. It has been achieved.

On migration there have been achievements. The removal of job-seeker's allowances and limits on benefits for new arrivals will reduce some of the pressures we have seen. Proper border control means being able to take action against those who present a danger to our communities. I have long campaigned for sharing of cross-border criminal records and I am pleased that the outcome of the negotiations reflects a change in the attitudes of many other European countries in helping each other to fight against crime and terror.

In my time as an MEP I have also fought back against unwarranted red-tape and unnecessary laws. The single market does help us to trade across Europe's 500 million consumers; this boosts competitiveness, aids growth and creates jobs. But too often the 28 countries of the EU sign up to a new law, and then everyone turns a blind eye to any problems businesses, especially small businesses, have when the law is implemented. In this negotiation we have set up an annual review of all EU law and agreed to establish sector by sector targets for removing unnecessary costs and to return decision-making to national parliaments where international EU rules are not warranted. Of course this will take time but it is a positive start.

I have seen how the devil in the detail of the trade negotiations we have across the single market can affect every sector of our economy. This is why I have rolled up my sleeves to negotiate trade terms on cars, pharmaceuticals, banking, telecommunications, digital, offshore oil and gas, package travel, science and research, and many more areas. Getting their voices heard is key to jobs, growth, and economic stability in my own region. I would be wrong to say that we win all our negotiating aims, but by turning up at the negotiating tables we do win the vast majority. Other countries such as Norway have to accept the outcome of trade negotiations without being able to have a say on the underlying terms. For an economy as diverse as the UK, indeed as the East of England, we cannot afford to be in a position like that of Norway.

There is of course more I would like to see, not least a less profligate attitude to the spending of tax payers' money, an end to the wasteful Strasbourg circus, and a closer eye being given to warnings from the court of auditors, but these are battles we can and will continue to fight.

To get to this stage has been a mammoth negotiation which has needed all 28 countries to agree, each of which have their own internal political debates and many of whom are facing deep uncertainty in their own economies and national security.

Achieving this negotiation has been like playing chess on 28 different boards at the same time - 29 if you count the European Parliament too. If we walk away from the negotiating tables now and vote "Leave" we will need to secure a new trade deal. To get a deal, even one like Norway's, would again need unanimous consent of the heads of state of all 28 countries, plus the European Parliament. We are not negotiating with benign economists; many of those national leaders face the risk of contagion. For their own domestic political reasons they cannot afford an amicable separation with the UK. We will have tossed all 29 chess boards up into the air and have no idea where the pieces will land. Much as I would like to be able to walk away quietly from the bureaucracy of the EU institutions, all my instincts tell me that this would lead to a very expensive and drawn out divorce.

Across the world economies, security and natural resources are under pressure. We are not immune; our own economic recovery is still fragile. Everyone will need to think very hard about their own decision, their own future, and what their vote will mean for the future of our country. To me, this does not feel like the right time to be walking away from allies or taking unquantifiable risks. This deal is not perfect, but for me, it is a step in the right direction and better than a leap into the unknown. This is why I will vote to remain in the EU and to continue to fight for reforms from within.

Download this as a PDF


15 FEB 2016

Local MEP supports child rescue alert campaign

Local MEP supports child rescue alert campaign

A major UK initiative to help detect missing children is being backed by East of England MEP Vicky Ford, who said it could also assist the 1 million young people who go missing across Europe each year.

People are being urged to sign up to Child Rescue Alert, the potentially life-saving system that circulates details via phones, apps, social media and business networks immediately police are informed of a high risk child disappearance or abduction. By doing so it increases the chances of the child being found in the vital first few hours after they go missing.

The system is managed by the National Crime Agency, the charity Missing People and the technology company Groupcall and currently 143,000 groups and individuals in the UK are registered. The aim is to increase that to 1 million during the new campaign, which runs from Monday February 15 to the end of the month.

Mrs Ford commented: "This is a potentially lifesaving system and the more people who sign up to it the more effective it will be."

"The more individuals, charities and businesses that are involved the better as the wider the network the more likely it will be that high risk missing children can be found quickly and reunited with their family."

Child Rescue Alert is part of the Europe-wide Amber Alert system to tackle the issue of child abduction. Each year one million children go missing or are abducted in Europe and 76 per cent are killed within three hours of the abduction. As well as an expansion of the AMBER Alert scheme, Vicky and fellow MEPs are calling for better cross-border co-operation and tighter checks on children's passports.

"Child rescue Alert's campaign shows Britain is leading the way in helping save children's lives, but it needs more people to get involved directly. People can sign up themselves so that they will be one of the individuals alerted when a child is in danger and they can send on the message to their network of contacts by text and social media."

"Companies, organisations, clubs and schools can all get involved too. The more people signed up, the quicker information can get out, the more children we may save."

The new campaign is supported by Child Rescue Alert ambassadors Coral and Paul Jones, whose five-year-old daughter April was abducted and murdered by a local man while playing near her home in Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, in October 2012.

Mrs Jones said: "We're asking everyone to sign up to Child Rescue Alerts to help ensure no other parents experience the pain we feel as a result of the tragic ending to the search for our daughter April. With your help we can make sure the next time a child is taken or in danger we can bring them home safely."

* You can sign up to receive Child Rescue Alert sms and emails at the website: childrescuealert.org.uk

Download this as a PDF


27 JAN 2016

LOCAL MEP WINS CAMPAIGN TO AXE 17 MILLION PIECES OF RED TAPE A YEAR

Plans to impose 'burdensome, costly and time consuming' red tape on consumers and courier companies have been avoided after a sustained campaign by Conservative East of England MEP Vicky Ford.

The EU Commission were asking for paperwork for every package that comes into the EU. However, following an intervention by Mrs Ford, packages with a value of £17 or €22 and under will now be exempt. This is an estimated 17 million packages a year. The MEP warned that it would lead to higher prices and adversely affect small courier and delivery firms who would have been 'swamped' with paperwork.

"The proposals were burdensome, time-consuming and unworkable. It would have reduced the incentive to trade and the costs would have been passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices" said Vicky. "It is good to win yet another victory for common sense"

Download this as a PDF


26 JAN 2016

LOCAL MEP HOSTS GUN EXPERTS

Senior police officers, an Imperial War Museum expert and members of the shooting lobby are to meet the East of England MEP Vicky Ford to discuss the current review into EU gun laws.

The measures are part of the European Union's response to recent terrorist attacks, including the Paris atrocity, and are designed to make it harder for terrorists to gain a weapon..

Mrs Ford says the feedback she receives will help create legislation that strikes a balance between cracking down on criminal activity while protecting legitimate interests.

"I am very much in listening mode and would like to thank the experts for discussing their issues with me," she said. "In the aftermath of Paris and the increased security threat we live under we cannot afford to get this wrong.

"However, we need to ensure the rules are proportionate and that they tackle real problems."

Initial proposals published by the European Commission in November included a ban on collectors owning deactivated so-called Category A weapons such as machine guns, ending civilian use of semi-automatic weapons which resemble those with automatic mechanisms, and introducing standardised medical tests for anyone applying for a firearms certificate.

However, they prompted concern from museum owners and collectors, sporting organisations and groups such as the Countryside Alliance. There are also questions over how the proposals, as currently drafted, might affect military reservists in some countries, activities such as paint balling and historic re-enactments as well as the use of guns in films and television productions.

Mrs Ford intends to prepare a first draft of amendments to the Commission's proposals by mid-March. These will then be discussed and if necessary further amended before a vote in June.

Chief Superintendent Joanne Chilton of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, who will attend Thursday's meeting, said: "I am grateful the work and expertise of the unit is being recognised at a European level and we will do all we can to best inform those writing new laws."

Others taking part in the discussion include representatives from the Imperial War Museum, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Gun Trade Association.

Download this as a PDF


06 JAN 2016

Local MEP to lead EU gun law review following Paris attacks

Local MEP to lead EU gun law review following Paris attacks

The East of England MEP Vicky Ford has been appointed to oversee the scrutiny and amendment of tougher EU gun laws proposed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack.

Mrs Ford is concerned the initial proposals published by the European Commission have 'unintended consequences' that could affect museums, genuine collectors, sporting organisations and activities such as paint balling and historic re-enactments as well as the use of guns in films and television productions.

"In the aftermath of the tragic Paris attacks it is right that we look at what more can be done on a practical basis to tackle terrorism and criminal activities," said Mrs Ford, MEP for Eastern England.

"Effective gun controls are part of this. However, we need to ensure the rules are proportionate and that they tackle real problems. There are some genuine concerns that the initial proposals are unclear and poorly worded. This means there could be unintended consequences for genuine law abiding gun owners and this must be avoided. I intend to prepare a series of amendments to cover these issues."

Mrs Ford will host a series of working groups and hearings with experts from across Europe and the UK, with a view to finalising her report by early spring. This will then be followed by discussions with MEPs and governments from other countries before a final law is agreed.

A key concern is that the current proposals could result in irreversible damage to thousands of historical weapons currently securely held in museum collections. In order to better understand how such weapons are kept secure and the potential cutural and financial costs of deactivating them, this Friday Mrs Ford will meet expert curators from the Royal Armouries and the Imperial War Museum.

Mrs Ford stressed that the UK already had some of Europe's most stringent gun laws and said her report will ensure this approach remains in place.

Download this as a PDF


18 DEC 2015

SENIOR MEP URGES RENEGOTIATION OR ACCEPT BREXIT POSSIBILITY

Senior MEP Urges Renegotiation Or Accept Brexit Possibility

The East of England MEP and Chairman of the EU's Single Market Committee has urged European Heads of Government to reform and renegotiate Britain's membership or risk Britain voting to leave.

Vicky Ford MEP speaking to the Parliament ahead of the EU Summit emphasised the benefits that the European Single market has brought to trade and prosperity but she also warned that British voters are split 50-50.

Speaking in front of the European Commission, President Jean Claud Junker, she said that "Unless substantial changes are negotiated Britain will vote to leave" and urged all leaders to find real and lasting solutions to the issues the UK is raising.

Mrs Ford said that Europe's single market needs to be more dynamic and not discriminate against Countries, like Britain, that have not or do not want to adopt a single currency. Mrs Ford reminded MEPS that the East of England has experienced more EU migration than any other part of the UK. She described freedom of movement as a "cherished right" but warned that unlimited access to healthcare and welfare by EU migrants has proved unattainable and builds resentment.

Full Speech

Tomorrow European leaders will discuss the Single Market, Migration & Brexit. British voters are split 50-50.

Unless substantial changes are made Britain will vote to leave.

The Single Market has made it easier to trade in 28 countries, with 500 million consumers. I would like to see a more dynamic single market. But the UK will not join the euro and cannot be part of its ever closer union or Social Union

Therefore it's vital that countries outside the Eurozone cannot be discriminated against by a cartel of those countries within. This is a red line for me in the Brexit negotiations.

On migration, the Region I represent has experienced more EU migration than any other part of the UK. Free movement is a cherished right. But unlimited access to healthcare, welfare has proved unsustainable and builds resentment.

In two years' time the UK may have voted to leave the EU. I urge all leaders to find real and lasting solutions to the issues raised.

Download this as a PDF


09 DEC 2015

Reforms to kick-start Digital Single Market must not undermine existing rights

Reforms to kick-start Digital Single Market must not undermine existing rights

A series of proposals to update consumer rules for the digital age must underpin, rather than undermine the digital single market, say ECR MEPs.

The European Commission has announced three new proposals on laws for consumer rights for digital content, tangible goods bought online, and removing the "geo-blocking" of access to digital content.

Vicky Ford MEP, the chair of the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee said: "A common set of rules for those buying and selling online goods and content across Europe could help unlock economic growth and boost competitiveness, but it is important that new rules are clear and do not add extra cost and confusion.

"The UK already has Europe's biggest e-commerce sector, in part due to consumers understanding what rights they have when they buy online. Therefore putting in place the same rules across Europe has the potential to give consumers more choice.

"There is a danger in trying to place identical rights in every country if consumers in the UK, France and Germany lose some rights they are familiar with.

"There is also a risk of undermining consumer trust if there are different rights when buying online as opposed to offline."

The European Commission has also announced its intention to introduce a "Portability Regulation", to tackle the issue known as geo-blocking.

Mrs Ford, who chairs the ECR's working group on the Digital Single Market, said: "When someone crosses a border in Europe, the customs officials don't take away their books and DVDs. But this is in effect what happens if you're using a streaming service to watch films or listen to music.

"These new proposals could allow holidaymakers to continue using the service they've paid for.

"However it is important to make sure that these measures do not inadvertently undermine the ability for our content creators and broadcasters to sell their rights across Europe.

"Revenue from these sales in other countries ensures that our content is watched across the world and therefore it is important to keep the changes proportionate.

"The Commission's proposals lack clarity in some areas and there is huge devil in the detail".

Download this as a PDF


09 DEC 2015

Ford: Agreement on information security rules will help counter cyber-attacks

Ford: Agreement on information security rules will help counter cyber-attacks

New rules have been agreed which would establish minimum standards of cyber security for key infrastructure sites across the EU, such as airport facilities, power stations and banks.

The Network and Information Security Directive is an attempt to deal with the emerging threat of cyber-attacks and the need for information sharing across member states.

It also covers some digital service providers, such as search engines and online marketplaces, although following pressure from MEPs, requirements in this area will be specific to the digital sector and future-proofed, as cyber security is already a top priority for many of these digital companies.

The final round of talks on the directive were chaired by ECR MEP Vicky Ford, the Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

Mrs Ford commented: "This has been a hugely complex piece of legislation. We have set up a network which will enable experts from each of the 28 countries in the EU to share and develop best practice in network security, whilst not compromising any individual member state's own national security measures."

The British Conservative added: "Network security is a significant and growing concern and many operators already invest significantly in their network and information security systems.
"I hope that this agreement will help others to come up to speed but without putting an unnecessary burden on smaller companies."

A final vote in the European Parliament to approval the deal is expected to take place in the Spring, after which member states will have just less than two years to put the measures into place.

Download this as a PDF


07 DEC 2015

New firearms legislation needs "a lot of work"

New firearms legislation needs "a lot of work"

Draft legislation proposed by the European Commission aimed at tightening gun laws in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks needs a lot of work, according to East of England Conservative MEP Vicky Ford.

Mrs Ford chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee and was speaking after members received a presentation of the Commission's proposals.

These include a ban on collectors owning deactivated so-called Category A weapons such as machine guns, ending civilian use of semi-automatic weapons which resemble those with automatic mechanisms, and standardised medical tests for anyone applying for a firearms certificate.

Museums approved by national governments would be able to keep automatic weapons, so long as they were deactivated.

The proposals have prompted concern in parts of Europe, such as Germany, where there is a strong hunting lobby. Questions have also been asked in the UK over how the proposals would affect activities such as paint balling and the use of guns in films and television productions.

Mrs Ford, MEP for the East of England, said: "In the aftermath of the tragic Paris attacks it is right that we look at what more can be done on a practical basis to tackle terrorism and criminal activities. Effective gun controls are part of this.

"The proposals include elements that will improve the sharing of registers between Member States, enhance the marking of weapons and enable the tracking of deactivated arms.

"Concerns have been raised by members of the public on parts of the detailed drafting which has led to confusion about which semi-automatics are to be banned. The exact nature of the responsibilities for museums, collectors and those doing historical re-enactments is also unclear.

"For the first time in my experience the Commission has agreed its drafting is not perfect and asked parliamentarians to work on it. We want to crackdown on the illicit use and holding of weapons while producing clear rules for legal ownership."

Mrs Ford stressed that the UK already had some of Europe's most stringent gun laws and said any new legislation must be coupled with effective enforcement against illegal arms, crime and terrorism across Europe.

Download this as a PDF


20 NOV 2015

BURE MARSHES RECEIVES EURO MILLIONS

BURE MARSHES RECEIVES EURO MILLIONS

Almost nineteen million pounds of money from the EU budget is to be invested in the Bure Marshes Nature Reserve in Norfolk.

Experts say the lakes of Hoveton Great Broad and Hudson's Bay have seen a decline in wildlife over the last forty years mainly due to 'historic inputs' from sewage work. The lakes have traditionally been important to the local eco-system and the money will be spent restoring the naturally mineral rich lakes. It's also hoped to increase the number of otters as well as water fowl including wigeon, gadwall and shoveler.

They will also be improved visitor access with a 75m nature trail boardwalk, a landing area, two viewing areas, a 6m bridge, interpretation panels and a tern raft.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford said, "This investment will support the Natural England project to restore wildlife habitats across Norfolk. This particular scheme is an innovative science-led project and I am delighted it has been recognised with this money."

Download this as a PDF


12 NOV 2015

BREAKTHROUGH IN THE DETECTION OF LUNG CANCER

BREAKTHROUGH IN THE DETECTION OF LUNG CANCER

Early detection of lung cancer has a dramatic effect not just on survival rates but the cost of treatment.

Now a small Cambridge company has developed a breath test that detects the volatile chemical biomarkers that indicate the presence of the disease. The method is low-cost and non-invasive.

It has been made possible with £20million pounds of investment and a change in European procurement laws to favour small businesses. The reform was championed by East of England MEP Vicky Ford.

Mrs Ford said, "The small business sector is the birth place of so much innovation and its drive and enthusiasm fits naturally with services like the NHS that want effective and cost effective solutions."

Mrs Ford is meeting the NHS Academic Health Science Network team who are based at Addenbrookes Hospital and seeing this development, created by Owlwise, and others that have benefited from public procurement reform. The meeting will happen at The Trinity Centre at Cambridge Science Park at 1 o'clock tomorrow.

Download this as a PDF


27 OCT 2015

MILLIONS WILL WELCOME END OF MASSIVE HOLIDAY PHONE BILLS

MILLIONS WILL WELCOME END OF MASSIVE HOLIDAY PHONE BILLS

Huge telephone bills ruining your holiday budget, an internet connection not delivering on its promises: these experiences will be soon old memories.

MEPs led by the UK's Vicky Ford have pioneered new legislation that means;

The end of roaming charges in June 2017. When travelling in the EU, mobile phone users will pay the same price as at home, with no extra charges.Strong net neutrality rules protecting the right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination. The ability to hold domestic internet service providers to account over download speeds.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford, who help scrutinise the new law, said: "For far too long people holidays have been ruined by a huge phone bill waiting for them at home. This puts an end to excessive roaming charges once and for all."

The deal also covers the common issue of Internet packages not living up to user expectations. Fixed line broadband customers will be entitled to clear information on the quality of services offered.

The new rules also guarantee 'net neutrality'. This means that users will be free to access content of their choice, they will not be blocked or slowed down. This means for example access to a start-up's website will not be unfairly slowed down to make the way for bigger companies.

Importantly parental control measures, where permitted in a member state, will be able to continue.

Mrs Ford added, "For the first time customers can hold their internet service providers to account if they don't get their promised download speed."

Download this as a PDF


27 OCT 2015

MEP honours Norwich Nurse at Brussels Exhibition

MEP honours Norwich Nurse at Brussels Exhibition

An exhibition has opened in Belgium exploring the life and legacy of Norfolk nurse Edith Cavell, one of the first visitors was local MEP Vicky Ford.

Edith Cavell was born in in Swardeston near Norwich in 1865, she trained as a nurse in London and was recruited to open a nursing school in Brussels in the early 1900s. She was holidaying in Norfolk when World War 1 started and she immediately returned to Belgium determined to treat injured soldiers from both sides of the war.

In 1915 in occupied Brussels she was arrested for helping 200 allied soldiers to freedom, subsequently court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy she was shot to death by a German firing squad in October 1915.

The exhibition has been organised by British ex-pats living in Brussels as well as descendants of those she worked with and those she helped.

"The Edith Cavell story is a story many of us know a little bit about. However, this exhibition shows just what a truly inspirational and fascinating woman Miss Cavell was. It is hard not to be in awe of her," said Mrs Ford.

"Apart from her heroic wartime activities she is one of the founders of modern day nursing and her legacy can be be felt and seen even today. The hospital she founded in Brussels is still growing, and the Cavell Trust still helps fund those studying nursing. Her last words are deeply inspiring as she asked to be remembered not as a martyr but as a nurse, and despite all she had been through she said she felt no bitterness or hatred." concluded Mrs Ford.

Download this as a PDF


21 OCT 2015

SENIOR MEP IS CALLING FOR LAW CHANGE TO PROTECT MOTORSPORT

SENIOR MEP IS CALLING FOR LAW CHANGE TO PROTECT MOTORSPORT

A senior MEP is calling for a 'swift' law change after fears emerged that an EU ruling could price motorsport enthusiasts out of their sport.

It is feared that changes to rules governing insurance will make it too expensive for many drivers to compete in amateur karting, rallying and drag racing.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford says this EU law was meant to make it easier for British holidaymakers to drive on the continent and not regulate and hinder go-karting.

Mrs Ford added, "No insurance underwriter is prepared to offer the necessary cover as competitor to competitor collisions are very common.

"Motorcyclists tell me that the threat is so serious that it may force motorsport to continue illegally, potentially causing massive headaches for local authorities."

"I have written to the Commissioner asking if we could swiftly clarify the law explicitly exempting motorsport from these new regulations."

Download this as a PDF


14 OCT 2015

EAST OF ENGLAND LEADS WAY WITH THOSE IN WORK

EAST OF ENGLAND LEADS WAY WITH THOSE IN WORK

Those in work in the eastern region rose by 44,000 in the year to August 2015. At the same time those claiming out of work benefits fell by almost twenty per cent.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford said, "The region continues to be one of the best places to live and work and in the past year East of England is still punching above its weight economically."

"This is a fantastic set of figures, which show more people in work than ever before and a strong growth in wages. That is a credit to British business, and a credit to the hardworking people of this country."

"Alongside this, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level since 2008, and long-term unemployment has dropped by a staggering quarter over the last year."

Download this as a PDF


14 OCT 2015

PACKAGE HOLIDAY RIGHTS STRENGTHENED

PACKAGE HOLIDAY RIGHTS STRENGTHENED

Travellers buying a package holidays online will get the same protection as those buying from traditional travel agents under new rules that will apply across the European Union.

East of England Euro MP Vicky Ford, who chaired the committee which scrutinised the changes, said, "These new rules bring our consumer rights into the digital age and will reassure holiday makers at the time of purchase."

These changes update the current EU rules on package holidays, which date back to 1990. Since then, the growth in internet sales has substantially changed how travellers plan and buy holidays, with more consumers opting for "click-through" deals offered by travel providers linking with other tourism operators.

The deal clarifies holidaymakers' rights. It enables them to cancel a package deal contract if its price rises by more than 8%, get help if they encounter difficulties or get transport home if a tour operator goes bust.

Online package organisers would have to obtain insolvency protection, so as to ensure that holidaymakers whose travel organiser goes bust while they are on a trip are refunded in full and repatriated.

If "unavoidable" and "unforeseen" events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks make it impossible for traveller to return home on time, the organiser would also have to pay for a stay of a maximum of three nights while bringing them home.

Mrs Ford concluded, "For many years we have had the ABTA system which makes sure travellers are not stranded if a UK tour operator goes bankrupt. Other countries across Europe will now establish similar systems. Holidays should be and fun and relaxing and it is important that these new rules provide reassurance for all holiday makers that they have basic rights if their travel operator fails."

Download this as a PDF


12 OCT 2015

HERTFORDSHIRE ROBOTS HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF PAN EUROPEAN SCIENCE FUNDING

HERTFORDSHIRE ROBOTS HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF PAN EUROPEAN SCIENCE FUNDING

Hertfordshire MEP Vicky Ford says the University of Hertfordshire's work with stroke victims is a 'superb example' of international team work in science.

Experts at the University have been working with teams across Europe to develop robots which help people to walk again or use their arms after a stroke. This research has been funded by grants from the EU science budget which Mrs Ford has been campaigning to protect.

At the moment, if a patient is struggling with mobility, physiotherapists need to support the patient and manually change their positions as they do exercises. The new robotic walker can take the patient through a personalised exercise regime. The therapist provides expert oversight and tailors each exercise session to maximise the benefits for that individual patient's recovery.

MEP Vicky Ford was briefed on the project on a visit to the university and got to try out their robotic arm. She learnt that stroke patients often leave hospital with severely restricted movement to the hand and wrist. The robotic arm is designed to take patients through an exercise program which can be performed easily at home. Of the 32 people who took part in trials of the robot arm, 29 have had significant improvements in their condition. The trial involved patients from three different countries, proving that there is international demand for a robotic device and this can help take a prototype to the next stage of development.

Mrs Ford said, "This is a collaborative project involving several universities in 5 different countries. It is one of many examples of how our local scientists use EU science grants to work with the best brains in Europe to solve tricky issues. More UK based researchers take part in these international collaborative projects than from any other country."

"We are currently renegotiating our membership terms of the EU ahead of a referendum. There is much we wish to change about the EU but there are also parts which work well and which we need to protect."

Download this as a PDF


30 SEP 2015

Letter to Editor

Dear Sir,

As we move closer towards the EU referendum I frequently get asked about the EU, our renegotiations on membership, what an MEP does and what I have achieved personally.

The answers to these questions and many others are covered in my Annual Report. It also includes items relevant to local businesses and our participation in international science and research projects including medical research.

A large amount of my time is currently looking at digital policy, including improving the safety and security of online purchases, and making it easier for small businesses and consumers to operate online. All covered in the report.

I have a limited number of hard copies available which I intend to send to secondary schools and colleges across the East of England as well as to libraries and local councils. If readers would like a copy please do let me know or you can view it on my website at vickyford.org.

Thank you.

Vicky Ford MEP

Download this as a PDF


24 SEP 2015

UK Science and Research benefits from EU

UK Science and Research benefits from EU

The East of England MEP Vicky Ford is to speak up for British science which she says gains greatly from being part of the EU. More UK scientists and researchers participate in EU funded research projects than from any other country.

Mrs Ford said, "Britain and particularly the East of England benefits hugely from the european science budget. We are a country and indeed a region that punches well above our weight"

Mrs Ford's comments will be made on Thursday at a debate at Cambridge University hosted by its Vice-Chancellor.

She said, "Researchers based at Cambridge University have received more EU science grants than the whole of Ireland, Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic combined. It is a system we should continue to use and develop."

"I've seen many great examples of researchers based in the East of England working with others across Europe on projects that will have a real impact on real people's lives. The Babraham Institute in Cambridge is doing sterling work to help us understand and treat diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The Bioinformatics Insititute based in Hinxton is at the forefront of using big data to understand how viruses and cancers mutate and thus helping to develop personalised treatments. Cranfield University in Bedfordshire has just started building a new facility to develop quieter and more efficient aircraft. John Innes in Norwich and Rothamsted Institute in Hertfordshire are both homes to world class plant research helping to produce better drought and disease resistant crops."

"By being at the negotiating table we can influence international discussions and agreements on complex topics like clinical trials, open access, animal testing, genetic modification, embryonic stem cell research, knowledge transfer and data sharing.

"British researchers are at the forefront of scientific innovation and discovery in many disciplines across the world. And they must continue to be so. We are shaping policy and shaping the world we live in through the breakthroughs we are making."

Notes to Editors

Mrs Ford and other speakers will be at "Excellent Research in the UK: Do we need the EU?"

Venue : University of Cambridge, Howard Theatre, Downing College, Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DQ

Time : 10.30 - 14.00

Excellent Research in the UK debate: Do we need the EU?

Key points

Science and Research

One area where the UK gets back more from EU than we put in

- In recent years more grants have been awarded to UK based scientists, researchers and organisations than any other country.

- over the last 7 year programme, grants to the UK were €6.9 bn. Second only to Germany both in total grants and number of participants.

- We have the highest number of ERC grants than any other country (22% of all in Europe are based in UK).

EU funding is really important for our region. €753 million of the FP7 grants went to East of England based organisations.

Researchers at Cambridge University are the most successful, with the highest number of participants in the UK and second only to Oxford in terms of value of grants awarded.

The scheme is not just for the most high profile universities. It is very important for smaller institutions such as the University of Herts which has fewer other income streams. And it's also not just for universities - over €100m went to industrial participants, large and small in the East of England.

Not all research should be funded collaboratively, there is need for national and specialist funding too. Although a study by Nature magazine found that collaborative research projects tend to have a greater impact than individuals working alone.

It's not just about the money - it's about the results

In the East of England there are many great examples of research that will really impact on people's lives.

The Babraham Institute is working with partners across 13 different countries to study diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

European Bioinformatics Institute uses big data to understand how diseases mutate and is thus helping develop personalised medicines.

It wasn't just researchers in Manchester who discovered the wonder material Graphene, but collaborative work with experts here in Cambridge too, and part funded from the EU budget which has set aside €1bn for the development of Graphene.

Scientists at the John lnnes Centre in Norfolk, and the Rothamsted Institute in Hertfordshire lead world-class research into plants, helping to produce drought and disease resistant crops.

Just this summer, I was at Cranfield University where they are starting to build a massive facility for building and testing cleaner quieter aircraft - funded by the UK Gov, EU as well as Airbus and BAe. Just imagine what that means for people living under the flight path!

Some people say that we don't need to be in the EU to participate

This is true. Countries like Norway and Israel both take part and are not EU members.

But by being in the EU we help shape the rules. The H2020 programme is a package of over £70bn of research funding over the next 7 years.

There was a huge debate over what the priorities would be, this went on for 3 years with over 3000 amendments from MEPs. 7 MEPs led that debate, because it was so important to the UK we made sure that one of the 7 was from the UK. Over 200 of those amendments were mine. If the UK had not had a seat at the table, we would not have been able to shape the debate. The following were our priority areas:

Keeping the principle of excellence. Making sure funding goes to the best projects rather than on a 'who's next' or 'Muggins Turn' basis.

We defended funding in four key areas: health, transport, Food and crop research, and energy storage. There would not be a billion euros of investment into crop science if I hadn't been there at 2am fighting for it. And there wouldn't be funding in fuel cell research, developing the next generation of batteries.

We fought for huge simplification of the paperwork - based on real problems from researchers involved in previous projects from Birmingham University, UCL and Kings College London. We managed to shorten the time to grant, establish a new complaints process, and insist on more notice of up-coming bidding rounds.

But we can't take our eye off the ball. A year after the package was agreed the Commission came back with a new proposal which would have cut the ERC grant. 28 European Nobel prize scientist told us not to do this, 10 of which were from the East of England, I drafted amendments, made allies across the Parliament and managed to stop these cuts.

So yes in theory the UK could be an associated member of Horizon 2020 but this cannot be assumed. Switzerland had their access to Horizon2020 and Erasmus+ revoked following their referendum on immigration quotas in February 2014.

Its not just about the funding, or the research projects, it's also about being able to shape the policy. Helping to find agreement in complex areas like clinical trials, Open Access, Animal Testing, Genetic Modification, Embryonic Stem Cell research, Knowledge Transfer and Data Sharing.

So long as we are affected by rules that are made in Brussels we will only be able to have our voices heard if we participate fully in the debates that shape those rules.

When it comes to defending our own interests in international debates, if we are not at the table then we are on the menu.

Download this as a PDF


17 SEP 2015

Lucy Frazer MP and Vicky Ford MEP raise concerns over Network Rail delays

Lucy Frazer MP and Vicky Ford MEP raise concerns over Network Rail delays

Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, and Eastern Region MEP Vicky Ford have expressed their disappointment at Network Rail's plans to pause the project to double the rail track between Ely and Soham.

The work, part of an ongoing programme to improve freight capacity, was due to be completed in 2019. Network Rail announced in early September that this work would pause due to the complexity of the project, which in turn has increased the overall cost. An application for funding to the EU's TEN-T fund was previously rejected.

Ms Frazer and Ms Ford have written jointly to Network Rail's Chief Executive Mark Carne and the Transport Minister Claire Perry to express their disappointment and to press for support in obtaining funding to complete the project. They said:

"We feel strongly that the Ely to Soham doubling project is vital in tackling the serious problems of congestion on the A14 and other regional roads, and in increasing the viability of an important local public transport infrastructure project in Soham."

Following the announcement, Lucy commented, "This work is vital to Ely and Soham as well as to the wider region. Doubling of the track could reduce the number of lorries on our roads and help to ease congestion on the A14. I am concerned by the pause in work and hope that Network Rail will confirm how and when any further progress might be able to be made."

Mrs Vicky Ford said, "The A14 is one of the most congested roads in Britain, it links the Midlands with one of Europe's busiest container port at Felixstowe. We believe the case for action has been made."

Two weeks ago the EU Commission rejected an application to part fund a track upgrade between Felixstowe and Birmingham. £86 million towards a £300 million project was being sought.

Mrs Ford added, "I am lobbying for a rethink in Brussels and Network Rail also needs to look closely at its decision. Together these schemes would have taken 800,000 lorries off the A14 every year along with many other positive economic benefits."

Download this as a PDF


14 SEP 2015

Essex MEP Vicky Ford has described the Wallasea Island Coast project as a 'great environmental project driven by an innovative partnership."

Essex MEP Vicky Ford has described the Wallasea Island Coast project as a 'great environmental project driven by an innovative partnership."

The scheme could see the return of the rare bird the Kentish Plover to the UK.

More than three million tonnes of material excavated from London as part of the Crossrail project has been put to good use in Wallasea creating the Jubilee Marsh, named in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

The project was principally financed using European funding with the UK government, the RSPB and Crossrail all playing a major part.

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project will safeguard local wildlife and communities from rising sea levels, including providing a habitat for the arrival of species from further south in Europe, such as Black-winged Stilt, expected to colonise southern England as the climate continues to change. Additionally, the Kentish Plover, a wading bird which became extinct as a nesting bird in the UK, could possibly return with the conditions being created at Wallasea. The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is a long-term project and can accommodate a further seven million tonnes of soil before it is completed.

Vicky Ford said, "This is is a great way to recycle the millions of tonnes of waste created by Crossrail. The Essex estuary is a natural beautiful asset and I would like to congratulate the RSPB who have driven this project."

"This is an ambitious project and I keen await news of its progress particularly if the Kentish Plover returns."

Download this as a PDF


09 SEP 2015

HELP REFUGEES FLEEING WAR BUT NOT HUMAN TRAFFICKERS, SAYS MEP

HELP REFUGEES FLEEING WAR BUT NOT HUMAN TRAFFICKERS, SAYS MEP

One of Britain's leading MEPs is calling on politicians across Europe to prioritise helping refugees without encouraging people trafficking.

The East of England MEP, Vicky Ford, was responding to EU plans for mandatory quotas, which would force every member state to take a minimum number of refugees. The UK is not part of this.

Mrs Ford said, "No-one chooses to be a refugee and the UK has its own plan to help those being driven out of Syria by the civil war, it focuses, quite correctly, on helping orphaned and vulnerable children. It is a brutal conflict with torture and sexual violence a frighteningly common tool of war."

"Countries need to work together to help support the refugees fleeing horrific wars but different countries can provide this help in different ways. The UK already provides more aid in Syria than the rest of Europe put together and by offering to resettle the most vulnerable refugees from UN camps it will frustrate the people traffickers who prey on these children."

Speaking in the European 'State of the Union' debate the MEP urged her colleagues to consider the impact on their neighbours when granting asylum and to prioritise thwarting the disgusting trade of people trafficking.

"Granting refugee status does not give a person automatic rights to move across Europe. If a refugee is accepted in Germany then he or she cannot travel to the UK. This must be clear or public confidence in free movement in Europe will be further jeopardised."

Mrs Ford concluded by urging further economic reforms. "Even at this difficult time, we must not postpone other reforms to build more competitive economies in Europe. Unless countries have a long term economic plan they will not be able to support people in their own countries or those others who need our help."

Ends

Speech

We face an unprecedented humanitarian situation. We must prioritise helping refugees fleeing war, both with immediate needs and to give hope for their long term future.

Different counties can help in different ways. Do not blame the UK, we already provide more aid in Syria than the rest of Europe put together, helping millions of people and acting responsibly by offering to resettle the most vulnerable refugees from UN camps and thus not encouraging people trafficking.

Individual countries should consider the impact on their neighbours when granting asylum.

Granting refugee status does not give a person automatic rights to move across Europe. This must be clear or Public confidence in free movement in Europe will be further jeopardised.

Even at this difficult time, we must not postpone other reforms to build more competitive economies in Europe. Unless countries have a long term economic plan they will not be able to support people in our own countries or those who need our help.

Download this as a PDF


04 SEP 2015

MEPs attack refusal of European Union cash for Felixstowe-Midlands rail freight route

Read the full story at the Ipswich Star

Seven Conservative MEPs from across East Anglia and the Midlands have challenged the European Commission over its refusal of funding for a scheme which would have helped to shift millions of tons of freight from road to rail.

A bid under the European Union's Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) programme sought an EU contribution of £86million towards a £300m package of work to increase capacity on the cross-country rail route between the Port of Felixstowe and the West Midlands.

The MEPs, including Vicky Ford, David Campbell-Bannerman and Geoffrey Van Orden from the East of England, have now written Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, calling for the scheme to be approved when it is eligible to be resubmitted in six months' time.

Download this as a PDF


03 SEP 2015

MEPs demand answers from European Commission after scheme designed to reduce A14 congestion has funding bid turned down

Read the full story at Cambridge News

An attempt to secure funding for rail improvements in East Anglia, which would ease congestion on the A14 by shifting millions of tons of freight from road to rail, has been rejected by the European Commission.

Engineering work would include removing level crossings and redoubling parts of the track between Felixstowe and the Midlands, potentially taking 800,000 lorries off the roads each year.

But a bid to secure £86million EU funding for the £300 million scheme has been rejected, prompting Conservative MEPs from East Anglia and the Midlands to challenge the European Commission.

East of England MEP Vicky Ford said: "We are not asking for special treatment, just a fair recognition of the UK's unique position as an island nation operating major trading links with Europe and the rest of the world.

Download this as a PDF


03 SEP 2015

Conservative MEPs urge rethink on funding for key regional transport scheme

Conservative MEPs urge rethink on funding for key regional transport scheme

Conservative MEPs from East Anglia and the Midlands are challenging the European Commission over a rejection of funding for a scheme which would help to shift millions of tons of freight from road to rail in their regions.

They have written to Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc protesting over her department's refusal to help fund a project to boost rail capacity between the massive container port at Felixstowe and both the East and West Midlands.

The proposal is designed to ease traffic on the regions' roads – in particular the heavily-congested A14 which runs past Ipswich, Cambridge and Kettering right through to the M1 and M6 motorways near Rugby.

By removing bottlenecks on the relevant rail route, the scheme aims to create capacity for 18 more trains a day, each carrying up to 90 containers.

Engineering work would include removing level crossings and redoubling parts of the track, potentially taking 800,000 lorries off the roads each year.

It would cost more than £300million and Britain is seeking funding of some £86million on the basis that the scheme would boost freight transport right across the continent to the South of France.

The seven MEPs reminded Commissioner Bulc that her own officials' assessments had strongly backed the scheme and found that if offered "highly positive economic result and a clear leverage effect of EU funding".

They challenged the decision that the scheme did not offer enough "added value" at a European level to merit funding. In particular, they rejected an assumption that funding should only promote transport schemes spanning land frontiers. They argued that since Britain lacked land borders with most European states, rail links to her sea ports were the equivalent.

The letter said: "If the allocation of EU funds for corridor networks continue to prioritise land based cross border projects then this risks further isolation of the UK as island. There is no land border between the UK and other continental European Member States therefore our maritime ports fulfil the same function as a cross border rail section between mainland European Member States."

It was signed by East of England MEPs Vicky Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden and David Campbell Bannerman, East Midlands MEPs Emma McClarkin and Andrew Lewer, and West Midlands MEPs Anthea McIntyre and Daniel Dalton.

Now they are hoping the Commission will have a change of heart when a bid is resubmitted in six months' time. Without the funding it is understood elements of the scheme will go ahead on a more limited scale.

Mrs Ford said: "We are not asking for special treatment, just a fair recognition of the UK's unique position as an island nation operating major trading links with Europe and the rest of the world.

"This scheme is good for our regions and good for the UK – but it is equally good for Europe as a whole.

"We hope this is just a miscalculation or a misjudgment that can soon be reconsidered. Getting such massive volumes of freight off our busy roads and onto the railways has to make sense.

"British taxpayers help fund the EU budget - we should get our fair share back. We have had success in bidding for EU grants on this line in the past and we want to be able to ensure that when we resubmit the bid it is successful."

 

ENDS

Note to editors:

The text of the letter

Dear Commissioner Bulc, 3rd September 2015

We are writing to express our disappointment at the outcome of the 2014 TEN-T proposal-selection process conducted under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

We consider it deeply regrettable that one project in particular was rejected for funding: the proposal titled "Delivering the UK Core Network Corridor" (code: 2014-UK-TM-0688-W).

This scheme set out to tackle bottlenecks between the Port of Felixstowe (a core port in the East of England) to the English Midlands along the core corridor rail freight line. The project would have contributed to a significant modal shift from road to rail, increased capacity on the line and provided a welcome boost to job creation and growth along an extensive corridor from England right through to southern France.

According to the Commission's own evaluation procedures the project proposal was deemed to have excellent relevance "as it addresses capacity bottlenecks on the pre-defined section", was "mature with the necessary permits" and with a "highly positive economic result and a clear leverage effect of EU funding". Overall the Commission's services rated the project quality as very good.

However, the project was rejected for funding because the evaluators did not believe the project reached the necessary level of EU added value. We strongly dispute this conclusion.

The project put forward involved substantial improvement work and capacity improvements along a significant section of the pre-identified North Sea - Mediterranean core network corridor. The Port of Felixstowe and its rail freight connection to the Midlands is identified in the Annex to the CEF Regulation as being a port of the highest strategic and economic importance on the core network. It was only in May 2015 that the Corridor Coordinator Péter Balázs stated in his Work Plan (page 16),

"For the two major United Kingdom container ports of Felixstowe and Southampton, inland rail links need to be improved by removing bottlenecks on the main hinterland rail routes towards Birmingham, which are not fully electrified, with partly single track and loading gauge restrictions."

We fully appreciate that the 2014 call was oversubscribed and difficult choices had to be made, however, it is wrong to reject an application because of a perceived lack of EU added value simply because the major elements of the work would have been carried out in a single Member State. It's important for the Commission to understand that the Port of Felixstowe and its hinterland connections are our cross border sections of the TEN-T network. If the allocation of EU funds for corridor networks continue to prioritise land based cross border projects then this risks further isolation of the UK as island. There is no land border between the UK and other continental European Member States therefore our maritime ports fulfil the same function as a cross border rail section between mainland

European Member States.

Since 2007, transport infrastructure in the East of England has benefited from TEN-T support across a range of projects including at the Port of Felixstowe, Port of Harwich and ITS on the A14. The East of England, East Midlands and West Midlands have all benefited from TEN-T support to the rail improvements along the Felixstowe to Midlands rail freight line. All of these projects have been praised by the European Commission for their added EU value and contribution to completing the single European transport area. We believe that this positive contribution from the East of England, East Midlands and West Midlands to trans-European transport should continue under the new CEF arrangements.

Therefore, we ask you and your services to urgently review future Work Programmes for CEF calls to better reflect the cross border nature of maritime port hinterland connections so as not to disadvantage them in the evaluation procedure for EU added value.

Yours Sincerely

Vicky Ford MEP David Campbell-Bannerman MEP

Dan Dalton MEP Emma McClarkin MEP

Anthea McIntyre MEP Geoffrey Van Orden MEP

Download this as a PDF


02 SEP 2015

HOLLYWOOD SHOULD TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE EAST OF ENGLAND, SAYS MEP

HOLLYWOOD SHOULD TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE EAST OF ENGLAND, SAYS MEP

A local MEP has welcomed the EU's decision to approve the Chancellor's tax incentives for the British film industry.

Vicky Ford MEP said, "British-made films are watched and celebrated all over the world - last year alone we saw eight British-made films nominated for an Oscar and the Theory of Everything set in Cambridge saw ex-Cambridge student Eddie Redmayne winning Best Actor. The East of England is a fantastic place to film and currently Ely Cathedral is being used by Netflix in a production about the Royal Family, its most expensive drama to date. TV and movie companies that have used our region as a backdrop have brought skilled jobs here. The benefits of production companies spending their often huge budgets in our local economy cannot be over estimated."

The tax relief now approved by the EU Commission gives film and TV productions 25% off their tax costs if they then invest the funds back into their projects. That means on a film costing £40m, there would £1m in tax relief. The British Film Institute estimates that for every £1 given in tax relief a further £12 is created in the British economy.

"We have a diverse region. Watch the recent Batman trilogy and you might notice Tilbury doubling up as Gotham and Osea Island in Essex was a key location for Daniel Radcliffe's Women in Black. These productions spent huge amounts here and not just on creative industries but also skilled workmen, hauliers, caterers, hotels and restaurants. This tax break means more money being invested in more productions."

Vicky concluded, "The challenge for us all is to push the East of England to the top of the lists held by Britain's locations scouts."

Download this as a PDF


03 AUG 2015

EU Structural Funds update for England

EU Structural Funds update

I am frequently asked about EU funding available in the East of England, especially about European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) and European Social Funds (ESF).

The Reform of Cohesion Policy has brought in major changes in the way that EU structural funds (ERDF and ESF) programmes are run. There is to be much greater alignment with the overarching Europe 2020 strategy, a tougher focus on performance and results, stronger partnerships, requirements for strategies to be put in place to ensure effective investments and better alignment with the European rural development and maritime funds (EAFRD and EMFF).

ERDF can be used to support broadband investments in England.

This information note sets out how arrangements for implementation are proceeding

UK GOVERNMENT INFORMATION NOTE

Implementation of European Structural and Investment Funds: 2014-20.

Updated July 2015

Introduction

The Reform of Cohesion Policy agreed jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers at the end of 2013 brought in major changes in the way that EU structural funds (ERDF and ESF) programmes are run. There is to be much greater alignment with the overarching Europe 2020 strategy, a tougher focus on performance and results, stronger partnerships, requirements for strategies to be put in place to ensure effective investments and better alignment with the European rural development and maritime funds (EAFRD and EMFF). This information note sets out how arrangements for implementation are proceeding.

The Partnership Agreement

This is the document that sets out each Member State's strategy and priorities for using the European Structural and Investment Funds in an effective and efficient way. The UK's Partnership Agreement was submitted on 17 April 2014 and adopted by the Commission on 29 October 2014.

The Partnership Agreement can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/european-structural-and-investment-funds-uk-partnership-agreement

A summary can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/contracts_grants/pa/partnership-agreement-united-kingdom-summary_en.pdf

The Partnership Agreement begins with a UK-wide chapter and then has separate chapters for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. It sets out how much the UK and its nations will invest in key priorities:

The key points of the agreement reached with the Commission are that:

ERDF can be used to support broadband investments in England and Scotland. Wales also has provision for investment in Broadband in both its ERDF programmes. Only England will use ERDF and ESF to support Community-Led Local Development, and its use in more developed and transition regions will be limited to those areas in the bottom 20% on the Index of the Multiple Deprivation, with additional flexibility in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) will support Community-Led Local Development in all parts of the UK in the form of LEADER. Investments from ERDF for transport infrastructure (roads and rail) will be confined to West Wales and the Valleys and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (the UK's two Less Developed Regions). In other parts of the country, transport projects will be funded only as part of low carbon strategies, particularly for but not limited to urban mobility.

Operational Programmes

Beneath the Partnership Agreement sit operational programmes which are more detailed implementation plans. There are 6 operational programmes for ERDF and 6 for ESF in the UK, covering England, East Wales, West Wales and the Valleys, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. All have been formally adopted by the Commission, except for the ESF programme for England. The final England ESF programme was re-submitted at the end of July 2015 and should be formally adopted by the Commission by the end of September 2015. The Wales and Scotland EAFRD programmes were formally adopted at the end of May, following the adoption of the EAFRD programme for England earlier in the year. The EAFRD programme for Northern Ireland is in the final stages of being adopted by the Commission.

The EMFF programme was formally submitted in April 2015 after the others because the relevant Regulation was later being adopted, and is expected to be agreed with the Commission in autumn 2015.

England

The ERDF programme for England was agreed by the Commission on 24 June 2015. It can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-european-regional-development-fund-operational-programme-2014-to-2020

The England ESF Operational Programme was submitted to the European Commission in July 2014. Discussions with the Commission continued until July 2015 including a number of face to face meetings. These were mainly around the number and level of targets in the programme. Discussions have now concluded and the final programme was re-submitted at the end of July 2015. The programme should be formally adopted by the Commission by the end of September 2015.

To speed up implementation, calls for ERDF proposals were launched across LEP areas in England in March 2015. These covered innovation, SME competitiveness and low carbon, as well as broadband in some LEP areas. A further round of calls will be launched at the end of July. Details of calls are at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/european-structural-investment-funds

ESF calls for proposals were launched across LEP areas in May 2015. These covered: the Youth Employment Initiative, Access to Employment, and Technical Assistance.

A key issue is the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships, together with other local groups, in the implementation of the Programme. The UK Government remains committed to building strong partnerships to deliver the programme, in a way that is compliant with the regulations and that minimises risks to the managing authorities and local partners.

DCLG is the managing authority for ERDF in England and DWP for ESF in England. The Greater London Authority will be an intermediate body with a wide range of management functions for ERDF and ESF delegated to it. The Government has recently announced that Manchester and Cornwall will be intermediate bodies with some responsibilities for the selection of operations for ERDF and ESF. There will also be intermediate bodies in the other core city regions in England who will have some responsibilities for selection of operations for ERDF, linked to sustainable urban development strategies.

On the EAFRD, the new Rural Development Programme in England has four main elements: environmental schemes under a new Countryside Stewardship scheme for farmers; countryside productivity; a growth programme, and Community-Led Local Development under LEADER.

Further details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/topic/farming-food-grants-payments/rural-grants-payments

Wales

The Investment for Growth and Jobs programmes in Wales were adopted on 18 November 2014 (ERDF) and 4 December 2014 (ESF). The Welsh Rural Development Programme (EAFRD) was approved 26 May 2015. A combined Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) met on 5 December 2014 to approve Structural Funds selection criteria and on 5 June 2015 for the RDP.

The Structural Funds are managed by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), a division in the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office of the Welsh Government. Wales has an open call for proposals and work had already been undertaken during negotiations to identify 'backbone' projects and stimulate ideas and discussions. The first approval was made under the ERDF on 15 December 2014, available here: http://wefo.gov.wales/news/latest/141215aberystwythuni/?lang=en

A number of other approvals have followed, representing a commitment of around £80m ESF and £100m ERDF.

Press announcements on the Structural Funds can be found here: http://wefo.gov.wales/news/latest/?lang=en.

An approved projects list is also published on the WEFO website as a database is being constructed: http://wefo.gov.wales/applyingforfunding/ideas/?lang=en

WEFO is also the Managing Authority for the Ireland / Wales cross-border programme, which has also been approved and was launched on 26 March. The second PMC meeting is due to take place on 23 July 2015.

The Rural Development Programme is managed by the Agriculture, Food and Fisheries division of the Department for the Economy, Skills and Natural Resources of the Welsh Government.

Scotland

The Scottish programmes embrace the EU 2020 vision to achieve economic growth and jobs.

In Scotland the focus of ERDF and ESF activity is on three strategic growth areas – Smart Growth, Sustainable Growth and Inclusive Growth.

• Smart: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;

• Sustainable: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy;

• Inclusive: fostering a high employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion.

The Scottish approach to achieving the greatest impact from the European Structural and Investment Funds is based on key principles. The fundamental purpose is to secure structural reforms to facilitate sustainable growth and create a more innovative and inclusive society.

The funds are being deployed alongside other public and private funds which will also have an influence on wider structural reforms in Scotland.

The Structural Funds are being deployed in niche areas where they can have the greatest impact in the wider funding and investment environment, and lead to wider structural reforms. Successfully aligning and concentrating funds, and investing strategically, are key to achieving the greatest impact.

The funds support interventions tailored to meet the unique territorial challenges faced by parts of Scotland, and the complexity of the funding landscape has also been addressed, with a simplified approach to implementation structuring the programmes around a number of strategic interventions which are match funded to achieve ambitious outcomes.

Simplification also ensures that those organisations receiving the funds having the capability and capacity to manage interventions in compliance with EU audit and implementation regulations.

Further information can be found at the following link: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Business-Industry/support/17404

Northern Ireland.

The Investment for Growth and Jobs programmes (ERDF and ESF) in Northern Ireland were adopted on 12 December 2014. A first call under the ESF programme has now closed and the joint Programme Monitoring Committee met on 28 May 2015. The ERDF and ESF programmes are managed by the European Units of DETI and DEL respectively.

The INTERREG VA programme involving Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland was adopted on 12th February 2015. The PEACE IV programme is in the final stages of negotiation. The INTERREG and PEACE programmes are managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The Northern Ireland hub portal for ESIF programmes contains links to key documents and Managing Authority sites and may be found at:

http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/index/finance/european-funding/content_-_european_funding-2014-2020.htm

Youth Employment Initiative in the UK

The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) supports projects to boost youth employment in the regions of the EU that have the highest levels of youth unemployment. The total budget of the YEI across the EU is €6.4 billion for the period 2014-20, half of which comes from the European Social Fund (ESF). Eligible regions are those NUTS 2 regions where youth unemployment is higher than 25%.

In the UK five regions are eligible: Inner London; Merseyside; Tees Valley and Durham; West Midlands; and South West Scotland. No regions in Northern Ireland or Wales meet the eligibility criteria.

In England, the YEI is part of the overall England ESF Operational Programme. In the meantime we have launched calls for proposals for the YEI, in recognition of its urgency, and are currently assessing a number of applications. In agreement with the Commission (Article 16 ESF Regulations), Member States may decide to allocate a limited amount, not exceeding 10% of the funds under YEI to sub-regions which experience high youth unemployment levels and are outside eligible regions. Therefore 10% of England's YEI funding will be allocated to Kingston upon Hull, Nottingham, Leicester and Thurrock.

 

Download this as a PDF


29 JUL 2015

Lowestoft MP meets Euro MP to discuss what help there is for Lowestoft fishing industry

Lowestoft MP meets Euro MP to discuss what help there is for Lowestoft fishing industry

Peter Aldous MP met with the East of England's top MEP Vicky Ford in London to discuss what more can be done to help Lowestoft's small boat fishermen. EU funding has helped revitalise the Lowestoft fish market in the past, but there are now concerns about the future of fishing in Lowestoft.

Mr Aldous has recently been elected Secretary of the All Parliamentary Group on Fishing and will explore the potential to change the designation of quotas so that small boats and those who use sustainable methods are treated differently.

He said: "The main challenge that needs to be addressed in this Parliament is to ensure that the UK's inshore fleet of under 10m boats, which includes those boats that fish out of Lowestoft, secure enough quota so that fishermen can earn a reasonable living. This is an issue that the APPG will look at closely in the coming months and the findings can then be used to get the Government to bring in the reforms that are so badly needed."

Mrs Ford is keen to explore how the regeneration of Lowestoft fish market might be supported by grants from the European Fisheries Fund. Money has been provided elsewhere in the UK for upgrading fishing facilities at the port-side such as in Lerwick and Peterhead.

She said "There is grant money available from the EU to contribute towards adapting port-side facilities to deal with the new requirement to land and assess all the fish that is caught. If local people wish to develop a new fish market in Lowestoft this fund may be able to contribute towards the costs."

In the coming weeks Mr Aldous will be meeting with representatives of the Lowestoft fishermen, offshore wind energy and the Port to find an acceptable way forward which provided a long term sustainable future for Lowestoft.

Download this as a PDF


28 JUL 2015

Eastern manufacturing powers ahead

Eastern manufacturing powers ahead

Leading Euro MP Vicky Ford welcomed a new study which shows that manufacturing is alive and well in the East of England, but warns that a strong relationship with buyers across European markets remains key for local producers.

The report by EEF, the Manufacturers' Organisation, showed that nearly 300,000 people work in manufacturing in the East of England, with food and drink, pharmaceuticals and transport being the largest sectors. This accounts for over one in every ten jobs in the region.

The East of England had the strongest output across the whole of the UK during 2014, although this did slightly flatten in the last 3 months. The region is the second most productive in the UK and only ranks behind the South East & London, of the 13,320 manufacturing businesses, over half are small or medium sized companies.

Over 8 percent of the UK's manufactured exports are made in the East and over half of these goods are sold into European markets. This focus on European sales is considerably above the national average.

The East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford chairs the European Parliament committee looking at trade across the whole of Europe's Single Market. She said "'Made in the East' doesn't just mean China, Korea or India, it increasingly means made in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex or Herts, Beds and Cambs. Manufacturing and exports to European markets is a key part of our own local economy. Maintaining a close relationship with Europe for our manufacturers must be at the heart of our negotiations with the EU."

The report also pointed out that the skills shortage continues to be the major issue for the majority of manufacturers within the region.

Mrs Ford said "Employers are urgently looking for people with engineering and tech skills. I hope that young people will look at the huge opportunities available and bear this in mind when making decisions about GCSEs, A Levels or apprenticeships".

Read the report here.

Download this as a PDF


16 JUL 2015

Off on Holiday? Four things to remember before you go

Off on Holiday? Four things to remember before you go

Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England has given a list four key things to check before you go.

1.Check your passport is in date and remember that the rules on child passports have now changed. You will not be able to renew these using the same-day service, so please do check expiry dates well before you intend to travel.

2. EHIC cards only last 5 years and many have expired. Please check yours. This gives you access to the emergency national healthcare in the EU country you are in. It is not always as comprehensive as our own NHS and will not fly you home if you are unwell. So you may wish to have travel insurance as well.

3. Paper Driving Licences. Paper counterparts are no longer valid so if you are planning to hire a car, you will need to spend a couple of minutes on the DVLA-GOV website to get a Driving Code.

4. Check your mobile phone contract. From 2017 you will be able to use your mobile at the same cost as at home across the EU. Agreeing this was extremely complex as it involves 28 countries. It kept those of us involved at the negotiating table until 2am last month. This year and next the roaming charges will be lower but do check what rates will apply with your phone service provider before you travel, if in doubt switch off the data roaming.

Have a good holiday!

Download this as a PDF


30 JUN 2015

East of England MEP Vicky Ford leads another late night negotiation to end mobile roaming charges

East of England MEP Vicky Ford leads another late night negotiation to end mobile roaming charges

Mobile phone roaming will end in July 2017 and will be significantly cut next summer in an agreement on telecoms laws reached last night between MEPs and representatives of EU governments.

The deal, reached after so-called trilogue discussions today involving the European Commission, Council and Parliament, does contain some areas of concern for Conservative MEP and lead negotiator for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Vicky Ford MEP. In particular, the parliament has removed specific exemptions for spam filtering and parental controls from the law, but these can be maintained if brought under national law, giving governments until the end of 2016 to pass legislation enabling the status quo to continue. Mrs Ford was frustrated that the agreement does not specifically exempt them but worked overnight with experts from the UK to achieve this solution which will enable the UK to continue with parental controls on the internet.

The so-called 'Telecoms Single Market' package will now be put to representatives from the 28 counties for confirmation. As well as ending mobile roaming charges, the law also establishes in law the principle of so-called net neutrality, for the first time.

Cambridgeshire based MEP, Vicky Ford said:

"We finally have a date for the complete abolition of mobile roaming charges.

"From next summer people travelling in Europe will see a significant cut on their roaming charges, and from 2017 they will be abolished altogether, enabling people to use their apps, make calls and send a text just as if they were at home.

"This is a sensible timescale that gives mobile operators the time to sort out the marketplace in preparation for the abolition of roaming fees.

"On net neutrality it is important that the internet remains open and neutral, and we now have rules in place on how traffic is managed, to ensure that there is no anti-competitive behaviour.

"Making sure children can use the Internet safely is vital. It was therefore crucial that parental controls such as those used in the UK can continue. Last-minute changes to the agreement will not exempt parental controls and spam blockers from the law, but after very close liaison with ministers back in the UK, we have negotiated a position that should allow the British government to pass its own law to maintain parental controls. There will be a transition period to allow this to be put in place and we will be scrutinising the detail to make sure the UK can continue to have parental controls.

"This law was aimed at improving the rights of consumers and giving telecoms operators clarity on the rules going forward. In many areas we have achieved our goals, but some of the last-minute fudges in the legislation have left some question marks hanging over how this will be implemented."

Download this as a PDF


29 MAY 2015

Late night talks save science cash

Late night talks save science cash

Scientists across the East of England are breathing a sigh of relief after key budgets for frontier research were protected from cuts.

The plans to cut funding for science across Europe came under fire earlier this year from top UK scientists and Cambridge based MEP Vicky Ford.

The European Commission had suggested raiding money from its flagship research program "Horizon 2020" in order to finance a new strategic investment fund. Mrs Ford was the only UK MEP involved in the negotiations of Horizon 2020 which were finalised only last year, after more than two years of detailed discussions. The £70 billion fund is the one area where the UK gets back more from the EU than it contributes.

The new European Fund for Strategic Investments aims to unlock new investment in key economic sectors from infrastructure to small businesses. The scheme will be managed the European Investment Bank and will enable private sector funders to invest alongside public sector grants from national and EU budgets.

The new investment scheme will have funds available for Research and Development but this is likely to be focused on projects which are already close to commercial launch.

All night negotiations in Brussels this week struck a new deal. Whilst some money will still come from the 'near to market' parts of Horizon2020, the European Research Council budget will be ring fenced from the cuts. The Marie Curie fellowship scheme which supports researchers at the early stages of a career were also protected.

In February, 28 of Europe's Nobel Prize winners, 10 Field Medallists and Wolf and Abel prize-holders wrote to MEPs urging them to try to stop the Commission's proposal. The list of signatories is dominated by East of England scientists and mathematicians. Ten of the medallists are based in or around Cambridge and three more are graduates from Cambridge University. The who's who of European science also includes Nobel Prize winner for Economics, Christopher Pissarides, who studied at the University of Essex.

The prize winners described the European Research Council as "a beacon that not only supports the best of European scientists but also attracts the best researchers from the rest of the world". They warned "cutting this funding the European Union will send a message that Europe is not the place to do high level science, and the ideas that we need to really flourish will instead go to other parts of the world."

Local Euro MP Vicky Ford drafted a series of amendments to the Commission proposal to prevent the cuts falling on key research in frontier science. The changes were successfully voted through the European Parliament committees and formed the basis for this week's negotiation.

Mrs Ford said "Investing in science is key to delivering innovation and growth. Part of Horizon 2020 is meant to help fund projects which are not commercially viable but could have huge benefits to society. In the East of England I have met grant holders working on a vast array of different projects from combatting age-related diseases and finding new energy solutions and improving crop resilience. We should not put this sort of research at risk."

ERC grants are awarded based on excellence. Since 2007 over 4,500 projects have received grants, many of which have been gone to scientists based in and around Cambridge. The Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz spearheaded a mission from UK universities to Brussels earlier this year in order to campaign against the proposed cuts. Grants are also held by scientists at John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted in Hertfordshire. Both organisations have worldwide reputations as centres of excellence for plant science.

The new negotiated position will now need to be formally approved by the 28 countries involved.

Download this as a PDF


06 MAY 2015

Commission proposals on VAT rules a step in the right direction

Conservative MEPs have given a cautious welcome to proposals from the European Commission to ease the burden on microbusinesses caused by cross-border EU VAT rules.

Today's publication of the Commission's Digital Single Market strategy states that the Commission "will make proposals on introducing a VAT threshold to help small start-up e-commerce businesses".

Conservative MEPs have led the fight to reform the so-called "VATmoss" rules which have meant that, from the start of this year, businesses have had to collect VAT for each individual country they sell to, and keep the records of all their transactions for years.

While the rules may have been a well-intentioned way of preventing big businesses from abusing international tax rules, they did not foresee the huge growth in microbusinesses, such as sellers of e-books.

In March, the Conservative MEP for London Syed Kamall secured support from Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who said he would evaluate the effects of the rules.

Today Mr Kamall commented: "The announcement on VATmoss shows the influence of Conservative MEPs in Europe in winning support for small businesses.

"I'm pleased that we've been successful in showing the Commission that it needs to pay close attention to how its rules and regulations are affecting businesses on the ground."

Meanwhile Internal Market Spokesman Vicky Ford said: "The Commission's proposals are a welcome step in the right direction, although we still need to see further details about the proposed threshold, and other measures to ease the burden on small businesses.

"The current rules have been a bureaucratic nightmare for many one-man or one-woman companies. We need to make sure that the single market works well for small businesses as well as big ones."

ENDS

Notes to editors – The Commission's Digital Single Market strategy can be viewed at http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/digital-single-market/docs/dsm-communication_en.pdf

Download this as a PDF


06 MAY 2015

Digital Single Market strategy: Must keep focus on opportunities and break down barriers

Responding to the European Commission's much-expected launch of its Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy today, Vicky Ford MEP, who chairs the European Conservatives and Reformists Group's DSM policy group, said:

"The ambition in this strategy is good in some parts and needs some work in others. Grand plans have stalled in the past so the Commission is right to focus much of its attention on breaking down barriers and removing unnecessary red tape. However, there is much more that entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers have suggested we could do to make trade easier and I would like to see many more suggestions from end users taken up in this area.

"Consumers do get frustrated when their favourite music, films or programs are not available when they travel. However, actions to increase portability and removing geographical barriers to accessing content must go hand in hand with measures to reduce illegal content and make sure creators and innovators are fairly paid. Otherwise we will have little decent content at all.

"Targeted measures to build more confidence in digital goods such as model contracts and online review tools would be preferable to a full-scale review of the Consumer Rights Directive, and we will be concerned if new proposals on consumer rights were to lead to a lowering of consumer protections in any countries.

"The Commission must take care to ensure that any new laws are well designed and details are properly considered. Old-style one size fits all legislation or heavy handed EU bans would hit investor confidence and risk setting back the progress that has been made in many member states and in many parts of the digital sector in Europe.

"I am pleased to see that the commission is now backing an EU wide exemption, a threshold, for micro businesses from the new VAT rules for cross border sales of digital goods. This has been a bureaucratic nightmare for many one-man or one-woman companies. We need to make sure that the single market works well for small businesses as well as the big ones.

"The Commission is also proposing further action on cyber-security and on important areas such as safety for children when operating online. Personally I hope that more progress can be made internationally in these areas."

The MEP, who also chairs the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee, concluded:

"This strategy will be seen as a compromise by some who want the EU to deliver a one-size-fits-all approach, with grand regulators and master plans, but the Digital Single Market needs a Commission that sets a basic framework, since digital entrepreneurs will do the hard part. It is very important that the Commission and legislators keep a positive focus. Digital markets are exciting, diverse and ever-evolving and unlocking the Digital Single Market has huge potential to boost growth and create jobs."

ENDS

Notes: The ECR Policy Group on the DSM proposed a series of suggestions for inclusion in the paper, many of which have been taken up. To read the paper go to: http://ecrgroup.eu/news/ecr-digital-single-market-policy-group-publishes-discussion-paper/

Download this as a PDF


28 APR 2015

Compulsory spy-in-the-car system bad for road safety

Compulsory spy-in-the-car system bad for road safety

Cambridgeshire-based MEP Vicky Ford, today (Tues) opposed EU legislation which would force all cars to include controversial satellite-tracking technology that broadcasts a locator signal in the event of an accident.

She opposed the measure as expensive, authoritarian and potentially counter-productive.

The legislation, debated in the European Parliament this week, would pave the way for the compulsory inclusion in all new cars of the "eCall" system, developed and marketed by BMW.

Motorists would be prevented from switching the technology on and off and it is expected to add in the region of £100 to the cost of a car. Countries would also be obliged to invest heavily in new infrastructure to monitor the system.

She said: "Just putting in the infrastructure for this would eat up a huge chunk of the road safety budget, yet it will not prevent a single crash. It is clear to me that money would be better spent actually stopping accidents.

"I agree with the motoring organisations that it is far better always to leave motorists in complete control of their vehicles so they can respond to circumstances on the road. There has to room for the motorist to choose. I cannot support a compulsory scheme."

Ends

Download this as a PDF


27 APR 2015

Local MEP heads off "crazy" regulation of washing up gloves and umbrellas

Local MEP heads off "crazy" regulation of washing up gloves and umbrellas

Meddling EU plans to regulate everyday household items such as umbrellas and washing up gloves in the same way as industrial safety equipment have been blocked.

Cambridgeshire-based MEP Vicky Ford, who is the European Parliament's lead negotiator or "rapporteur" on EU Commission's planned legislation on "personal protective equipment" has managed to simplify and limit the scope of proposals.

The parliament's Committee on the Single market and Consumer Protection, which she chairs, today approved a revised version of the proposals to update requirements for equipment such as hard hats, life jackets and safety harnesses.

The new version has removed a planned extension of the law to include products for private use against heat, damp and water. Critics said these would have meant regulating simple goods such as household washing up gloves and brollies.

Mrs Ford, MEP for the east of England, said: "Of course we want clear and strong standards for safety products where lives can depend on them and in the work place.

"But there is no need for the EU to get over-zealous and try to take control of our kitchen goods in our own home and rainwear. That would have been crazy and I am glad we have brought some common sense to bear."

The law will now go through the "trilogue" process, when it is discussed by representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission.

Download this as a PDF


17 MAR 2015

Campaign to cut EU red tape gains momentum

The campaign to remove red tape and cut EU bureaucracy secured a major victory today when supporters won a series of votes in the European Parliament's committee for the Single Market.

British Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who chairs the committee, had tabled a number of proposals to remove unnecessary costs imposed by EU law. She worked closely with Austrian Christian Democrat MEP Othmar Karas, the author of the report on better law-making which was before the committee.

The amendments passed included setting a 25% target for reducing the cost of bureaucracy and establishing a business forum to enable grassroots suggestions for reducing administrative burdens to be put forward. The forum would be similar to the Business Taskforce on cutting EU Red Tape which has operated in the UK, and a similar initiative in Denmark.

The Committee also backed Mrs Ford's suggestions for a competitiveness test, so that if a draft law adds additional costs then it should be reconsidered, and requiring the Commission to produce an annual statement of new costs to business from EU law which would help to shed light on the problem of red tape.

A further set of amendments suggest that all impact assessments and product standards should be made public at a draft stage before they are finalised so that the public and stakeholders can give comments. This would cover areas like setting standards for electrical goods.

Speaking after the votes, Vicky Ford said,

"The single market is meant to help businesses trade across 28 countries but too often EU laws create unnecessary costs for businesses and consumers. This must stop.

"The campaign to cut red tape in Europe is gaining momentum."

The amendments will now form part of an opinion sent from the committee to help shape the EU Commission's so called REFIT programme on better regulation and cutting red tape.

-ends-

Notes to Press

Amendments tabled by Vicky Ford MEP and adopted

Amendment 7

Paragraph 1 a (new)

Calls on the Commission and Member States to be more rigorous in assessing the impact of future and existing regulation on SMEs and competitiveness in general; believes that the assessment of an impact on competitiveness should form a significant part of the impact assessment process; considers that the draft revised guidelines should contain direction on how impacts on competitiveness should be assessed and weighed in the final analysis; supports a standing presumption that proposals with a negative impact on competitiveness should be rejected, unless evidence supporting significant unquantifiable benefits is presented;

Amendment 9

Paragraph 1 c (new)

Considers that the concept of the scoreboards should be revised and should instead comprise two documents, one outlining a work plan, and a second, new document which details the progress made by the Commission expressed in a quantitative fashion; calls for this document to form the basis of an annual statement of new costs to business, an easily understood statement or ledger of 'debits and credits' in terms of the administrative and regulatory impact from proposals adopted in the previous legislative year which would be much more useful, and would show that the Commission understands that the cumulative cost of regulation is often the problem;

Amendment 23

Paragraph 4

Believes that better regulation principles should apply to decisions on secondary legislation as well as primary legislation; calls on the Commission and its agencies where appropriate to accompany delegated and implementing acts with a mandatory impact assessment, including consultation with interested parties and stakeholders, whenever their impact can be expected to be considerable; calls, to that effect, for an amendment of the guidelines for implementing acts in line with the general guidelines for delegated acts; emphasises that co-legislators should be as specific as possible in Tier 1 legislation about what delegated and implementing acts should accomplish; notes that in the European Parliament Resolution of 4 February 2014 on EU Regulatory Fitness and Subsidiarity and Proportionality the Commis! sion was urged to step up its review of the application of the principle of proportionality, especially with regard to the use of Article 290 and 291 TFEU on delegated and implementing acts; also notes that in the same resolution the Parliament called on the Commission to strengthen the role and independence of the Impact Assessment Board (IAB), and in particular only to finalise and present legislative proposals where they have been approved with a favourable opinion by that Board;

Amendment 63

Paragraph 9

Welcomes the prospective drafting of internal guidelines for improving the quality of consultations and their evaluation; believes that as regards the complexity of the policy choices in any one area, the questions in consultations need to be both more specific and worded so as to be clearly understandable; where legislation is proposed in a complex field, considers that a second stage of consultation should be envisaged whereby a draft legislative act is published, accompanied by a provisional Impact Assessment, for comment by all relevant stakeholders; considers that this second stage would introduce further rigor into the Commission's analysis and strengthen the case for any proposal adopted following this process;

Download this as a PDF


04 MAR 2015

'Don't slash the science cash'

'Don't slash the science cash'

Plans to cut funding for science across Europe have come under fire from top UK scientists and Cambridge based MEP Vicky Ford.

The European Commission has suggested raiding money from its flagship research program "Horizon 2020" in order to finance a new strategic investment fund. Mrs Ford was the only UK MEP involved in the negotiations of Horizon 2020 which were finalised only last year, after more than two years of detailed discussions. The £70 billion fund is the one area where the UK gets back more from the EU than it contributes.

In February, 28 of Europe's Nobel Prize winners, 10 Field Medallists and Wolf and Abel prize-holders wrote to MEPs urging them to try to stop the Commission's proposal. The list of signatories is dominated by East of England scientists and mathematicians. Ten of the medallists are based in or around Cambridge and three more are graduates from Cambridge University. The who's who of European science also includes Nobel Prize winner for Economics, Christopher Pissarides, who studied at the University of Essex.

The prize winners single out for concern the proposed cuts to the European Research Council budget which they describe as "a beacon that not only supports the best of European scientists but also attracts the best researchers from the rest of the world". They go on to warn that by "cutting this funding the European Union will send a message that Europe is not the place to do high level science, and the ideas that we need to really flourish will instead go to other parts of the world."

Also leading a campaign against the change is Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, he said "We are all deeply concerned about the effect of the announcement made by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker to divert €2.7 billion from the Horizon 2020 research budget to fund innovation projects under the European Fund for Strategic Investments since we believe this will damage basic and applied research in Europe by significantly reducing available funds." The Babraham Institute is part of EU-LIFE, an alliance of 13 life sciences centres across Europe that together obtained 14 of the recent European Research Council grants, of which two went to Babraham, these have helped fund key research into cancer, immunity, mechanisms of ageing and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.

ERC grants are also held by scientists at John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted in Hertfordshire. Both organisations have worldwide reputations as centres of excellence for plant science.

Vicky Ford said "Investing in science is key to delivering innovation and growth. Part of Horizon 2020 is meant to help fund projects which are not commercially viable but could have huge benefits to society. In the East of England I have met grant holders working on a vast array of different projects from combatting age-related diseases and finding new energy solutions and improving crop resilience. We should not put this sort of research at risk."

The European Parliament is due to produce a set of amendments to the European Commission proposal. Mrs Ford added "I have been discussing this with colleagues from all across Europe. I hope we will be able to get enough MEPs on board to protect the funding that supports our excellent science."

Dale Sanders, Director of the John Innes Centre in Norwich, added "I am very surprised at the European Commission's proposal in the context of their hard-won, but well-deserved, increases in EU research spending. The worthy economic aims of the Strategic Investment Fund can hardly be argued against. However, given the universally accepted economic arguments for R&D investment, funding the Commission's proposal through cuts to the R&D budget is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive."

Download this as a PDF


25 FEB 2015

Local Euro MP Busts Trade Deal Myths

Read the story in the Cambridge News

 

Local Euro MP Busts Trade Deal Myths

A controversial EU-US trade deal was put under the spotlight in Brussels this week by local MEP Vicky Ford.

Opponents of the Transatlantic Investment Partnership, nicknamed "TTIP," suggest that the agreement risks lowering standards for consumers and claim it is being negotiated behind closed doors.

However this week Vicky Ford MEP chaired a public hearing in the European Parliament. There was standing room only as MEPs and members of the public from all over Europe came to listen to evidence from independent experts and consumer groups. The EU's Chief Negotiator also briefed the audience about the challenges and opportunities.

The proposed trade agreement will reduce tariffs cutting costs for consumers so that prices will drop by 10% on certain cars, 12% off jeans and up to 20% off certain food products. A unique chapter for small businesses will help to cut paper work and bureaucracy faced by companies trying to export goods across the US. It is estimated that the deal could add up to £10 billion each year to the UK economy.

Vicky Ford said

"This is a real opportunity for UK businesses and consumers to cut costs and increase trade. Public hearings like the one I have hosted allow concerns to be raised in an open forum. I have received many thousands of emails from across the East of England from people who have been told that product standards will be put at risk. But, time after time in the hearing we were told that consumer safety and environmental standards will not be lowered. This is a red line for the EU and for me. I am glad to have shed some light on this key issue."

Mrs Ford will be attending a public meeting on this subject in Norwich on Thursday.

For more information see Vicky's website: http://vickyford.org/campaigns/ttip

Download this as a PDF


16 FEB 2015

UK MEPs want EU to learn from British best practice in food supply chain

 

MEPs from two key European Parliament Committees met last week to co-ordinate their efforts to ensure a fair deal for farmers from big retailers.

The Internal Market and Agriculture committees of the Parliament are both considering how to address imbalances in the European trading relationships, particularly how to ensure fairness in the food supply chain and the relationship between retailers, distributors and farmers.

ECR Group members Richard Ashworth MEP and Jim Nicholson MEP, of the Agriculture Committee, met East of England MEP, Vicky Ford, Chairman of the Internal Market Committee and fellow committee-member Dan Dalton MEP to discuss a joint approach. Mrs Ford is particularly concerned for producers in her own region, the 'breadbasket of England' to the effects of unfair agreements with big retailers.

The UK has led the way in responding to unfair commercial practices. It has implemented a voluntary Grocery Code of Conduct supported by an "Adjudicator" who has the power to name and shame or even impose fines on those who unfairly use their market position.

Some MEPs from other political groups are proposing a top-down mandatory regulatory framework at the European level. The Conservative and Unionist Members do not believe this would be in the best interests of the producers, retailers, or consumers.

The ECR MEPs pointed to existing tools, such as producer organisations and collaboration arrangements, as measures which they believe could increase bargaining power for producers and bring greater balance to the food supply chain.

Increased transparency on pricing and margins would also strengthen the hand of the producers in negotiations, they agreed.

In a joint statement they said: "Your UK ECR Members call on the EU and other European states to give the UK model time to prove its effectiveness and believe that this voluntary way is preferable to mandatory regulation."

Download this as a PDF


02 FEB 2015

Healthwatch Essex Meeting

Last Friday Rebecca held a joint surgery with Dr Thomas Nutt of Healthwatch Essex, so constituents could share their experiences of health and social care in Essex.

Healthwatch is the new independent consumer champion created to gather and represent the views of the public. Healthwatch will play a role at both national and local level and will make sure that the views of the public and people who use services are taken into account.

Dr Thomas Nutt said: "It was great to join Rebecca Harris at her recent constituency surgery on Canvey Island. I think there is real potential for Healthwatch Essex to continue work with MPs in this way. We can help provide people with the information they need to understand and navigate their way through the sometimes complicated system of health and social care. And when people are happy to share their stories and lived experiences with us, we can also use this as evidence to help improve local services."

One of those who came to the Healthwatch meeting was Caroline of The Mickey Payne Memorial Foundation who runs an excellent scheme called The Dementia Buddies that supports both patients and their families. As a patron of the Foundation Rebecca has seen first-hand how much she has accomplished over these two years.

Vicky Ford MEP also dropped in to find out more about this organisation and the hear more about the good work of Healthwatch Essex.

"I was really pleased to join Rebecca Harris MP on Canvey Island for her visit to Healthwatch Essex and to hear how they make sure decision makers really listen to the concerns of patients and users of care services. This means health services in Essex are better aligned with what people need. Rebecca is a great local champion who fights for her constituents."

Rebecca said:

"After meeting with Healthwatch in Parliament I saw how valuable this group could be to Castle Point. They are a vital signposting service through the often confusing jungle of Health and Social care services. It is important that more people in Castle Point know about this organisation"

If you would like to find out more about Healthwatch Essex please visit: www.healthwatchessex.org.uk

Download this as a PDF


12 JAN 2015

East Anglian Euro MP welcomes powers back to the UK for new crops

Today, the European Parliament voted to let national governments make their own decisions on genetically modified food. Decisions on new crops have been held up in an EU stalemate for years. This decision will allow crops to be grown in the UK even if they are banned in other European countries. This is the first time that decision making powers which had been passed to Europe will be given back to individual member states.

Vicky Ford MEP who leads the East Anglian Conservatives in the Parliament said "As Conservatives, we have said that Europe needs to change, we need to see powers returned to the UK and this is a step in the right direction. Some of these new crops might help deliver more reliable harvests and use less chemical sprays. Rather than face blanket bans from Brussels, the UK should be able to decide which ones are safe to approve and which ones we want to reject.

"The East of England is home to many world-leading agri-tech science and research organisations. Rothamsted in Hertfordshire is the world's oldest agricultural research organisation and recently ran trials for aphid resistant wheat. In Norwich, the John Innes Centre has crossed wild and common potatoes to produce blight resistance. These crops could result in significant reductions in the use of pesticide and fungicide sprays, reducing food costs but without risking cross-pollination to traditional varieties. The Cambridge agri-tech cluster also has leading international scientists including many at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany and the University Department of Plant Science.

Mrs Ford added "We need to use the best science and research to meet the demands of a growing global population, as well as to combat changing weather extremes and disease. In medicine, not every new drug is approved for use on humans, only the best ones and the safe ones. In the same way not every new plant should be approved to grow in the fields, each new variety should be judged on its own risks and merits.

Farmers need certainty that what they produce will be exportable. By devolving the responsibility to 28 governments, this decision risks creating an uneven market for farmers' produce across Europe, but it is better than the deadlock which has gone on for too long".

Download this as a PDF


16 DEC 2014

EU must do less and do it better says leading MEP

(Strasbourg, 2pm GMT ) Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England has demanded that EU Commissioners make wide changes, print fewer laws and focus on helping build economic growth.

Mrs Ford was speaking on behalf of the European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR), the third largest group in the Parliament during a debate on the EU's work plan for the next year. This followed an announcement that the incoming EU Commission intends to scrap many new EU laws, including the so-called plant reproductive materials directive. Mrs Ford has campaigned against this directive warning it will damage the horticulture sector worth nearly £10 billion to the UK economy and remove much loved garden plants from local nurseries.

In a wide ranging speech in the plenary chamber in Strasbourg, Mrs Ford cautioned the new Juncker Commission not to introduce new rules on a political whim and urged them to cut waste from the EU budget. She said serious action needs to be taken to stop abuses of the migration system both within the EU and from outside.

Mrs Ford said "Every EU initiative should face a simple test: will it make it easier or harder for businesses to thrive? Too often the EU churns out new laws without thinking through the impact on growth, on small businesses, on innovation. This must stop.

"Instead of focusing on yet more new laws we should make sure the existing ones work. And if they don't, then we must change them. The last Commission promised to remove burdens – will this new team keep the promise? Will you set a target for cutting red tape - and then stick to it?"

Mrs Ford also reminded President Juncker of his promise to keep a Chief Scientific Advisor and asked him to keep that promise. The East of England is home to a world famous science community and Mrs Ford has received many complaints from constituents concerned about the news that the contract for the current scientific advisor, Professor Anne Glover, had expired.

Commenting afterwards on Commission plans, Mrs Ford said "The EU needs to change, the single market is meant to help trade, help growth - it's not meant to be a one-size-fits-all monolith, not meant to add red tape and regulation. Taking some proposed laws off the table is a step in the right direction and as a gardener I'm delighted that the crazy law on plants and seeds has been sent to the compost heap".

 

Click here for the Full Speech 

Download this as a PDF


12 DEC 2014

Vicky visits Royal Mail's Cambridge delivery office

Vicky Ford MEP and Julian Huppert MP visited Royal Mail's Cambridge delivery office to pass on Christmas wishes and encouragement to postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Mrs Ford said: "It was great to meet postmen and women at Royal Mail's Cambridge delivery office and see first-hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year.

The UK leads Europe in online shopping and I'm looking at how to help our local online businesses increase trade across the EU, but that means delivering more parcels. We are lucky to have the Royal Mail which is well trusted. Unfortunately this is not the case in all European countries. It was very helpful to hear the views from those who deliver our packages and their ideas will help as we look at services across the single market."

Juliam Huppert MP said: "Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year and help to deliver Christmas for many people and families in our area. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them the best over the busy festive period."

Declan Jones, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Cambridge, commented: "Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people across Cambridge. We are grateful that Vicky and Julian visited the office to see our operation and to support the team during our busiest time of year.

"We'd like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings."

Download this as a PDF


13 NOV 2014

Statement on the situation regarding the EU Commission Chief Scientific Adviser

Statement on the situation regarding the EU Commission Chief Scientific Adviser

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, said:

"I am extremely concerned about removing the role of Chief Scientific Adviser. The Commission has stated that it wants to be committed to better regulation and, by definition, this requires a more science-based approach to policy making not less. Science and innovation is key to solving some of our biggest challenges in areas like health, energy and food and to delivering sound economic growth.

Scientists have already started asking questions and will expect very thorough explanations of how this potential hole is to be filled. I have already written to the EU Commissioner for Research to ask for a detailed explanation."

Notes:

Vicky Ford was one of the lead MEP negotiators on Europe's 70bn euro Horizon 2020 program for science and research.

Vicky Ford was the only UK negotiator.

The Horizon 2020 funding could be worth over £500 million over the next 7 years to organisations in the East of England alone.

Download this as a PDF


13 NOV 2014

MP celebrates a growing local business during visit to Kempston employer

Bedford MP Richard Fuller celebrated the success of a local business during a visit to Kempston-based Newnorth Print Ltd this week. He brought leading MEP, Vicky Ford, to meet employees and hear how the company has invested and grown the business.

Newnorth Print was founded in 1971 and offers smart e-commerce printing solutions as well as traditional printing and merchandise products.

Mrs Ford, a Member of the European Parliament for Bedfordshire, toured their facilities in Kempston with Mr Fuller and discussed what barriers to trade small and medium sized businesses face when trading in the single market.

Mrs Ford campaigns to remove EU red tape and bureaucracy and has recently been elected to chair the Parliament's influential Single Market committee. She has been meeting businesses across the East of England to better understand their issues, challenges and opportunities. During the tour of the company's facilities the MP and MEP saw the new printing equipment in which the company has recently invested over £2 million. This is the third time she has visited Bedford-based small and medium sized companies with Richard Fuller.

Richard Fuller MP commented "It's great to see this local business growing and investing in new technology. Supporting small businesses is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan, creating more jobs and increasing the country's economic security."

Mrs Ford added "It is good to see small and medium sized firms taking advantage of the stronger economy to invest and grow. The printing sector has seen rapid change and companies like Newnorth Print have needed to be flexible to survive. European politicians need listen to concerns of small businesses and stop overloading them with red tape and bureaucracy. This is one of our key areas for reform in Europe.

Download this as a PDF


30 OCT 2014

UNESCO World Heritage bid for Lavenham.

Members of the Lavenham Forum recently hosted a visit from MEP Vicky Ford to discuss the possibility of Lavenham becoming a UNESCO world heritage site. James Cartlidge, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk, also attended.

Lavenham is a renowned tourist destination in Suffolk and is known for its charming medieval architecture. The bid for UNESCO status is a long term project, the first stage of which is to gain entry to the UK 'Tentative List'. Applications must demonstrate 'outstanding universal value' and it is thought that Lavenham, as a unique example of an ancient wool town, might meet at least one of the criteria.

The main aim of the project is to preserve Lavenham for future generations. Amongst other things this might focus attention on how best to improve the management of visitors and traffic, which must be tackled if Lavenham is to continue to be a successful destination for tourism.

James Cartlidge, Conservative Party Parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk said: "Lavenham is one of the top attractions in our increasingly important local tourism sector, and I welcome the World Heritage bid because it's about sustaining a viable future for the village, not simply attracting as many tourists as possible. I am concerned about the impact of heavy lorries on the beautiful but fragile ancient buildings that line Water Street. I believe it should be a priority of whoever is elected as our MP next May to work with the key agencies who support the tourism sector, including the County Council, to come up with practical solutions to the challenge of preserving Lavenham whilst growing its tourism trade".

Vicky Ford MEP added "The East of England is home to many truly unique destinations and a majority of which are of significant historical and cultural importance. I am pleased to support James Cartlidge and the Lavenham Forum's bid to get UNESCO status as we all need to do what is necessary to boost tourism and jobs in our area and protect places like Lavenham for future generations."

Download this as a PDF


30 OCT 2014

East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford Visits Omega Ingredients¬’s New Creative and Innovation Suite

Today, East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford visited the new Creative and Innovation Suite of the natural flavours and ingredients creator Omega Ingredients.

Cambridgeshire based MEP Vicky Ford is a keen supporter of small businesses; "Small businesses are the backbone of our economy but often bear the brunt of our legislative bureaucracy. It's so interesting for me to meet with successful business owners like Steve Pearce and see how we really make a difference to small but dynamically growing businesses".

The new site in Great Blakenham has doubled the company's operating space. Vicky Ford was given flavour demonstrations and shown some of the company's latest products. She was given a tour of the new facilities and a demonstration of the firm's innovative equipment. This included a highly specialised machine that separates flavours/mixtures and identifies components. Other equipment included a spray drier, which takes a liquid flavour and turns it into a powder.

Ford was also introduced to a new range of flavours from Omega Ingredients called the KiiNotes range. The KiiNotes are a range of Provenance Driven Natural Flavours and Extracts with excellent top-notes as well as demonstrating the traceability of the natural ingredients and the named item having complete transparency from Field-to-Fork. Examples include Sicilian lemon, Brazilian lime, Ecuadorian Passionfruit, Scottish Raspberry and English Blackcurrant. The new range will have a distinctive logo so buyers know they are getting the best quality naturally derived flavours available.

The Creative and Innovation Suite was officially launched on the 16th of September and opened by BBC TV presenter and food writer Stefan Gates who attended a launch party, along with 80 other guests from across Suffolk and the food and beverage industries.

"It was great to show Vicky Ford the new Creative and Innovation Suite as it highlights just how far the company has developed since its launch in 2001" said CEO and Founder Steve Pearce. "This year Omega Ingredients has invested in new specialist equipment, highly skilled technical staff and marketing. The expansion has been made possible by the company's profits, and some additional support from New Anglia's Growing Business Fund."

Vicky Ford MEP added: "Omega Ingredients is a great example of a successful local business which exports across the globe and is expanding and creating skilled jobs. The new Creative and Innovation Suite is a phenomenal operating space and really gives clients, suppliers and visitors a feel for the capabilities of Omega Ingredients.

Mrs Ford also raised her concerns over new proposed laws on labelling of ingredients especially for the cosmetics and perfume industry. She was told how these could add costs to small companies and result in perfectly safe products being taken off the market. She said "Cutting unnecessary red tape is one of my top priorities and I will certainly try to prevent this".

Download this as a PDF


08 OCT 2014

Green Light for New Nuclear Plant is great news for Sizewell, Suffolk and English energy security.

Green Light for New Nuclear Plant is great news for Sizewell, Suffolk and English energy security.

The EU has given the go ahead for the UK's next generation new nuclear power plant to be built at Hinkley Point. It is now expected that similar approval can be achieved for the building of Sizewell C in Suffolk.

Euro MP Vicky Ford said "getting the green light for new Nuclear is great news for Sizewell, Suffolk and English energy security. There are, of course, local issues to be met such as transport and housing plans but fundamentally new Nuclear is the only energy solution which can give long term predictable clean energy and reduces the risk of blackouts. Sizewell C will also bring 6,000 new jobs to Suffolk. The settlement approved by the EU also gives British bill-payers a better deal from the French energy company EDF than what was originally negotiated."

Download this as a PDF


03 OCT 2014

East Anglian Euro MP delivers promise to put business interests before red tape in Brussels

Local MEP, Vicky Ford secured a coup this week by demanding the new European Commissioner for the single market put business and the economy ahead of any new EU laws. In answer to a direct question from Mrs Ford, the Polish Commissioner designate Elzbieta Bieñkowska promised that she would not propose any new EU laws unless they would have a positive impact for businesses. She also promised that if any existing proposals for EU laws were found to be flawed then she would be prepared to withdraw them.

Mrs Ford said "the single market was meant to help companies trade easily across borders and this reduces costs for consumers but too often EU laws have just added more red tape and expensive bureaucracy. Mrs Bieñkowska has promised to be on the side of business, especially small business in the Commission. I will hold her to that."

The promises were given by Mrs Bieñkowska, the former deputy Prime Minister of Poland, during a three hour grilling by over 80 MEPs yesterday. Vicky Ford who is the leading Conservative MEP for the East of England chaired the meeting. Mrs Ford asked the commissioner candidate for the two promises and received the unambiguous response "yes and yes." Mrs Ford has described this as "A record in clarity which I have never seen before from the Commission."

The questions and strong responses received an immediate flutter of supportive twitter messages from representatives of small business organisations who were following the Commissioner hearings.

Download this as a PDF


17 SEP 2014

Leading British MEP calls for Ebola research funds to be fast-tracked

Today (17th) Vicky Ford MEP called for the European Parliament to support the fast tracking of funds to Ebola research in a speech in Strasbourg. The severity of the Ebola crisis in Western Africa has been recognised globally, and was today the topic of an urgent debate.

Earlier this year Mrs Ford led Parliament negotiations on the European and Developing Countries Clinical Partnership. This set aside €680 million to be used over the next 7 years to work on researching cures and treatments for infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Many such diseases, like TB and malaria, are posing an increasing threat to people across Europe.

Mrs Ford said "The UK plays a leading role in this partnership and many scientists from the Cambridgeshire biotech cluster are involved in related projects. Money from this program should be fast-tracked so that scientific research and trials into Ebola can begin."

Mrs Ford welcomed the steps which the Commission has already taken to help fund projects, and also expressed her support for the setting up of a global network of funders to fight diseases, as well as in working together with organisations such as the WHO and pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline-who appear to have the most advanced Ebola vaccine.

In her closing words Mrs Ford left colleagues with a final plea "Ebola is a real and growing danger, we have experts in our own countries who are already researching new preventions and treatments. We also have money set aside in our budgets to fund more research work. Let's put it to good use and get the money to the scientists now."

Download this as a PDF


21 JUL 2014

East Anglia MEP signs up for British farmers

East Anglia MEP signs up for British farmers

Vicky Ford was among Conservative MEPs who this week put their names to a charter pledging support for British farming.

Mrs Ford signed a five-point pledge committing support for UK agriculture and backing British growers in producing healthy, sustainable food.

The pledge called for fair contracts, sustainable growth, balanced trade deals with other countries, a central place for science in agricultural decision-making, and a simpler, more-equitable Common Agricultural Policy.

She signed up to the pledge at an event organised in the European Parliament in Strasbourg by the four farming unions of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Mrs Ford was thanked for her support by the President of the National Farmers' Union Meurig Raymond.

Mrs Ford said: "Farming is central to the economy, health and wellbeing of the whole country and if we fail to support farmers we fail to support ourselves. The pledge sets out a clear vision of a fair deal for farming that should reassure consumers while securing a viable future for agriculture.

"I was delighted to be asked to lend my support and I shall continue to ensure that the voices of British farmers are heard here in Strasbourg and in Brussels."

Download this as a PDF


14 JUL 2014

Local MEP urges holidaymakers to double check health insurance before leaving the UK

Local MEP urges holidaymakers to double check health insurance before leaving the UK

Local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has warned holidaymakers not to assume that "European Health Insurance Cards" (EHIC) are a replacement for full travel insurance.

European Health Insurance Cards are issued for free by the NHS to any British citizen and provide emergency public healthcare in EU countries.

Mrs Ford said: "If you are going to holiday in the EU this summer, it is important to make sure that you and your family have European Health Insurance Cards with you and that they are still valid.

"The last thing anyone needs on holiday is a healthcare nightmare so it is important to know the facts. European Health Insurance Cards can only be used in state-run hospitals and only in cases where immediate treatment is necessary. They are not substitutes for full health insurance, so do make sure you check out the details of the country you are visiting and it is advisable to have a comprehensive plan as well.

European Health Insurance Cards can be obtained for free up to 10 working days before leaving the UK via www.ehic.org.uk or by calling 0300 3301350.

Download this as a PDF


07 JUL 2014

Conservative Vicky Ford takes the reins in key commerce and consumer-rights role

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford was this week confirmed in the key position of Chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

 

Mrs Ford was put forward for the role last week after the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, now the parliament's third-largest group, successfully negotiated the right to nominate the holder of this high-profile economic portfolio.

Her leadership of the committee was confirmed at its constitutive meeting this week. She will replace another British Conservative, Malcolm Harbour, who chaired the committee in the last parliament before standing down at the European elections in May.

 

The committee has charge of the European Single Market and has a mission to identify and remove restrictions to trade and commerce in Europe. It also has responsibility to advance consumer protection in all sectors except health and foodstuffs.

Mrs Ford, who represents the East of England, said: "Conservatives have already made real progress in reducing barriers and simplifying legislation to enhance growth and competitiveness across the Single Market in many areas and over many years.

"A well-run Single Market can be the key to unlocking prosperity, innovation and greater competitiveness in Europe. Misdirected, it can stifle entrepreneurship and create a clipboard culture in business.

"The Single Market is meant to help people trade easily across 28 countries and sell to more than 500 million consumers; it is not meant to add more red tape, costs and bureaucracy.

"In the last mandate we identified the top ten most burdensome pieces of regulation for small businesses. In my view a priority must be to start unwinding burdens like these.

"As a result of the European elections, national leaders have asked to look again at the relationship between national governments and the EU. They also want to see the single market more strongly grounded in the principles of conferral, subsidiarity and proportionality."

"A common set of market rules does not mean that every market stall must look identical. We have many challenges ahead, especially maximising the potential of a digital single market, and reviewing how the internal market may help address energy-security concerns. I am looking forward to working with colleagues to address these issues."

Download this as a PDF


01 JUL 2014

Vicky Ford MEP nominated for top job

East Anglian MEP nominated for leading role for businesses and consumers

UK Conservatives have secured the key position of Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee (IMCO) and nominated East of England Euro MP Vicky Ford for the role.

The IMCO committee focuses on the European Single Market and seeks to identify and remove restrictions to trade in Europe. It also has responsibility to protect economic interests of consumers, except for health and food sectors.

Mrs Ford was elected in 2009 and has already played a leading role in many business negotiations including banking reforms, offshore oil safety and delivering investment funding for science and research. She also negotiated an exemption for the UK from the EU fiscal rules on taxation and government spending, and ensured that the UK and non-Euro counties will be excluded from any costs or liabilities associated with the Eurozone's banking union.

Prior to becoming an MEP, Mrs Ford was a local councillor in South Cambridgeshire and a banker specialising in infrastructure finance. She studied Maths and Economics at Trinity College Cambridge. She is married to Dr Hugo Ford, a consultant Oncologist and they have three teenage children.

Mrs Ford said "Conservatives have already made real progress in reducing barriers and simplifying legislation to enhance growth and competitiveness across the Single Market in many areas and over many years.

I will work hard to ensure we continue to unlock business opportunities and enable consumer confidence, which are key to delivering economic growth and jobs. The Single Market is meant to help people trade easily across 28 countries and sell to more than 500 million consumers; it is not meant to add more red tape, costs and bureaucracy.

A common set of market rules does not also mean that every market stall needs to look identical. We have many challenges ahead, especially unlocking the benefits of completing the digital single market, and reviewing how the internal market may help address energy security concerns. I am looking forward to working with colleagues to try to address these issues."

Download this as a PDF


22 APR 2014

Family-run Lowestoft fish factory welcomes Eastern Region MEP

European MEP Vicky Ford took a break from the European election campaign today to visit Sam Cole's fish factory in Lowestoft together with Conservative MEP candidate Margaret Simons and local MP Peter Aldous.

The new facilities were completed in 2010 with the help of a grant from the EU Fisheries Fund. This means that fish caught locally and from all over the world can be processed at the Lowestoft factory. During the tour Vicky, Margaret and Peter were shown how Scottish salmon is brought to Lowestoft for smoking in their traditional smoker which is over 150 years old. The fish is then sold on to many local restaurants and fishmongers.

Vicky was able to explain to Sam Cole that the Conservatives were successful last week in making sure that Brussels will not force small businesses to pay for health and safety inspections. He was over the moon.

Vicky Ford MEP said, "Sam Cole has been extremely helpful in explaining the views of fishermen and enabling us to negotiate massive changes in fishing policy, in particular, getting rid of the abhorrent Brussels discard law which caused a million tons of edible fish to be thrown overboard every year. I have learnt an incredible amount from Sam Coles. He speaks up for fisherman and tells us politicians what we need to know."

Download this as a PDF


31 MAR 2014

MEP calls on energy companies to take action on energy savings

MEP calls on energy companies to take action on energy savings

The national investigation into how big energy companies are behaving needs to look deeper than energy prices. It should also review what companies are doing to help householders save energy. This was one of the main conclusions from a round table on rural energy issues hosted by East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford at the Cambridge SmartLIFE Centre on Friday.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Energy Savings Trust, energy system installers, local experts who have been setting up energy savings projects in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and Cllr Mathew Shuter, Cabinet member for Skills, Enterprise, Energy and Waste at Cambridgeshire County Council. It was sponsored by Calor Gas as part of a pan European campaign to look at energy issues affecting rural communities.

The attendees heard how programs run by some of the larger energy companies, which are intended to help households install energy savings measures, can in reality be too bureaucratic or fail to offer the best advice. They also learnt how difficult it is for consumers to compare the benefits of different types of energy efficiency measures available to them. This is especially important for rural households who often do not have access to mains gas, are more reliant on domestic heating oil and therefore have arguably the most to benefit from alternative energy systems.

Vicky Ford MEP was one of the lead negotiators on recent EU rules on energy efficiency where energy companies are now required to deliver a 1.5% energy saving every year amongst their customers.

Mrs Ford said "It is extremely important that householders are given proper information on how best to save energy and that energy companies help to pay for the investment. The UK pushed for this obligation scheme to be written into EU law and it is disappointing that some of our larger energy suppliers appear to be trying to avoid their energy savings obligations. I will be writing to the Minister to ask him to include this in the independent investigation of how energy companies behave in Britain. These companies need to be helping all energy consumers, not just those in urban areas where the savings are easier to come-by."

The round table identified the need to help local communities by offering them expert advice especially on how to improve the energy efficiency on public buildings such as village halls and sports pavilions. Cllr Shuter also pointed to the need to make sure skilled experts are available for ongoing maintenance.

He said "Cambridgeshire County Council is helping unlock energy savings advice for public buildings through our Mobilising Local Energy Investment project. Energy companies should be made to deliver on their commitments to help householders too."

Download this as a PDF


19 MAR 2014

Local Conservative MEPs welcome Budget boost for Cambridge

Local Conservative MEPs welcome Budget boost for Cambridge

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget statement today (Wednesday) a grant of up to £500 million through a "Gain Share" deal.

Local Conservative MEPs have welcomed this announcement that will support the 'City Deal' and potentially unlock £1 billion of infrastructure investment for the Greater Cambridge area.

This investment will provide the foundations for long term growth in Cambridge by improving road networks and building resilient public transport and cycling options. It will also speed up housing development outside the city.

Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP commented: "This is a billion pound boost to road and rail improvements. It's just what's needed to support high quality economic growth and new homes in the vital Cambridge area, as well as improving everyday lives over the coming decades. As Conservative MEPs, we have done all we can to encourage investment from all possible sources."

Vicky Ford MEP and former local councillor from South Cambridgeshire said: "We have seen great investment in the world-leading industry and research around Cambridge but we have urgently needed the infrastructure to go with it. The terrible traffic is affecting the City's international reputation. I hope this investment will help address the numerous transport blockages so that the magic of the Cambridge Cluster can be shared more widely around the area."

Download this as a PDF


11 MAR 2014

New plant laws thrown on the compost heap to rot

Proposals from Brussels to force all varieties of plants to be listed on an official register were thrown on the compost heap by a decisive vote in the European Parliament today. The 'Plant Reproductive Material' Regulation as drafted would force all seed producers to list every variety of plant on an official register, adding hours of paperwork and costs and threatening the livelihoods of garden centres and plant growers across the East of England.

MEPs voted by 650 to 15 to reject the entire proposal. However, the European Commission refused to shelve it and suggested that only minor modifications would be needed. This produced uproar in the Parliament's chamber and a call for the Commissioner to resign. Fortunately, due to the forthcoming European elections, no further work on the proposal is likely to take place. Local MEP Vicky Ford reassured gardeners that the law is now unlikely to ever come into effect.

East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford has been fighting these proposals following a high level meeting last summer with East Anglian plant companies, Mr Fothergills, Thompson and Morgan as well as representatives from the Horticultural Trade Association. She tabled amendments to exclude ornamental plants and to exempt plants that are marketed to home gardeners as well as sales by community groups or charities. She also tabled an amendment to stop the proposal in its entirety.

Commenting after the final Parliament vote she said, "This directive belongs on this compost heap and I am pleased that this vote has made that clear. Registering every variety of plant is unnecessary and could be hugely damaging to the horticultural sector in the East of England. It is entirely right that the proposals are thrown out. Given the strength of objection I believe that the Parliament will use its power to block the re-appointment of any Commissioner unless they pledge to scrap this proposal."

Download this as a PDF


03 MAR 2014

Local MEP gives support to Huntingdon Cup maker

Local MEP gives support to Huntingdon Cup maker

The leading Conservative MEP for the East of England, Vicky Ford, visited Huntingdon based manufacturer Solo Cup Europe last week. She was researching the possible consequences of new rules on plastic bags which are due to be voted on by Brussels politicians this month.

Solo Cup employs 500 members of staff locally making plastic and paper cups for a diverse collection of customers from museum tea rooms to high street coffee chains. The company had written to Mrs Ford outlining their concern that proposals to reduce single use plastic bags should not automatically be copied for other parts of the packaging sector as this could have serious food hygiene consequences.

During a tour of the factory Tony Waters, managing director, also explained how the company is working with organisations across the UK and Europe on innovative schemes to reduce litter and increase recycling.

Vicky Ford said "It was very interesting to see first-hand how companies like Solo Cup are working to reduce waste and litter and increase use of recycled materials. Campaigns to encourage people to re-use bags are well intentioned - as are multi-use cups - but demand for drinks in disposable cups has grown and it is very important to think through food hygiene implications of any changes to laws on packaging."

Download this as a PDF


21 FEB 2014

MEPs supporting our local small businesses

MEPs supporting our local small businesses

Local Conservative MEPs Vicky Ford and Geoffrey Van Orden expressed their strong support for small businesses across the East of England when they attended the launch of the election manifesto for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the European Parliament in Brussels. Ahead of the European elections on 22 May 2014, the FSB has set out how candidates can be the voice of small businesses, if elected in just under 100 days' time. FSB members want MEPs to:

* 'Think Small First' throughout the whole policy cycle by breaking down barriers in the Single Market and reducing the effects of burdensome laws on the smallest businesses
* Give small firms the best chance to be successful by creating a culture of entrepreneurship
* Ensure important trade deals like the upcoming EU-US negotiations support the growth aspirations of small firms.

Vicky Ford MEP said:

"As an MEP, I always consider the impact of regulation on the smallest businesses. We should remove unnecessary red tape and give small businesses exemptions and flexibility."

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP said:

"From small beginnings great things can come. Small firms are vital to our continuing economic recovery. I fully subscribe to the call to 'Think Small First'. Decisions taken in Brussels must be a positive help not a hindrance to economic growth and trade. We need to do all we can to encourage more people to start up their own business."

Mike Cherry, FSB National Policy Chairman, said:

"I was delighted to be joined by Vicky and Geoffrey at our event. It is important that MEPs and candidates across the UK make the case that the EU can be good for business but it needs to change - it needs more flexibility and less burdensome regulation for the future, so our businesses can thrive at home and compete in today's global economy."

Download this as a PDF


21 FEB 2014

Essex MEP Vicky Ford joins Rebecca Harris MP and Mr Canvey to visit growing local business

Essex MEP Vicky Ford joins Rebecca Harris MP and Mr Canvey to visit growing local business

Conservative Member of the European Parliament joined Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris and Cllr Ray Howard on a visit to Blyth Workcats on Canvey Island. The company designs and builds customised boats for charter angling, diving, commercial fishing, passenger carrying, crew transfer or survey work.

With a number of key offshore infrastructures in the East of England, Blyth Workcats provides a local service to different East Anglian industry as well as sustaining jobs. After visiting the site, Vicky discussed with the company about what barriers to growth they faced and what more can be done to support other small businesses. Top on their agenda was to improve access to export credit facilities and more open information on public procurement procedures and contracts.

Rebecca Harris MP said: "This is a historic local company with an international brand and we are very proud they are still manufacturing catamarans in our Borough. One of the reasons why Castle Point is such a good place to have a business is because as a community we have a very good, hard-grafting work ethic. We do however need to make sure that local colleges keep on tailoring the skills they offer to match the demands of local businesses like these. "

Mrs Ford said "It's great to see a local business exporting all over the world. We have already unlocked some new funding to help exporters but this needs to work for specialist companies like Blyth Workcats too. Building boats to order can take up to six months. Rebecca and I will be taking this issue up with those responsible for trade finance."

Download this as a PDF


20 FEB 2014

Vicky Ford MEP Sees Opportunities for new jobs in Ipswich

Vicky Ford MEP Sees Opportunities for new jobs in Ipswich

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has today visited the construction of the new Harris Business Park with Ben Gummer MP. The park is to be built on the land liberated by new rail investment in Network Rail's Ipswich Chord Project. The developer Peter Colby explained how the new business units could offer space for up to 600 jobs.

The Ipswich Chord, is a 1.4 km extension to the Felixstowe to Nuneaton line that will significantly increase the freight capacity of the line. It is due for completion in April this year and it will be a much welcomed improvement to the local infrastructure. It is estimated that over the next 15 years, this will take 750,000 HGVs off the roads in East Anglia.

Commenting at the site, Mrs Ford said "It is great to see new investment and infrastructure in Ipswich and unlocking brown-field sites like this is very welcome. Some people say we never get money back from Europe but on the rail freight projects we have had over €30 million so far. This adds capacity for up to 20 trains a day taking more trucks off our roads. It's unbelievable that the last government failed to fill in the forms to get this project started!"

Download this as a PDF


20 FEB 2014

Plans for new Lowestoft flood defences are moving along

Plans for new Lowestoft flood defences are moving along

Waveney Council Leader Colin Law convened an all level meeting to discuss latest plans for flood defences in Lowestoft. This week he brought together County Council Leader Mark Bee, local MP Peter Aldous and Vicky Ford MEP.

Cllr Law explained the new tidal gates would protect Lowestoft from future surges. This would require total investment of £32 million. Waveney Council is already in discussions with East of England local government experts on how to move the project forward.

MEP Vicky Ford said "Lowestoft was one of the areas where homes and businesses sniggered in the December floods. Whilst I have huge sympathy with those in the south and west of the country, we must not let the government forget that we need some more investment here too".

Download this as a PDF


20 FEB 2014

Vicky Ford MEP visits Southend Airport to see improved border controls in action with local MP.

Vicky Ford MEP visits Southend Airport to see improved border controls in action with local MP.

Conservative MEP for the East of England Vicky Ford joined James Duddridge MP on a visit to the newly extended Southend Airport to see the airport's successful expansion and to see what measures are being taken to ensure strong border control.

In November, Vicky hosted a meeting on border security and local policing with the region's Conservative MEPs and PCCs where they quizzed senior representatives from local police forces, the National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement and Europol. Vicky has campaigned for better sharing of information on criminal records across borders and for an 'international sex offender register'.

Southend Airport's expansion has brought new jobs and businesses to the area. It was recently ranked number one in a Which? survey of airport users.

Vicky Ford MEP said "I saw the newly built arrivals hall as well as the state of the art interview and inspection facilities. I was pleased to see the professionalism and effectiveness of the border controls at Southend Airport."

Download this as a PDF


20 FEB 2014

Local MEP visits Lowestoft business helping to cut red tape

Local MEP visits Lowestoft business helping to cut red tape

East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford joined Peter Aldous MP to visit Liquid 11, a specialist marketing and data management company based in Lowestoft.

Top on their agenda was the proposal for a new EU General Data Protection Regulation. This is intended to help protect consumers from spam and unwanted marketing but, as initially drafted, it threatens to add huge burdens to businesses. For example the law would prevent small companies from emailing previous customers about new products and special offers unless the customers "re-opt in" to mailings twice every year. It is estimated that unless the law is changed it could cost UK businesses £80 to £300 million a year.

The UK government and Conservative MEPs have already succeeded in getting exemptions for small businesses and reducing some of the most unworkable burdens. They have also managed to delay the negotiations so that the new laws will not be passed by the current parliament.

Vicky Ford MEP said "Of course we need modern day data protection laws to stop abuses of privacy and unwanted mail but this goes far too far. Many parts of this draft law are unworkable and expensive and would effectively ban marketing operations in Europe. This risks yet more British jobs going to call centres in less regulated countries like India.

We should build on what works, like giving customers rights to "opt-out"s and enforcing mandatory "unsubscribe" features. Liquid 11 have given some very constructive suggestions on how to change this law. I will make sure that the changes happen."

Download this as a PDF


20 FEB 2014

Conservative MEP calls for pragmatic approach to meeting UK energy needs

Conservative MEP calls for pragmatic approach to meeting UK energy needs

East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford and local MP Therese Coffey visited the Sizewell B nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast this week, to meet staff and view the plant. This is the second time Mrs Ford has visited the power station.

Mrs Ford, who represents the East of England on the European Parliament's Industry and Energy committee, discussed her work with managers and staff at the plant. She explained that she has been pushing for the Commission to drop renewable targets so that each Member State can decide their own energy mix, using clean energy sources like nuclear alongside renewables and energy savings to meet carbon emission targets.

Also on the agenda for discussion was the proposal to build a further reactor at Sizewell. The EU Commission is currently investigating the state-aid aspects of the government's plans to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinckley Point to ensure that no rules are broken. Their decision will set the trend for the future of nuclear power in the UK as any decision will have a knock-on effect for plans to build nuclear plants in other parts of the country.

Mrs Ford has met with Competition Commissioner Almunia to urge him to come to a decision quickly.


Speaking after the visit, Mrs Ford commented, "In Europe, our energy prices have risen by 40% in the last 7 years but our energy usage is down by 8%. We need to take bold steps now to ensure affordable, secure and sustainable energy in the years to come.

"Investing in Sizewell C and the jobs that come with that investment will play a major part in our country's future energy supply. It is important that Competition rules are obeyed so that consumers do not face extra costs. However, the decision about what energy mix is right for Britain should be made in the UK not in Brussels. In Suffolk we want to see development of new nuclear as well as offshore wind and traditional energy sources. It is right to have a balance. We need to be able to decide what works best for us."

Local MP, Therese Coffey said, "I was delighted to welcome Vicky to Sizewell and thank her for pressing the case with the EU Competition Commissioner on State Aid. This is the next step in unlocking the jobs and investment for the local community that Sizewell C will bring."

Download this as a PDF


19 FEB 2014

East Anglian MEP accuses left-wing MEPs of acting like the Sheriff of Nottingham

East Anglian MEP accuses left-wing MEPs of acting like the Sheriff of Nottingham

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has spoken out against proponents of a Financial Transaction Tax during a debate in the European Parliament. She explained that far from being a 'Robin Hood' tax, it would actually be the poorest who would be burdened with the extra costs.

Seventeen countries, including the UK, have already rejected the EU proposals for a Financial Transaction Tax but the debate is being reopened by FTT supporters from left wing and green parties. European Conservatives have been adamant throughout negotiations that the UK must not be forced to levy such a tax. Instead they suggest that other countries should consider the UK bank levy model which raises £2.5bn every year for the British Treasury.

Vicky Ford MEP said, "I can't believe that this issue is being brought back to the table. History tells us that when financial transactions are taxed, the financiers and bankers leave. They move to other parts of the world. The people who are left to pay the tax are the pensioners, savers, companies that are trying to grow. Tax-payers and those who use public services also suffer as our governments face higher costs of borrowing.

"I am not opposed to taxing banks but this must be done in an intelligent way. The FTT is a waste of time, a waste of effort and a waste of money. The poorest will end up paying. This whole debate shows that left-wing parties are lining up dangerous economic policies should they get more power in the European Elections. It's not Robin Hood, it's the Sheriff of Nottingham!"

Download this as a PDF


16 FEB 2014

Vicky Ford tells the Daily Politics that only the Conservatives can deliver change in Europe

UKIP have "probably maxed out the Tory vote" that it could get and the potential for growth now came from "blue collar disenchanted former Labour voters", said a candidate.

Patrick O'Flynn, who is also UKIP's director of communications, was looking at how it was taking votes from the larger political parties, in a Sunday Politics debate with Conservative MEP Vicky Ford.

She said UKIP has had MEPs since 1999, but they "cannot the deliver" the change they promise, and only her party could deliver an in-out referendum over Britain's future in the EU.

Read More: BBC News 

Download this as a PDF


12 FEB 2014

Local MEP calls for urgent answers on river dredging policy in East Anglian Fens

Local MEP calls for urgent answers on river dredging policy in East Anglian Fens

East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford has added her voice to that of local MPs campaigning for increased dredging of rivers around the Ouse Washes. She has written to the Environment Secretary Rt Hon. Owen Paterson MP asking for the East of England rivers to be considered in any Environment Agency review of dredging policy. This follows the recent announcements of a review on the use of dredging on the flooded Somerset levels.

Last year, Mrs Ford met with local residents in Welney where the A1101 is regularly closed due to flooding. There were growing concerns about the length of closures and locals pointed to the lack of dredging in recent years. Norfolk and Cambridgeshire MPs Elizabeth Truss and Steve Barclay have also called for dredging to resume and for local measures to improve access including electronic warning signs. Mrs Ford met Cambridgeshire County Council leader Martin Curtis just last month and urged him to get the signs connected as soon as the weather conditions allow. She intends to visit Welney again on 20th March.

Vicky Ford MEP said "We have great sympathy for all those in the West Country who are suffering so much at the moment, but we must not allow the authorities to take their eye off the ball here in the East. Local people have been concerned about lack of dredging for the past few years. They were told that it is not an issue, but lessons from Somerset suggest otherwise. A rethink of dredging policy needs to encompass the East as well as the West."

Download this as a PDF


06 FEB 2014

East Anglian MEP says its time Europe changed its tune and listened to voices of industry

Local MEP Vicky Ford has accused the EU of damaging our manufacturing industry by allowing too much focus on climate change policy instead of taking a balanced approach.

Mrs Ford was taking part in a debate on the future of energy policy between now and 2030. In the past few weeks Mrs Ford has met representatives of the Glass, Cement and Fertilizer industries all of whom have explained how production plants are closing in the EU and opening up in other parts of the world where energy prices are cheaper.

Mrs Ford has campaigned for an end to country by country EU targets for renewable energy and to replace this with an overall carbon reduction target. European Commission officials have now supported this approach and are proposing a target of 40 percent carbon dioxide reduction by 2030. This needs the approval of national governments and the European Parliament. This week's debate in Strasbourg represented the opening of negotiations which are expected to last many months.

Mrs Ford said "We need affordable, secure and sustainable energy. Polices which just send manufacturers to other parts of the world don't make for a cleaner planet. Renewables, nuclear, carbon capture, shale gas, and energy efficiency all have a part to play. We need to work together for a global deal on cleaner energy and agreement in Europe helps move that negotiation along, but fundamentally counties must be allowed to chose what energy mix best suits their local circumstances. We have a chance to change European energy policy here - I hope colleagues don't blow it."

Download this as a PDF


04 FEB 2014

East of England MEP calls on EU bureaucrats to cut red tape and help businesses create more jobs

Vicky Ford MEP has called on Brussels bureaucrats and MEPs to support businesses and remove barriers and bureaucracy in a speech to the European Parliament.

Mrs Ford said that if the single market is to survive it must change. Businesses should be able to trade easily across borders and not be buried under piles of paperwork.

Many of the UK's top companies including Marks & Spencer, Diageo and Kingfisher have recently taken part in a business taskforce to identify changes which need to be made to overbearing European laws. Speaking for the Conservative group in the European Parliament Mrs Ford called on colleagues to get behind the taskforce's recommendations by reducing red tape, giving exemptions for smaller businesses and introducing a "one in one out" strategy so that no new laws can be made without also removing existing ones.

Many East of England companies took part in last year's consultation to identify the top ten most burdensome pieces of EU law. The list includes health and safety forms, the working time directive, and increasing restrictions on chemicals. In the debate Mrs Ford said it is now time to take action on each of these. She has already started to table amendments to change each of the issues identified by business and is winning the support of colleagues on the Parliament's Industry Committee by a narrow majority.

Mrs Ford said "Too often I hear from local businesses about how burdensome laws stifle their growth or force them to move to other parts of the world. We have started to make changes but more needs to be done. We should only pass international laws where they are truly needed. We need to unwind ones that aren't needed. I am winning some votes but it's close.

Download this as a PDF


30 JAN 2014

Local MEP urges businesses and scientists to bid for money from Brussels

Local MEP urges businesses and scientists to bid for money from Brussels

East of England MEP Vicky Ford will once again stand up for British science and research when she gives a speech at the illustrious Royal Society in London on Friday.

Mrs Ford has spent the past two years negotiating a £70 billion investment in science and research. The Horizon 2020 program is intended to help scientists and innovative businesses collaborate across Europe and further afield. The next generation of research requires unprecedented levels of co-operation and investment, this fund will be a significant step towards delivering the future medicines, communications and food that the world will need.

Universities in the East of England secured over £50 million in funding from EU research bids last year alone and Horizon 2020 is expected to result in over £500 million of investment in the region. This is one of the few areas where the UK gets back more than it puts into the EU budget and there are already more British scientists and researchers taking part in projects than from any other country. British Universities are particularly well placed to receive Horizon 2020 investment and Mrs Ford is encouraging institutions in the East of England to increase their applications for funding over the next 6 years.

Mrs Ford will make the point that we should not underestimate the impact of this work on real lives. In Cambridge, scientists studying breast cancer are working with counterparts in 16 different countries to improve understanding of genetics and thus helping doctors to prescribe personalised treatments. In Norwich, work is being done to identify new crop diseases and cut them off before they spread across the globe.

At Essex University, robotics are being developed to help keep hospital theatres clean and in Hertfordshire, PhD students have been developing better ways for passing data through fibre optic networks in order to give us all better broadband. In Stevenage, UK engineers are working with European, US and Russian counterparts on a space project to develop new ways to protect the earth from asteroid attacks. Fundamentally, this type of work will save lives in the future and help businesses create jobs.

In the past, local organisations have missed out on funding due to EU bureaucracy. Mrs Ford has worked hard to bring about many changes including cutting paperwork, speeding up times for grant decisions to be made, increasing transparency of decision making and introducing a better complaints system to deal with problems. Seven percent has been ring fenced for a 'small business fund'. This means that smaller companies will not need to join huge consortia in order to access Horizon funding.

Mrs Ford explained "Science and innovation is key to driving economic growth, creating jobs and to solving the world's biggest problems. The UK has some of the best scientists and ideas in the world. Working with experts in other countries can help harness excellence and lead to even greater discoveries. International collaborative research like this is not for everyone, it can be very competitive - but if you think it might work for you then do look at what is on offer.

I hope these changes to reduce red tape and help smaller companies will mean scientists and researchers can spend more time in the lab and less time filling out papers and that this will help bring even more investment into our local area."

Further comment and photos will be available on Friday. Please contact Liz on 00 32 479 384 284

Download this as a PDF


16 JAN 2014

Local MEP pushing for end to EU renewables target

Local Conservative MEP, Vicky Ford, has called for the EU to abolish its renewable energy targets. Mrs Ford has lead a review into Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for the parliament's energy committee. She argues that the EU renewables targets unfairly discriminate against alternative energy solutions like nuclear power and CCS. As a result these other methods of reducing emissions are being neglected and energy prices risk being pushed even higher.

Mrs Ford has learnt that CCS projects have been running successfully in Norway for over 15 years and are now being developed in Canada, the USA and even China. European countries risk being left behind even though they used to be considered the global leaders in CCS research. Mrs Ford points out that the UK is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this technology as the North Sea could provide excellent storage sites, with the potential to pump CO2 gas back into disused oil and gas reservoirs. Furthermore CCS could help mitigate emissions related to new fossil fuels such as shale gas.

Speaking in a debate in the Parliament chamber Mrs Ford explained, "At the moment the energy debate in Europe focuses largely on renewables. It's time Brussels sat up and took note of the real problems households and businesses have paying their energy bills. New Nuclear power stations, like the one being planned at Sizewell in Suffolk, and CCS both provide low carbon alternatives. It is deeply ironic that they are being hindered by the very targets that are meant to reduce emissions. Renewables, Nuclear and CCS should all be treated equally."

Download this as a PDF


15 JAN 2014

Conservatives beat GM fanatics' attack on honey

Conservative MEPs today defeated a bid by eco-zealots to get pollen officially designated an ingredient of honey.

The unrealistic and damaging move would have added hugely to the cost of commercial honey production and put many small-scale beekeepers out of business.

No beekeeper or producer deliberately adds pollen to honey as an ingredient, but it is unavoidably found in small amounts as a natural constituent.

It is illogical to consider it anything other than a constituent – but the false proposition was championed mainly by far-Left and Green Party activists through blinkered hostility to genetic modification. They were backed by British Labour Party MEPs.

Conservative agriculture spokesman Julie Girling led opposition to the proposal and said: "It is a relief for everyone involved in beekeeping or honey-production that this ridiculous suggestion has been seen off.

"It was driven forward by the eco-fanatics without any regard for the practicalities– or even the truth – and would have caused untold damage."

In September 2009, following the discovery of pollen from GM maize in honey, a court case ensued resulting in a ruling from the European Court of Justice that pollen is an ingredient, throwing honey production into a state of legal limbo.

Mrs Girling became the Parliament's lead MEP in drafting a legislative response to clarify matters. She proposed an outright reversal of the court decision in form of legislation to declare pollen a constituent – but militant Green MEPs on the Environment Committee swung a vote to turn her report on its head and make it an ingredient.

Today a majority of MEPs supported Mrs Girling in reinstating her original proposals – although British Labour MEPs opposed her and insisted on backing the damaging "ingredient" court decision.

During a debate in Strasbourg this week Mrs Girling, Conservative MEP for the South West, said: "With all due respect to the court, this isn't true, and any beekeeper will tell you so.

"Honey is considered by producers and consumers alike to be a wholly natural product, made entirely by bees and free from human interference. To define pollen as an ingredient would go in sharp contrast to consumers' beliefs and would cause reputational damage to honey by implying that its production is not a wholly natural process."

She warned that environmental fanatics wanted some honey labelled as "food produced from GMOs". They thought they would score a small victory in the fight against GMOs, despite the honey sector becoming collateral damage.

But they would not assist consumers as claimed. And she concluded: "If they truly want transparency - lying to consumers by stating that pollen is an ingredient isn't a good start."

Download this as a PDF


15 JAN 2014

Conservative legal challenge over Strasbourg ruling

Conservative MEPs today mounted a protest after their bid to cut just a small part of the waste of the European Parliament's so-called travelling circus was ruled out of order.

A Conservative amendment to cut all 12 sessions of the Parliament in Strasbourg next year from four days to three was declared inadmissible by the EP's President, German Socialist Martin Schulz.

If approved the amendment to proposals for the Parliament's 2015 would save Europe's taxpayers several millions pounds in hotel and restaurant bills and other expenses for MEPs and staff.

Campaigning MEP Ashley Fox, who tabled the amendment, objected to the Schulz ruling on a point of order and succeeded in persuading a majority of fellow MEPs to defer any decision until further legal opinion could be sought.

He said Mr Shulz was mistaken in claiming that a European Court of Justice ruling last year (ruling here) had stipulated that Strasbourg sessions must last four days. The ruling noted parliament's practice of sitting for four days at a time in Strasbourg, but did not stipulate that this must continue, he said.

In response to his intervention he was told "The President's decision is final", but MEPs backed him in deferring their vote on the calendar and sending the decision back for reconsideration.

Later he said: "There seems to be more concern in some quarters for the authority of the Presidency, and a decision based on a mistaken reading of the law, than for Europe's taxpayers or for the principle of avoiding waste."

Mr Fox, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, is leading a Conservative campaign to scrap the Parliament's wasteful two-seat system.

Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 766 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France to sit there for from Monday afternoon to Thursday.

A report by the Parliament Secretary General has put the annual cost at €102 million, but Conservative MEPs say "invisibles" such as the ongoing costs of the buildings and money wasted on unused floor space make the true cost much higher. The shuttling back and forth needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Mr Fox said: "Over the parliament's seven-year long-term budget this will in fact cost taxpayers a staggering £928 million. In hard economic times, there are so many better things that could be spent on rather than empty buildings and needless journeys.

"Our amendment today would save millions, but that is still a drop in the ocean of total waste. For some even this modest piece of common sense is out of order."

Download this as a PDF


15 JAN 2014

Local MEP supports calls for country of origin labels on all meat products

East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford is celebrating success for British farmers after a proposal was voted through the Parliament to make sure all European meat products carry a country of origin label.

The vote follows a detailed review of the systemic failures during the horsemeat scandal and paves the way for much clearer tracking of meat products. Mrs Ford has been campaigning for stricter labelling rules on meat products since the bird flu outbreak which affected parts of Suffolk in 2007. This episode exposed the scandal that meat processed in the UK could be labelled as British product even if the bird or animal concerned had never lived in the UK, but had been imported after slaughter.

Rules for country of origin labels on single-product unprocessed meats have already been introduced but this recent campaign intends to extend that to processed products. It also calls for an impact assessment to make sure that costs for producers and processors do not escalate unnecessarily.

Vicky Ford MEP said "Last year´s horsemeat scandal and previous outbreaks of diseases like Bird Flu and Foot & Mouth show how important it is to be able to trace where meat has come from. You should not be able to bring a dead animal into the UK, cut it up, perhaps even cook it, and then put a Union Jack on the label. Some people argue this will add extra costs to food producers, but they don´t think about the huge costs which are incurred when a disease breaks out and its source can-not be pin-pointed. Even McDonalds ensures traceability of all its meat products - others should be able to do the same. I am glad that the voices of responsible local British farmers have finally been heard."

Download this as a PDF


18 DEC 2013

ECR cannot support European Parliament proposals on Banking Union Single Resolution Mechanism

The European Parliament's economics committee yesterday adopted its stance going into negotiations on the Banking Union's Single Resolution Mechanism. European Conservatives and Reformists group shadow rapporteur on the report, Vicky Ford MEP, supports the opening of talks, but cannot subscribe to the Parliament's position because it would risk placing liabilities on those non-euro countries that will not sign up to the Mechanism.

Speaking after Tuesday's vote, Mrs Ford said:

"Unless changes are made in the negotiations between governments and MEPs, we will have to vote against the Single Resolution Mechanism. There are already concerns that the structure of the Single Resolution Board is unwieldy and impracticable with too many people needed to be consulted before a bank can be resolved. The Parliament's text has made some helpful changes to clarify resolution processes"

"However, a key issue for the ECR Group is to ensure that any decisions taken by the Board or the Commission do not end up creating additional liabilities or costs for the EU or for Countries that chose not to participate in the SRM. One amendment clarifying this in yesterday's vote fell by just one vote, with a UKIP empty chair as usual. We will need to clarify that those countries not participating are not liable for any of the costs of resolving failing banks in a currency they chose not to join."

Download this as a PDF


17 DEC 2013

MEP stands up for plant growers and gardeners in Brussels

Local MEP Vicky Ford has been fighting back against new proposals from Brussels which threaten garden plants, garden centres and plant growers across the East of England. The so-called "Plant Reproductive Material" directive is meant to help farmers by giving clear labelling by seed merchants for food crops. But, as drafted, it also forces all varieties of all plants to be listed on an official register. Mrs Ford, who is herself a keen gardener, has been warned that the costs of registration would be prohibitively high and many favourite garden plants would simply no longer be stocked by nurseries. The Royal Horticultural Society lists 52,000 different plants but less than two thousand are officially registered.

Mrs Ford has now tabled amendments to the directive in two committees of the Parliament. She is seeking to strike out the need to register ornamental plants and to exempt plants that are being marketed to home gardeners as well as sales by community gardening groups or charities. She has also tabled an amendment seeking to stop the proposal in its entirety.

Vicky's actions follow a high level meeting earlier this year with well-known East Anglian plant companies, Mr Fothergills, Thompson and Morgan as well as representatives from the Horticultural Trade Association. They explained how the proposed laws could decimate the horticultural industry which is worth about £10 billion per annum to the UK economy. Mrs Ford´s campaign against the proposals is also supported by West Country MEP Julie Girling and Jim Nicolson MEP from Northern Ireland.

Vicky Ford MEP commented, "This proposal must have been written by someone who has never held a trowel in their hand. Ideally it should be chucked straight on the compost heap. Alternatively, it needs to be significantly re-written. England is famous for the diversity of its gardens. For example, the Norfolk Lavender company sells over twenty different varieties of that one plant. This sort of choice must not be jeopardised.

Download this as a PDF


20 NOV 2013

Conservatives "On the case" to combat cross border crimes

Conservatives "On the case" to combat cross border crimes

East Anglian Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and local Conservative Members of the European Parliament are looking at new measures to tackle cross border crime in the East of England. This follows a hearing on border security and local policing by the region's Conservative MEPs and PCCs last week when they quizzed senior representatives from local police forces, the National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement and Europol.

Held on the first anniversary of the PCC elections, the Ipswich meeting was attended by Vicky Ford MEP, Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP and David Campbell Bannerman MEP as well as Tim Passmore, PCC for Suffolk, Nick Alston, PCC for Essex and David Lloyd, PCC for Hertfordshire. Ben Gummer MP for Ipswich also attended.

The meeting examined what lessons might be learnt from a small number of recent examples of foreign nationals with criminal records committing serious offences in the East of England. The meeting also discussed new ways to prevent criminals from re-entering Britain and identified possible areas of improvement to local, national and international law enforcement cooperation.

The politicians were told of the progress on reintroducing exit checks and new electronic systems which will improve access to cross-border databases at the border control desk.

Issuing a joint statement after the meeting the Conservative group said "Crime is changing, cybercrime and economic crimes are growing. Furthermore, today it is cheap and easy to jump on a plane but this means we need even more vigilant about border controls.

"There have been a few recent examples where foreign criminals have slipped into this country unnoticed and committed serious crimes. In some instances the local police have been unaware of these individuals' criminal record. Re-introducing exit checks and data at the desk will help stop serial offenders. Importantly, these actions are in progress already. We now need further actions to make sure that other countries provide and share full information about criminals who want to come to the UK.

"The UK does have the right to refuse entry to those who pose a risk and frequently does just that. Authorities told us how they even stop offenders before they get on a plane - but some airlines could do more to share passenger information in advance. This helps prevent re-entry for convicted non-UK EU national criminals."

Part of the day focused on the employment in the care and childcare sectors. Here the politicians pointed to the need to share non-conviction information such as that used in a traditional enhanced criminal records check.

They also identified that the East of England could learn from pilot schemes in London where people who claim to have migrated from EU countries for employment but are not working have been returned.

The local Police and Crime Commissioners also promised action on lower level crimes such as foreign vehicle registration and insurance, pick-pocketing and poaching. They will be working to share resources such as interpreters and analysts across the region so that crime involving foreign nationals can be countered as effectively as possible.

The local Conservative politicians have promised to share their findings with their ministerial colleagues in the Home Office saying, "It is our hope that progress in this area will send a clear message that the UK is not a soft target for criminals."

Download this as a PDF


20 NOV 2013

Conservatives win vote to end Europe's second parliament

Conservatives win vote to end Europe's second parliament

Local Conservative MEPs scored a victory in Strasbourg today when their call to end Europe's two seat parliament won massive support from MEPs. The proposal drafted by British Conservative MEP Ashley Fox was voted through by 483 votes with only 141 voting against.

East of England MEPs Vicky Ford and Geoffrey Van Orden MBE explained how they have been getting backing for the campaign over the past four years. Their undercover "find a friend" operation, coordinated by Mr Fox, has helped identify MEPs from many countries and across the political spectrum to convert to the so called Single Seat campaign.

Speaking in the Parliament's chamber after the vote Mrs Ford said "the monthly trip between Brussels and Strasbourg is not only a waste of time and energy but it is also a huge waste of money. Over the next 7 years it will cost £928,000,000. Just imagine what one could do with that money. This waste is immoral. To stop the travelling circus we now need the approval of all 28 national leaders. President of France, Chancellor of Germany please listen up and just stop this madness".

Download this as a PDF


19 NOV 2013

MEPs bring back Brussels budgets for local businesses and science

Next week the European Parliament will vote on a £60 billion budget for investment over the next seven years in research, science and industrial innovation. East Anglian Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has been the only British representative in negotiations which have been going on for the past 18 months. She believes the deal secures hundreds of millions of investment in businesses and laboratories across the East of England.

This investment is critical for Universities like Cambridge which estimates that 20% of the research currently being undertaken across its different departments are funded by the EU.

Currently there are already more British scientists and researchers taking part in EU funded research projects than from any other country. This is one of the few areas where the UK gets back what it puts into the EU budget. Projects usually involve participants from many different countries and recent studies have shown that collaborative research of this type tends to have a greater impact than individuals working alone. The new 7 year project is called Horizon 2020. It funds investment in industrial technologies, grants for frontier science from the European Research Council and Marie Curie programs as well as research into meeting societal challenges such as health, food and energy security and changing demographics. 5% of the budget in the first years is being put into a special ring-fenced fund for small and medium sized businesses; this will rise to 7% in later years.

Vicky Ford MEP has been meeting scientist and businesses across East Anglia over the past four years to get their feedback and ideas on how to improve this investment.

She explained "Key for me was keeping the focus on excellence – this means that grants will go to the best bids and do not just get spread across Europe on some "me-next" basis.

Local businesses and scientists also gave many ideas of how to reduce bureaucracy, cut time to grant and mountains of paperwork. I have been able to push for their changes so there should be less time wasted filling out forms. There will also be a specific amount ring-fenced for small businesses.

We should not underestimate the impact of this work. In Cambridge, scientists studying breast cancer in 16 different countries can now use genetics to prescribe personalised treatments. At the Institute of Manufacturing I have seen how developments in advanced lasers are helping local businesses. In Norwich work is being done to identify new crop diseases and cut them off before they spread across the globe. At Essex University robotics are being developed to help keep hospital theatres cleaner and in Hertfordshire PhD students have been developing better ways for passing data through fibre networks in order to give us all better broadband. I´ve even learnt about a Space project in Stevenage where UK engineers are working with European, US and Russian counterparts to develop new ways to protect the Earth from asteroid attack. Fundamentally this type of work will save lives in the future and help businesses create jobs."

Download this as a PDF


28 OCT 2013

Cambridge's new Genome campus facilities will bring breakthroughs in world science

Cambridge's new Genome campus facilities will bring breakthroughs in world science

Today, the new European Bioinformatics Institute was opened by Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science. East Anglian MEP Vicky Ford also attended the event. She has been Britain's only representative in recent negotiations for a £60 billion fund for science and research investment across Europe.

Speaking after the opening Vicky said, "The Bioinformatics Institute near Cambridge is an example of the great successes being achieved through experts from many countries collaborating on research. Solutions are being found to real problems which affect us all. This sort of collaboration can often have a much a greater impact than individuals working alone."

"This is the one area where Britain gets back what we put into the EU budget, It is good to see this sort of investment in the East of England"

Download this as a PDF


18 OCT 2013

Thumbs up for Luton's graduates says Euro MP

Leading local MEP for the East of England, Vicky Ford, visited the University of Bedfordshire in Luton today. She toured the campus to see the opportunities being made available to students after graduating.

Professor Ashraf Jawaid, Deputy Vice Chancellor, explained that the successful careers support service and internship programme run by the university helps students into top jobs. Last year they funded 500 internships with dozens of local businesses to help improve employability and understanding of industry. Students are given the opportunity to do 75 hours work in their chosen industry to gain experience and they are supported by a grant from the university. An added challenge is the students have to negotiate how and when those hours are used!

Mrs Ford also met with Professor John Brewer, Head of Sports and Exercise Science, to discuss the work being done to ensure sports supplements are free from banned doping agents. Professor Brewer highlighted the importance of maintaining rigorous and up-to-date standards of sports supplements, so that all athletes can trust them to comply with anti-doping rules.

Vicky Ford, who represents the Conservative Party in the European Parliament said "The University of Bedfordshire's record is really impressive. I have seen the graduates are in great demand with local businesses, with 92% going into employment or further education within 6 months of graduating. I hope the excellent work by the university's internship programme continues. I would strongly encourage more local businesses to come forward and offer placements. Many other universities in the UK and overseas can learn from this work."

Download this as a PDF


07 OCT 2013

Saving the planet...literally!

Saving the planet...literally!

On Friday, Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England visited Astrium in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Astrium makes 25% of the world's communications satellites and is part of the global EADS group.

As part of her work in the European Parliament, Mrs Ford has been negotiating the details of a €70 billion budget for international science and research. This is one of the areas where the UK gets back more than it puts into the EU budget.

Satellite technology is becoming integral to everyday life. Astrium explained how the next stage of infrastructure investment by the EU, called the Copernicus Project, will provide real time pictures from around the globe to help emergency services in disaster zones. It will also improve mapping, weather and maritime services and security. The visit was timely as the European Parliament committee on Industry is due to vote on this new investment on Monday 7th October.

In Stevenage, Astrium is also taking part in international collaborative research with scientists and engineers from across Europe, USA and Russia developing processes to divert or destroy any large asteroid threatening to collide with Earth.

Vicky Ford MEP said "It is truly amazing seeing the capabilities, research and production of these next generation satellites. Each one requires significant investment and very highly skilled labour to manufacture these bus-sized £60 million pieces of hardware. It would not be possible for the UK alone to develop capabilities to destroy asteroids; it is great to see British-based scientists working with international partners to defend the planet!"

Vicky was pleased to hear that the next generation of satellites being constructed in Stevenage for launch in 2014 and 2015 will significantly extend coverage, speed and reliability of satellite communications. Vicky was joined on her visit by Luton based resident Margaret Simons who will be a Conservative party candidate in next year's European elections. Margaret said "It is extremely important to recognise that British businesses are often world leaders in what they do and we must stand up for them in international negotiations."

Download this as a PDF


07 OCT 2013

MEPs to pass changes on laws for doctors`language tests

East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford is giving the thumbs up to new rules for language tests for doctors working in the UK. The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive will be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday 9th October. It will tighten up rules on language checks giving competent authorities the powers to carry out English language tests. It also sets up an alert mechanism so that doctors who have been suspended or struck off cannot continue to practice medicine in a different country. Now EU Member States will be obliged to inform all other EU countries if a doctor has been proved unfit to practice, protecting patients in the UK.

Commenting on the directive, Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England, said, "After four years of campaigning I am delighted that these changes are finally coming to the Parliament for approval. We have a long tradition of welcoming doctors from other countries and we all benefit from their skills and expertise. But when a doctor is not able to communicate properly with a patient mistakes and misunderstandings can creep in. The current rules were not clear. Some employers even believed that they were not allowed to test language skills. This is clearly wrong and contributed to some tragic cases.

"I come from a medical family and my husband is also doctor so this is an issue I feel strongly about. I welcome the alert mechanism, introduced by my British Conservative colleague Emma McClarkin MEP. This will ensure that if a doctor has been found unfit to work in one European country he or she cannot simply move to another place and carry on working. This is a common sense solution to a problem that if left unchecked could have tragic consequences for NHS patients. I hope that these changes to the law will allow us to draw a line under problems of the past."

Download this as a PDF


27 SEP 2013

Unanimous vote upholds seven-year research budget

MEPs today voted through an agreement on the EU's next seven-year funding programme for science and research, giving the Horizon 2020 package a budget of around £60bn to take European innovation into the next decade.

The unanimous vote by the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee, was supported by Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative negotiator on the package.

Horizon 2020 will focus funding in three separate pillars: excellence in largely academic-based blue-sky research, supporting industrial companies in innovative areas, and finally addressing the so called "grand challenges" such as food and energy security, climate change and demographic trends. Twenty per cent of the funding should go towards small and medium sized businesses and there will dedicated funding for smaller innovative companies.

Mrs Ford said: "Historically, these EU research programmes have been bound by bureaucracy. I gathered evidence from UK universities and organisations over the past three years and we have agreed on a range of changes to reduce red tape. We want our scientists to be at work in the lab, not filling out lengthy forms.

"I have been determined that grants should be awarded on the basis of excellence so that funding goes to those who put forward the best case

"This is one of the few areas where the UK gets back the cash it sends to the EU. To name an example, Cambridge University estimates that 20 per cent of the work undertaken by its researchers is funded by EU grants. Since 2007, over £450 million has come from Brussels into universities and companies in my region the East of England for research projects.

"Recent studies show that collaborative research often has a bigger impact than individual researchers working alone. From curing cancer to tackling crop disease, from energy to industrial efficiencies, in small businesses as well as big. Research like this is the lifeblood of progress and enterprise, so we must keep it flowing."

Download this as a PDF


10 SEP 2013

East of England MEP probes Europe on cutting red tape

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, is demanding answers from the European Commission on what they are doing to reduce burdensome health and safety regulation that is so costly for small businesses.

After much pushing from Conservative MEPs and the UK Government, the Commission finally agreed to identify the worst examples of regulation for companies earlier this year. The results of this review showed that one of the least popular regulations with UK companies is the Health and Safety at Work Directive. This legislation insists that small businesses keep written copies of risk assessments regardless of how risky their business activity actually is, costing small companies time and money that they can ill afford.

Vicky Ford MEP says, "Although the Commission have identified the regulations that hinder small businesses they now need to get on and do something about it. I have asked an urgent written Parliamentary Question to find out how the Commission will now act to reduce the costs the Health and Safety at Work Framework Directive causes small businesses.

"Of course, we all want to stop accidents in the workplace but forcing small businesses to fill in forms is not the best way to do it. I want our small businesses to be freed-up from these regulations so that they can concentrate on what they do best - driving our economy forward."

If any small businesses in the East of England have come across other burdensome EU regulations then please get in touch with Vicky at the following address:

Vicky Ford MEP UK Office
153 St Neots Road
Hardwick, Cambs, CB23 7QJ

Tel: 01954 211 722
Email: office@vickyford.org

Download this as a PDF


02 SEP 2013

EU must drop obsession with renewables targets

Local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has called on the EU to end its slavish and counter-productive obsession with energy targets for renewables.

In her position as rapporteur in the industry and energy committee in the European Parliament, Vicky Ford said the target has harmed investment in alternative technologies.

The East of England MEP explained: "The targets may sound good, but in fact they focus effort and investment onto one area. Instead we should be encouraging a broad scope of potential measures to combat atmospheric carbon dioxide."

She has drafted her group's response to an EU report on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and is dismayed that this burgeoning technology is being stifled partly because of market-distortions created by the EU strict renewables targets.

Her report identifies CCS as the only large-scale and demonstrable technology currently available to take carbon dioxide produced when burning fossil fuels and thus can produce low-carbon electricity.

Failing to include CCS within a long-term energy strategy will severely hamper national, EU and global efforts to address climate change, she believes.

Mrs Ford said: "If we are serious about wanting reliable, affordable and secure energy sources as well as being able to control and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere then we need to make sure all technologies can be used.

"During my research for this report, many people have pointed to the EU renewable target and said how this policy has undermined investment in alternatives such as carbon capture and storage.

"Therefore I believe we should look at a technology neutral approach when setting energy goals.

Download this as a PDF


29 AUG 2013

MEP pledges support for Gardeners and Plant growers

Local MEP Vicky Ford and Conservative candidates for the European election Margaret Simons and Tom Hunt have pledged to fight back against proposals from Brussels which threaten the future of many of our favourite garden plants. This follows a meeting with representatives from the Horticultural Trades Association and well-known East Anglian plant companies Mr Fothergills and Thompson and Morgan.

Gardeners, seed companies and plant growers are concerned that the EU's draft proposals for regulating "Plant Reproductive Material" calls for all plant varieties to be listed on an official register. It would also make it illegal to sell unregistered varieties. This goes much further than existing rules which only require certain vegetable and food crop seeds to be registered. It would add huge administration costs and could mean growers start to limit varieties, thus affecting biodiversity too.

The horticultural industry is worth about £10 billion per annum to the UK economy. Limiting it in this way will affect sales and therefore will affect jobs too. Of the 52,000 plants which are currently listed on the Royal Horticultural Societies "plant finder" list less than two thousand are officially registered varieties.

Vicky Ford MEP commented "This is a very, very poorly drafted piece of EU legislation. We can all understand why farmers want to make sure that seeds for food crops are exactly the same variety which is stated on the packet - but extending this to flowers and ornamental plants is totally unnecessary. England is famous for the diversity of our gardens. For example, the Norfolk Lavender company sells over twenty different varieties of that one plant. This sort of choice must not be jeopardised. Fortunately this law is not yet finalised. We either need to amend it completely or kick the entire proposal into the long grass - for ever."

Download this as a PDF


31 JUL 2013

East of England Conservatives announce their MEP candidates to fight next years European Elections.

The Conservative MEPs for the East of England have played a key role in bringing about change in the British relationship with the EU. They have worked hard to defend British interests and, in particular those of our constituents across the six Eastern counties.

Following a vote of Conservative Party members across the 58 constituencies of the East of England, we are today announcing the Conservative team that will fight the European elections in nine months time, on Thursday 22 May 2014.

The candidates in order of their rank in the ballot are;

Vicky Ford MEP

Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP

David Campbell Bannerman MEP

John Flack

Tom Hunt

Margret Simons

Jonathan Collett

We are pledged to do all that we can to maintain the sovereign independence, security, and prosperity of the United Kingdom. We shall oppose EU political integration and add strength to the Prime Minister's demand for the return of powers from Brussels. We fully support his promise of a referendum on our relationship with the EU once renegotiation has been completed.

We shall work hard for our constituents and get the best for our farmers and fishermen, our businesses, professions, universities and research institutes.

We shall insist on strong border controls, and strict control of immigration including changes to the 'free movement of people'. We shall continue the battle to cut EU costs, bring an end to the 'Strasbourg circus', and fight over-regulation, fraud and waste in the EU.

Download this as a PDF


18 JUL 2013

MP, MEP and local council leader support Elstree Studios

MP, MEP and local council leader support Elstree Studios

Elstree Studios benefitted from joined up political support today when local MP James Clappison was joined by Member of the European Parliament, Vicky Ford as well as Hertsmere Council leader Morris Bright and local Mayor Clive Butchins.

Roger Morris, Managing Director of the studios took the group on a tour which included visiting the set of latest TV hit Your Face Sounds Familiar, seeing the Big Brother House as well as props and special effects creators. They discussed the importance of investing in skills training in order to support future jobs in the film and TV industry.

Vicky Ford MEP said "Elstree is a very unique place. It is at the heart of our world famous creative industries which are worth billions to the UK economy. Time and time again today I was told how skills training has been lacking in the last two decades leaving a generation gap. I am delighted that the new Elstree university technical college will be opening in September to give young people those skills which will lead to real job opportunities. These young people can really look forward to next term."

Download this as a PDF


18 JUL 2013

Local MEP urges holidaymakers to double check health insurance before leaving the UK

Local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has warned holidaymakers not to assume that "European Health Insurance Cards" (EHIC) are a replacement for full travel insurance.

European Health Insurance Cards are issued for free by the NHS to any British citizen and provide emergency public healthcare in EU countries.

Mrs Ford said: "If you are going to holiday in the EU this summer, it is important to make sure that you and your family have European Health Insurance Cards with you and that they are still valid.

"The last thing anyone needs on holiday is a healthcare nightmare so it is important to know the facts. European Health Insurance Cards can only be used in state-run hospitals and only in cases where immediate treatment is necessary. They are not substitutes for full health insurance, so do make sure you check out the details of the country you are visiting and it is advisable to have a comprehensive plan as well.

Mrs Ford also warned about recent instances where some Member States have been refusing to recognise EHICs:

"Non-recognition of EHICs is clearly illegal and is currently under investigation by the EU Commission. If your European Health Insurance Card is refused at a public hospital, make sure to keep all receipts so you can claim reimbursement when back in the UK."

European Health Insurance Cards can be obtained for free up to 10 working days before leaving the UK via www.ehic.org.uk or by calling 0300 3301350.

Download this as a PDF


12 JUL 2013

Financial Transaction Taxes why the UK will see the EU in court.

Dear Editor

Last week, yet again, I found myself voting against the European Union financial transaction tax; the so called "FTT". In the UK, we know from experience that when you tax transactions in one part of the world, the financiers move to another part of the world. The people who are left to pay the tax are the pensioners and the savers and the companies that are trying to raise capital to grow their businesses - and, indeed, taxpayers when they find that the cost of their government's debt has gone up. These are the reasons why so many European countries have said they did not want to be part of the FTT.

Whilst I and my Conservative MEP colleagues voted against the FTT proposals, we were outvoted by others. Fortunately this vote is not a final decision. There is a further issue of "extra-territorialisation" which means one country being forced to try and collect a tax for another country, even though the first country disagrees with the tax. In the UK we do not believe that this is legal, and therefore the UK is taking the EU to court. Its important that we win.

Yours Vicky Ford

Download this as a PDF


09 JUL 2013

Local MEP welcomes EU funding for East of England railways and freight links

The East of England rail network is to benefit from a further €14.8 million of grants from the European Union. The region was awarded three grants. The largest grant of €12.4 million will go towards building a railway "Chord" at Ipswich. This will allow freight trains to travel directly from the Eastern port of Felixstowe all the way across East Anglia and the midlands before joining the west coast mainline near Birmingham. The other two grants will help deepen the Channel for container ships at Felixstowe and contribute towards cranes to move freight containers onto the railway.

Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England said: "This is good news for the East of England and will particularly help to get freight off the A14 and onto the railway. I have been supporting upgrades for the freight rail links from Felixstowe to Nuneaton route since 2008, each time we have a project ready, we make sure that we also ask the EU to pay part. In this case the contributions range from 20% to 50% of the project costs. Getting the money back from Brussels also frees up the UK's own funds which can then be used for more smaller-scale, local projects. Investing in infrastructure is key to driving growth in our local economy.

Download this as a PDF


08 JUL 2013

Local MEP probes EU Commission on horse import rules.

Local MEP probes EU Commission on horse import rules.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has written to the European Commission asking for more information on the rules for importing horses into the EU.

Mrs Ford recently met with representatives from the Thoroughbred Breeders Association in Newmarket, Suffolk. They told her about African Horse Sickness and they are concerned that the EU might consider relaxing rules on importing horses from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently horses imported from this region have to be quarantined in a third country for a substantial amount of time. Horse breeders are concerned that any lower quarantine could lead to the spread of African Horse Sickness in the UK and other European countries. This is a highly infectious and deadly disease affecting horses, mules and donkeys. An outbreak in the UK would this be terrible for the animals, but it would have a devastating effect on the economy. The thoroughbred breeding and racing industry is worth over £3.45bn per annum to the UK.

Mrs Ford wants to ensure that the Commission consults all relevant stakeholders, including veterinary experts, equine breeders and owners before contemplating any changes to quarantine rules. She said, "Many people don't realise that the equine industry is such a huge contributor both to the rural economy and to UK exports. In the East of England there are thousands of people employed in horse-related businesses, especially in the Newmarket area. African Horse Sickness is a disease similar to Bluetongue in sheep. If it came into the UK it could be disastrous for our horses and ponies. We must make sure proper quarantine periods are respected."

Download this as a PDF


03 JUL 2013

Local MEP grills EU Commissioner on Bee Ban

Local MEP grills EU Commissioner on Bee Ban

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, is urgently demanding more information from EU officials on their recent ban on neonicotinoids pesticides.

Mrs Ford recently met with representatives from the National Farmers Union at Camgrain, the UK´s largest farming co-operative.  They explained that it is not clear what will happen after the two-year ban.  They explained that alternative substances to control pests and protect crops could be even more damaging to biodiversity in the long term.

Mrs Ford has asked the European Commissioner to provide more clarity on long-term plans.  She has also asked for more information on how scientific evidence will be gathered to test whether the ban is effective and the impact of the ban on bee populations.

She said "Our farmers need certainty and clarity on what pesticides they will be able to use in the next few years and currently they do not have this.  Fundamentally, farmers need bees to pollinate their crops.  But they also need pesticides to protect crops.  The Commission needs to use this two-year period to make sure that proper analysis is done and that the right decision is made for both food production and biodiversity."

Photo:  Vicky Ford MEP with Rachel Carrington (NFU) and Philip Darke (Camgrain) and other members of the East Anglian farming community.

 

Download this as a PDF


25 JUN 2013

Local MEP Vicky Ford helps secure deal for science funding.

Local MEP Vicky Ford helps secure deal for science funding.

After months of discussions an agreement was reached today on the EU's next seven year funding programme for science and research. The so-called Horizon 2020 package, which will have a budget of around £60bn for projects over the next 7 years.

EU research funding is extremely important for the UK and is one of the few areas where the UK gets back roughly what it contributes. Cambridge University, for example, estimates that 20% of the work undertaken by their researchers is funded by EU grants. Since 2007 over £450 million has come from Brussels into universities and companies in the East of England for research projects. Projects range from cancer research to improving disease resistance in crops, innovative energy storage to more efficient engines.

Horizon 2020 will focus funding in three separate pillars; excellence in largely academic based blue sky research, supporting industrial companies in innovative areas and finally addressing the so called societal "grand" challenges which include food and energy security, climate change and also demographic changes. Twenty per cent of the funding should go towards small and medium sized businesses and there will be a new financial instrument specifically dedicated to funding smaller innovative companies.

However these EU research programmes have a reputation for complex bureaucracy and red tape. Mrs Ford has been gathering evidence and suggestions for reforms for the past 3 years and tabled many amendments to the legislation to simplify the paperwork and application processes, particularly important for improving the participation of small businesses. These changes include shortening timetables for awarding grants and receiving payments, introducing a clearer complaints procedure and improving communication between participants. Mrs Ford has also been adamant that grants should be awarded on the basis of excellence in order to ensure that funding goes to those who put forward the best case.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has been leading the negotiations for the Conservatives in the European Parliament. She said "Science and research is critical to maintaining innovation thus driving growth and creating jobs. Recent studies have shown that scientific research which is the result of international collaboration tends to have a greater impact. We should focus the EU budget on areas where it does add value.

"Other MEPs should stop the institutional infighting over the EU budget, lead not by policy but purely by their constant pursuit of more money and more power. They need to get behind the deal agreed by national governments otherwise we risk holding back our scientists and businesses at such a crucial time."

Download this as a PDF


18 JUN 2013

Campaign against online child abuse images

Local MEP campaigns for stronger fight against online child abuse images

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, is encouraging colleagues to get behind a campaign to help strengthen international cooperation in fighting internet images of child sexual abuse.

Mrs Ford is sponsoring a European Parliament written declaration which encourages stronger international cooperation to report images and take them off the web. This approach is supported by the Cambridgeshire-based charity, Internet Watch Foundation, which has an exceptional record of success in identifying, disrupting and deleting online images of child sexual abuse in the UK.

Mrs Ford said, "It is a frightening fact that the internet provides all too easy a means for criminals and paedophiles to share and distribute images. Fortunately, we have expert organisations which help to prevent this but the internet is a global phenomenon so we need to share best practices in fighting this across the world. Over 10% of all MEPs have signed up to support the campaign so far and I hope we will bring in many more over the next few weeks."

NOTE TO EDITORS:

A copy of the Written Declaration can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2F%2FEP%2F%2FNONSGML%2BWDECL%2BP7-DCL-2013-0003%2B0%2BDOC%2BPDF%2BV0%2F%2FEN

For further press information please contact Alaric Pugh on 07930460899 or communications@vickyford.org

Download this as a PDF


12 JUN 2013

Demanding stronger border controls in Europe

Local MEP demands stronger border controls to catch criminals

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, spoke out in a debate in Strasbourg this week on the need for stricter border controls.

Mrs Ford has been looking into how improvements could be made to information availability across different countries to help reduce crimes such as sex offences and child abuse. She has recently met the head of Europol and the UK´s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and has been campaigning for cross-border sharing of sex offender registers.

Speaking in a debate about border controls within continental Europe´s Schengen area, Mrs Ford drew attention to some shocking cases of individuals who have been known to pose a risk in one country and have then been able to commit crimes
because they relocated to another country where they were less well known.

Mrs Ford said " The freedom of movement of people is a very valued freedom, but we also need to protect innocent individuals, so it must be coupled with full and accurate exchange of information. Tackling risks posed by potentially dangerous individuals is critically important and stricter border controls can help to achieve this.

For further information or a jpeg photograph please contact Alaric Pugh communications@vickyford.org and 079300460899

Download this as a PDF


05 JUN 2013

Co-ordinating EU funding for Road to Rail

VICKY FORD MEP PLEASED TO SEE LATEST ROAD TO RAIL FREIGHT DEVELOPMENT

On the eve of the opening of the new enlarged rail terminal at Felixstowe Port that she will be attending on Thursday, Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, has emphasised the contribution of EU funding to the project, which will make a real economic impact to road users across Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and all the way to the Midlands.

"I have campaigned for improvements on the freight rail links from Felixstowe to Nuneaton route since 2008, and I have regularly visited Felixstowe Port. I have coordinated a campaign supported by MEPs all along the route to help secure a total of €14 million EU match funding. This money has contributed to several infrastructure improvements and this rail terminal is
the latest of these. Most importantly when we access EU match funding for major trunk routes like this line, we free up the UK's own funds which can then be used for more local projects.

"'Road to rail' brings so many benefits and I have long been an advocate for it. Moving freight to rail increases capacity and speeds delivery. And most importantly, it takes heavy trucks off roads like the A14 which are already often very congested. The new freight terminal in Felixstowe can now rightly claim to be the biggest rail port in Europe."

ENDS

For further information or a jpeg photograph please contact Alaric Pugh, Press Officer for Vicky Ford MEP on 07930460899

Issued on behalf of Vicky Ford MEP by communications@vickyford.org

Download this as a PDF


30 MAY 2013

Finding answers from businesses

East of England MEP Vicky Ford finds answers from businesses

Two recent visits to Bedford and its businesses by Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, revealed the answers to important questions for local people.

Visiting The Co-operative Pharmacy in Putnoe, Bedford, with MP Richard Fuller, Mrs Ford learnt about the new ways in which local pharmacies are promoting better health and saw first hand the importance of the role of pharmacies in the
community.

The firm's Managing Director John Nuttall discussed the European issue of so-called 'parallel trading' whereby medicines are sometimes sold across borders by wholesalers. This can cut prices but risks local shortages. Mrs Ford also talked about new international measures that are being taken to help tackle the growing crime of counterfeiting medicines. She said, "knowledgeable, local Pharmacists can make a huge difference to a community. Patient safety must come first and it vital that the UK is working with other countries to help crack down on any risk of false drugs. We also need to makes sure medicines remain affordable and available."

Mrs Ford had asked for assurances about this in the European Parliament recently and was pleased to hear that Bedford residents would be benefitting from even higher levels of service and patient safety.

Later, at Bid for Bedford, the two politicians saw the promotional work of the BID team helping the town to develop and thrive. They heard how local business people have made customer care a top priority for Bedford businesses learning from the Olympic Games-makers and this has helped them to begin to overcome the tough trading conditions.

"It was really good to hear independent small businesses saying that they think the worst of the recession is behind them", said Vicky Ford MEP. "I will definitely be coming back shopping."

ENDS

For further information or a jpeg photograph please contact Alaric Pugh, Press Officer for Vicky Ford MEP on 07930460899

Issued on behalf of Vicky Ford by communications@vickyford.org

Photograph shows:

Vicky Ford MEP (centre left) visiting the Co-op Pharmacy at Putnoe, Bedford and from left John Nuttall, Cooperative Pharmacy MD, Carol Rose, Pharmacy Branch Manager/Pharmacist, Richard Fuller MP for Bedford and Kempston, and Chris Bailey, Regional Development Manager

Download this as a PDF


23 MAY 2013

Local MEP wins through for UK Offshore Oil and Gas industry

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford declared victory in her long-running battle over offshore oil safety rules.

Since the Gulf of Mexico crisis there have been continual calls from some MEPs effectively to shut down oil and gas drilling in Europe.  EU officials made a power grab over the offshore industry by proposing a European super-regulator for the industry and one-size-fits-all safety legislation.

North Sea oil and gas companies pointed out that the European draft legislation would make the industry less safe and would cost over £140 million in legal and administration fees to implement.

Mrs Ford began following the European proposal on offshore safety soon after the 2010 accident. She tabled over 350 amendments to the draft law, changing the text line by line so that it now closely mirrors the UK standards.

Today the amended regulations cleared their final legislative hurdle when a majority of MEPs approved them at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The North Sea approach, which has developed progressively since the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, has been recognised  lobally as best practice for safety and the environment. The UK, Norway and Denmark account for 90 per cent of all the oil and gas produced in Europe and it is largely sourced offshore.

Mrs Ford said: "Offshore safety in the North Sea is far from the tick-box culture which led to the BP disaster in America.  The EU Commission proposals would have made the industry more dangerous and every safety manual on every oil rig would have had to be torn up and re-written.

"Lawyers would have made millions, safety standards would have fallen and oil prices would have gone up. The cost of heating our homes is high enough without unnecessary costs being piled on top. With these amendments, the UK will be exporting good practice to other seas - not having bureaucracy and poor practice imposed upon us.

"The changes we have achieved show that if you are persistent and persuasive enough, a sensible argument can eventually win through."

Download this as a PDF


15 MAY 2013

Local MEP welcomes serious action on petrol-price allegations

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who has consistently pushed for EU action against petrol price-fixing, today welcomed the launch of a major investigation into manipulation of the oil and petrol market.

Working in co-operation with Harlow MP Robert Halfon, Mrs. Ford has tabled a series of parliamentary questions in Brussels urging the European Commission to probe serious allegations ofprice-manipulation levelled against major oil companies.

Yesterday the Commission announced a wide-ranging investigation as officials raided the offices of leading
firms including Shell and BP.

Mrs. Ford, MEP for the East of England and Conservativespokesman on Industry, Research and Energy, said: "We have been working together to give the Commission a serious push on this issue.

"I persistently questioned them and urged them to sit up and take notice of this important issue. It is very pleasing that now
they have.

"Sometimes when you ask questions of the EU you feel as though they disappear into a black hole, but it looks as though this time the right people have listened.

"I hope the investigation now underway will be as thorough and wide-reaching as it needs to be to root out any malpractice and reassure consumers that in future they will not be cheated.

"Motorists need be in the driving seat - not taken for a ride."

Download this as a PDF


13 MAY 2013

Local MEP to visit smartLIFE

On Friday 17th May 2013, Vicky Ford MEP will be visiting smartLIFE in Cambridge to learn more about their work. SmartLIFE
runs innovative training courses with a focus on sustainable construction and low carbon technology. It also supports small businesses with advice on energy. This work has been supported by EU grants.

Vicky Ford is East Anglia's sole representative on the European Parliament's Industry Research and Energy committee. She has also been one of the key MEPs looking at energy efficiency.

Mrs Ford says: "Ever rising energy bills are a huge issue for households and businesses, so work on energy efficiency is really important.  In Europe I have argued against heavy handed top down targets from Brussels which have added huge costs onto energy bills. But instead I have supported projects which help people to share good ideas and develop best practice. If we are to help people save energy we need skilled installation experts who are up to date with latest technology. I am really looking forward to seeing what smartLIFE has achieved."

More information on smartLIFE can be found here http://www.smartlife.org.uk/about-2

Download this as a PDF


26 APR 2013

Vicky Ford MEP calls for a pan-European Sex Offender Register

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, met with the Director of Europol Rob Wainwright this week. Mrs Ford has been raising the issue about the need for better sharing of information across borders. This follows two cases in Suffolk where criminals who had been known offenders in other EU countries entered the UK and committed serious crimes.

Mrs Ford said: "Mr Wainwright has assured me the computer systems and legal processes are either in place or being put in place, for example at Europol, which should allow for cross-border sharing of information about offenders in different countries.

"The issue is making sure that these systems are actually used to their full effect, so that information is logged and properly used."

Download this as a PDF


22 APR 2013

Local MEP supports fishermen

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England took to the beach in Cromer this weekend to catch up with local crab fisherman, Cllr John Lee, who also chairs the North Norfolk Fisheries Local Action Group. They discussed the latest moves on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy.

Mrs Ford, who is a member of the Conservative and Reformist group, said: "Local fishermen like John have been extraordinarily helpful in teaching me about fishing issues, the need to preserve our seas and the need for radical reform of Europe's scandalous fishery policy. I am delighted that after years of hard work we have finally voted in the European Parliament to end the so call fish discards scandal whereby over a million tonnes of perfectly edible fish are thrown dead over board every year. This is a good step in the right direction.

"However, I was concerned to hear that red tape and bureaucratic inefficiencies appear to be delaying getting financial help from Brussels for small boat owners like the Norfolk Crab fishermen. John tells me they have been waiting for over 6 months for a promised grant for personal locator beacons. This is not good enough. John is going to raise this at a meeting in London, and I have promised to also ask questions in Europe."

Download this as a PDF


22 APR 2013

Vicky Ford MEP demands action to remove red tape for small businesses

Following publication of the results of The European Commission's consultation on the "Top 10 Most Burdensome Pieces of EU Legislation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)" , Vicky Ford, a leading Conservative MEP for the East of England, has tabled a parliamentary question to the European Commission demanding to know... what actions are planned and the timetable for making changes.

The results of the consultation identified specific pieces of legislation which businesses deemed to be the most burdensome. These included the Working Time Directive and Agricultural Workers Directive as well as the EU Chemicals Directive (REACH).

Mrs Ford said: "I believe that small and micro businesses should be totally exempt from cumbersome and overly bureaucratic legislation. It's one thing to identify where the problems are, now businesses expect positive actions by politicians to roll back and remove the red tape. I want to keep pressure on the European Commission and to be given a clear timetable for those actions. I am looking forward to meeting the Federation of Small Businesses this week to discuss how we can work together to address this. I am concerned that the latest proposals on implementation of EU Chemicals legislation could just force local businesses to relocate production to other parts of the globe. I will be attending a meeting this week in the European Parliament to discuss this particular piece of EU law."

Download this as a PDF


09 APR 2013

Danone assures Vicky Ford MEP there is enough baby milk for the UK

Local Member of the European Parliament, Vicky Ford, met the leading manufacturer of baby milk, Danone, in Brussels today. This follows yesterday's announcement that major UK retailers are limiting sales of baby milk to two packs per customer.

Danone have explained that the limit is to prevent some individuals and criminal gangs purchasing powdered baby milk in bulk and exporting it. There has been an exceptional increase in demand for English language-labelled packages of milk powder in China in recent months.

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, met with Danone today to discuss this issue. She said: "As a mother, I remember how vital the secure supply of formula milk is for the whole family. A shortage of powered baby milk would be very worrying for those with young children. However, Danone Baby Nutrition has assured me that there is enough baby milk for every baby in the UK.  Their two brands, Cow & Gate and Aptamil, are manufactured in Ireland from milk from Irish cows. There is an increase in demand for these brands as Chinese mums see them as premium products. This problem has been exacerbated by the recent Chinese bird flu scares and other health scares in China.  I don't think that British mums need to rush out and stock-pile but clearly we cannot supply the whole export market from the UK and Ireland, therefore these limits are very sensible."

Download this as a PDF


08 APR 2013

Local MEP and MP hold successful street surgery

On Friday 4 April, Vicky Ford Conservative MEP for the East of England and Stephen Barclay MP were joined by local  Conservative Councillors at a street surgery in Wisbech Market Place. The group listened to concerns on local issues and the views of residents on last week's announcements on changes to immigration policy, particularly regarding welfare and healthcare benefits for EU and non EU immigrants.

The five point plan includes a "Local homes for Local People" policy which will limit social housing to those who have lived locally for a defined period. Restrictions to welfare benefits will be introduced so that job seekers allowance will only be for those who are actively seeking work and will be stopped after six months if the person has not got a good chance of finding a job. The proposals will also limit access to public services such as the NHS and costs of medical treatment for EU migrants must be paid for by their own government. There will also be harsher penalties for companies employing illegal workers.

Vicky Ford MEP said "Under Labour, the UK saw uncontrolled immigration and towns like Wisbech experienced many changes in a very short period of time. This is a town where many people work extremely hard in factories or as farmworkers. Migration for work has brought many benefits for our economy but migration for welfare and migration for healthcare are unaffordable which is unfair for those who have paid into our tax system.

"Every single person I spoke to during the street surgery agreed that these new changes address real concerns. Many also spoke about the pressures they have seen on local services.

"Under the current government net migration has been reduced by a third, we have limits on economic migrants and tougher tests including English language tests. The people of Wisbech have firsthand experience, it is very helpful to have their  thoughts and support. I hope that these new changes will make a real difference. It is important that they are introduced this year.

"Thank you to Stephen Barclay MP and the local councillors who took time to help with this street surgery, and to those who
gave us their views.

"Over 700 leaflets were handed out in a one hour period, with many of those people having been asked for their views. Whilst it was clear that the majority want to see an end to mass immigration, the response to David Cameron's proposals were met positively."

Download this as a PDF


05 APR 2013

Local MEP holds street surgery on new immigration policies

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, will be joining local Conservative Councillors at a street surgery in Wisbech town centre later today. The group will be interested to hear concerns on local issues and the views of resident on last weeks announcements on changes to immigration policy.

The amendments particularly affect welfare and healthcare benefits for EU and non EU immigrants. The five point plan includes a "Local homes for Local People" policy which will limit social housing to those who have lived locally for a defined period. Restrictions to welfare benefits will be introduced so that job seekers allowance will only be for those who are actively seeking work and will be stopped after six months if the person has not got a good chance of finding a job. A National Health Service not an international one limiting access to public services such as the NHS, costs of medical treatment for EU migrants must be paid for by their own government and harsher penalties for companies employing illegal workers.

Vicky Ford MEP said "Under Labour the UK saw uncontrolled immigration and towns like Wisbech experienced many changes in a very short period of time. Under the current government net migration has been reduced by a third, we have limits on  economic migrants and tougher tests including English language tests. However, there is still much to be done. Migration for work has brought many benefits for our economy but migration for welfare and migration for healthcare are unaffordable and unfair for those who have paid into our tax system.  I hope that these new changes will make a real difference. It is important that they are introduced this year and I look forward to hearing the views of the people of Wisbech today."

Download this as a PDF


27 MAR 2013

Vicky Ford MEP demands action to remove red tape for small businesses

The European Commission launched a consultation on the Top 10 Most Burdensome Pieces of EU Legislation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) from September to December 2012.  Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, had urged local businesses to take part in this consultation.

The results of the consultation have now been published and identify broad policy areas as well as specific pieces of legislation which are deemed to be the most burdensome. Top of the list are health and safety, VAT and chemicals laws. EU waste policy and the Working Time Directive are also on the list.

Mrs Ford said, "I have consistently been pressuring for a review of red tape in EU legislation. Thank you to all the small  businesses who took part in this consultation. We have now identified the pieces of legislation which put the biggest burdens on our businesses. However, this is just the first step. The Commission must take concrete actions to lighten the load for SMEs in these areas. I also want to ensure that the Commission makes this a priority and looks to act with urgency to address EU laws which are stifling our competitiveness.  Whilst they say they want to act, they have no timetable. This is not good enough.

"I have been fighting in the European Parliament for an exemption for our smallest companies from EU legislation. Whilst the Commission supports this exemption, this only applies to new pieces of legislation. We also need to look retrospectively to existing EU laws. This is why I will be closely following the progress following the Top 10 consultation and putting pressure on the Brussels authorities' to ensure we achieve real results that reflect the priorities of small businesses."

Download this as a PDF


18 MAR 2013

Vicky Ford visits Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

IWF Champion Vicky Ford MEP (East of England) met those at the forefront of tackling online child sexual abuse content on Friday 15 March.

Cambridge-based Internet Watch Foundation takes reports from the public of online child sexual abuse images and videos.

Their analysts assess these images and videos against UK law and if potentially criminal, work with the online industry to get them removed from the internet.

In October 2012 Mrs Ford chose to become an IWF Champion, supporting the work of the IWF in its efforts to eliminate online child sexual abuse content.

Last Friday, Mrs Ford met the IWF staff in their offices in Cambridge together with District Councillor James Hockney. They talked to the IWF Analysts about their daily work fighting child sexual abuse content and discussed how the IWF is working internationally to share their expertise and best practice.

Mrs Ford MEP said: "The work that the IWF do is absolutely essential.  Understanding how best to prevent illegal images from being circulated via the web is a big international political issue. Once an image has been reported to IWF they typically can be removed within the hour, if they are webhosted in the UK. In other countries this can take as long as 10 days. I am pleased to be a champion of theirs and to help them raise awareness of their work.

"In the past two years alone, by sharing intelligence with police the IWF have aided the identification and rescue of 12 children. Figures show that since the IWF have been in operation, the amount of child sexual abuse content hosted on the internet from the UK has reduced from 18% in 1996 to less than 1% today, which is an indication of the excellent things they are achieving.

"We must look at sharing examples of best practise like this with other countries. Next month we will be launching a campaign to raise awareness of this in Brussels."

Cllr James Hockney, District Councillor for Waterbeach said, "The Internet Watch Foundation do invaluable work protecting youngsters and it's great to have a local organisation making such an impact"

"Their results show they are making a real difference including working with the Police which led to twelve youngsters being rescued in the last two years.

"I am really delighted that Vicky Ford MEP is so supportive of this organisation and the work they do."

IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said: "We were delighted when Vicky wanted to become an IWF Champion. To have such international support for our work means a great deal to the charity and our staff.

"Our analysts view some of the most horrific types of content on the internet and they do so with diligence and professionalism.

"We were absolutely delighted to welcome Vicky to our offices!"

Download this as a PDF


11 MAR 2013

Eastern region MEP warns CAP reforms could be a backward step

This week in Strasbourg, the European Parliament will be voting on hundreds of amendments to a package of reports on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Following the vote, negotiations will take place with national agricultural ministers from the 27 Member States.

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, said: "With so many amendments on the table it is difficult to get a clear picture of what the reform package will look like but I am very concerned that it will be a step backwards. I have always felt that the best way to provide a level playing field for producers is to reduce the political manipulation of public subsidies. I believe that it is unreasonable to use public money to subsidise less efficient businesses to the detriment of more economic and efficient ones, especially at a time of growing food shortages. The good news is that the overall amount of money going to agriculture subsidies has reduced. However it is likely that many of these amendments will move farmers further away from the market.

"Parliament amendments on so-called "intervention" risk taking us back towards milk lakes and butter mountains. Our most productive farmers could be put at a competitive disadvantage if payments are weighted to smaller farms. And the great progress that has been made here in the East of England by farmers to help biodiversity under our environmental stewardship schemes could be threatened too.

"Each member state should be allowed to develop their own local environmental schemes according to local conditions. Instead we have a one size fits all pan European approach. This blunt instrument won't help the environment and will impact on our ability to produce food. We also need to make sure we dont end up imposing higher standards, or greater compliance costs, on English farmers than those in other UK regions or other European Countries.

"Finally, given food security and economic concerns we need to make sure that improvements to help biodiversity and the environment are implemented in a way that does not require the land in question to be taken out of production."

Download this as a PDF


04 MAR 2013

Local MEP visits Tescos first zero carbon store and talks horsemeat

On Friday, Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, visited Tesco's flagship zero carbon store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire to learn more about groundbreaking environmental initiatives that are used at the store.

The Ramsey store was the first zero carbon retail outlet in the world and is designed to use as little energy and operate as efficiently as possible.  The store generates any energy needed on site from renewable fuel, reuses rainwater in their car wash and to flush the toilets, funnels natural light for use in the store and its heating and cooling system uses 66% less energy than a typical store of a similar size.

Mrs Ford was accompanied on the visit and a tour of the store by Shailesh Vara MP and Madeleine Jackson, local campaigner and County Council candidate, who were pleased to hear about Tesco's plans to introduce DNA testing of all meat products and that the company will be negotiating long term contracts with local livestock farmers.

Mrs Ford also grilled senior Tesco staff on their views that the effect that leaving the single market would potentially have on the price of an average basket of goods.

Tim Werkhoven, Head of European Affairs at Tesco replied: "We like the single market because it gives customers choice, lower prices, competition and innovation."

Mrs Ford commented:  " If the horsemeat scandal does end up in our local farmers being offered longer term secure contracts at a price that supports good production then perhaps there is a bit of a silver lining to this whole scandal. Energy security and food security are going to be incredibly important issues over the years to come, if we are to solve these problems we need to make sure we can learn from each others good practice. The store in Ramsay is attracting visitors from all over the world who are keen to learn from their example and share ideas. Some of the ideas that we were shown such as light funnels and using recycled vegetable oil to fuel a combined heat and power plan and reusing rainwater would be as useful in homes or  commercial properties as they are here. I think it is great that world class innovation is happening in a small town like Ramsey."

Download this as a PDF


04 MAR 2013

Local MEP fights for R & D funding for East Anglia

Vicky Ford, a leading Conservative MEP for the East of England, will tomorrow enter high level negotiations in Brussels to secure funding for the region from the European Union's H2020 funding programme. This will be allocating money for science, research and innovation for the next 7 years. The total amount of funding available from the programme is expected to be in the region of between €70 to 75 billion.

Mrs Ford explains: "Funding for research and development is one of the few areas in the EU when we actually get more back than we put in. From breast cancer to energy and crop research it is vital for many organisations in East Anglia. I am extremely keen to see this continue. I will be discussing how we might try to pull back even more funding to East Anglia, which will in turn create jobs and help to secure economic growth across the region. The East of England has received a total of €510million in EU grants for R & D projects under the current programme of funding, which has been running since 2007, and there are some excellent examples across the region of how this money has been well spent. Cambridge University, for example, expects to get about 20% of its research grants from the EU. The University of Hertfordshire have received approximately €16 million and participated in 33 excellent projects. I am looking forward to fighting for a bigger R & D budget within a reduced EU budget and making sure that EU money is allocated and used wisely for a change!"

Download this as a PDF


28 FEB 2013

EU banks agreement is a curate's egg: very good in parts

Last night's agreement on the Capital Requirements Directive secured the main safeguards for the real economy and is overall a good deal for almost everyone in the UK, despite the caps on a few bankers' bonuses, Vicky Ford MEP, one of the  parliament's lead negotiators from the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said this morning.

Mrs Ford has secured the UK's main negotiating priority, which is to deliver stronger global banking standards in capital, liquidity and leverage. As the deal does allow many exemptions for different types of European banks it was important that countries could also go further than the EU's minimum standards for capital requirements.

In addition, amendments regarding hedging of commercial risks were included, which were key to UK industrial companies wishing to avoid additional impact on investment firms aimed at pensioners and savers.

The special status of building societies and the co-op bank have been recognised; and protections have been safeguarded for mortgage payers who run into temporary difficulties.

Mrs Ford has long argued that whilst it is right to regulate bonus strategies that encourage excessive risk-taking, a blunt cap could result in remuneration packages becoming more front-loaded, going against the desire to ensure that staff are held responsible for their long-term performance. Therefore in negotiations last night she encouraged a means to recognise and incentivise longer-dated pay schemes within an overall cap.

However, she believes there is a chance that a cap on bankers' bonuses could risk relocation for certain banks currently headquartered in the EU, if they find that their staff in faster-growing parts of the world are being poached by non-European banks.

Speaking after the agreement, Mrs Ford, UK Conservative MEP for the East of England, said:

"This deal is a curate's egg: some bankers may find their bonuses reined in, but there are many positive elements aimed to help savers, pensioners and businesses.

"This directive was Europe's means of introducing the global agreement from the Basel committee.

"We have agreed our main objective of allowing countries like the UK to put in place further safeguards that ensure financial stability and go further than the EU's minimum standards, and to separate our retail and investment banks.

"Overall this agreement will be positive for the real economy. We have managed to include provisions that will help savers and pensions, building societies and manufacturing industry; and we have included measures that will free up financing for small businesses.

"I do fear that a cap on bankers bonuses is a blunt instrument but I was pleased to sharpen it by including elements that encourage bankers to take long-term decisions, otherwise they risk their bonuses being clawed back.

"Of course some top bankers will be affected by the bonus cap but I feel that we have managed to produce a deal that will strike the right balance for the majority of bankers who take responsible decisions. If the bonus cap is shown to cause bankers to begin relocating outside the EU then we will have the ability to swiftly look again at the provisions in place through an early review.

"This has been three years of work and it is by miles the most complicated piece of legislation that the European Parliament will pass. International banks do need international regulation and the UK's banks have regularly told me that being part of the single market is vital to them."

"We have tried to limit the unintended consequences of this legislation. We may not have got this 100 percent right but I hope it is a step in the right direction."

Download this as a PDF


26 FEB 2013

Vicky Ford challenges Commissioners over Bulgarian and Romanian immigration

Local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford is questioning the European Commission about how it will address crucial migration issues once restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria are lifted at the end of this year.

The East of England MEP raised a series of important issues in a formal parliamentary question to the Commission today tabled under the "urgency" procedure.

A number of observers and research groups have raised concerns about a potential influx of workers from the two new EU states once the "Schengen" single-border area is expanded to include them next January.

Mrs Ford stressed that the issue had been repeatedly raised by members of the public recently as she toured workplaces and residential areas in the East of England.

After submitting the question, Mrs Ford said: "The agreement to allow free movement to Romanians and Bulgarians was made by Tony Blair and cannot now be changed. In the East of England we have long traditions of welcoming migrants for work, but we have also seen the huge pressures that unplanned migration can put on local services. My constituents are genuinely anxious about what 2014 could bring. How can one be prepared without estimates?

"In the past, estimates from the UK side were hopelessly inaccurate.  Migration involves moving from one country to another so estimates need to look at both countries.

"Has the Commission prepared estimated figures on the UK's economy, employment market and social provisions? Furthermore have Romania and Bulgaria kept their own side of the bargain? Are their own external borders properly policed? Do their regimes respect human rights? What arrangements are being made to combat the potential spread of corruption and organised crime?

"The European Commission has a duty to help answer these questions.

"It will not do to tell voters they should simply trust the EU to do what is best for them. That will not reassure them."

ENDS

Note to editors:

Mrs Ford's Parliamentary Question asks:

"Given the large amounts of net migration which the UK has been presented with over the last 10 years with the enlargement of the Schengen area, could the Commission comment on whether or not it has prepared estimated figures for the impact on the UK's economy, employment market and social provisions?

Can the Commission give evidence that Romania and Bulgaria are fully compliant with all requirements to join the Schengen area, in particular with regard to the fight against corruption and the ability to protect borders with Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey and, in the case of Bulgaria, with regard to the fight against organised crime?

The European Commission has previously stated that residency tests and conditions to future employment and social provisions in Member States will not be prohibited, could the Commission explain the EU legal base for this provision, and elaborate further on what exactly is permitted?

Can the Commission explain why access to the relevant documents concerning Bulgaria and Romania's application to Schengen is being restricted and whether these documents will be made available to the European Parliament in due course?"

Download this as a PDF


22 FEB 2013

Leading eastern MEP seeks to challenge EU auditors

Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England, is to travel to Luxembourg next week to meet with the UK representative on the EU Court of Auditors in a bid to unravel the EU accounts and the reason why they remain unaudited.

In preparation for the meeting, Mrs Ford sent out an email to 1500 people across the East of England asking them to share any thoughts on the auditing process or experience of managing EU funded projects. Mrs Ford has received over 30 replies from people keen to share experiences and thoughts and with questions on the audit process.

Mrs Ford commented: "It is completely unacceptable that the EU accounts continually fail their audit. Correcting this must be one of the ambitions of the current seven year budget negotiations, and I hope this trip will help us to better understand how this might be achieved. It is however, worth noting that even if the accounts were audited and every penny accounted for, it does not necessarily guarantee that the money has been well spent, but it would at least be a step in the right direction.

"I have been contacted by at least two people from East Anglia with examples of how EU funds have been spent in newer EU member states, and raising questions over whether the funds may have been used for political manipulation in certain circumstances. I will be seeking answers to this question amongst others."

Mrs Ford will be joined by two of her UK Conservative colleagues from the Economic Affairs Committee, Syed Kamal MEP for London and Ashley Fox MEP for the South West.

Download this as a PDF


22 FEB 2013

Eastern MEP thwarts erosion of North Sea safety standards

Conservative MEPs, led by Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, have successfully headed off EU proposals on oil and gas safety which they feared would mean poorer standards in the North Sea and unnecessary added cost.  After months of negotiations and scores of legislative amendments tabled by British Conservatives, agreement was reached yesterday in talks between representatives of the European Parliament and Commission over a framework for safety regimes in the industry.

Mrs Ford was the lead negotiator on the legislation for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Parliament and tabled more than 300 of the amendments.  Crucially, she successfully argued that any new measures should be in the form of a directive rather than a regulation, meaning UK authorities can maintain the current regime and still incorporate the new measures that will have a positive impact on safety.

Mrs Ford said: "We have come up with a result that is good for Britain, good for the environment and good for consumers. Instead of levelling safety standards down, we will be encouraging the rest of Europe to match Britain's high standards."

The UK is seen as across the world a gold standard on safety, but the European Commission caused concern last year by pushing for regulations which would force all member states to conform to the same rules. The initial proposals would have denied member states the required flexibility to adapt measures to their own national circumstances.

Such a move would have proved needlessly expensive, and the industry would have been forced to pass on extra costs to consumers. The experts currently involved in crucial offshore safety checks would have ended up spending years onshore learning how to ensure compliance with the new rules. It was estimated that the total cost of implementing the proposed measures would have been about £150 million in the United Kingdom.

Mrs Ford,  who is Conservative industry spokesman, added: "Safety and environmental protection in the industry have to be paramount, but the very restrictive legislation proposed would have actually damaged standards in countries such as the UK which have long-established and globally-respected safety regimes.

"We were facing an attempt to 'Europeanise' national offshore competences by forcing member states to repeal key parts of their domestic law and replace them with a one-size-fits-all piece of EU legislation. It would have forced the UK oil and gas industry to divert resources to these changes. That would have caused serious project delays and dealt a blow to the economy, investment, jobs and energy security.

"The original Commission proposals were deeply flawed and potentially damaging. Line by line we amended the EU proposal so that it now mirrors the UK gold standard.

"It is gratifying that we managed to head off the worst of the proposals. We want to be exporting British best practice to the rest of Europe, not importing inferior standards to Britain."

Download this as a PDF


08 FEB 2013

"It's not just size that matters" says leading Eastern MEP

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, today congratulated the Prime Minister on getting a reduction to the EU budget at the Brussels summit on the EU's Multi-annual Financial Framework.

Mrs Ford commented: "It is quite right that the EU should be asked to find savings. The size of the budget matters, but so too does how it is spent. We in the UK should be looking not just at the EU budget but whether we get our fair share from other organisations like the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund. Funding for research and infrastructure is vital for growth and jobs in the East of England, I am already looking at the details of these programs, talking to companies and councils to make sure we access all of these funding areas better than in the past."

Download this as a PDF


08 FEB 2013

MEPs support bid to get freight off the A14

Conservative MEPs for the East of England are backing a bid for £9.6m of European funding to help get more freight off the A14 and onto the railway. The bid by Network Rail is for improvement works at the Ipswich Chord with a project cost of  £48.3m.

Vicky Ford MEP who co-ordinated the joint letter from MEPs explained: "This is part of a long standing campaign to remove bottlenecks in our rail network from the east coast all the way to the midlands and to allow more freight to travel by rail not road. It is particularly important in helping to relieve pressure on contested roads such as the A14. In the past 3 years we have been very successful at getting match funding from the EU budget for these upgrades and we will continue to fight for this money whenever possible."

The joint letter of support for the bid was sent to Director of the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency was signed by Mrs Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden MEP and Robert Sturdy MEP.

The Ipswich Chord project seeks to unlock significant additional capacity on the Felixstowe to Nuneaton corridor by directly connecting the line from Felixstowe to the onward route at Ipswich. It avoids the need for trains to run into Ipswich Yard and 'run-round' the engine to access the Felixstowe to Nuneaton route. The junction speeds provided on to the chord enable trains to run more efficiently between the passenger services. The chord is also capable of accepting 775m trains, whereas the yard restricts length to 650m. Activities envisaged on this project include, double track, embankment and earthworks, underbridge works, signalling systems and overhead line equipment renewal.

Mrs Ford commented: "Just before Christmas I went to see the new longer loading area which is being built at Felixstowe so that each individual train can move more freight. The Ipswich Chord project is needed to allow those longer trains to pass all the way between Felixstowe and Nuneaton.  This unlocks significant additional capacity and means greater efficiency. This will have an enormously positive impact on competitiveness for transport in the region. This will lead to job creation and significant improvement to the economic development in the East of England. The proposed improvements would also make it easier to import and export into the UK ."

An announcement on funding is expected in June/July 2013 with final funding decisions by the Commission made in the Autumn 2013.

Download this as a PDF


08 FEB 2013

Bedford Modern politics students quiz Eastern region MEP

East of England MEP Vicky Ford joined A-level politics students at Bedford Modern School for a lunch meeting this week. The students quizzed Vicky on the plans for reforming the EU and pointed out that David Cameron's proposed referendum on the EU will be one of their first chances to vote.

The discussion covered a wide number of topics including the international rules for offshore oil safety and banking reform where Mrs Ford has been one of the UK's leading negotiators, as well as the reform of the common fisheries policy to end fish discards. She encouraged the students to look at the details of negotiations.

Stuart Baker, Head of Politics and Senior Sixth Form Tutor at Bedford Modern School said: "It was great to welcome our Eastern Regional MEP to BMS especially at such an interesting time after David Cameron's speech on a possible referendum on leaving the EU. It allowed Bedford Modern School students to find out and ask questions on a topic that will affect their futures."

Download this as a PDF


06 FEB 2013

Local MEPs help bring about major reform of fishing policy

MEPs for the East of England voted today to finally end wasteful fish discards and ensure sustainable fishing across our seas.

The European Parliament voted on reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy. For local Conservative MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden and Vicky Ford this follows many years of campaigning. They believe this is the beginning of new hope for the East Anglian fishing industry.

The reforms voted today include ending the discarding of healthy fish, bringing more decision making back to the UK from Brussels and enforcing a legal commitment to sustainable fishing.

Vicky Ford said: "I hope this will be the time when the tide finally changes in favour of fish and sustainable local fisheries instead of Brussels-based lunacy. The EU quotas systems which mean perfectly edible fish are thrown dead back into the sea is morally abhorrent and I'm very pleased that they will stop. Furthermore, I have seen how cod is labelled "local" in Lowestoft when actually it has been caught by huge freezer-trawlers in Russia. In the meantime our local fishermen who are in small boats have no discards, they use lines not nets, which are the most sustainable methods, and yet the Brussels quotas mean they are not allowed to catch the fish. This is madness. I only hope these reforms are not too late for our local fishing fleet."

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP added: "The Common Fisheries Policy has consistently failed to protect either our fish or our local fishing industry. Under the existing regime there are often more inspectors and bureaucrats at our fishing ports than there are fishing boats. This vote will start a process of returning decision making from Brussels to Britain and addressing the needs of our local fishermen. It will end discards, ensure that EU vessels fishing outside of the EU also abide by these regulations, and bring back decision making power on how to allocate fishing rights."

Download this as a PDF


04 FEB 2013

Stephen Metcalfe MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock has joined Vicky Fords campaign to stop waste in the European Parliament

Stephen Metcalfe MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock has joined the campaign to stop waste in the European Parliament.

The campaign to end the European Parliament's second seat is being led in the East of England by Conservative MEP Vicky Ford. She is urging people to follow Stephen Metcalfe MP's lead and sign the e-petition "Stop the Strasbourg Circus".

Every month the entire European Parliament relocates from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week of plenary voting sessions, meaning thousands of MEPs, staff, translators, journalists and lobbyists make the journey, along with 25 trucks carrying 4,000 trunks filled with MEPs papers. This monthly exercise costs the taxpayer around €200 million per year as well as causing approximately 20,000 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 to be emitted. In addition to this, the buildings in Strasbourg cost approximately €457 million, plus heating and lighting bills for buildings which are left largely unused for around 300 days per year.

The EU treaties state that the European Parliament must meet in Strasbourg 12 times a year. There is increasing support  amongst MEPs, who just last month voted 4 to 1 to changing the rules and holding all sessions in Brussels, but the change needs the agreement of governments from all 27 member states of the European Council.  Ashley Fox MEP and Mrs Ford have launched an online petition asking the Prime Minister to demand a change in European law so that the European Parliament need only meet in one place.

Mrs. Ford explains "At a time when national governments and local councils are having to cut budgets and families are all feeling the pinch, it is absurd that so much taxpayers money is wasted on the travelling circus between Brussels and  Strasbourg.  I would urge everybody to sign the petition, and to tell as many people as possible about it so that we can try and get this item on the agenda. The EU is currently negotiating a 7 year budget and if this does not get put on the table during those negotiations then the travelling circus will be destined to continue for many more years."

The petition can be found here and more information can be found on the campaign website.

Download this as a PDF


01 FEB 2013

Local MEP supports horse industry in East Anglia

Representatives from the equine industry travelled to Brussels last week to raise concerns about diseases and research.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, met members of the European Horse Network in the European Parliament.

The group included representatives from the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Norfolk based charity World Horse Welfare (WHW) and leading equine vet Professor Josh Slater from the Royal Veterinary College. This expert group described how important it is to continue research into areas such as equine diseases and the benefits if such research can happen at an international level. Mrs Ford sits on the Parliaments Research committee which is scrutinising plans for an 80 billion euro investment in science and research to be made over the next seven years. She backed the recommendation by a  representative of the European Commission that researchers into equine diseases should look at accessing research funds targeted at small and medium sized businesses as well as funds for the EU's science and research budget.

The group also discussed problems such as delays in getting drugs and vaccines authorised across different countries and recommended that it might be better to look at a universal single European approval such as that already used for human pharmaceutical products.  One example of this was the West Nile Fever vaccine.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Ford commented: "People should not underestimate the value of the equine businesses to the rural economy in the East of England. It is absolutely vital that we continue to invest in proper research for animal health, which will bring long-term economic benefits back to the region."

Download this as a PDF


23 JAN 2013

Vicky Ford MEP congratulates Prime Minister on his speech

East of England MEP Vicky Ford has written to the Prime Minister congratulating him on his speech on Europe.

Mrs Ford said "The Prime Minister has promised to renegotiate a reformed relationship with the EU, and to give the British people a referendum on that new relationship. I have been campaigning for reform and a referendum for many years. I see this as an exciting time, let's get on with the detailed work."

Mrs Ford has already started to take action on some of the reforms outlined by the Prime Minister in this mornings speech. This afternoon she was in the Parliaments Industry committee urging MEPs from 7 other countries to support the recommendation to give our smallest businesses exemptions from EU laws. In the past week she has also been discussing with German MEPs the need to reform EU energy policy for larger energy users as well as the need to change migration policies given the impact on healthcare and welfare services.

The contents of Mrs Ford's letter to the Prime Minister is as follows:

"Dear Prime Minister,

Many congratulations on your speech this morning.

You have shown a very clear vision for a free and flexible European Union, which puts a competitive, single market at its centre and allows a flow back of powers. You have also outlined the key differences between the way forward for the Eurozone and for the European Union as a whole. I totally concur with the need to reinvigorate the vision of the single market as one of free-trade, not protectionism. This is vital to restoring competitiveness. Finally, I agree with your comments on the democratic deficit and the importance of a referendum on our reformed relationship.

Please do continue to let me know any way that I can help deliver this vision.

Yours sincerely

Vicky Ford MEP"

Download this as a PDF


15 JAN 2013

Local MEP urges parents to be brain tumour aware

Local MEP Vicky Ford has backed a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours in children.

Last week Mrs Ford met with Chris and Lisa Green of Canvey Island in Essex, whose 11 year old son Danny tragically passed away in July last year after having been diagnosed the previous November with a brain tumour. Danny's parents have started the Danny Green Fund and are also working with HeadSmart, which is a national campaign to increase awareness of brain tumour signs and symptoms in children and young people amongst the public and health professionals.

Ten children and young people are diagnosed with a brain tumour each week in the UK. Early diagnosis can significantly improve the outcome for the patient. Symptoms of brain tumours in children and young people vary but include headaches, vomiting, poor balance, difficulty walking, abnormal eye movements, deteriorating vision and fits or seizures.

Speaking after the meeting with Danny's parents, Mrs Ford said: "One quarter of all childhood cancers occur in the brain and brain tumours are the biggest cause of cancer related deaths in children and young people. Symptoms can often be confused with those of a migraine or other less serious childhood illnesses and a lack of awareness of the symptoms of this dreadful disease can mean that it takes too long to reach a diagnosis, and by the time medical help is sought it is tragically sometimes too late. Sadly, the UK is far behind many other countries. I am keen to support this campaign to raise awareness amongst parents and those working with children. I would urge anyone who would like further information to contact Headsmart."

Further information can be found at http://www.headsmart.org.uk or by emailing info@thedannygreenfund.org.uk

Download this as a PDF


14 JAN 2013

"Let's get on with it!" urges leading Eastern MEP

As speculation continues to grow on the content of the Prime Minister's long awaited speech on the EU, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has congratulated The Fresh Start Project on the work it has done in outlining how a future relationship with the European Union could look.

The Fresh Start Project was formed by MPs to research and propose a new relationship for the UK within the EU that would better meet the interests and aspirations of the British people. The Fresh Start Manifesto for change will be formally launched this week.

Mrs Ford is the Conservative spokesperson in Europe for Industry and Research and the party's lead negotiator on EU banking laws. She is one of a number of leading politicians who have been involved in the project from the start, and has had input into three chapters of the manifesto. Mrs Ford has been campaigning for a referendum on Europe since before she was elected in 2009.

Mrs Ford commented: "As we near the day of the Prime Minister's speech with regards to a possible referendum, I welcome the work done by the Fresh Start Project. Instead of joining others in endless speculation on the subject of the United Kingdom's future within Europe, the Fresh Start project has started to put the meat on the bones. It looks at specific areas of EU legislation and genuinely maps out various options. I believe the vast majority of British people want a new relationship with Europe, but they also want to know what that may look like. This is extremely important to our economy, our trade and therefore our future. We need detail not just sweeping generalisations.

"The Fresh Start project has carried out a lot of detailed analysis and consultation over many months. As regards a  referendum, politicians appear to be going round in circles talking about the issue. Europe is changing and maintaining the status quo is not an option - the people of Britain believe they are owed a referendum. I think people would like to have a vote on the need for a renegotiation, as well as a vote on the final terms of the renegotiated relationship. It is in the interests of many other EU countries to keep the UK in the single market, and if they want to keep us, they will need to also respect our need for a renegotiation."

The manifesto officially launches on Wednesday in London. Further information on the Fresh Start Project can be found at www.eufreshstart.org

Download this as a PDF


11 JAN 2013

MP and MEP praise Councils for EU slam

Conservative MEP for the East of England Vicky Ford has joined Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris in praising Essex County Council and Castle Point Borough Council for passing resolutions which call on the EU to cut its budget and significantly cut the UK's contributions and redirect the money back to the people of the UK.

Speaking at a meeting of local Conservatives at Benfleet Conservative Club Vicky said:  "I have never supported any increase in the EU budget and I congratulate Castle Point Borough Council and Essex County Council on passing these resolutions.

"At a time when all Governments are having to make tough decisions on public spending it is unacceptable for the EU to do anything but cut its bloated budget and take its share of the pain.

"We need a repatriation of powers and a referendum on Europe and I am glad that your council and your local MP are fully supportive of the Conservatives in the European Parliament as we all push towards these goals."

Rebecca added: "The council are spot on with their resolution. We all know that the Brussels bureaucrats are out of touch but to propose to suck more money out the system when we are still reeling from the global financial turmoil and European economic management is absolutely ludicrous."

Download this as a PDF


30 DEC 2012

Visit to Bedford businesses

East of England MEP Vicky Ford finds answers from businesses

Two recent visits to Bedford and its businesses by Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, revealed the answers to important questions for local people.

Visiting The Co-operative Pharmacy in Putnoe, Bedford, with MP Richard Fuller, Mrs Ford learnt about the new ways in which local pharmacies are promoting better health and saw first hand the importance of the role of pharmacies in the community.

The firm's Managing Director John Nuttall discussed the European issue of so-called 'parallel trading' whereby medicines are sometimes sold across borders by wholesalers. This can cut prices but risks local shortages. Mrs Ford also talked about new international measures that are being taken to help tackle the growing crime of counterfeiting medicines. She said, "knowledgeable, local Pharmacists can make a huge difference to a community. Patient safety must come first and it vital that the UK is working with other countries to help crack down on any risk of false drugs. We also need to makes sure medicines remain affordable and available."

Mrs Ford had asked for assurances about this in the European Parliament recently and was pleased to hear that Bedford residents would be benefitting from even higher levels of service and patient safety.

Later, at Bid for Bedford, the two politicians saw the promotional work of the BID team helping the town to develop and thrive. They heard how local business people have made customer care a top priority for Bedford businesses learning from the Olympic Games-makers and this has helped them to begin to overcome the tough trading conditions.

"It was really good to hear independent small businesses saying that they think the worst of the recession is behind them", said Vicky Ford MEP. "I will definitely be coming back shopping."

ENDS

For further information or a jpeg photograph please contact Alaric Pugh, Press Officer for Vicky Ford MEP on 07930460899

Issued on behalf of Vicky Ford by communications@vickyford.org

Photograph shows:

Vicky Ford MEP (centre left) visiting the Co-op Pharmacy at Putnoe, Bedford and
from left John Nuttall, Cooperative Pharmacy MD, Carol Rose, Pharmacy
Branch Manager/Pharmacist, Richard Fuller MP for Bedford and Kempston, and
Chris Bailey, Regional Development Manager

Download this as a PDF


17 DEC 2012

"Save our British Bacon" plea from Eastern MEP

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has renewed calls for people to support the British pig farming industry by buying British bacon and sausages this Christmas.

Earlier this year Mrs Ford visited Blacks of Bacton outdoor pig unit with representatives of the National Pig Association (NPA) and learnt how the Black family had been independent pig farmers since 1926, but had recently decided to give up, meaning their own herd of 1,500 sows will be sent to slaughter.  UK pig farmers have been campaigning for years for a level playing field on welfare issues so that their prices are not undercut by continental producers. The new rules are meant to be coming into force in January but farmers in many countries are not compliant.

Following the visit, Mrs Ford wrote to UK retailers and supermarkets to ask what steps they were taking to ensure the meat they supply was compliant, and she has since received replies from all the major UK retailers outlining their plans to guarantee compliance.

Mrs Ford explained:  "The UK pig industry is facing great uncertainty and pig farmers across the region have been struggling to compete against their European counterparts since 1999 when the UK introduced higher welfare standards for pigs and banned the use of sow stalls. There is meant to be an EU ban from the end of this year but it is now clear that despite years of notice, farmers in some other countries have not complied.

"This means that not only are our own pig farmers across the East of England facing a huge increase in grain prices, but they are also having to compete with exported pork products which can be sold at a much cheaper price as they do not meet the same quality standards. I would urge everyone to get behind our struggling farmers in the East of England to save our bacon and sausages - when you are shopping for your chipolatas for your Christmas lunch, buy British and look for products with the Little Red Tractor logo - this tells consumers that the product can be traced back to a British farm and guarantees that it meets the standards required."

Chairman of the NPA, Richard Longthorp, added: "The NPA appreciates the work that retailers and processors are doing to ensure that they only supply pork and pork products from legal systems after the 1st January, however there is still a long way to go. Pork product manufacturers must also be held to account for their sourcing policies, particularly in light of new information from the EU Commission which suggests many countries are falling way behind their predicted level of compliance. As there are only a few weeks to go until the partial sow stall ban comes into force the Commission will need to act swiftly in the New Year and crack down on those countries that have failed to comply."

Download this as a PDF


17 DEC 2012

Local MEP stands up for horses

Local MEP Vicky Ford has welcomed a new report by the European parliament calling for stronger rules on the transportation of animals, especially horses, to slaughter houses.

Speaking in the Parliament in Strasbourg last week Mrs Ford explained how the Norfolk based charity "World Horse Welfare" had exposed the scandal of horses being mistreated en route to slaughter houses in certain central or southern European countries. Mrs Ford has been supporting the campaign by World Horse Welfare for stricter limits on journey times and decent conditions for rest breaks for horses travelling to slaughter houses.

Mrs Ford welcomed the Parliament's report regarding horse transport describing as "hideous" the manner in which horses which are transported across border after border without breaks. She said this practice for horses was cruel and must stop. However she also warned that the Parliament needs to be careful when looking at the laws for certain other animals, for example livestock farmers in remote areas may need to have longer journey times, and certain animal species find journey rest breaks actually increase stress.

Mrs Ford said "Too often we see the EU making laws on things that could be better decided locally or nationally and then  turning a blind eye when there is actually an international issue which needs sorting out. Thank you to the many hundreds of horse lovers from across East Anglia who have written to me on this issue. This report is a step in the right direction, we need much better rules on how to care for horses travelling to slaughter, and we need rules to be obeyed. However, the same journey times and breaks are not necessary for horses travelling for breeding, races and competitions and could actually be worse for these. Fortunately in East Anglia we have experts from World Horse Welfare as well as racing and breeding experts
from the Newmarket area. I hope they will help give advice ahead of drafting new rules."

The Eastern MEP is herself a keen horsewoman and an active supporter of well-considered animal-welfare initiatives.

Download this as a PDF


10 DEC 2012

Vicky Ford MEP increases pressure to fund research into poverty related illnesses

Conservative MEP for the East of England, Vicky Ford, has tabled a formal question to the European Commission asking how it intends to continue vital funding for research into poverty related and neglected diseases (PRND's).

Mrs Ford is the Conservative spokesman on Industry and Research in the European Parliament. She has been reviewing the so called Horizon 2020 proposals for up to €80 billion to be spent on research and innovation over the next 7 years. The  programme specifically mentions the importance of funding research into poverty related and neglected diseases, but it is not clear how this will be implemented.  Mrs Ford recently met research experts who were concerned that existing funding for pre-trial drug development might be cut.

Mrs Ford's official question will now mean the European Commission has to formally explain how it intends to structure the  funding for these diseases.

Mrs Ford said: "Poverty related diseases often miss out on research from commercial pharmaceutical companies and so scientists rely on international support such as from the EU. This group of diseases includes tuberculosis, which we know has been prevalent in developing countries for some time but is now on the rise in developed countries, including the UK. This is very concerning. It is important that early-stage drug development is not forgotten, and that we ensure that funding streams are allocated to support this vital work. There are areas where substantial savings should be made in the EU budget so that spending can be refocused on areas like research and innovation where international collaboration can really add value and make a difference. "

Download this as a PDF


10 DEC 2012

Leading Eastern region MEP joins campaign to combat child pornography on the internet

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has signed up as a champion to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the body  responsible in the UK for reporting criminal online content.

The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The IWF Hotline service can be used anonymously, and successfully works in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of criminal content, specifically child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world, criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK and non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.

Mrs Ford commented: "The work that the IWF do is absolutely essential, and I am pleased to be able to support them in this way and to help them raise awareness of their work. In the past two years alone, by sharing intelligence with police the IWF have aided the identification and rescue of 12 children. Figures show that since the IWF have been in operation, the amount of child sexual abuse content hosted on the internet from the UK has reduced from 18% in 1996 to less than 1% today, which is an indication of the excellent things they are achieving."

To find out more about the Internet Watch Foundation click here

 

Download this as a PDF


10 DEC 2012

Eastern MEP supports campaign to raise awareness of Autism across Europe

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, is supporting a campaign to raise awareness of Autism across Europe.

Last month, Mrs Ford signed her support to a campaign to help countries share experiences of best practices when developing national and international Autism strategies.

Mrs Ford explained: "In my own village, my wider community and indeed my own extended family I have seen how incredibly difficult it can be to support a child or young person with autism or other developmental disabilities. The description "Autism" covers a very wide spectrum and I have also seen how inspired helpers or teachers, caring schools and support groups can really make a difference to the families affected. For some children, help at an early stage can make all the difference, others need much more long term support. I have also seen how different countries have some great ideas about how to give that support - sharing good ideas and best practice from elsewhere is something we should all support."

Download this as a PDF


07 DEC 2012

Eastern MEP asks investors to put their money where their mouths are

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, has spoken at a meeting of leading investors in London and asked them to come forward with their own views on whether or not the UK should be in the single market.

Mrs Ford has met with and delivered a similar message recently to representatives of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the National Farming Union and the British Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking after the event, Mrs Ford commented: "There are two big tipping point discussions currently going on. These are the seven year budget and banking union, which passes control of banks over to the European Central Bank.  These are both very significant and both of them cannot go through without unanimous approval from the 27 national governments. There is a growing popular pressure for the UK to leave the EU altogether, but many businesses are saying they are concerned and want to stay in the EU's single market. This decision is not just a political decision but needs to be based on hard-headed economic facts. We need businesses and investors to look at the impact of this decision on their own commercial situation. The point I made to the leading investors when I met them was that it is time for them to start coming forward with their own recommendations.  Do they think the UK should be fighting to stay in the single market or not? They need to lay down the business and economic case accordingly."

Read full speech here

Download this as a PDF


07 DEC 2012

Vicky Ford MEP urges "End the Strasbourg travelling circus"

Conservative MEP for the East of England, Vicky Ford, is urging people to sign a petition to end the European Parliament's second seat in Strasbourg. Mrs Ford is supporting the "Stop the Strasbourg Circus" campaign, which was started by her colleague, Ashley Fox MEP earlier this year.

Every month the entire European Parliament relocates from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week of plenary voting sessions, meaning thousands of MEPs, staff, translators, journalists and lobbyists make the journey, along with 25 trucks carrying 4,000 trunks filled with MEPs papers. This monthly exercise costs the taxpayer around €200 million per year as well as causing approximately 20,000 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 to be emitted. In addition to this, the buildings in Strasbourg cost  approximately €457 million, plus heating and lighting bills for buildings which are left largely unused for around 300 days per year.

The EU treaties state that the European Parliament must meet in Strasbourg 12 times a year. There is increasing support amongst MEPs, who just last month voted 4 to 1 to changing the rules and holding all sessions in Brussels, but the change needs the agreement of governments from all 27 member states of the European Council.  Mr Fox and Mrs Ford have launched an online petition asking the Prime Minister to table a proposal demanding a change in European law so that the European Parliament need only meet in one place.

Mrs. Ford explains "At a time when national governments and local councils are having to cut budgets and families are all feeling the pinch, it is absurd that so much taxpayers money is wasted on the travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg. I would urge everybody to sign the petition, and to tell as many people as possible about it so that we can try and get this item on the agenda. The EU is currently negotiating a 7 year budget and if this does not get put on the table during those negotiations then the travelling circus will be destined to continue for many more years."

The petition can be found here and more information can be found on the campaign website.

Download this as a PDF


03 DEC 2012

Leading East of England MEP to speak at business lunch

Vicky Ford, leading Conservative MEP for the East of England, will be speaking at a lunch for around 60 business people this Friday 7th December at Brown's Kitchen and Farm Shop in Mundford, Norfolk.

Mrs Ford will be meeting representatives from local businesses and hoping to hear about their experiences and answer questions.

In her work as an MEP, Vicky has worked hard to represent the views of small business:

  • She has consistently called for red tape to be cut for businesses and, for micro businesses employing less than 10 people to be excluded from EU laws.
  • The European Commission has launched a consultation on the top ten most burdensome pieces of legislation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). She is encouraging all small businesses to take part, so that EU laws can be reviewed and changed.
  • She has been campaigning for a Code of Best Practice so that SMEs taking part in EU-funded research and innovation projects have less paperwork to fill out and can be paid on time. This Code was voted through the Parliament committee this week.
  • She has been working to improve access to finance for SMEs from both public and private sector sources. She has been  working to change international regulation on banking to free up bank capacity for small companies. She now has the full support of the European Parliament in lengthy negotiations with the 27 Member States involved to achieve this. On the public side, the EU is proposing a €2.5bn programme to help small companies access finance and build international networks. If approved this Programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) will start at the beginning of 2014.
  • She has called for a root and branch review of the EU budget, removing waste and redirecting funding towards SMEs and other important areas such as research and innovation which will help create growth and jobs.

If you would like to attend the event please contact Valerie Watson-Brown at The Lively Crew on 01603 702374.

Download this as a PDF


30 NOV 2012

Local MEP defends status quo for stem cell research

Local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has fended off a ban on funding stem cell research across the EU.

This week the European Parliament's research committee voted on a proposed €80bn package for science, research and  innovation. The committee voted on a compromise which called to maintain the status quo on stem cell research funding in the EU. This status quo allows for projects to be financed provided that the research is compliant with the laws of the Member  states participating in the project. Hidden amongst the 3000 amendments tabled by MEPs were at least twelve amendments which would have led to an outright ban on funding vital stem cell research.

Mrs Ford explained, "In recent months I have heard from many research scientists, medics and patient groups about how the latest developments in stem cell therapies are giving real hope for those suffering from conditions as diverse as heart disease, diabetes, blindness and Parkinson's. Different countries have different views on the ethics of such research and I don't believe that the EU should over-rule individual countries on such decisions. I am delighted that the research committee voted to defend the status quo, especially given the sensitivity of this kind of research.

"One of the priorities of Horizon 2020 [the EU framework programme for research and innovation for 2014-2020] is to focus on health research for diseases which affect millions of people across the UK and the rest of Europe. We must be able to explore types of research which have the potential to make a life-changing difference to so many people."

In May this year Mrs Ford organised an event in the European Parliament on "Understanding the Science of Stem Cells", where she invited leading scientists from across Europe to educate and explain to MEPs what stem cell research is and some of the enormous potential benefits it can bring. Amongst the speakers were Prof. Austin Smith from the Wellcome Trust in Cambridge and Prof. Julie Daniels from Moorfields Eye Hospital at UCL.

Mrs. Ford explained, "This meeting was really useful as it helped build a group of MEPs from many different countries prepared to fight any ban."

Download this as a PDF


29 NOV 2012

Local MEP Vicky Ford: "Put excellence at the heart of E80 billion research package"

Excellence must be the focus as the European Union decides its funding in the field of research and innovation, a leading Conservative MEP for the Eastern region insisted this week.

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, and Conservative spokesman on research, was speaking as the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee voted through a package of reports on Horizon 2020, the EU framework programme for research and innovation for 2014-2020. Mrs Ford has led negotiations for the Parliament's European Conservatives and Reformists group on the package of reports.

Horizon 2020 is the successor to Framework Programme 7 and brings together existing EU funding streams for research and innovation into one programme. It has a proposed budget of €80bn (which is still under negotiation) and sets the priorities for EU funding for research into sectors such as health, energy, transport and food security.

Mrs Ford said one of the biggest challenges in Europe was bridging the so-called "valley of death" - the gap between successful research and driving viable ideas through to production and commercial sale.

She said: "We must help to turn good research into innovative solutions that can be brought to market. This is one of the priorities for Horizon 2020. Excellence must be at the heart of EU research and innovation funding so that money goes to the very best researchers. While we should ensure that regions which typically have not benefited from this funding are helped to build their capacity, this should never be at the expense of excellence.

"For example if one were awarding a grant for research on Parkinson's disease, the patient would want the money to go to the best possible research team, not the one from the region whose turn it was next for funding. Best does not necessarily mean the biggest name either. In my own region we have world-famous centres of excellence such as Cambridge University, but we also have many smaller and less well-known institutions which are equally advanced in their expertise.

"One of the main goals of Horizon 2020 is to simplify the process of applying for EU research money so that smaller centres and new applicants are not excluded. I proposed a new Commission Code of Best Practice which was adopted in the vote this week. This Code would ensure that participants are paid on time for the work they do - this sounds like a reasonable request but unfortunately there are currently often big delays before researchers are paid.

"The Code also requests that that the communications network in the Commission is transparent to participants and that they know who to contact if they have problems or complaints. Horizon 2020 must be easy to use for participants and it must be efficient and workable. Without this, we will only limit the ability of our very best researchers to find solutions to the biggest global challenges we face."

Mrs Ford fears Europe's long-term investment in research may be under threat in the latest round of wrangling over the EU's spending blueprint the multi-annual financial framework, but she said whilst there is room for substantial savings in EU spending, this crucial investment package must be protected. She explained: "The €80 billion proposed budget for science, research and innovation has not attracted much media attention. The political lobbying by angry farmers, transport officials and Eurocrats, each seeking to protect their own corners of the budget, poses a very high risk.

"The Horizon 2020 proposals cover a vast array of research and development, from pure science through to developing the industrial prototypes necessary to establish manufacturing facilities, from international breast cancer studies to designing more efficient, quieter aircraft engines, from finding disease-resistant crops to new battery technologies for next-generation motor cars. The academic grants programmes go right the way from high level laboratory leaders to those starting out on their first post graduate research project. This is one of the few areas where the UK gets back what it puts into the EU budget."

Mrs Ford recently prepared a 30 page study into the costs and benefits of EU research funding in the UK, including  contributions from over 20 different universities, companies and research organisations.

While Mrs Ford voted for the Horizon 2020 package as a whole she did not support individual amendments from the Parliament on re-allocations of funding within the budget. She explains: "Colleagues have literally moved billions from one scientific challenge to others with no impact assessment. We call for evidence-based policy-making in Horizon 2020 but then don't practice it ourselves. I hope this, and the issue of supporting excellent science, can be sorted out during the upcoming negotiations between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission."

Download this as a PDF


27 NOV 2012

Leading MEP urges women to check car insurance policies

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, is urging women to check their car insurance policies and to consider renewing policies before a new EU ruling comes into effect on the 21st December. According to industry estimates younger women drivers in particular could see an escalation in their insurance premiums.

The ruling in the European Court of Justice means that car insurance companies are no longer able to take gender into account as a key consideration when deciding on a person's car insurance premium. This means that in spite of research showing that younger women drivers have fewer accidents than their male counterparts, this will be ignored when calculating insurance premiums from now on. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), women drivers could see their premiums rise by up to 25% after December as a result, with younger women being particularly hard hit.

Mrs Ford commented: "This rise is expected to hit up to three quarters of all female drivers and I would encourage younger women in particular to check their car insurance renewal dates, and to consider renewing policies before the law comes into effect on the 21st December. As younger women tend to have few accidents than younger male drivers, to date insurers have been able to offer the women lower pricing, reflecting the lower risk. Now insurers will not be able to offer this differentiated policy. There appears to be a general consensus that car insurance prices for certain women drivers will rise significantly as a result. I am concerned that people are not aware that this cut off date is imminent. I don't think the ruling is sensible, it throws into question the whole theory of insurance pricing which tries to match premiums to expected risks. I would be interested in hearing from readers with any feedback on whether the price of insurance premiums have indeed risen and how this ruling has affected them. Check your policy before Christmas."

-Ends-

Download this as a PDF


23 NOV 2012

Eastern MEP welcomes positive move forward for rural broadband as EU finally authorises UK state aid

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, has welcomed a ruling by The European Commission this week that that a proposed UK support scheme for investing in rural and remote broadband is in line with state aid rules.

The ruling follows extensive lobbying by the UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Conservative MEPs, who met again last week to discuss ways of moving the scheme forward as soon as possible. It also comes just a few weeks after Mrs Ford wrote a letter to the Culture Secretary, urging the Government to ensure that superfast broadband quickly covers the whole of the UK. Vicky's letter was co-signed by MEPs representing all regions in the UK.

The UK plans to set up an umbrella scheme that would deliver around £1.5 billion to 140 broadband support schemes in rural areas where there is market failure in providing the much-needed high-speed connection, many of which are in the East of  England.

Mrs Ford commented: "There are many areas in the East of England where we need urgent investment in broadband infrastructure. Many of our local councils have made this a top priority, however the European Commission dithering had put unnecessary delays on their ability to award contracts to suppliers. This ruling will enable the UK to get on with delivering the broadband network that we need in order to grow our economy and support businesses of all size, but particularly small rural businesses, who tend to be the worst affected."

Download this as a PDF


23 NOV 2012

Newmarket Sausage gets protected status

Newmarket Sausage was recently awarded protected geographical indication status by the European Commission. This status recognises that only sausage made in a strict area surrounding Newmarket, using high quality cuts of pork, can be labelled as Newmarket Sausage. It is the 50th British product to receive this designation.

Being awarded this status will help protect the quality and the tradition of this great British product from the East of England. It will also encourage growth and investment in the rural economy through promotion of Newmarket Sausages as a guaranteed product. The consumer can also take comfort in the quality assurance that will come with the name Newmarket Sausage.

MEPs from the East of England congratulated the Newmarket Sausage Association and its producers on its new status.

MEP Robert Sturdy said: "This designation will allow a great regional product to be recognised and protected all over the world. It will promote further investment and tourism in the area around Newmarket and the East of England."

MEP Vicky Ford said: "I hope that people will come to Newmarket for a plate of splendid sausages as well as the races."

Download this as a PDF


09 NOV 2012

Hertfordshire MEP joins the Police Commissioner campaign trail

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for Hertfordshire and the East of England came to St Albans yesterday to meet up with Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd. Vicky arrived straight from the Brussels where she has been discussing the UK's possible opt-out of a whole range of EU laws on crime and justice. She will be joining MEPs from across the UK in a meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May next week.

Vicky Ford said "I have been meeting commissioner candidates from all across the East of England and it was very helpful to hear David Lloyds views on the upcoming opt-out. The Conservative Candidates have agreed that is that the UK should use its opt-out, as otherwise the EU will be able to move control of our courts away from our traditional English law basis. We will also be able to opt out of the European Arrest Warrant laws, these have often been abused. However we also need to make sure that we can protect ourselves from particularly dangerous individuals. Therefore, we will need to opt back into certain information sharing procedures, and indeed strengthen them.  For example, in the UK we have a sex offenders register, and would like to see this sort of register shared across all European countries.

David Lloyd said "It was very good to catch up with local residents in St Albans, many of whom had questions about the elections next week. It was great to catch up with Vicky. These decisions regarding the EU opt-out are vital to protect our courts and legal system, but we will need to make sure we protect ourselves from criminals operating across borders too."

Download this as a PDF


05 NOV 2012

Eastern MEP calls for greater sharing of information on foreign criminals

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, and Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, have joined forces with Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidates across East Anglia to call for much greater sharing of information on offenders across European borders.

The announcement follows the news that Peter Avis from Bury St Edmunds was murdered by a violent offender who had absconded from prison in Poland, and had managed to enter the UK, commit the crime and then return to Poland unchallenged by border control.

Mrs Ford has been working closely with Mr Gummer on the issue for some time, after a constituent of Mr Gummer was sexually assaulted by Gintautas Lipkinas who had previously been convicted of rape in his home country of Lithuania. Mr Gummer and Mrs Ford will now be seeking to raise the issue again with James Brokenshire MP, Minister for Crime and Security, during a meeting and will be asking for his support moving forward.

Mrs Ford and Mr Gummer recently met with Tim Passmore and Jas Parmar, Conservative Candidates for Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk and Bedfordshire respectively to hear their views.

Mr Passmore said: "After the tragic case of Mr Avis, it is obvious that there is a loophole here and that criminals are exploiting that. It is a case of looking at what's best for the UK as a whole, and what's best for the people of Suffolk. If exchanging data on criminals is the safest thing then it is absolutely critical that we do it, and I totally support the campaign for better sharing of information - if elected this is certainly something I would like to see implemented."

Mr Parmar said: "Bedfordshire has a large Eastern European population, and I'm aware of several cases of people escaping here when wanted for crimes committed in their own countries or vice versa. The extradition process is costly and time consuming, taking years sometimes. Sharing information would be a simple way of protecting us from this."

Mrs Ford added: "There are many systems for the sharing of data between countries but they have clearly not been good enough as these recent cases in Suffolk have tragically demonstrated. Information on sex offenders should be shared between countries, just as it is shared between different Police authorities in the UK. When a criminal is on the run, ports and airports should be notified. At the moment the data sharing is done on a voluntary basis, relying on other countries to keep information updated. This seems about as effective as nailing a "Wanted" poster to the Sheriff's door. The UK has the chance to "opt-out" of a package of 130 different pieces of EU law on policing, crime and justice. We need to make sure we grab that opt-out. At the moment the EU law seems to add expensive bureaucracy for policing petty crimes instead of watching out for really dangerous criminals. This needs to change."

Mrs Ford has also raised the issue with Conservative PCC candidates Jamie Athill (Norfolk) and Nick Alston (Essex) and has been asked to join a task force in Brussels to look at the UK's negotiating position on the opt-out.

Download this as a PDF


02 NOV 2012

Vicky Ford MEP visits DANTE to see how superfast networks are delivering research and innovation

Vicky Ford MEP, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, this week visited DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) to gain a first-hand understanding of the Cambridge-based world leader in research networking.

DANTE's projects help to bring high-speed connectivity to parts of the world where such access can have a huge impact on peoples' lives. Working with the European Commission and local partners the not for profit organisation is a real innovator in the world of networking.

In the European Parliament, Ms Ford has a particular interest in Horizon 2020 – the EU's framework programme for research and innovation funding. Alongside this, Ms Ford is strongly committed to bringing money back to the UK for investment into research and innovation. DANTE employs around 80 staff at its two offices in Cambridge and has an annual turnover of around €35million. Approximately half of this is funded by the EC, which recognises the role of research networks in restoring Europe's economic growth and global competitiveness.

Mrs Ford commented, "The future of science and research is increasingly being driven by the ability to share, analyse and understand vast quantities of data. The benefits of this type of research can help us all. For example being able to analyse the data from thousands of brain scans is helping medics find new ways to diagnose and treat diseases like Alzheimer's. Sharing and processing the data from satellite images on weather changes now allows for much more accurate storm warnings to be issued."

"DANTE provides the GÉANT network which is the essential backbone for researchers to share information across Europe and the rest of the world. I was very impressed by what I learnt in Cambridge today."

DANTE's largest project is GÉANT, the high speed pan-European data network that interconnects Europe's national research and education networks and enables some of the largest research projects in the world. By providing the high speed networks that let researchers share data and collaborate with their peers worldwide, GÉANT underpins critical projects that would  previously have been impossible without its reach, capacity and reliability.

Mrs Ford said. "We all need researchers to help solve society's biggest challenges, their ideas are often crucial to driving growth. And to be at the cutting edge of science, our researchers need cutting edge IT and communications."

Download this as a PDF


26 OCT 2012

East of England MEP puts her foot down on EU budget

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, this week called for a root and branch review of EU spending, arguing for Europe to follow the same rules as national governments.

The Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) is the EU's seven-year spending plan which outlines the priorities for the EU's budget and identifies where the money should be spent. Negotiations are currently underway for the MFF for the period 2014-2020.

Conservative MEPs have consistently fought against any increase in the EU's budget and want to prioritise spending on areas which will create jobs and growth. This week Mrs Ford and Conservative colleagues voted against the proposed rise in EU budget for 2013.

Mrs Ford said: "We have limited public funds so every euro, every pound, every krona and every zloty needs to get to the front line with the minimum of waste. In my own region, EU funded projects often sound attractive for jobs and skills, infrastructure and research - but the red tape reality is that running those projects often has huge costs and waste. These schemes could be better funded through national programmes or local grants.

"I don't just want to tinker with EU funding, I want a fundamental review to reduce waste and excess, starting by getting rid of this chamber [in Strasbourg], but then moving on to look at our staff costs and benefits so there isn't one set of rules for EU institutions but another for those who work locally.

"I want to ensure that the EU only funds projects where there is international added value, such as areas like world-class science, where investment genuinely will boost growth and jobs."

Download this as a PDF


25 OCT 2012

East of England MEP urges small and medium sized companies to take part in anti red-tape consultation

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, is urging small and medium sized businesses to speak out against over-regulation from the EU by taking part in a consultation to find the "top 10 most burdensome legislative acts for SMEs."

The consultation process is aimed at Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and their representative organisations, and hopes to identify the top ten EU legislative acts considered most burdensome by micro-companies and SMEs. The consultation is open now and will run until 21 December 2012. Once complete, the European Commission will analyse the results and  consider how the situation for SMEs could be improved. Areas covered in the consultation include services, customs,  employment and social affairs, energy, product safety, environment and taxation, and the survey is open to all small and medium sized enterprises, as well as organisations representing the interests of SMEs.

Mrs Ford said: "I'm aware that small businesses often find the burden of bureaucracy and red tape overwhelming. Last year I contacted over 9000 micro-businesses across the East of England, giving them advice on how to seek assistance on a number of matters. I received a great number of responses from companies who asked me to urge the European Commission to look at reducing the burden of legislation on smaller companies. Since then I have raised this issue in Brussels on every possible  occasion. The European Commission has finally agreed to carry out this consultation which I hope can be a first step in the right direction, but only if they get honest feedback from businesses. I would urge companies to take part and get their voices heard. Furthermore, if you are involved in a small business and have a specific problem with any individual EU law then do let me know as well. "

Mrs Ford has this week written to all organisations in the East of England who offer support to small businesses, such as the Federation for Small Businesses and Chamber of Commerce, urging them to promote the consultation amongst their members.

Companies can take part in the online consultation by visiting http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/public-consultation-new/index_en.htm

Download this as a PDF


02 OCT 2012

Eastern MEP puts her energy into fighting VAT increase

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, is leading a cross-party group of MEPs to challenge an EU ruling which forces the UK to raise VAT on energy efficiency products from 5% to 20%. The UK had been charging the lower rate of VAT on products such as solar panels and loft insulation.

Mrs Ford contacted MEP colleagues from all across Europe who were instrumental in negotiating the final terms of the Europe's Energy Efficiency Directive. Together they have written to the European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, asking for the ruling against the UK to be reconsidered.

When Mrs Ford raised the issue during a debate in Parliament last month, the Commissioner said that it would "desirable" if energy efficiency products were incentivised by more moderate VAT rates. Mrs Ford now wants to ensure that the Commissioner follows through on his suggestion that EU VAT legislation could be modified.

Mrs Ford said: "I find it bizarre that the Commission has said that it supports energy savings on one hand, and then  announced that the UK cannot keep its low VAT levels for energy efficiency products. This is incredibly counterproductive.  Increasing VAT rates in the UK will only serve to discourage investment in energy savings and therefore to undermine all the work we are doing to try to help people save energy. The joint letter has been signed by the MEPS who have lead negotiations on energy efficiency laws from the left, right, green and liberal parties and representing countries as diverse as Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg as well as the UK. If this ruling stands then it means the EU condones a low VAT rates for those  who endlessly consume energy but demand higher taxes for those who want to save energy. I cant find anybody who thinks  this ruling makes sense."

The MEPs who signed the letter are as follows: Fiona Hall (Liberal Democrat, UK), Claude Turmes (Green, Luxembourg), Markus Pieper (EPP, Germany), Peter Liese (EPP, Germany) and Britta Thomsen (Socialists & Democrats, Denmark).

Download this as a PDF


01 OCT 2012

"Save our Bacon" plea from Eastern MEP

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has met with local pig farmers and heard how inconsistent farming standards across Europe coupled with rising grain and food prices in the UK are causing them to stop pig farming, and threatening the future of British bacon.

Mrs Ford visited Blacks of Bacton outdoor pig unit on Friday September 28th and also met with representatives of the National Pig Association (NPA). Whilst on site, Mrs Ford learnt how the Black family had been independent pig farmers since 1926, but had recently decided to give up, meaning their own herd of 1,500 sows will be sent to slaughter over the next year. The  company will continue contract farming for supermarket chain, Waitrose.

Mrs Ford commented: "This is a real tragedy for British bacon, and I'm sorry to say that what is happening at Blacks of Bacton is typical of what is happening elsewhere in the UK pig industry, which is facing great uncertainty. Pig farmers across the region have struggled to compete against their European counterparts since 1999 when the UK introduced higher welfare standards for pigs and banned the use of sow stalls. There is meant to be an EU ban from the end of this year but it is now clear that despite years of notice, farmers in some other countries will not comply.

"I learned today that since June this year 10,000 more sows have been sent to slaughter in the UK than expected, and a  typical farmer is losing £14 on each pig - this is becoming a real concern. Not only are our own pig farmers across the East of England facing a huge increase in grain prices, but they are also having to compete with exported pork products which can be sold at a much cheaper price as they do not meet the same quality standards. Once again, as with the egg saga earlier in the year, we are in a situation where the UK farmers have met the legislation and yet are being commercially disadvantaged by others failure to do likewise.

"I am also concerned that the major UK supermarkets are still importing overseas bacon which doesn't meet the same quality standard.

"I would urge everyone to get behind our struggling farmers in the East of England to save our bacon, buy British and look for products with the Little Red Tractor logo - this tells consumers that the product can be traced back to a British farm and guarantees that it meets the standards required."

Mrs Ford plans to write to all major UK supermarkets urging them to support the supply of compliant meat, and has also agreed to write to the EU Commission asking what action can be taken to tackle the issue of non-compliance in other countries.

Download this as a PDF


28 SEP 2012

Eastern MEP seeks funding for local roads

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has tabled amendments in the European Parliament that, if passed, could make it easier for parts of the road network across East Anglia - including the A47, A120 and the A12 - to apply for EU money for removing bottlenecks. She has also tabled amendments to help port hinterlands such as the areas around Harwich and Felixstowe.

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) has a proposed budget of €31.7 billion dedicated to improving infrastructure and removing bottlenecks over the next 7 years.

Mrs Ford said, "We need to remember that the UK is the second largest contributor to EU budgets. These budgets are often wrapped up in very expensive red tape. We must try to get our money back from Brussels for our own local projects.

"The East of England has been reasonably successful at applying for grants for parts of the work on the A14 and the East-West railway into Felixstowe.  These routes are listed on the European "core network". Our next step needs to be to try to get money for other roads. The EU won't pay towards upgrading every sort of road but the A47, A120 and A10 are already on Europe's "comprehensive network" and have some pretty bad traffic problems."

The TEN-T makes up part of the €50 billion Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which also targets energy infrastructure and broadband. Mrs. Ford has also tabled amendments to the CEF to try to increase financing available for rural broadband.

Download this as a PDF


18 SEP 2012

Eastern MEP turns up the heat on petrol and diesel prices

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has increased the pressure on the EU Commission to launch a Europe wide review of whether there is anti-competitive behaviour, such as price collusion, by fuel companies.

This follows the news last week that the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a review into petrol and diesel pricing in the UK, looking at whether competition is being curtailed and whether the falling costs of crude oil are being fairly reflected in the prices at the pumps.

Mrs Ford said: "Yet again I am asking the EU Commission to take a closer look at fuel costs and the behaviour of the fuel
companies. In response to my previous question the EU said there was no need for a European level investigation because no evidence had been found in an individual country. However I don't think this is good enough.  Consumers are concerned about why prices rise so rapidly when oil prices go up but seem to be so slow in coming down again. Consumers also ask whether there is local market collusion. The UK's OFT has responded to consumer concerns and has agreed to look into this very important issue in the UK, and I shall watch with interest for the results of their review. However, as many of the companies operating our petrol pumps are international operators it is my belief that an international review is needed. We need to fully understand the situation on a larger scale, and so I will continue to campaign in Brussels for the EU competition authorities to carry out a similar review across all EU countries."

Download this as a PDF


18 SEP 2012

Local MEP visits Haverhill Foodbank

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has spent time visiting a foodbank in Haverhill and learning about the work they are doing to support individuals and families through times of financial hardship.

Mrs Ford visited the foodbank on Friday as she wanted a clearer understanding of the root causes of the financial difficulties affecting local people, and the practical support services such as the foodbank offer. During the visit, Mrs Ford met with the managers of the service, volunteers and people who have used the foodbank. She discussed how issues such as rising food and fuel bills and debt levels, changes in individuals circumstances and delays in processing benefit claims have lead to the service helping over twice as many people as it did a year ago.

The foodbank was set up in October 2008 by Reach Community Projects as a way of offering short-term practical assistance to families who unexpectedly hit a period of financial turbulence. 43% of people using the foodbank do so to bridge the gap whilst they wait for a new or changed benefit claim to be processed, but the centre also supports others who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of debt or low income. As well as helping with food packages, the centre offers a drop in facility with phone, internet and computer access; advice on preparing a CV and applying for jobs, support with benefit tribunals and debt counselling.

Speaking after Friday's visit, Mrs Ford said: "Haverhill Foodbank are doing extremely impressive work, not only to help people who are really struggling to feed themselves, but also trying to offer practical guidance by helping them to identify the causes of their financial difficulties and giving them support and advice moving forward.

"Because of the rising cost of living, and the increase in things such as food and fuel bills, people are finding that their finances are having to stretch further than ever before, and often they have no cushion for when things are difficult. It is not true that all those who use the foodbank are on benefits, many of their clients are working very hard, earning and paying taxes but just cannot make ends meet. The foodbank bridges that gap and thank goodness we have places like this to help those who need it most.

"In Brussels, I have been campaigning for better food and crop research to help long term solutions for more affordable food, I've also been fighting heavy handed EU mortgage laws which would have pushed up private rents and I have been supporting new laws which mean energy companies have to help households by investing in energy savings projects like insulation.

"I had a long conversation with staff at the foodbank about changing patterns in personal debt. There has been an explosion of many different types of people and companies offering loans to low income borrowers. Not all debt is bad, sometimes a short term loan can fill a genuine need, but irresponsible lending is also unacceptable. I believe we must have a proper investigation of the different types of credit being offered and the impacts.

"In coming weeks many local schools and churches will be doing "harvest" collections for the foodbank. I saw how these donations are packed into the emergency bag of groceries. The volunteers take care to create as balanced a menu as possible. This is not luxury eating but is a vital lifeline. If you can help then please do give to the collections."

Further information on the foodbank can be found at www.reachhaverhill.org.uk, together with details of how you can support the charity.

Download this as a PDF


11 SEP 2012

Farm, Food and Flowers on the agenda as local MEP visits The Brecklands

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England spent time on Friday with Norfolk County Councillor, Ann Steward, learning about farming and food in The Brecklands.

Mrs Ford MEP spent the first half of her visit on a farm with Breckland Farmers and Farm Managers, seeing first hand what is being done to balance the varying needs of the farming community, with protecting the rare habitat of the Brecks.

Following the farm visit, Mrs Ford also met with Vanessa Scott of Stratton's Hotel, and others involved in a campaign to  promote local food producers, and learned about The Brecks Food & Drink Festival, due to take place this coming weekend.

Speaking after the visit, Mrs Ford said: "Going around the farm and neighbouring areas reminded me how very special The Brecklands are. They are home to over 2000 species of flora and fauna of national concern, let alone the wildlife that live there, and we must work hard to preserve and protect such a special and unique environment.

"The farmers in The Brecks that I met with are doing a great job working on biodiversity and I wish the organisers of this weekend's food and drink festival great luck with this very important chance to showcase local produce, which makes a unique contribution towards the local economy."

Further information on The Brecks Food and Drink Festival can be found here http://www.brecks.org/food-and-drink/

Download this as a PDF


10 SEP 2012

Eastern MEP supports Essex PCC candidate

On Saturday, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England joined Braintree MP, Brooks Newmark and local councillors to campaign for Nick Alston, the Conservative candidate for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner.

Vicky and Brooks spent the morning talking to local residents. Mrs Ford, said: "I am delighted we have such a strong candidate for the election here in Essex. The idea of a Police and Crime Commissioner has been borrowed from parts of the USA where the system works well, and many of the people we met in Braintree expressed concerns with crime and security. I makes perfect sense to me to have an elected member of the public. The Commissioner will be able to raise people's issues and has responsibility for the Police Authority in the area in which they serve."

Download this as a PDF


10 SEP 2012

Street surgery draws crowds in Exning

It was power to the people on Friday in Exning as elected politicians got together to hold a street surgery for local residents.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England attended the surgery, which had been organised by County Councillor Bill Sadler, and was also attended by Matthew Hancock MP, Geoffrey van Orden MEP, representatives from the Police and local District Councillors.

Residents who came along had a chance to quiz their elected representatives on various issues, including crime prevention for the elderly, concerns over planning and affordable food provision.

Speaking after the surgery, Mrs Ford MEP commented: "This surgery was extremely useful and I am grateful to Cllr Sadler for setting it up and inviting us all to be part of it. From talking to the residents, you could see that planning was the biggest concern locally, but many also wanted to talk about food prices and agriculture, and it was very good to be able to talk to people about a local campaign I'm involved in to promote local food production and the importance of affordable food. I hope this is the first of many such surgeries, it was good to see elected representatives all working so closely together to understand the issues that really matter to the residents of Exning."

Download this as a PDF


07 SEP 2012

Local MEP fights proposed EU oil and gas rules

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England has led Conservative MEPs in tabling a huge raft of more than 360 parliamentary amendments in response to EU proposals on oil and gas safety which she fears could mean poorer standards in the North Sea.

The UK is currently seen as a gold standard on safety, but the European Union is planning regulations which would force all member states to conform to the same rules without offering them the required flexibility to adapt the framework to their own national circumstances.

Such a move would be cripplingly expensive for the industry and see those currently involved in crucial offshore safety checks spending years tied up onshore learning how to ensure compliance with the new rules. The cost of implementing the new measures has been estimated at almost £150 million.

The amendments tabled by British Conservative MEPs will tell the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee that any new measures should be in the form of a directive rather than a regulation, meaning UK authorities could maintain the current regime and still incorporate the new measures that will have a positive impact on safety.

Mrs Ford, who is the Conservative spokesman on industry in the European Parliament, said: "We support actions to enhance offshore safety and environmental protection, but the very restrictive piece of legislation proposed could actually damage standards in countries such as the UK which have long-established and globally-respected safety regimes. Far from creating legal certainty, the proposals would actually make lines of responsibility less clear.

"This is an attempt to 'Europeanise' national offshore competences by forcing member states to repeal key parts of their domestic law and replace them with a one-size-fits-all piece of EU legislation. The unrealistic timescale and interpretative guidance proposed by the Commission would force the UK oil and gas industry to divert resources to these changes, causing serious project delays with consequences for the economy, investment, jobs and security of energy supply.  Following consultations with regulators and industry, it is clear that the EU proposal is unworkable and needs massive re-writing in almost every single paragraph.

"Now that we have tabled these amendments, we will meet representatives from each political group in the Parliament to try to find a set a compromises on the text which will eventually form the Parliament's position. This process can take several months and it will be a key time for us to ensure that the amendments I have tabled are taken on board."

-Ends-

Download this as a PDF


04 SEP 2012

Local MEP welcomes news on digital future

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England and Conservative Industry and Research spokesman in the European Parliament, has welcomed an EU initiative to stimulate digital innovation through freeing up access to part of the radio spectrum for wireless broadband and mobile telecommunication.

Speaking in Brussels, Mrs Ford said the announcement by the European Commission signalled a serious approach to opening the airwaves to greater digital competition and driving down prices for consumers. The Commission announced a co-ordinated European approach to sharing aspects of the radio spectrum to allow greater mobile network capacity, cheaper wireless broadband and new markets such as secondary rights for a given spectrum allocation.

In simple terms, it will mean identifying bands of the spectrum which can be shared by different services without interference, which could then be licensed by authorities at national level.

Vicky Ford said: "In the East of England we have some huge issues with digital access. Some rural areas have no mobile phone coverage at all, let alone wireless broadband. In some urban areas data download on the move is very slow. Radio Spectrum is a limited resource and it is important that countries can respond flexibly and promptly to the ever-widening range of opportunities in this fast-changing technological field. We must have the right infrastructure and regulatory framework in place early to exploit those possibilities.

"Accessing this extra capacity is a matter of urgency. Mobile and wireless data communication is expected to almost double every year for the next three years, led by smart phones, new devices and apps.

"Whilst the EU has many problems at the moment, areas like this have been good examples of how working in a coordinated fashion can help consumers. When 27 countries have come together to release similar parts of the radio spectrum then operators and designers of phones and other devices see economies of scale. This helps to drive competition and innovation to deliver lower prices and higher quality to consumers.

"Releasing and allocating spectrum is one step, but consumers need to be able to use the bandwidth. So we also need to unlock the barriers to investment so that infrastructure roll-out can keep pace with consumer demand."

Download this as a PDF


03 SEP 2012

Local MEP spends day at the farm and discusses biodiversity

Vicky Ford MEP on Friday visited Chis Hill Farm in Cambridgeshire and met with Dr Julian Little and Andrew Blant of Bayer Crop Science to discuss their work with pesticides and fungicides.

The company tests pesticides and fungicides used on arable and fruit crops, and performs regular monitoring of the amounts of residual chemical in the crop, water and soil. In addition, to help biodiversity, they have planted different seed mixes on field margins and corners which are beneficial for different birds and pollinating insects such as bees and also undertake regular biodiversity surveys.

Following the visit, Vicky Ford MEP said: "There are very strong regulations in Europe and the UK to ensure that chemicals used on crops are safe, both for food and for the environment. This year's wet weather has been particularly bad for plant disease, especially for wheat and apples, therefore farmers have needed to use a range of different products. It is important that companies such as Bayer perform regular tests and monitoring in order to make sure chemicals are kept at safe levels.

"I was particularly impressed to see some of the work that is being done to help biodiversity, for example, planting the field edges with wild flower seed mixes containing high pollen clover varieties will help bees and other insects. In other areas older fruit trees are allowed to return to nature to provide natural habitat. As a result of actions like this the farm is home to a wide variety of different insects and birds, including rare species such as a pair of barn owls.

"In Brussels this autumn we will be discussing a seven year review of the Common Agricultural Policy. Many of our East Anglian farmers have been working actively on environmental schemes, and as a result biodiversity has improved. I believe it would be a mistake for these schemes to be forced to stop, or for Europe to go backwards to a system of unmanaged set aside land. That policy did not help food production or biodiversity.

"I was also shown trials that the company is doing of a Biobed. These are quite common in Sweden and allow for pesticides contained in water from washing down agricultural sprayers to be treated and broken down naturally. I learnt how farmers otherwise have to collect this water and have it driven all the way to Ellesmere Port near Liverpool for treatment. The Biobed seemed to me to be an example of a good practice which we might consider importing."

Download this as a PDF


21 AUG 2012

Leading Eastern MEP visits easyJet and London Luton Airport

easyJet, the UK's largest airline and operator of Europe's No.1 air transport network, today welcomed Vicky Ford MEP to its European headquarters in Luton.

During the visit, Mrs Ford met members of the airlines' senior management team, along with staff in its Operations Control Centre and other key team members who contribute to the airlines success.

She was also given a behind the scenes tour of the day to day operations at London Luton Airport, which also included a visit to the 157ft high control tower.

Speaking after the visit, Paul Simmons, easyJet's UK Director, said:

"We were delighted to welcome Vicky Ford MEP to our headquarters today - easyJet is the UK's largest airline, and as a European success story we were pleased to have the opportunity to share our views on key matters that affect the region and our industry.

"As one of the largest employers within the Eastern Region, today's visit also recognises the important part easyJet plays in delivering local jobs, boosting tourism and supporting economic growth."

Vicky Ford MEP, added: "It was very good to meet a company based in Luton which continues to grow both nationally and internationally.

"easyJet, Luton Airport and the airports owners took me through their latest impressive plans for expansion. This £100 million investment looks to upgrade the airports facilities, improve transport to and from the airport both by rail and road and do this all in a way that is sensitive to residents' concerns over noise and sustainability.

"This expansion could result in up to 4000 new jobs in the region. I hope that people will play an active part in the upcoming consultation and will be open minded when looking at the benefits as well as impacts of the airport."

Download this as a PDF


02 AUG 2012

Vicky Ford MEP joins campaign for fairer fuel pricing

Vicky Ford MEP has thrown her weight behind PetrolPromise.com, an independent campaign set up to lower fuel prices in the UK by tackling fraud in the oil market and lobbying for more transparency in petrol and diesel prices.

Mrs Ford joins over 60 cross-party MPs who are backing PetrolPromise.com and are putting pressure on the Office of Fair Trading and the F.S.A. to look at allegations of uncompetitive behaviour by UK oil companies, such as collusion to price fix at the pumps.

Mrs Ford explains: "I fully support the call for a UK investigation into petrol pricing. However, given the number of international companies operating our own filling stations, and the recent investigations in Germany, I suspect there may be a need a fuller international inquiry. I have tabled a formal parliamentary question in Europe requesting that this is looked into."

Download this as a PDF


18 JUL 2012

MEP spends time down by the river

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England visited improvement schemes along the River Cam yesterday, meeting with Environment Agencies catchment managers from across the region.

In recent years the Environment agency has been managing river and water quality policies according to an holisitic method which looks at the entire catchment area for each individual river. The Agency has been working with water companies, farmers, landowners, businesses and local councils to improve the water quality of East Anglia's rivers, partly to meet the low pollutant levels required under European law

During yesterdays visit, the team visited Byrons Pool in Granchester, and looked at the recent investment in walk ways and bridges which have allowed this to become a very popular local walk. They explained how the new Fish Pass allows 12 different species of native fish to bypass the weir, meaning fish have returned to upper levels of the river.

Guy Belcher of Cambridge City Council then took the group into the City of Cambridge to discuss the river management  scheme at Paradise Nature Reserve, Newnham, where, a small amount of reed bed provides not only biodiversity habitat but also reduces risk of localised flooding.

Toby Willison, the Environment Agency's Regional Director explained that measures like these along river corridors are part of the drive to improve water quality and reduce flooding. He also explained that across the East of England much excellent work is happening to improve water quality but even with this it will be hard to meet the targets set down by European law.

After the visit, Mrs Ford commented: "This was an absolutely fascinating visit and I am very impressed with all that the Environment Agency are doing in the region to ensure water quality is maintained and improved. As ever, the EU laws  surrounding river pollution and monitoring are vast; if we don't comply then the UK will be fined and so we are doing our best. However we would like to know whether other EU countries are trying to achieve the same standards, and it would be unfair if
so once again the UK faces the threat of being penalised for our efficiency."

As a result of the visit, Mrs Ford is planning to table formal questions in Brussels to ask for better sharing of best practice and monitoring implementation across the European Union.

Download this as a PDF


11 JUL 2012

Great news for traffic on the A14 and rail users

Yesterday the European Commission announced a grant of €4million to improve the freight rail links across the East of England.

The grant will go towards removing the critical bottle neck east of Ely station which has been the main stumbling block for  improving the freight route from Felixstowe docks to the midlands and beyond.

This will allow further freight to be moved off the regions roads especially the A14 and onto rail networks.

MEP Vicky Ford said: "This is an extremely helpful next stage in a long term project to get freight off our roads and onto our railways. Since 2009 the EU has supported projects which have dropped the railway lines under key bridges along the route and extended the length and loading capacity of the platforms at Felixstowe docks. Anyone who drives through Ely knows that the queues at the level crossing are becoming a huge problem, limiting further growth to the North of the railway. Tax payers across the East of England pay vast amounts into the EU budget so it is good to see some of it come back for helpful infrastructure improvements."

Download this as a PDF


10 JUL 2012

MPs offload their EU ailments

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, yesterday held a surgery for MPs in the House of Commons.

During the course of the day, she met with MPs from across the East of England, including David Gauke from Hertfordshire, Keith Simpson from Norfolk, Peter Aldous and Matthew Hancock from Suffolk, Cambridgeshire's Shailesh Vara and Essex MPs Jackie Doyle-Price, Rebecca Harris, Bernard Jenkin and James Duddridge.

Many of the MPs raised local issues across from their constituencies, as well as discussing recent developments in Brussels and the impact of the EU laws.

Issues discussed at the meetings included petrol and diesel prices, tax incentives for infrastructure investment and how to reduce the waste from the EU budget. MPs also discussed Vicky's campaign in Brussels to exempt small businesses from EU laws.

Jackie Doyle-Price MP for Thurrock invited Vicky to come and speak to local businesses in Thurrock about how they can get financial support and how to amend overly burdensome EU laws. Peter Aldous MP asked about the possibility for EU funding for small traders in Lowestoft fish market. Rebecca Harris MP discussed the work Vicky has been doing to help find long term international partners to support the legacy of the Olympic mountain biking course.

Speaking after the surgery, Mrs Ford said: "MPs hold regular surgeries for their constituents and this is a chance for them to pass on some of the concerns they hear. As we represent the same people it is absolutely invaluable to me that we get a chance to catch up face to face. I cannot stress how important these regular meetings and good communication in-between times are. As a result of these meetings I will now be submitting formal parliamentary questions on fuel prices and  nfrastructure incentives to the European Commission."

Download this as a PDF


25 JUN 2012

MEP for the East of England visits Radical Cars

On Friday Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, visited sports racing car manufacturer Radical Cars in Peterborough, where she had a tour of the manufacturing plant and met with staff.

Radical is the first company in Europe to have taken advantage of a new scheme which allowed its latest SR3 model to be approved for driving on roads in all 27 EU countries rather than having to go through multiple tests and certifications in each country.

Whilst on site, Mrs Ford met with company founder, Phil Abbot, and discussed the increased sales which the company has benefited from, especially in France and Germany.

During the visit Mrs Ford also discussed how she could support the company with regards to EU legislation on both CO2 and noise emissions.

Speaking after the visit, Mrs Ford said: "It's a real pleasure to visit companies like Radical, who are not only successful  manufacturers in the region, but are still growing, and exporting all over the world.

"As with so many different situations, Radical is on one hand benefiting from the UK being part of the European single market but is then also finding other bits of EU law which may have a negative effect.

"MEPs are shortly due to vote on EU legislation on noise restrictions for cars like those manufactured here at Radical, and I plan to talk to colleagues to guarantee the best outcome for companies like Radical. We should support small innovative businesses not wrap them up in extra red tape."

Download this as a PDF


22 JUN 2012

Olympics legacy for the East showcased at Brussels event

On Wednesday Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, hosted a reception in Brussels to promote the Olympic activities being staged in the East of England this summer. The event was attended by over 50 people, including representatives from 17 countries, amongst them the UK deputy ambassador to Belgium and representatives from the Greater London Authority and the EU Commission.

Wednesdays reception focused on the two Olympic events that will be happening in the Eastern region, mountain biking in Hadleigh Farm, Essex and the canoe slalom in Lee Valley, Hertfordshire, and reminded people that the legacy of the games will be felt across the region long after this summer. The evening was sponsored by GlaxoSmithkline, and guests enjoyed the opportunity to try out both mountain biking and canoeing using special simulators.

Speakers at the event included Helen Reeves, Canoe Slalom bronze medallist in the 2004 Olympics, Cllr Stephen Castle, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and the 2012 games, Chairman of Nations and Regions East and Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

Speaking after the event, Mrs Ford said: " I was extremely pleased at how well-attended this event was with representatives from 17 different countries. Part of delivering a continuing legacy - especially for the mountain-biking facility - will be their ability to link up with biking enthusiasts in other countries and I hope this event will also help them form those relationships.

"The European Commission is proposing an annual budget of around £30 million a year on sporting projects and I want to see as much of that coming back to the East of England as possible. Many of the people who attended last night are now interested in forming partnerships with us locally. This means we will be well placed in order to bid for that cash.

"GlaxoSmithKline sponsored the event so that the taxpayer was spared the burden. They are not only a large employer in our region but are leading globally on many issues regarding the prevention of drug usage in sport and their laboratories in Harlow will be the centre for the Olympics' drug and doping testing."

Download this as a PDF


22 JUN 2012

Eastern region MEP condemns EU economic disclosure U-turn

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East, has issued an sharp response to a move by four EU member states to block vital rules on economic governance.

Her intervention came after the European Parliament yesterday morning suspended negotiations with Member States on legislation regarding the disclosure of contingent debts and guarantees in national and regional public accounts.

The disclosure formed a key part of the so-called Six-Pack of legislative measures to ensure transparency, probity and effective governance in the economic conduct of EU states.

So-called trilogue talks were halted after the Danish Presidency of the European Council announced to Parliament negotiators that a blocking minority of four large Member States staunchly opposed releasing data on government liabilities stemming from public pension schemes, guarantees to banks and public corporations where they have a large impact on public budgets.

It effectively means that the four states in question could hide the level of potential debts in several key areas.

Mrs Ford, one of the parliament's negotiators, said: "Less than a year ago 27 countries agreed that they would disclose liabilities with potentially large impacts on public budgets. It now appears that some Member States are U-turning on that promise. It does make one wonder how many skeletons are left in the European closets."

Download this as a PDF


15 JUN 2012

MEP to host Olympic event

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, will be hosting a reception in Brussels on Wednesday June 20th to promote the Olympic activities being staged in the East of England this summer. The region will be home to two events, mountain biking in Hadleigh Farm, Essex and the canoe slalom in Lee Valley, Hertfordshire, and the Brussels event is designed to showcase the activities and to remind people that the legacy of the games will be felt across the region long after this summer.

Both venues are already making an impact and will leave a lasting legacy to the local economy, as well as enhancing and promoting health and social inclusion through sport.

Speakers at the event, which is sponsored by Glaxo Smithkline, will include Helen Reeves, Canoe Slalom bronze medallist in the 2004 Olympics, Cllr Stephen Castle, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and the 2012 games, Chairman of Nations and Regions East and Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

Mrs Ford says: "The legacy of the Olympics will be felt far beyond London, and far beyond 2012. The Olympics have already had a tremendous impact on the East of England and we are fortunate to be hosting two such exciting activities.  I hope that this event will help these sites find overseas contacts in order to help with their legacy.  Mountain biking in particular is a very popular sport in many EU countries.

"The canoeing site is fantastic and is already being enjoyed by thousands of people. The facility really does feel like it will be a long lasting, fun and, most importantly, profitable legacy for the region. The mountain biking course is truly terrifying to the amateur eye, and those who have been lucky enough to have got tickets to events are in for a great thrill. Its location is iconic with views of the Thames Estuary and Hadleigh Castle. When I visited, we discussed the growing popularity of cycling events and their legacy plans to create easier courses for upcoming riders in the future."

Download this as a PDF


13 JUN 2012

Statement from Vicky in response to fire at Chilford Hall

"I was absolutely devastated to hear of this morning's fire at Chilford Hall. I live in a neighbouring village, and myself and my family have been regular visitors to Chilford, last attending a dinner there on Saturday. This was a historic, irreplaceable and very unique building, where we, like so many others, have celebrated happy, memorable occasions. The loss of the hall will be felt  locally, nationally and internationally as it was also a dedicated centre for the arts, a big supporter of local charities and a significant employer. If this was the work of arsonists, then it is a despicable and disgusting act."

ENDS

For further information, please contact Sarah Stamp, Press & Communications Officer to Vicky Ford MEP, email communications@vickyford.org or call 07584 028671.

Download this as a PDF


08 JUN 2012

Eastern region MEP wins battle to save buy-to-let mortgages as fight switches to first-time buyer loans

A marathon round of negotiation and hard bargaining by Conservative MEPs paid off yesterday when proposals which could have destroyed Britain's popular buy-to-let mortgage market were finally seen off.

Concerns had been raised in the UK that proposed EU legislation could effectively shut key parts of the UK mortgage market - such as buy-to-let and bridge loans. But a key vote in the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has approved an amended draft of the legislation with the most harmful clauses removed.

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, was lead negotiator for the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the parliament and submitted over 130 amendments to the European Commission's original proposals, including 50 requests to delete unnecessary provisions.

Although relieved to have successfully protected buy to let mortgages, Mrs Ford said some elements in the legislation were still very concerning, particularly for mortgages supported by parental savings schemes - a popular way of supporting first-time buyers in the UK. And she said the whole process had been unnecessary.

The legislation will now move into another round of negotiations with national governments and Mrs Ford vowed to continue fighting for removal of the ban on savings linked loans.

She said: "Getting a loan to buy a home is hard enough at the moment, as is affording the rent. We had to roll up our sleeves and fight proposals which could have destroyed important parts of the UK mortgage market - and added to costs.

"While there are some problems with buy to let mortgages, these should be dealt with by UK not EU legislation. The initial versions of the legalisation would have effectively stopped this type of mortgage altogether. This would have had a deeply detrimental impact on those who invest in properties and on the availability of private-rental properties, thus pushing up rents.  In the UK, 4.5 million homes are rented privately and many of those residents are people on lower incomes. The one size fits all approach of the EU could still end up shutting down some loans to first time buyers in Britain. We will need to fight for this in the next round of negotiations.

"We have also fought against unnecessary red tape which would have resulted in increased costs being passed on to consumers. For example, we have said it is un-necessary and expensive to force all mortgage lenders to change their computer systems just to provide consumers with the same information they already get, but in a format which Brussels approves.

"Instead of giving home buyers clearer information, some of the draft legislation could result in even more confusion for consumers, especially regarding calculations of APR.

"After over a year's work on this directive, including tabling 130 amendments, numerous meetings with consumer groups, lenders and regulators and lengthy negotiations, I still do not believe that this legislation is justified.

"Nor does it improve the functioning of the single market. Yes, a few people who are buying properties outside their home country may now be given more information and lenders will have to train their staff better. Some mortgage companies will rightly be more cautious about offering loans to people who cannot afford them, but there are other people who could have afforded a mortgage but may now not be able to get one.

"Fundamentally the EU shouldn't try to harmonise mortgage markets when countries have such different property markets.  Instead of this clunky legislation, problems could easily have been dealt with by a few amendments to existing consumer-credit and banking laws."

Download this as a PDF


01 JUN 2012

East of England MEP promotes better understanding of stem-cell research

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England and a member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee in the European  Parliament, this week hosted a lunch debate to help MEPs better understand the processes and benefits of stem cell research.

At the debate, held on Tuesday, five Professors leading research projects from across Europe presented to the audience.   Amongst the speakers were Professor Austin Smith from Cambridge University, who explained what pluripotent stem cells are and how embryonic stem cell lines are developed. Other speakers included Professor Anders Bjorklund from Lund University in Sweden, who discussed the use of stem cells for replacement therapy in Parkinson's disease, and Professor Elena Cattaneo, from the University of Milan, who presented her work on Huntingdon's disease. Professor Julie Daniels from University College Hospital in London described the work which they are leading using stem cells taken from adults to cure eye diseases and blindness.  Professor Daniel Pipeleers from Belgium spoke about his work with diabetes.

Speaking after the event, Mrs Ford said, "Scientists from across Europe are often leading the way to find solutions to what can be devastating diseases and conditions. Much of this work is funded from the EU Science budget. Rather than jump to conclusions about what is ethically good or bad science, politicians should also try to understand the methods used in the laboratories and the potential benefits such research can bring. We learnt that treating diseases with stem cell therapies is not a distant pipe dream but in some cases is already possible. We also heard that in some cases cells taken from living adults or cord blood are adequate, in other areas of research only embryonic stem cells appear to give results. We learnt how in the UK and some other countries, parents undergoing IVF will normally create more embryos than will be used in the fertility treatment, the unused embryos can be donated by parents to grow stem cell lines for research.

"Some MEPs would like to see a ban on all embryonic stem cell research and therapy across Europe. I disagree. Such decisions should be made at a national level not in Brussels, countries who want to ban it then can, countries who wish to continue should be free to do so."

Download this as a PDF


29 MAY 2012

Energy efficiency on the menu as local MEP visits McCain

On Friday 25th May, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England visited McCain Foods in Whittlesey to learn more about the groundbreaking energy efficiency measures used at the plant.

Mrs Ford met with Bill Bartlett, Corporate Affairs Director for McCain and was interested to hear how around 15% of the national crop of potatoes in the UK are sold to the company, who manufacture 1 in every 3 chips consumed across the country. They also discussed recent changes to EU legislation on plant protection, McCain's work within the Potato Council, and planned reforms to the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

During the visit, Mrs Ford was given a tour of the plant and learnt how McCain's innovative covered anaerobic lagoon (CAL) converts the potato starch released by blanching the potatoes into a methane gas. The gas is then burnt in the combined heat and power (CHP) gas engine to produce electricity used during the production process. The energy produced in the CAL  provides approximately 10% of the factory's annual electricity needs. A further 60% of McCain's electricity requirements are generated by wind turbines on site, meaning that additional gas is the only fuel the company has to buy from an outside source. In addition, Mrs Ford learnt how approximately 25% of all water on the plant is reused as it is cleaned using reverse osmosis, and heard about their future plans to ensure that virtually all the water can be reused.

Mrs Ford said: "McCain are achieving extraordinary things, and it is good to see them employing such innovative measures to both save energy and water. The way in which the company reuse the energy generated during the production process means that they are also significantly reducing their own energy costs. In Brussels many MEPs have been arguing for laws to force companies to make energy efficiency investments. I disagree, we don't need top down EU targets. McCain demonstrates that companies make investments which help save energy because it makes commercial sense for them to do so. "

Download this as a PDF


21 MAY 2012

Eastern region MEP blasts "mindless" vandalism at GM wheat trial site in Rothamsted

Vandalism of the GM wheat trial at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire is "a mindless ill-informed act which is bad for British science and bad news for the fight against food poverty" says Eastern Region MEP Vicky Ford.

Mrs Ford visited the crop trial last Friday and met scientists involved with the research project.

The trial has involved taking a gene which naturally occurs in spearmint and adding it to a commonly grown wheat variety. As a result, in laboratory tests the wheat has been shown to produce a smell that repels aphids, like black fly and green fly.  Aphids spread diseases especially viruses around crops rapidly and are normally controlled by spraying crops with pesticides.

Mrs Ford said: "So called campaigners have targetted this trial, claiming that pollen could cross contaminate wheat in other nearby fields. This is completely inaccurate as wheat self pollinates. I saw for myself how the crop was being grown at least 3 times the distance set by regulators. The wheat was also protected with barrier planting to prevent wind blowing the pollen.

"Britain has some of the strongest regulations on the planet to cover these sort of trials and in the east of England we also have suitable climate and soil types which make our corner of the globe one of the most successful places for food and crop
research. However, unnecessary and destructive actions like this just mean scientists move their research programs overseas to less regulated countries.

"People who care about the environment should be pleased that scientists are seriously looking ways to reduce use of pesticides. People who care about food poverty and food security should be encouraging the UK to do all it can to ensure well regulated science and properly controlled seed trials. This vandalism is a bad sign for those of us who care about food poverty and care about the environment and British science."

Download this as a PDF


18 MAY 2012

MEP backs wheat research programme

Vicky Ford MEP, member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee in the European Parliament, went to visit the agricultural science facility at Rothamsted Research today to see first hand the trial they are carrying out on genetically modified wheat.

The wheat trial aims to develop a type of wheat that is resistant to aphids, serious pests which damage crops and can spread plant diseases. This wheat would require the use of fewer pesticides, a benefit to both the environment and to farmers around the world.

However, activists are planning to destroy this crop on 27th May in protest of the trial. They are concerned that the trial will lead to cross-contamination of other plants which they believe could pose a risk to farmers and to public health.

Rothamsted have actively tried to encourage an open debate on the issue, publishing an open letter in which they welcomed the opportunity to show protesters their work and explain the potential benefits it could bring.

Mrs Ford, MEP for Eastern England and Conservative research spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "I have seen the trial at Rothamsted myself and it is being run in a contained and managed way with no risk of contamination of other wheat plantations. The wheat is planted three times further away from other fields than the recommended maximum and 30 times further away than that which is permitted for normal seed breeders.

"The UK and the EU have the strongest regulations in place to allow research into GM crops to happen in the safest possible way. If it is not allowed to take place here, it will only end up happening in less safe places. British jobs will be lost and scientists will leave.

"Activists should think again before burning British crops, especially when the aim of trials like these is to help feed the world
population and to protect the planet from the overuse of pesticides and other chemicals. Because of these activists hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers' money will be spent on security. Money that could be spent on health, food or energy research.

"Not all GM crops are good, but not all of them are bad either. We must be more intelligent in our approach."

Download this as a PDF


11 MAY 2012

Ford scents a satisfactory outcome to bank-regulation wrangles

Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative negotiator on a package of banking reforms being drawn up by the EU, believes considerable progress has been made towards a satisfactory deal.

She now expects that a series of key amendments which she has tabled will be accepted when proposals are voted upon in Brussels on Monday.

Mrs Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, has taken part in a string of late-night talks on the package.

The complex legislation will finally bring into European law the agreements on bank reform which were made globally at the G20 after the Lehman's crisis in 2009. An earlier draft of the proposals was rejected by UK Chancellor George Osborne in meetings between Europe's 27 finance ministers last week.

The latest proposals and amendments will be put before the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on Monday.

Mrs Ford said: "The Chancellor refused to accept last week´s proposals because they would have allowed European and UK banks to dumb down global standards. The UK wants to bring in even stronger rules for banks than Europe, including ring-fencing parts of retail banking from trading activities.

"I tabled nearly 200 amendments to the initial drafts of these laws.  The negotiations this week have moved forward. It is looking as if there will be a majority of the Parliament who also want to stand by our global agreements for strong bank law, with the flexibility for the UK to add its additional reforms.

"While bank-reform is vital, we also need to make sure that banks keep lending, especially to small and medium-sized businesses and for infrastructure investment. I believe my amendments in this area are likely to be passed on Monday."

Download this as a PDF


10 MAY 2012

Mobile-roaming boost in time for summer holidays

The European Parliament today voted through new legislation to make mobile phone calls and roaming data-downloads much cheaper for holidaymakers and business travellers - and the new rules will be in place in time for the summer getaway.

MEPs sitting in Brussels voted through a package of measures to tackle the high cost of using mobile devices abroad in Europe. Once ratified by the European Council the package will take force on July 1.

Conservative MEPs backed the measures and welcomed the better deal for consumers. It will allow them to sign up for a second, alternative provider for their roaming services elsewhere within the EU (under the same number) if their domestic
provider is charging too much.

New retail price ceilings were also approved. They will be reduced initially to €0.29 per minute for outgoing calls, €0.08 for incoming. Text messages will be capped at €0.09, and data roaming costs limited to €0.70 per megabyte. By 2014 these costs will be further reduced to €0.19 per minute to make a call and €0.05 to receive. Text messages will be pegged at €0.06 and data downloads at €0.20 per megabyte.

Giles Chichester MEP, Conservative MEP for South West England and the party's parliamentary negotiator on the legislation, said: "This is a piece of EU legislation which is of practical assistance to consumers and, in particular, to once-a-year holidaymakers abroad. What is more it will help small business seeking to expand sales abroad.

"By putting a cap on the amount mobile operators can charge for roaming data we will be saving many people from a nasty surprise that can spoil the end of their holidays. Too often people come home to an unwelcome "Bill Shock" from their monthly mobile invoice.

"We would have preferred not to legislate and to let the mobile companies trim rates voluntarily - but the operators failed to budge.

In the plenary debate on the legislation Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative industry spokesman, said: "Excessive charging for roaming causes consumers and operators to lose out. Many consumers who have faced high charges just switch off their data roaming and don't access services at all."

ends

Download this as a PDF


26 APR 2012

Eastern MEP says EU budget proposals are an insult to the British people

Eastern MEP says EU budget proposals are an insult to the British people

The European Commission today (Wednesday) presented to the European Parliament's budget committee its proposal for the EU's 2013 budget.

Commissioners are seeking an increase of almost seven per cent of the overall budget - this would bring the UK's annual bill to an extortionate £14 billion.

Vicky Ford, Euro-MP for the East of England, said: "This increase is unrealistic, unaccountable and unfair."

"The idea that, at a time of austerity, the EU should demand yet more money from national governments - an increase which goes way beyond inflation - is totally out of touch with taxpayers' expectations and insulting to people who are struggling to make ends meet.

"UK Conservative MEPs have told the Commission time and time again that budget increases are unacceptable. I personally have voted against every proposed EU budget increase since coming into office in 2009.

"Rather than increased, the EU budget should be cut. Waste must be stopped so that essential funds can be allocated to key areas that have real effects on ordinary people. Targeting growth and creating jobs should be the top priorities, not costly vanity projects.

"Of course, seven percent is likely to be an opening bargaining position from the Commission, as is with all EU negotiations.

"But at a time when investor and consumer confidence is low, financial markets are in turmoil and Europe is teetering on the edge of recession, the Commission's bluff tactics are inappropriate.

"UK Conservative MEPs have suggested various areas where significant cost can be taken out of this budget. The Strasbourg parliament, for example, wastes €200 million every year.

The Commission should listen to this advice, reconsider its position and come back with realistic budget proposals
which respect the situations of national governments and their taxpayers."

Download this as a PDF


20 APR 2012

Ford: delay shows we are winning the mortgage battle

A vote on EU proposals for new legislation on mortgages is now likely to be delayed following the intervention of Conservative MEP Vicky Ford.

Concerns have been raised in the UK that the legislation could effectively shut key parts of the UK mortgage market - such as buy to let mortgages and mortgages for first-time buyers which are supported by savings accounts or guarantees.

Mrs Ford, MEP for the East of England, submitted over 130 amendments to the European Commission's original proposals, including 50 requests to delete unnecessary provisions. Now she has learnt a key vote is likely to be delayed by up to three weeks - allowing more time to work on getting harmful clauses stripped from the legislation.

Mrs Ford said: "Getting a loan to buy a home is hard enough at the moment. I will not support EU legislation which would shut down parts of the UK mortgage market or add to costs for home buyers.

"However many of my UK constituents have found themselves in very difficult positions with mortgage lenders especially when they have bought properties in other parts of Europe. This has sometimes been because of irresponsible lending and
sometimes because extra costs were hidden in the small print of the loan.

"Working with other MEPs from across Europe I am making good progress to finding solutions which will keep our mortgage markets open - keeping costs under control while ensuring borrowers have clear information and consumer protections.

"The negotiations appear to be moving in the right direction and I am pleased we have been able to secure a delay in the vote. It shows we are winning the battle to protect buy to let and the health of the mortgage market as a whole."

Download this as a PDF


29 MAR 2012

"Strasbourg" victory boosts Conservative campaign

 

Conservative MEPs have struck a major blow today in their campaign to scrap the rules which force the European Parliament to hold sessions in both France and Belgium - and to move thousands of staff and tons of equipment back and forth between the two on a monthly basis.

Their votes helped to deliver a crucial amendment which demanded that the Parliament's work should be confined to a single seat and that the European Council should take action accordingly.

Conservative MEPs have been progressively winning support for their campaign to end the so-called "travelling circus" that sees the Parliament switching sittings between Brussels and Strasbourg and back every month.

The two-seat policy means that the whole legislature, administrative team and thousands of support staff are shifted for four days each month and relocate from the Belgian capital to Strasbourg, nearly 300 miles away.

A fleet of 20 juggernauts carries tons of paperwork between the two parliament buildings and the process wastes €200m of taxpayers' money every year. It also creates 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The Strasbourg building is used for only 40 or so days per year.

Richard Ashworth, leader of the Conservative MEPs, said: "This is a very significant step forward in our long-running campaign to stop this wastefulness.

"More and more MEPs from other member states are joining us in our stance - and now this vote delivers a very powerful message: Any possible justification for Strasbourg sessions is long gone - and the public will no longer stand for such scandalous waste."

The amendment was approved in a plenary vote on estimates for the 2013 European Parliament budget. The estimates were voted through.

Mr Ashworth said: "While not everything in the package of budget proposals was completely to our liking, we took an important tactical decision that is was important to drive through that key amendment on Strasbourg.

"If you are going to be serious about saving money and controlling the budget this is a very obvious place to start. That is why we have prioritised its scrapping.

"Nobody should doubt our determination to see a significant reduction in the overall EU budget in 2013 and beyond. Having established the vital principle of scrapping the Strasbourg sessions we will continue to inject some economic reality into the debate. We're fighting for the taxpayer at every stage.

"The current parliamentary budget proposal is only €9 million away from a figure which would deliver an absolute budget freeze. We will be pushing hard for the savings to be found to hit that target. "

"The simple truth is that the parliament cannot keep Strasbourg and its credibility

Download this as a PDF


21 MAR 2012

New pig welfare standards must be enforced - everywhere

New pig welfare standards must be enforced - everywhere

European Commissioners cannot sit back - they must take tough action against any countries that flout new rules partially banning the use of stalls for sows, Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has warned.

The East of England MEP was speaking at a Brussels briefing she organised to highlight issues affecting British farmers. These included the new EU directive which will come into force next January, banning the use of stalls except in the first four weeks of gestation.

The UK voluntarily introduced a unilateral ban on the use of sow stalls 13 years ago in the interests of animal welfare.

The new rules for the pig industry are intended to create a more-even set of welfare standards across Europe and stop some farmers - such as those in Britain - being undercut by competitors using less welfare-friendly methods.

But there are fears that many countries will have only a fraction of their farms ready to comply when the partial ban on stalls takes force in just over nine months' time.

Mrs Ford said: "All MEPs will tell you that they get more emails about animal welfare than practically all other subjects put together. From factory farming to food labelling, these are issues which are important to the consumers we
represent. It will not be good enough for our consumers if we refuse to listen to them.

"If the Commission sits back and does nothing then MEPs will propose either new legislation or amendments either to CAP legislation or to other directives.

"As legislators we should listen to experts and learn from experience. In 1999 the UK unilaterally banned sow stalls. Whilst pigs may have been happier, about half the British pig producers collapsed due to cheaper imports. The simple lesson from this is that animal welfare standards need to be agreed internationally, not just nationally.

"However, it is not acceptable for countries to agree new legislation and then fail to implement it.

"We are working closely with the pig industry to keep up the pressure on Europe, so all countries meet the European ban by January 2013."

Download this as a PDF


06 MAR 2012

EU implementation of tighter global banking standards must not be pegged back to the pace of the slowest countries, but must let banks fund growth and infrastructure says MEP Ford

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford has today tabled over 190 amendments to the European Union's proposals to implement the "Basel III" reforms, which lay down new global standards on bank capital, liquidity and leverage.

Mrs Ford's amendments protect EU Member States' powers to tackle emerging systemic risks, encourage lending in the real economy, and protect against future crises.

Mrs Ford said:

"It is vital that EU countries are not forced to go at the pace of the lowest or slowest common denominator when it comes to banking reform. Member States should be able to adopt higher standards than the international minimum requirements, as soon as they see fit. Sweden has already done so, and the UK is proposing to do so with the Vickers reforms. Spain had higher standards for its two largest banks prior to the crisis and without this, the Spanish situation would have been even worse.

"European regulators must not try to wiggle out of their global commitment to introduce new measures on capital, liquidity and leverage. To do so would undermine the credibility of banking reform globally and would cause others to also renege on their commitments. Instead, Europe should take the observation periods suggested by the Basel committee seriously and work with other global regulators to amend and adjust technical details during this time.

"At the same time, If my amendments are passed then the new legislation will free up capital for lending to sectors crucial to growth and jobs in the real economy, such as trade finance, lending to small and medium-sized businesses, and infrastructure finance. As a former banker much of my career was in infrastructure lending, many European Countries are desperately in need of investment in energy, transport and communications infrastructure. I believe that reducing the regulatory capital banks need to hold against these vital and "socially useful" functions would rapidly free up cash for these projects, thus driving growth.

"Looking to the future, I have also proposed a number of measures regarding covered bonds. These are intended to help mortgage holders, investors and depositors. In some countries these bond structures have been around for many decades but the markets have ballooned massively since the financial crisis. We need to make sure that we learn the lessons of the disastrous US mortgage-backed securities market and ensure that covered bonds don't go the same way."

"Finally it is very clear that the special zero capital treatment given to banks when lending to sovereign borrowers has compounded the debt crisis that many countries now find themselves in. This needs to be phased out and controlled. Instead, in the original commission proposals the situation could become even worse with banks effectively being forced to buy yet more sovereign debt to meet liquidity ratios. European regulators should work with others globally to understand liquidity of different asset classes."

NOTES:

Mrs Ford's amendments to protect EU Member States' powers to tackle emerging systemic risks include:

• Supporting a "single rule book" for banks, by ensuring that EU specific accounting treatments do not over-inflate capital ratios and are transparent,

• Reinforcing the need to implement the globally agreed minimum ratios for capital, liquidity and leverage in accordance with Basel agreements,

• Allowing individual countries to go faster and further in their reforms to meet differing local risks, so that all 27 countries are not held back at the pace of the slowest country.

• Giving the European Banking Authority the ability to amend technical reporting ratios in line with Basel committee recommendations during the observation periods for liquidity and leverage ratios

Amendments to encourage lending in the real economy include:

• Supporting small and medium-sized businesses by reducing the capital "risk weights" attached to SME loans to counteract the costs of new "capital buffers",

• Incentivising critical infrastructure investment by reducing capital costs by 25% for long dated project finance loans and by 50% for public/private projects where they are co-financed with the European Investment Bank,

• Supporting Trade Finance by making sure the value of security over trade goods is reflected in Leverage ratio calculations.

• Supporting home owners by making sure that banks can wait up to 180 days after a borrower has fallen behind with their mortgage payments before declaring the mortgage in default. The blanket proposal to reduce this to 90 days could lead banks being forced to foreclose and re-possess homes earlier, even if the mortgage holder is experiencing temporary payment problems.

• Supporting "real economy" companies by making sure that the costs of hedging true commercial risks do not over-inflate the imbedded credit risk.

• A grandfathering period to ensure that corporate borrowers who took out syndicated loans in the run up to the financial crisis are not precluded from rolling these over into new loans with their existing lenders, provided no new debt is added to the company.

The amendments to protect against future crises include:

• Removing the zero risk weighting for European Sovereign debt where the country concerned is in breach of EU deficit rules.

• A series of amendments to ensure that EU covered bonds do not end up causing the same damage as some US mortgage-backed securities did in the run up to the financial crisis. These include a full review of the EU covered bond markets to be undertaken by the European Banking Authority, clearer disclosure requirements on the quality and performance of underlying assets in covered bond and securitisation structures, and ensuring that the legislation prevents preferential treatment for slicing and repackaging of covered bond structures.

• Supporting depositors and other unsecured bank creditors by recommending a full review of encumbered asset markets and a potential new ratio to ensure banks maintain sufficient unencumbered assets so that depositors do not find themselves in a position where all the banks best assets have been promised to others.

• Regular benchmarking of banks internal models against standard portfolios to ensure consistency between different banks and different regulators.

• A full review of the liquidity of different asset classes including sovereign debt, residential mortgaged backed assets, covered bonds, equity and commodities (including gold, oil and other highly liquid markets) before deciding which of these assets banks should be encouraged to invest in for liquidity purposes.

Download this as a PDF


21 FEB 2012

East of England MEP unveils latest electric vehicle charge points at Millbrook

East of England MEP Vicky Ford attended Millbrook Proving Ground, Bedfordshire, earlier today [Tuesday 21 February 2012] to unveil the latest electric vehicle charge points in the Source East electric vehicle charging network. The charging points, supplied by one-stop electric vehicle charging specialist POD Point, include three double-headed posts, one wall unit and one special rapid-charger – the ABB Terra 51.

Millbrook has worked with Source East, managed by EValu8 Transport Innovations – a company set up by the University of Hertfordshire – to purchase and install the charging points. Linking a growing network of facilities across the country, Millbrook's charging posts form part of the East of England's Plugged in Places project. They will be available to the proving ground's customers for vehicle development and validation work, complementing Millbrook's existing electric and hybrid infrastructure and supporting the growth of the alternative propulsion industry within the UK.

Commenting on the visit, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, said: "Electric vehicles are currently being developed using expertise from across the East of England. It is therefore important that we have the structures in place to be able to charge them. It would be a shame if we were unable to utilise and enjoy our bright ideas due to lack of infrastructure. This is why I have supported the Plugged in Places project to build a network of charging points across East Anglia. Millbrook is a world leading automotive test organisation and the site's electric charging facilities, including the rapid charge point, will ensure that the proving ground is at the forefront of electric vehicle testing, continuing to bring global automotive business to the East of England."

Miguel Fragoso, managing director at Millbrook, commented: "It was a privilege to show Vicky around Millbrook and demonstrate our investment in alternative transport infrastructure. Over the course of the next three years, many more vehicle manufacturers will come to market with electric vehicles and it is essential that they are able to stand up to the demands of daily driving. We're committed to supporting the verification and adoption of alternative transport technologies and have worked closely with the Source East and EValu8 teams over the past 18 months to secure Government funding for the installation of 1,200 electric charging points across the East of England."

EValu8 Transport Innovations' managing director Keith Bevis added: "We are working with corporates, local authorities and smaller companies as they consider introducing electric vehicles into their operations. The network of charging points across the East of England will not only benefit the drivers, the environment and the economy but ultimately make the ownership of an electric vehicle an easy and enjoyable experience."

The Source East network will grow to around 1,200 points by March 2013. There are currently points in Norwich, Colchester, Chelmsford and Hemel Hempstead, with live points to follow in Luton and Peterborough. Organisations wanting to get involved in the scheme can access grants of up to seventy five per cent off the cost of the post and installation by working with EValu8.

Download this as a PDF


07 FEB 2012

Rapist case shows need for cross-Europe criminal records

 

Local Conservative MEPs, Robert Sturdy and Vicky Ford, are calling for cross border co-operation on a sex offenders register. Following the case of rapist Juozas Kankauskas they are calling for a Europe-wide database for criminal records. Kancauscas, a Lithuanian with a conviction for rape in Germany, was able to enter the country and live in Suffolk without police knowing - because neither he nor the German authorities were obliged to declare his conviction.

Juozas Kancauskas is on the Sex Offenders' Register now, but only because an officer made a thorough check of his background when he was arrested for a less serious offence. Although the UK has a Sex Offenders' Register other European states do not and because Kancauskas was convicted of rape in Germany, police in Suffolk were unaware of his past.

Vicky Ford said:

"In the same way that we share this type of information across county borders, we should also be able to share it across country borders. I see the sharing of this kind of information for the sake of public safety as being very straightforward and believe that perceived civil rights issues should not stand in it's way."

Robert Sturdy said:

"The perpetrators of serious crimes should not be able to brush off their past simply by hopping on a ferry to England. We have a right to know what sort of person is living alongside us.

This is particularly true for sex offenders. I want to be sure that all possible information is shared to alert the police and authorities to a potential danger in our midst.

The German authorities should have reported what they knew about this man to our law enforcement bodies. There are agreements in place that should have prevented this, but they were clearly not effective in this instance."

Robert and Vicky:

"Conservatives in Europe have consistently called for the creation of an effective network for sharing information across the EU about serious offences. In the past political inertia and potential technical issues have combined to thwart previous attempts to introduce such a measure, but we shall continue to press for action."

Download this as a PDF


07 FEB 2012

MEP puts her energy into efficiency

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England met with representatives of the electricity industry from all across Europe last night to discuss the latest developments on the Energy Efficiency Directive. Vicky is working on the Directive on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament. The text includes measures such as obligations for public bodies to renovate their buildings and purchase energy efficient products, requirements for countries to put in place energy efficiency obligation schemes, and the installation of smart meters. The draft Directive received over 1800 amendments from MEPs and Vicky is in the process of negotiating itís content with colleagues from other political groups. She said: "Every household and business tells me they want to get their energy bills down. It is helpful to share experiences and best practices from other countries to see how this can be achieved. However, the text as proposed by the Commission was a very prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach, with the European Union effectively dictating how countries and local authorities should manage their energy policy. As you can imagine, 1800 amendments just goes to show how many controversial elements there were in this text. I am putting a huge amount of my own energy into these negotiations because I support energy efficiency policies, but each country's government must have sensible suggestions and flexibility in order to achieve their own energy savings goals".

Download this as a PDF


06 FEB 2012

Last week in brief

Last week I met with a representative from the East of England NFU to hear of the concerns being raised by local farmers about Common Agricultural Policy, as reforms will be debated in Brussels again this year. Suggestions to re-introduce "set aside" and compulsory crop rotation won't help food production or food security and, locally, would be a backwards step for biodiversity too. I am also meeting various environmental organisations who again have a keen interest in the outcome of these reforms.

I recently sent out a brochure on how to get financial and business advice to over 7,000 local businesses with between 4 and 10 employees across the East of England. I am always keen to hear feedback, and so I was pleasantly surprised with the number of responses I had to the questionnaire I included. I am working closely with business representatives to address the concerns raised - so thank you to those who replied with many helpful suggestions on simplifying public procurement, health and safety and employment rules.

Once again David Cameron was in Brussels last Monday, the first meeting of European leaders since the UK vetoed their new treaty. As MEPs work in different specialist committees they have a huge range of expertise. We discussed topics from keeping the UK out of future Eurozone bailouts now secured thanks to the PM's treaty veto, reforming the European Court of Human Rights, and the proposed EU and global reforms to banks.

When Cameron vetoed the treaty he said that it was to make sure that the UK can protect itself from the City, not to "protect the City" as some were saying. I agree there needs to be international, indeed global, agreement on new standards, but in many cases we in the UK want to go further than the current European proposals. We want international minimum standards not maximums. I'm busy working through the 800 page legal text drafting amendments and building alliances with colleagues from other countries like Sweden and the Netherlands.

New proposals for EU funding for research and innovation are critical to universities and companies across the East of England, more UK researchers participate in EU funded projects than from any other European country. It is a huge amount of money; 50 billion euros in the last 7 year program and potentially increasing to 80 billion euros for the next 7 years - it is one of the few areas where the UK gets back more from the EU budget than we contribute. Across East Anglia, scientists and companies have been giving suggestions for reform. In Finland last week I met scientists from four Nordic countries, they all gave me a similar message - so I hope to get some international support for our local arguments. I am keen to hear from any local small businesses who have experience of applying for loans or grants through the European Investment Bank "Eurostars" programme, so if that applied to you please email office@vickyford.org.

Download this as a PDF


11 JAN 2012

Transaction Tax - an indepth view

"2012 needs to be a year of focusing on growth for the UK and Europe. Yet the European Parliament opened for 2012 yesterday with a debate on proposals to tax financial transactions across the EU, which even the European Commission´s own impact assessment analysis says could reduce growth by 1.7% every year.

I can understand why many want to see increased taxes on financial institutions and I am not against taxing financial services. I support the UK's bank levy approach, for example. However, I am very concerned that the way the transaction tax is structured will allow financial players simply to relocate overseas - taking tens of thousands of jobs with them, but without reducing risks in financial markets.

Rather than hitting banks or hedge funds, the tax burden will then fall on investors such as pension funds, real businesses and insurance companies. We need investment in the UK and Europe. Indeed, we should be thinking about giving long term investors tax incentives, not additional tax penalties.

Pensioners could be hit especially hard by this tax. Some people say that the proposed charge of 0.1% is "tiny". Consider however the impact if an investor was to sell 10 year UK government bonds and buy German ones. The 0.1% tax is paid twice - once on the sell, once on the buy, totalling 0.2%. The annual yield on the government bonds is currently only 2%. Therefore the tax on the trade is one tenth of the annual income from the bond investment. This is a huge amount of money for pensioners, and especially when investments in other asset classes like equities have been negative recently.

Another concern is the impact on liquidity. In the UK, "market makers", which help to keep financial markets running efficiently, are explicitly excluded from stamp duty on shares. There is no such exemption in the proposals for an EU financial transactions tax. Those who support the tax want it to reduce "speculative" trades. However, it would be very difficult in practice to decide which trades were "market making" and which were "speculative". This is a key issue: on the one hand we are telling banks that they need to hold more liquid assets to promote financial stability; at the same time the EU is proposing a tax that will almost certainly reduce liquidity in asset markets.

During the debate yesterday, the Commission announced that they are now re-running their impact assessment of the proposals for a financial transactions tax, and are predicting a new conclusion. This demonstrates just how much uncertainty there is about the effects of the proposed tax.

The UK is right to veto this tax. MEPs from many other countries also raise concerns during yesterday's debate. This is not just an issue for those in the City of London, or indeed those who commute into London for work. It will affect all of our insurance premiums, pension savings and the investment in real companies which create jobs."

Download this as a PDF


09 JAN 2012

Local MEP speaks out against EU transaction taxes.

The European Parliament opened for 2012 with a debate on the proposals to tax financial transactions across the EU. The proposals have already been criticised by the UK government but have been supported by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

East of England MEP, Vicky Ford spoke in the debate about her concerns.

She said "2012 needs to be a year of focusing on growth for the UK and Europe. However even the European Commission´s own analysis says this tax could reduce growth by 1.7% every year.

I can understand why many want to see increased taxes on financial institutions and whilst I´m not against taxing financial services the way this tax is structured will allow financial players to relocate overseas - taking jobs with them.

The tax burden will fall on investors such as pension funds, real businesses and insurance companies. We need investment in the UK and Europe, indeed we should think about giving long term investors tax incentives not additional tax penalties.

Pensioners could be hit especially hard by this tax. Some people say that the proposed charge of 0.1% is "tiny" but when long term interest rates are only 2% every single trade could cost a pension fund a tenth of its annual income. That is a huge amount of money especially for many pensioners.

This is not just an issue for those in the City of London, or indeed those who commute into London for work. It will affect our insurance premiums, pension savings and the investment in real companies which create jobs. The UK is right to veto this tax."

Download this as a PDF


04 JAN 2012

MEP Visit Could Boost Dunstable's Economy

MEP for the East of England, Vicky Ford has been shown just what a difference EU funding has made to parts of Dunstable.

The former Conservative Party spokesman on Economic and Monetary affairs in the European Parliament was taken to see RWDI Anemos, an international wind engineering company based in the Lawrence Way Industrial Estate in the town, which has already benefited from funding.

Success story Anemos has grown from five to 30 people since its inception and has increased its revenues by an average of 35 per cent every year.

Parts of Dunstable and Houghton Regis have been designated an EU Assisted Area, which means that they can apply for special grants and funding to encourage new businesses and help existing businesses to expand. But at the moment, the future of some EU grants is uncertain.

Prior to the creation of Central Bedfordshire Council, South Bedfordshire District Council and Luton Borough Council had been very effective in supporting businesses applying for this funding - and over the past 12 years have helped to secure around £10 million for the area's businesses which has resulted in the creation of nearly 2,500 jobs and the safeguarding of many others.

The Assisted Area designation will expire in 2013, and now the EU is looking at how future aid is distributed and to which areas would benefit. They will be consulting with government representatives and MEPs on their plans in the New Year.

Councillor Ken Matthews, Executive Member for Strategic Planning and Economic Development, said: "Central Bedfordshire Council has been working hard to ensure the future economic vitality of all Central Bedfordshire and while we are fortunate to live in a relatively affluent area of the country, there are still certain pockets that need a little bit more help.

"We hope we have shown that this funding is crucial to support businesses to thrive in the Dunstable and Houghton Regis area, creating jobs and opportunities for all."

Vicky Ford said: "RWDI Anemos is an example of a world leading business that is growing, despite the economic climate throughout the UK and Europe.

"I learnt how skills and cutting edge technology have enabled them to benefit from orders in fast growing parts of the world, bringing jobs and contracts to Central Bedfordshire."

Vicky Ford also visited Central Bedfordshire College to look at the facilities and services on offer to young graduates.

Commenting after the visit Bob Shore, Vice Principal of Central Bedfordshire College, said; "Central Bedfordshire College welcomed the opportunity to meet with Vicky Ford MEP to show how it enhances the life opportunities of young people and adults and helps the council to meet both community regeneration and the development of training for the industrial base.

"The College particularly welcomed the opportunity to show how European Social funding has been used to meet the needs of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) young people, and how they were successful in establishing an 86% progression into work or further education, which was the highest nationally."

Download this as a PDF


01 DEC 2011

"Time to stop playing chicken with the EU" says Eastern region MEP

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, has today written to all major supermarkets in the UK requesting information on the labelling of their own brand products, following the news that from the New Year millions of eggs will be laid illegally in Europe.

As a result of widespread public indignation at appalling battery conditions, ten years ago the European Parliament introduced legislation banning cramped battery cages for chickens. UK farmers have since invested over £400 million in new equipment and facilities to comply with the new directive, which comes into force on the 1st January 2012. However, ten other countries have not complied with the legislation, and so experts predict that some 83 million eggs will be laid illegally across the EU every day from January 1st.

Recent discussions in Brussels with regards to this non-compliance have resulted in the proposal to ban the sale of all illegal shell eggs outside the country of origin, however, this proposal does not cover the use of illegal eggs in other products, such as mayonnaise, cakes, quiches and biscuits.

Mrs Ford commented: "There is nothing more simple than a chicken laying an egg – the poor chicken has no idea it is falling foul of EU law. If member countries won't implement this simple law then what hope is there for more complex issues like international bank liquidity standards, or preventing cross border trade in counterfeit medicines. We need to look closely at what will happen to these illegal eggs. If they came into the UK in any guise it would undermine the market with disastrous consequences for poultry farmers in the East who have been diligent and have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in new equipment and facilities to comply with the new directive. I would like to know how all the major supermarkets will be policing or labelling their own brands to ensure that this doesn't happen. It's time to stop playing chicken with the EU and people who want to help should be able to act by choosing what they put in their shopping trolleys."

Download this as a PDF


30 NOV 2011

EU mortgage legislation must not penalise buy-to-let landlords

Draft EU rules for residential mortgages could hit UK buy-to-let mortgages and severely damage the British private rental market. Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who is following the report in the European Parliament has tabled over 130 amendments to the draft law including exempting buy-to-let.

Mrs Ford said: "In the run up to the credit crisis there was irresponsible lending by some mortgage companies in some countries. The European Commission has drafted a piece of legislation intending to prevent this. However their draft rules are deeply prescriptive, fail to recognised differences in different countries and could result in huge extra costs for house owners.

"Buy-to-let mortgages are key to the UK rental market and we properly regulate them. Unless exempted from the EU rules, lenders will not be able to count rental income when making mortgage offers. As a result this will hit private landlords using their savings or pensions to buy and rent out properties.

"This is another example of the EU trying to write one size fits all laws when in reality property markets in different countries vary widely. We are working closely with the UK government and MEPs from many other countries to ensure that different national markets are respected"

Download this as a PDF


30 NOV 2011

Excellence must be the focus in EU research package

Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative spokesman on industry and research, has called for a focus on excellence in a new package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe.

Horizon 2020, an €80 billion blueprint for investment, for the first time brings together all EU research and innovation funding under a single programme.

It aims to turn scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and change people's lives for the better. At the same time it sets out to cut red tape, with simplification of rules and procedures to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative businesses.

Mrs Ford said: "Research and innovation are at the heart of getting Europe back into business. The budget for this must be focused on excellence, on making sure that the best scientists for the jobs are the ones funded to undertake them.

"We have to strip out some of the hideous red tape which makes EU research-funding infamously bureaucratic. These will be my priorities when considering amendments to the Commission's Horizon 2020 proposal published today."

Download this as a PDF


30 NOV 2011

MEP visits Olympic sites across the East of England

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has been visiting Olympic venues in the region to see the facilities and discuss the legacy that the Olympics will leave in the East of England following next year's games. Mrs Ford has spent time at both the Lee Valley white water site in Hertfordshire, where the canoeing events will take place, and the mountain biking site in Hadleigh, Essex.

Mrs Ford is planning to host a European Parliament briefing in Brussels early next year to showcase the two venues and remind people that the legacy of the games will be felt across the Eastern region beyond the actual Olympics.

Mrs Ford commented: "The legacy of the Olympics will be felt far beyond London, and far beyond 2012. The Olympics have already had a tremendous impact on the East of England, and I was delighted to hear recently that the total value of contracts for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games won by businesses in the East of England now tops £1billion, with over 400 contracts awarded to businesses for services varying from providing concrete for the construction of the aquatics centre to providing coaches for transporting athletes.

"We are fortunate to be hosting two such exciting activities in the East. The canoeing site is fantastic and is already being enjoyed by thousands of people. The management team had anticipated 20,000 visitors over the summer but in fact the total was over 130,000. The facility really does feel like it will be a long lasting, fun and, most importantly, profitable legacy for the region. The mountain biking course is truly terrifying to the amateur eye, and those who have been lucky enough to have got tickets to events are in for a great thrill. Its location is iconic with views of the Thames Estuary and Hadleigh Castle. When I visited, we discussed the growing popularity of cycling events and their legacy plans to create easier courses for upcoming riders in the future."

Download this as a PDF


30 NOV 2011

East of England MEP pledges support for Red Balloon Centre

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, visited the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge on Thursday 24th November, where she was given a tour of the facility, met with staff and students and discussed the centres unique support for children and teenagers who have been forced to drop out of mainstream school due to bullying.

The Red Balloon Learner Centre is a registered charity, and runs ten centres across the UK for children between the ages of 9 to 18. Each centre is able to take fifteen children at any one time, and offers them one to one tuition and counselling to help build their confidence and prepare them for their eventual return to mainstream schooling.

Speaking after her visit, Mrs Ford said: "To see firsthand the support that Red Balloon gives to these children in crisis is incredibly moving. Teenagers come to them often in deepest depression and within a year of counseling and teaching are usually able to go back into main stream schooling, armed with the confidence to be themselves. With youth unemployment such a top priority, it is fantastic to see a project that really can turn lives around and get children back on track. I was interested to hear that the real difficulty faced by the charity is not raising money to build the centres initially, but securing revenue funding to maintain them moving forward. I am interested to understand why these schools are not able to qualify for the governments "free school" program and have promised to write to the Education Secretary and the Prime Minister to investigate it further."

Download this as a PDF


28 NOV 2011

East of England MEP visits London Gateway Project

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England has recently visited the site of the London Gateway Project in South Essex, where work is underway to build the UK's longest container port with a quayside measuring approximately 3km. The first stage of the £1.5 million site is due for completion in 2013, and plans to bring containers right up to the Dartford bridge. The vast investment in the site has been linked to the global changes in container shipping, particularly the way that operators have moved to using ultralarge container carriers. There are currently over 250 ships on order. Felixstowe harbour has already completed construction of docks which are servicing these ships. The new docks at Dartford will add additional capacity to meet the rapidly growing demand.

During the visit, Mrs Ford met with Charles Meaby, the Commercial Director for DP World, who are managing the project, and voiced her concerns over the possible effects on traffic and also the proximity of the site to the Dartford Crossing. Mrs Ford was reassured to hear that 30% of associated transport to and from the site will go by train, and that analysis recently carried out suggests that at least 80% of freight will need to move north bound. However, Mrs Ford highlighted the need for there to be urgent improvements to Junction 30 of the M20 to cope with this increased demand.

Mrs Ford says: "I was also very interested to learn about DP World's recent experience in accessing bank finance, and particularly investment from the Euro Investment Bank (EIB), as they are one of very few British companies who have used the EIB – the UK as a whole appears to be grossly underutilising the EIB for capital projects. I was very glad to visit the site and to see the commercial and environmental benefits of reducing the distance travelled by goods after they are imported into the UK."

Another issue that was discussed during the visit, was the rehoming of all the wildlife from the original site, which DP World had to ensure was carried out appropriately under the EU Habitats Directive.

Speaking about this issue, Mrs Ford commented: "It is clear to me that implementation of these rules was a huge burden both practically and financially. Micromanagement of this directive, whilst absolutely appropriate for a smaller site, needs to be assessed on a more individual basis. I believe that DP World are the first major developer of this scale to have used the legislation for a larger project such as this - had they been able to adopt a broader viewpoint, it is quite possible they may have been able to offer more benefits for the wildlife."

Download this as a PDF


24 NOV 2011

Local MEP visits Norwich Research Park

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, visited Norwich Research Park on Friday 18th November to see for herself the latest developments in science and innovation coming from the institutes and companies based on the park.

Mrs Ford is the Conservative spokesman in the European Parliament for Industry and Research, and a full member of the Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE) and her visit gave her a taste of the cutting edge research that is happening across the research park. Her interests in the issues of food security, healthy ageing and energy were discussed in visits to the John Innes Centre, the world-leading centre of plant and microbial science, and the Institute of Food Research, the UK's only centre dedicated to the role food science plays in health. In addition, she was given a tour of the Biorefinery, which is using waste products from the farming and food chain to develop new biofuels.

As well as a tour of the park, including some of the hi-tech innovative companies based in the Bioincubator, Mrs Ford was shown around The Genome Analysis Centre and the newly opened NRP Innovation Centre.

Commenting after her visit, Mrs Ford commented: "I was enormously impressed by the wide range of food security and safety issues being worked on, from disease resistant crops to more efficient fuels and antibiotics. The scientists in Norwich clearly are world class. In Brussels I am fighting to keep EU research funding focused on the best and brightest projects across Europe. I hope that the scientists here will continue to benefit from this funding. All of us stand to benefit from their discoveries."

Professor David Richardson, Dean of Science at the University of East Anglia gave an overview of UEA's science and innovation, and Alan Giles, NRP Director outlined the future plans for the park, which draws on the strengths of all of the partners.

The plans centre on the generation of 5000 additional jobs on the park and in greater Norwich over the next 10 to 15 years through growth in start-up companies, inward location and institutional growth, with the Norwich Research Park being a key driver of the local economy.

Download this as a PDF


24 NOV 2011

Mysteries and myths of EU Funding unravelled for businesses and groups in the East of England

There is good news for businesses across the East of England as a new brochure written by the four Conservative MEP's for the region has been published, which aims to help businesses, groups and individuals access the many funding opportunities available through the European Union.

The pamphlet, entitled "European Funding: A Brief Guide for the East of England" was put together by Geoffrey van Orden MEP, Robert Sturdy MEP, Vicky Ford MEP and David Campbell-Bannerman MEP, and covers details on the various funds and grants available, as well as specific information on who can access them, eligibility criteria, how much is available, and how to apply. The grants listed cover those suitable for businesses, individuals, public bodies and community organisations, and include specific funds for certain groups, such as farmers and those in the research and development arena.

Vicky Ford MEP, who is the Conservative party spokesman for Industry and Research explains: "One of the questions I am often asked as an MEP is how businesses across the East of England might access desperately needed funding assistance available from the European Union. In fact there are many funding opportunities for businesses, community groups and research facilities available, but you do need to know where to look. This booklet goes some way towards detailing the EU funding opportunities available for businesses and other organisations based in the East of England, and I would certainly encourage people to apply, as EU funding support is one way in which businesses in the East can get something back from Europe".

The funding booklet is available to download from www.vickyford.org or you can request a hard copy by emailing office@vickyford.org.

Download this as a PDF


21 NOV 2011

New EU legislation good news for Ocado

New EU legislation voted through last week in the European Parliament in Strasbourg has tightened up the rules on share trading, and specifies that equal disclosure must be given by people who sell "short" positions in company shares to that currently given by those who invest in shares.

Vicky Ford MEP for the East of England discussed the legislation with the online supermarket, Ocado, when she visited their Head Office in Hatfield recently.

Mrs Ford said: "Most of the time local companies are worried that EU laws will hurt their business. This time Ocado were pleased about the new rules. They were one of the highest profile stock market floatations last year, and are keen to know whether the "short" positions in their shares are held by competitors. "

The company employs 2,000 people at their Hertfordshire base. Ocado estimates that their innovative distribution structure results in less than half the food waste and CO2 emissions than shopping with an average UK supermarket.

Download this as a PDF


16 NOV 2011

Local MEP turns up the heat on energy efficiency

With winter fast approaching and concerns on rising energy costs growing, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, has tabled over 100 amendments on a new EU directive on energy efficiency.

The UK has already signed up to a 20% energy efficiency target by 2020. The first draft of the new EU law would commit public authorities to renovate at least 3% of all public buildings each year. It forces energy providers to deliver customers a 1.5% annual energy saving and encourages the use of smart meters. It would result in countries having to re-write planning laws in order to prioritise co-generation heat and power plants. The proposals have been criticised for their "one size fits all approach" and highly prescriptive nature.

During the consultation period, Mrs Ford wrote to local councils in Hertfordshire, Essex, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk to understand how the proposals could affect public buildings locally. She also visited the state of the art heat and power plant at the British Sugar Factory in Bury St Edmunds as well as meeting power producers, fuel refiners, manufacturing organisations and consumer groups such as Which?

Mrs Ford's amendments aim to give countries much more flexibility on how they could achieve energy efficiencies and savings. She wants to make sure individual households don't have to foot the bill for renovations unless they benefit from the improvements. To protect customers she has called for more transparency of pricing and tariff structures. She has also introduced new language to ensure that companies affected would not be forced to re-locate overseas.

In response to the comments from local councils she is suggesting that the rules give flexibility to focus on improvements that bring the biggest cost savings. Her amendments would also ensure that planning decisions stay with individual countries not with the European Commission.

After a recent visit to RAF Marham in Norfolk, Mrs Ford also decided to table an amendment calling for key public sector workers' housing, including military housing to be treated as a priority for insulation.

Mrs Ford explains: "Intelligent improvements to save energy are not only important for energy security and reducing dependency on oil and gas but can also save money. I would like to help the many experts from across the East of England and the UK who have given me advice and I have tried to reflect their concerns. For example, I have learnt that some local councils can cope with this level of obligatory renovation of buildings, but others, because of the upfront costs or age of the properties, simply cannot. I don't think a top-down approach from Brussels works, instead countries and local councils should be able to look at where the biggest long-term savings can be achieved.

"Many other European countries envy the progress that the UK has made on home insulation. We are held up as a shining example, but the reality is that even in the UK many households are really struggling to meet their fuel bills. I have found some interesting examples from other countries that we might like to follow. For example in parts of the USA energy services companies have helped public authorities reduce their bills, and Denmark has done some remarkable work with district heating and with manufacturers.

"I have seen first-hand how co-generation plants which produce electricity as well as heat can be much more efficient, but this technology is not always suitable for every location, so again a flexible approach is needed. I hope that the final legislation will enable countries to act quickly and share best practice instead of rigid, expensive rules being dictated by Brussels. I am working hard to try to get support for this approach"

Over 1,600 amendments to the draft legislation have been tabled by MEPs from across Europe. These will be debated over the coming months before votes in January. There will then be negotiations with the governments of all 27 countries before any new legislation is agreed.

Download this as a PDF


15 NOV 2011

MEPs call for reform of rules on foreign doctors employed in the UK

Members of the European Parliament have today voted on a series of proposals to strengthen controls for doctors from EU countries who apply to work in the UK.

The Parliament's report, which was written by UK Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin, calls for a review of the language testing procedures currently used, describing language competence as crucial. It also draws attention to incidents where doctors who have been struck off or suspended in one country continue to practice in another, and recommends a compulsory alert mechanism so that if a doctor is suspended or struck off, other countries will be automatically notified.

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, whose parents, sister and husband are all doctors said: "The EU directive on professional qualifications needs dramatic reform. Take for example the tragic death of Cambridgeshire's David Gray, who was killed by a doctor. The UK was forced to recognise the professional qualifications of doctors trained overseas but that particular doctor did not recognise the drug he took from a standard UK medicine bag and injected a lethal dose. Tragedies like this also undermine confidence in the thousands of very able doctors from different countries working in the UK.

"Historically doctors from overseas have needed to prove not only their academic qualifications but also their language skills, as well as their familiarity with local practices. The EU directive stopped this. It's clear that the UK's General Medical Council must be able to test skills beyond just paper certificates before allowing doctors to be registered as "competent".

"Part of recognising a professional's qualifications is also recognising disqualifications. The proposed alert system should help with this, however regulators should be able to share their concerns with each other and not just their final judgements. This report is a step in the right direction for reform but I would have liked it to go further - fundamentally, patient safety must come first."

A full copy of the report can be found at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0373+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

Download this as a PDF


12 NOV 2011

East of England MEP encourages farmers and rural businesses to apply for £20 million of EU funding

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, is encouraging local farmers and rural businesses to apply for a new tranche of EU money that has today been released by Defra. The new £20 million Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme (FFIS), which is designed to help farming, forestry and horticultural businesses to become more efficient at using resources, forms part of the EU Rural Development Program for England (RDPE). Defra describe the scheme as aiming to help businesses to become more competitive and more profitable, whilst reducing the impact of farming on the environment.

Mrs Ford explains: "This news is incredibly welcome especially as it can be used towards capital investments. Water shortage, for example, was a huge concern to many of our farmers during this very dry spring, threatening the harvests and thus pushing up food prices for all of us. To date rural businesses in certain areas of the countryside have been able to apply for this EU money but others have not been able to. This has been particularly noticeable in the East of England, I hope that this new funding can help create a more level playing field.

"At a time of real shortage of public money this must not be treated as a "free handout" from Europe. Tax payers from the East of England are major contributors to EU budgets. I would like to see more of the money we pay to the EU coming back to our local area but I would also like to see it well spent on projects that will bring real long term benefits.

"I am told that farmers, foresters, woodland owners, agricultural contractors and horticulturalists can apply for grants of up to £25,000 each to invest in energy and water efficiency, soil quality projects and improvements to animal health and welfare so their businesses can grow in an environmentally friendly way. I would encourage qualifying companies and individuals in the East of England to look into the scheme as soon as possible".

The FFIS grants are for capital items and will cover up to 40% of the total investment in non-upland areas. The maximum grant allowable per project is £25 000. The minimum grant is £2,500. Grants will be assessed by Defra on a competitive basis. Bids can be submitted from next Wednesday 16 November 2011 until 17 January 2012. Potential applicants should seek advice from to http://rdpenetwork.defra.gov.uk/funding-sources/farm-and-forestry-improvement-scheme

Download this as a PDF


10 NOV 2011

EU fraud and waste runs unchecked warn East of England MEPs

The European Court of Auditors today published its latest annual report on the European Union's accounts - and once again found them riddled with fraud and waste.

The Court said that overall 3.7 per cent of the EU's €122 billion budget in 2010 was spent in error or against EU rules.

In the area of cohesion, energy and transport, the figure was as high as 7.7 per cent of total spending. It is the 17th year in a row the Court has been unable to give the EU's accounts an unqualified statement of assurance.

The four Conservative MEPS for the East of England, Geoffrey Van Orden, Robert Sturdy, Vicky Ford and David Campbell Bannerman have constantly voted against increases in the EU budget.

In a joint statement today they said: "Another year, another report exposing the EU's abject failure to exert proper control over how taxpayers' money is spent.

"Once again we find that a very significant proportion of EU money is squandered, plundered or spent in error.

"The EU's leaders are publicly shamed by this report on an annual basis, but are institutionally unwilling or unable to get a grip on the problem.

"The auditors say the error rate has remained 'relatively stable'. That means it's just as disgraceful as it was a year ago.

"In the real world of business - or properly democratic politics - heads would roll. But not in Brussels, where this costly fiasco just carries on unchecked."

The East of England Conservatives are also working on a review of EU grants and spending to make sure that local organisations, businesses and councils do not miss out on opportunities to get their fair share of EU funding back into Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. They aim to be sending a guide to EU funding across the East of England before year end.

Download this as a PDF


27 OCT 2011

Vicky Ford MEP warns: EU puts UK oil-industry safety at risk

European Commissioners have been warned they are jeopardising safety in the UK offshore oil and gas industry by compelling Britain to sweep away its existing world class standards.

The European Commission made an announcement on offshore safety today (Friday). Although it adopts some best practice from the North Sea industry, it may force the UK to repeal a substantial amount of existing offshore safety legislation and replace it with a new EU framework.

Vicky Ford MEP, whose recent report on offshore safety was adopted by the European Parliament, said: "The Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a catastrophe that should never have happened and we certainly do not want to see a repeat in our waters. Investigations into the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico found that 'tick box' type legislation was a key factor that lead to mistakes and inadequate safety procedures.

"The UK has more offshore oil than the rest of the EU put together and the regulatory framework in the North Sea has been held up as a world class example of best practice. It is appropriate that the EU has based much of its proposal on UK and North Sea models.

"But we could be walking into a legal nightmare in an industry where the results of bad legislation can be catastrophic.

"The Commission clearly wants to improve standards across the EU and it sensible that they have opted to introduce a site-specific safety case approach, as no two oil wells are the same. However focusing only on 'major' hazards as the commission suggests is already a clear example of how the proposal could undermine UK best practice where all potential environmental impacts must be considered. For example, a series of small discharges and emissions in an environmentally sensitive area could have a major impact."

"We do need good regulation and implementation and inspections but it must also be made absolutely clear that operators are responsible and liable for any damage they cause, the buck stops with the operators and nobody else.""We do need good regulation and implementation and inspections but it must also be made absolutely clear that operators are responsible and liable for any damage they cause, the buck stops with the operators and nobody else."

Download this as a PDF


26 OCT 2011

Tory MEPs fight EU's budget hike

Plans to increase the European Union budget by more than five per cent - despite the financial crisis ravaging the continent - were condemned today by Conservative MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden, Vicky Ford and Robert Sturdy today as economic madness.

Voting against any budget increases they argued forcefully not just for a freeze in the European Union's budget but for cuts, to reflect the austerity measures being implemented by domestic governments across the continent.

Despite the eurozone crisis, the European Parliament was expected to vote today in favour of a 5.23 per cent increase in the EU's spending next year to €133 billion, as well as an extra 3.95 per cent in spending commitments above those set in 2011.

But in the budget debate, Tory MEPs argued forcefully for an overall budget freeze, and tabled a string of amendments to achieve that.

The MEPs have focused particularly on their own institution, the European Parliament. The widely circulated report "Ending Excess" by the Conservative-backed think-tank New Direction already shows the enormous scope for cuts in the €1.69 billion budget, inflated year on year by the massive increase in the number of officials in the Parliament.

Vicky Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden and Robert Sturdy supported the think-tank's recommendation for a freeze in pay for MEPs and backed an amendment expressing disappointment that too little was done to trim allowances.

Similarly, Conservative MEPs also proposed reductions to interpretation and translation which would save €27m to start with, and the potential for deeper cost savings.

In a joint statement they said:

"When our government is forced to make cuts in public expenditure, for the EU to demand more and more taxpayers' money is economic madness.

"While we are doing all we can to fight for budget restraint, it seems the majority of MEPs from other countries want to press ahead to build an ever-bigger European bureaucracy and 'ever closer Union' in spite of the clear wishes of our citizens to the contrary".

Download this as a PDF


29 SEP 2011

MEP Speaks at Cambridge City Conservatives lunch

On Friday 23rd September, Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, attended an informal lunch at the St Johns Innovation Centre, Cambridge, where she spoke at length about a variety of issues. The lunch was well attended by approximately 30 representatives from a variety of industries including technology, IT, leisure, finance and recruitment. The delegates came from right across the region, including Cambridge, Peterborough, Ely and Bury St Edmunds.

After a warm welcome from Linda Yeatman, Chair of the Conservative City Conservatives, Mrs Ford spoke about her role in the European Parliament, and particularly her work on the Industry committee where she has been leading discussions on research and innovation funding in a bid to simplify the process and cut down on the bureaucracy associated with securing such funding for UK companies. Mrs Ford then took questions from the audience on issues including food safety, nuclear weapons, the Eurozone and global financial crisis and funding for research and development facilities in the Eastern region. Mrs Ford also led a lively discussion on localism and divesting power to local authorities.

Speaking after the event Mrs Ford said: "Opportunities like this to meet with people across such a spectrum of different industries are invaluable. The feedback I received on the key issues that really matter to people here in the East of England, such as the problems faced when securing research funding, and the issues associated with peer review, were incredibly useful and in fact I have already had the opportunity to raise the need to look at the impartiality of the peer review process, in the European Parliament on Monday."

For further information, photographs or quotes please contact Sarah Stamp, Press and Communications Officer to Vicky Ford, on 07584 028671 or at communications@vickyford.org

Download this as a PDF


27 SEP 2011

Local MEP at forefront of Eurozone negotiations

East of England MEP, Vicky Ford, has been in the front line of negotiations on new legislation that will be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday. The "Economic Governance Package" is one of the main political responses agreed by European leaders as part of the response to the Eurozone crisis. It will result in countries having a far greater say over each other's budgets and spending, as well as a future system of fines to discourage Eurozone countries from running up massive debts and deficits. Mrs Ford has been one of the six lead negotiators on the package which has taken nearly a year to agree, and significantly is the only negotiator from outside the Eurozone.

Mrs Ford explains: "This has been a marathon of a negotiation. Eurozone countries are bound by their common currency so may need to move closer together, but we also need to recognise this is not always true for countries outside the Euro. All too often people in Brussels forget that of the 27 EU member countries only 17 are actually in the Euro. Although the UK economy is affected by what is happening in the Eurozone we should not be swept into all the zones conclusions, and indeed there are many areas where we need to be treated differently.

"Most of my work has focused on improving budget forecasting and making public spending decisions in a more transparent way. Coming from a business background it is almost unbelievable how poor the financial decision making and information has been in some countries. In Greece, for example, budgets were based around the assumption that people paid taxes when due whereas taxes were often not being paid. Therefore the cash position was much worse than the forecasters predicted".

As part of the proposed new legislation, countries will now have to produce three year budgets, provide cash reconciliations and disclose all liabilities, including debts like the PFI contracts which are causing trouble for so many UK hospitals. There will also need to be an independent oversight of budgets, meaning that other countries will follow the example of the UK which brought in the Independent Office of Budgetary Responsibility last year.

Within the Eurozone, countries will have to pass their own national laws to cap their debts and deficits to levels agreed across the Eurozone.

Mrs Ford concludes: "We have negotiated a special exemption for this for the UK since we are not in the Euro, or thinking of joining the Euro. Gordon Brown's so called "golden rule" didn't stop our country running up massive debts, so we know how this sort of law can be manipulated. If the UK ever does decide to introduce new legal caps then this should be the decision of a UK government not at a level set in Brussels. We have also negotiated that fines and other sanctions also cannot be imposed on the UK".

For further information, photographs or quotes please contact Sarah Stamp, Press and Communications Officer to Vicky Ford, on 07584 028671 or at communications@vickyford.org

-Ends-

Download this as a PDF


26 SEP 2011

Local MEP takes "World's Biggest Coffee Morning" to Strasbourg

Vicky Ford, Member of the European Parliament for the Eastern region, is taking a fundraising challenge literally and has organised and will be hosting an event in aid of MacMillan's Cancer Care's "World's Biggest Coffee Morning" at the European Parliament buildings in Strasbourg on Thursday.

Mrs Ford, whose husband Hugo is an Oncologist at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, will be providing coffee and cake and has invited her colleagues at the European Parliament to attend the fundraiser, stating she is happy to accept donations for the charity in any currency that is readily convertible into sterling.

Mrs Ford said: "Cancer is such a terrible illness and it touches so many people's lives. Macmillan Cancer Care do a tremendous job offering support to families in crisis and I am keen to support them by raising awareness and funds for the cause. I've had a positive response from my European colleagues and am really looking forward to seeing lots of them at Thursday's event!"

For further information, photographs or quotes please contact Sarah Stamp, Press and Communications Officer to Vicky Ford, on 07584 028671 or at communications@vickyford.org

-Ends-

Download this as a PDF


16 SEP 2011

MEP addresses global financial forum

Vicky Ford, MEP for the Eastern Region, today addressed the Eurofi Financial Forum 2011 in Wroclaw, Poland, where she spoke on financial regulation for investment trusts. The international conference took place over two days and brought together high level financiers, politicians and financial regulators from right across the globe, including the President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, and the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner.

Mrs Ford was asked to speak following her work on the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and was able to provide a political view on the on-going shape of financial legislation.

Speaking after the conference, Mrs Ford explained: "This area, like many, is highly technical and the devil is in the detail. On one hand consumers investments should be adequately protected, on the other hand investors should not be excluded from taking riskier decisions, such as investing in some developing countries, provided they understand and are comfortable with the risks they are taking."

For further information please contact Sarah Stamp, Press & Communications Officer to Vicky Ford MEP, on 07584 028671 or at communications@vickyford.org.

-ENDS-

Download this as a PDF


09 SEP 2011

Brussels visit with MEP for local diversity group

On Tuesday 6th September 2011, a group of people from the Hertfordshire based Kaleidoscope Culture Club (KCC), a hub for ethnic minority communities, visited the European Parliament building in Brussels, and met with Vicky Ford, MEP for the Eastern Region. The group was made up of 29 delegates ranging in age and cultural backgrounds, and the meeting with Mrs Ford formed part of a two day trip to the European Parliament arranged by the East Hertfordshire and Broxbourne CVS and Kaleidoscope Enterprise.

Mrs Ford spoke to the group about what it means to her to be an MEP, and discussed her personal specialisms which include the economy and industry. She also discussed specific issues across Hertfordshire in which she has become involved, and how she is working hard to communicate with her constituents from all backgrounds across the county.

Michal Siewniak from the East Hertfordshire and Broxbourne CVS said: "The main purpose of the trip was to increase awareness of the EU, its history and its purpose amongst our members; but in fact it also enabled us to work on cross cultural dialogue amongst those who took part. We had a real mix of cultural backgrounds in the group, from Bangladeshi to Polish, and the trip was a great success, and a real celebration of diversity. Vicky explained in clear terms what the European Parliament does and what her role is within that, and we were amazed to discover the scope of her work."

Speaking after the event, Vicky Ford said: "It is always a pleasure to welcome those I represent and to give them the chance to see first-hand what goes on here in Brussels. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the role of an MEP, let alone the often bizarre workings of the European Parliament, and that is something I try to address where possible."

Download this as a PDF


16 MAY 2011

Babraham Research Campus visited by local MP and MEP to see impact of investment

Mrs Vicky Ford MEP and the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE, MP for South Cambridgeshire visited the Babraham Research Campus to see how the proposed £44M investment in their constituencies will contribute to economic growth for the life sciences industry and the region.

As a leading hub of life sciences innovation in the UK, the Babraham Research Campus plays a key role supporting the region's early-stage biomedical enterprises while also helping to attract inward investment. The funding is enabling the campus to build on its current strengths in research and innovation and expand the infrastructure to support the UK's life sciences industry. This is expected to help drive economic growth through the creation and development of new companies and new jobs, as well as extending the impact of public investment for society and the economy of the region and the UK.

Mr Lansley said, "It is wonderful to see first-hand the excellent work that is done here at the Babraham Research Campus in South Cambridgeshire. This significant £44M boost from the Government will help to foster new research and create new jobs in our region, putting Babraham firmly at the forefront of world-class biomedical and life-sciences research."

Babraham's Bioincubator Buildings, which currently accommodate 28 early-stage life sciences companies, are central to the campus' mission to create a supportive, entrepreneurial environment promoting bioscience innovation. Construction of a 5th Bioincubator Building is expected to commence later this month, providing a further 20,000 sq ft of flexible laboratory and office space as 30 lettable units.

The campus tour included a visit to the Bioincubator Buildings and facilities such as the Technology Development Lab (TDL), which was established to support early-stage biomedical ventures through providing access to state-of-the-art equipment and scientific expertise of the TDL staff.

Mrs Ford said, "I was extremely impressed by what I saw and learnt at Babraham. Here the UK is investing in our world-leading research capacity. The benefits not only support science and economic growth but also develop an understanding of medical conditions and diseases which we all hope will lead to better treatments in the future. I was also able to discuss with Professor Wakelam and his colleagues the substantial European budget for research and development. Whilst many researchers around Cambridge and the UK have benefitted from EU funding, it is still far too bureaucratic. Many colleagues in the European Parliament would like to divert parts of this science budget to less well off countries - that would be a mistake. Ideas discovered in centres of excellence like the Babraham Research Campus can help solve problems faced in all countries. Science funding must nurture excellence."

A unique aspect of the Babraham Research Campus is the proximity of a world-leading academic institute with commercial ventures, potentially facilitating the commercialisation of ideas emanating from basic bioscience research and delivering economic benefit.

Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute said, "We were delighted to introduce Mr Lansley and Mrs Ford to the high quality basic research carried out at Babraham and the approaches adopted to translate this and other research within Babraham's Bioincubator. This recent further investment will help to maximise the impact of public investment in bioscience research and strengthen the campus as a cluster for science and innovation in the UK."

Derek Jones, Chief Executive of Babraham Bioscience Technologies, the Institute's commercial company said, "This additional investment to the campus enables us to build on the success of our 4th Bioincubator Building, developed with financial support from BBSRC, which is already full. Our vision for a new building will therefore help to support exciting new companies and create jobs based on world-leading bioscience."

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) provides strategic funding to the Babraham Institute to support its international-quality life sciences research, which is generating new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing and lifelong health. Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said, "A great many studies have shown that investing in research and innovation is the most effective way to generate economic growth and job creation. The innovation facilities at Babraham and world-class research at the Babraham Institute have already attracted a thriving community of bioscience companies to the site. Further investment in innovation at the campus will help growth efforts to move up another gear." 

Download this as a PDF


21 APR 2011

PM and local MEP promise a joint fight on EU budget.

In a visit to Bedford on Thursday David Cameron met local Member of the European Parliament, Vicky Ford to discuss the upcoming fight against hikes in the EU budget. This followed Wednesday's request by the European Commission to increase the EU budget by nearly five percent.

The budget increase cannot go ahead unless it is supported by a majority of national governments and the European Parliament. Cameron has already succeeded in getting heads of states from many countries, including France and Germany, to agree to fight for a freeze. In the European Parliament, UK Conservatives voted against last year's 2.9% increase saying this was too high.

The prime minister said that the budget increase was totally unacceptable and showed how much the European Commission was out of touch with what is going on in nearly every country across Europe.

Vicky said "Just last Tuesday in Brussels we had a marathon set of votes on over 4,000 amendments to new laws on how countries should prepare budgets. MEPs agreed that countries should live within their financial means, not run up massive debts and that they should provide transparent accounts and spending forecasts so people can see where their tax money goes. MEPS also voted that the EU budget should be equally transparent – this was one of my amendments.

"Yet, the very next day the Commission comes up with a totally unaffordable and non transparent proposal. This would force countries like the UK to borrow yet more money. This is an irresponsible request for more money at a time when we cannot afford it. I would like to see the EU budget cut, but it is good to hear that David Cameron is lining up allies to at least freeze it.

Download this as a PDF


24 MAR 2011

"Cut Brussels Red Tape for businesses", demands Euro MP

East Anglian MEP, Vicky Ford, is taking the lead for the UK in a fight to cut European bureaucracy for businesses and universities involved in research programs.

European politicians are currently reviewing the 50 billion Euro budget for funding science and innovation. Many East Anglian Universities and companies take part in this scheme.

Vicky said

"This money can provide vital funds for our science sector - it is one of the few areas where the UK gets back as much from the EU budget as we put in. There is about half of the enormous 50 billion euro budget left to be allocated - I don't want it to be diverted from funding excellence in research to other pet projects of Brussels bureaucrats. However the scheme is also notoriously bureaucratic. It is vital that this funding is made more accessible to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and that the administration required during the application process is simplified for all concerned. I have this week tabled amendments - demanding a reduction in bureaucracy ."

Vicky held a roundtable discussion in December, at the Institute for Manufacturing in Cambridge, to hear from those in business and academia who have had firsthand experience of the current programme.

"Hearing those tasked with managing this long and expensive process with - no interim guarantees of success - made me even more determined to fight for improvements. Scientists told me that they see the benefits of collaborative cross-border research but not the paperwork .

"I was delighted to hear that the Chancellor has recognised the importance of science and research by committing an additional £100 million to invest this year in new science facilities. The East of England will benefit from some 1,000 new jobs with £70 million of this money being shared between The Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge and The Norwich Research Park for environmental and life sciences. This money comes directly from this year's extra bank levy and will be a real boost for this region.

"We need to work harder not just on access to funding but across the board to reduce red tape on businesses. I, along with my Conservative colleagues and MEPs from across Europe signed a petition by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) calling for a reduction in the administrative burdens on small businesses. Sadly, as a result of our own Labour MEPs amongst others not signing, there were not enough signatures to get the FSBs declaration adopted. In these hard times for businesses this is simply not acceptable; these businesses need the support of politicians from all political parties."

Download this as a PDF


18 MAR 2011

East Anglian Fishermen caught in EU quota net!

Vicky Ford, one of your local MEPs was finding out firsthand how EU policy impacts on those involved with the fish business in Lowestoft. Vicky was keen to hear how the current quota system impacts on the area's fishermen and discussing what they would like to see coming out of the new proposed legislation for the Common Fisheries Policy which will be announced on the 24th May.

Vicky said.

"I heard that currently it is not possible for a man with a boat to make a living out of being a fisher. I saw a catch of Skate which was one night's work, for which the fisher would have received £250 – but this was his entire quota for the month! A worrying side effect of this is that boats are now putting out to sea with just one man on board – I was told it was only a matter of time before this already depleted workforce lost a friend at sea."

"There are various options on the table for changing the existing system which sees millions of dead fish thrown back into the sea as discards - this has to change.

"One of the major concerns was that the complicated calculations needed to run a credits based quota model would not work for a fishing community such as this one. This is simply too much paperwork for the boats here which are 10 metres or under and are used for line fishing by just a crew of one or two fisher. Interestingly this size boat makes up 80% of our fishing fleet and yet has less than 3% of the quota.

Sam Cole and Mark Jermy of Sam Cole's Food Group showed Vicky around their state of the art Cold Store which was partly funded with an £800,000 grant from the EU. Sam said that Cod was currently being flown into Humberside from Iceland and transported to them, when there were decent Cod stocks just one mile off the coast.

Vicky explained,

"It was pointed out to me that the current system could be likened to a farmer having to put his fields to set aside, ie not being allowed to farm them, only to find a French farmer had turned up and was farming them himself.

The final point I found incredulous was that these men, working up to 14 hour days had calculated that the officials present on a morning in Lowestoft fish market earned more than the combined income of all the fishermen they were there to monitor. Two Marine Management Officers, one or two Environmental Health Officers, one Health and Safety Officer plus an occasional Customs officer for good measure. With their proposed days at sea quota the bureaucracy, personnel and as such the costs for the industry could be significantly reduced.

It seems to me that a good application of common sense needs to be applied and that listening to those in the industry is vital. I will take my findings back to Brussels and fight my own fish fight to get a fair deal for these fishermen."

Download this as a PDF


10 MAR 2011

Vicky Ford MEP - off shore in the North Sea

Since January Vicky Ford MEP has been meeting many experts from industry and regulators as well as reading as much as possible about the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, what went wrong and what processes and procedures there are in other countries to prevent a similar disaster - but no amount of reading is as useful as actually visiting a site.

Vicky explained,

"Last week I visited an Oil Rig and Platform about 250 miles off the Coast of Aberdeen, before the trip I had to pass the training course known as the "rinse and spin". This involves being spun upside down underwater in a mock up helicopter - release the seatbelt straps, punch out the windows and swim to safety. Let me explain why I did this.

"Post the Gulf of Mexico disaster the European Commission has announced that it intends to propose new legislation for offshore oil. The Commission launched a "consultation". Typically during such a consultation, one MEP will draft a report on the issue, others will vote propose amendments and the Parliament will vote on a series of recommendations. This can mean that MEPs can influence the Commission before the new law is drafted.

"Given that 2/3 of the EU Offshore Oil is in UK North Sea waters my group thought it was important this was steered by a UK MEP, the group "bid" for the report and then asked me to write it."

"The North Sea, including mostly UK and Norway, is considered to have an extremely good safety regime - partly because of the UK's own tragedy at Piper Alpha twenty years ago. There is a concern that if the EU introduces poor legislation this could undermine the UK system, on the other hand sharing experiences especially with countries where offshore drilling is relatively new can be helpful.

"As the price of Oil is rapidly rising due to political uncertainties we need to make sure our European supply is collected - but safely. In the report I make various recommendations, this report is now submitted and MEPs will now be able to submit their own ideas through amendments.

To avoid the "tick box" culture that had prevailed in the USA and instead move to a UK style site-specific approach. Whilst actually one is safer on a North Sea Oil rig than a farm, there needs to be faster, more transparent sharing of information regarding "near incidents" - for example more like the aircraft industry. North Sea operators are investing in containment equipment like the "cap" which eventually closed the Deep Water Horizon well. Given the offshore activity that is happening in the Mediterranean in areas like the coasts of Libya and Egypt it would be useful to have similar equipment on hand in the Med, experts have suggested in Malta.I don't want to have an EU super-regulator but there is a useful role for the European maritime safety agency to know what clean up equipment is available where and help co-ordinate if there is an incident."

Download this as a PDF


08 MAR 2011

Labour MEPs vote for EU taxes on the city

Strasbourg, 8th March 2011 -- A new tax on the City of London, controlled by the EU, has come a step closer after Labour MEPs backed a European Parliament call for an EU Financial Transaction Tax (EU FTT), Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative economics spokesman, warned today.

The Podimata report, backed by Euro-MPs today, will influence the European Commission, which is expected to come forward with proposals for EU tax-raising powers shortly. As well as an EU FTT, the report also calls for feasibility studies into an EU 'carbon tax' on every product sold.

Evidence from the campaign calling for an EU FTT shows that it would treble the UK's EU contribution to £20 billion. It would also redirect some tax receipts away from the UK Treasury, which raised £5.7 billion in financial services corporation tax in 2010.

Without a global agreement the FTT would also push transactions offshore to less-regulated markets. Countless jobs in both financial centres and in many related industries would be lost.

Socialist MEPs have led the campaign for an EU FTT, regardless of whether there is a global agreement, whilst the European Conservatives and Reformists group is calling for common sense to prevail so that such taxes are levied for national exchequers, with a global agreement to prevent the inevitable relocation that would occur.

Vicky said:

"Whilst it is absolutely right that financial services companies should pay increased taxes, this is not the way to do it.

"A European Financial Transaction Tax would be a tax on the City of London raised by Brussels to fund pet projects. No wonder Labour MEPs are so enthusiastic for it.

"Socialist MEPs show once again that they completely fail to understand the global nature of finance. Their slogan calls for the EU to regulate global finance as though the world stops at the borders of the EU.

"Labour MEPs want to treble the UK's payments to the EU. That is simply indefensible at a time when they should be seeking to cut what we pay to Brussels. Any Financial Transaction Tax levied must be in concert with at least the G20 countries, with revenues going to national exchequers, not to the EU.

"Imposing a tax of this nature without a global agreement would cause some of our financial services sector to relocate, losing the UK billions in tax revenues and costing untold jobs. The UK already has a bank levy in place which will raise ₤2.5 billion a year by 2012-13, thus ensuring bankers are making a contribution, and it is better designed to incentivise more stable financial practices."

Download this as a PDF


01 MAR 2011

Young female drivers hit by EU Court ruling on insurance

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP has described today's EU Court ruling on insurance premiums as 'a setback for common sense'.

The European Court of Justice has upheld the opinion of its top adviser and said that singling out women for preferential treatment contravenes Article 8 of the EU Treaty. The ruling will see insurance premiums for female drivers under the age of 26 rise by about 25 percent according to the Association of British Insurers.

Vicky Ford MEP said; "I blame the last Labour government for this. By signing the UK up to the Lisbon Treaty without the referendum they promised, they have opened the floodgates to nonsense court rulings like this one!"

The EU's top adviser based her advice on the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Lisbon Treaty. This is the same Treaty that saw the UK last month facing having to give prisoners voting rights. Women are now likely to face devastating hikes to their already sky-high motoring bills.

Vicky stated; "It is a statistical reality that young women have fewer accidents than young men and this should be reflected in their premiums. This is another example of how an activist European Court can over-interpret the Treaty."

The EU's rules on sex discrimination specifically permit positive discrimination in insurance if there is sufficient data to back this up.

Vicky said; "Unelected judges at the European Court of Human Rights have in this case overruled the will of democratically elected MEPs and governments; is it any wonder people are so disenchanted with the EU?"

The likely outcome of this decision is that everyone, on average, will pay more. If the same logic starts being applied to pensions annuities and private healthcare then things could become very expensive for all concerned.

 

Download this as a PDF


16 FEB 2011

MEP Speaks up for Luton's Van Makers

An EU law laying down ambitious new emissions targets should be good news for van drivers and for Luton´s Vauxhall factory. The report on "emission performance standards for light commercial vehicles" was passed by MEPs in a vote this week.

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, spoke up for Luton´s van makers in the debate in Strasbourg – and for van drivers in general.

Vicky said;

"Like much EU legislation this is a long winded title for a real issue. This means – the amount of emissions hence the amount of fuel used by vans. We have all faced rising prices at the pumps but for sole traders like builders, plumbers, carpenters - running their van is a business critical cost. They want fuel efficient vehicles and fuel efficiency has always been a key part of their buying decision.

"On the production line in General Motors factory in Luton I have seen that innovation also comes from the factory floor. It is one of GM´s most efficient factories with every staff member focused on how to improve. Achieving more efficient vehicles will need innovation and engineering improvements but we worked closely with industry to ensure that the targets are realistic and attainable.

"There are some who think just because EU targets are set they will be achieved - the truth is that achieving new innovations whether in vans or otherwise will come from consumer demands, manufacturers´ improvements and not just from the EU legislation."

The proposed regulation says that, from 2014, 70 percent of a manufacturer's vehicles must reach the target of 175g/KM, rising to 100 percent of the fleet by 2017. The proposals also introduce a longer-term 2020 target of 147g. Failure to meet the targets will result in a fine that will reach €95 per vehicle for every gram over the limit by 2019.

Download this as a PDF


13 JAN 2011

STOP THIS LUDICROUS WASTE OF FISH RE-ITERATES VICKY FORD MEP AFTER CHANNEL FOUR PROGRAMME

STOP THIS LUDICROUS WASTE OF FISH RE-ITERATES VICKY FORD MEP AFTER CHANNEL FOUR PROGRAMME

Brussels 12 January 2011. Following the Channel Four Dispatches programme last night in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall outlined the problem of a million tonnes of fish being dumped back into the North Sea, Conservative MEP for the East of England and amateur fly-fisher, Vicky Ford said:

" My email account has been buzzing all day with questions from residents of the East of England who watched last night´s TV program. They are right to be disgusted by the sights of healthy fish being chucked overboard and to ask what we, as their Members of the European Parliament, are doing about it.

This is not new news to those of us who have fought to end this obscenity. Indeed, this is not a problem confined to Europe. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) around 7.3 million tonnes of fish are dumped overboard by fishermen around the world every year. Although this is a dramatic fall from the estimated 27 million tonnes that was being dumped a decade ago, it is nothing to celebrate. The number of fish being discarded has fallen because global fish stocks are collapsing. Fishermen are catching fewer fish and therefore they are dumping fewer fish.

"There are an estimated 850 million people in the world today suffering from hunger. It is an obscenity that we stand idly by and watch the wanton destruction of global fish stocks and the dumping of unwanted and juvenile fish on this appalling scale. In the EU the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas say that 16 separate fish stocks are on the verge of collapse - but we nevertheless allow more than 1 million tonnes of fish to be discarded annually. As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall showed, the problem is particularly prevalent in the North Sea where around 70% of discards are demersal roundfish (e.g. cod and haddock) and flatfish.

"In Norway, it is illegal to discard fish and all catches must be landed. This provides Norwegian scientists with a much more accurate picture of the state of fish stocks on which they can base their management strategies. It also allows them to immediately close down areas where fish that are too young are being caught, allowing these fish to mature.

"Over 60% of the UK whitefish fleet has been scrapped in the last 6 years. Much of this problem can be traced to the way in which we operate our current system of fisheries management. Under the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, Brussels has imposed a ludicrously complex system of TACs (Total Allowable Catches), quotas and effort limitation (or restrictions on the number of days a fisherman can go to sea). As well as being the primary cause of discards, this mixed bag of controls, introduced mainly to aid the recovery of cod stocks in the North Sea, has failed to stop a rapid decline.

"This has not been the only cause of discards, however. Some fishermen have been guilty of high-grading, which involves dumping good healthy marketable fish, to make room in the hold for bigger, plumper and more expensive ones. Thankfully, this deplorable behaviour is less common now and seems to be on the decline.

"The EU has started work on a total reform of the fisheries policy. Formal papers will be presented this May but we have already been working hard to make sure that it deals with the issue of discards. To ensure that our East of England voice is heard, representatives from our own fishing community, environmentalists and other local organisations have already got together to submit an East of England response to an EU consultation. I contributed to that response.

"In Scotland they are trialling a new system whereby trawlers are equipped with CCTV - if the fishermen can prove they have not discarded fish they are rewarded with extra quota for the catch that they land, even if it is of a species that they had not intended to capture. This appears to be working well.

"We are also lobbying hard for the whole system of quotas and targets to be taken away from Brussels bureaucrats and instead run by local panels. This could for example involve a cross-border panel where nations have coasts on the same sea.

"European Institutions must see sense over this issue and I am hopeful that this upcoming review will lead to a radical reform that ends discards."

END OF RELEASE

Download this as a PDF


16 DEC 2010

Local MEP says dont break the British egg industry

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England will speak up for local egg farmers in a debate in the European Parliament today.

The European Commission announced plans to ban battery cages back in 1999 with the ban due to come into place in January 2012. The cost to UK egg farmers so far is esitmated to be £400 milllion in upfront investment to comply with the new rules which cover free range, barn and larger cages. However there is growing concern that certain other EU countries may not comply by the deadline. If the deadline is ignored or extended it will leave UK farmers open to an influx of cheaper, battery farmed eggs from overseas.

MEPs will today debate and vote on a resolution that calls for the ban on battery hens to be upheld and for non-compliant countries to urgently prepare action plans.

Vicky Ford MEP will say

"Like many British mums I want decent animal welfare standards and affordable eggs.

I am no poultry expert - my daughter's four attempts to keep pet chickens have fallen prey to the local fox. I do however trust our professionals - like Philip Wright, keeper of 30,000 happy and EU compliant hens that I visited on his farm in Moulton St Mary, Norfolk last month.

As the UK pig farming industry learnt to its great cost it is not financially viable to introduce higher animal welfare standards unilaterally.

The UK´s egg farmers put their confidence in the European commission by investing hundreds of millions of pounds getting ready for this new legislation. With public confidence in European Institutions at an all time low - now is not the time to play chicken with the egg industry."

Download this as a PDF


15 DEC 2010

MEPs Step up their Campaign for Small Businesses

East of England MEP, Vicky Ford, is calling on small businesses from across East Anglia to help a campaign to cut red tape across Europe.

Today in Strasbourg she added her signature to the "Action not Words" campaign which is supported by the UK´s Federation of Small Businesses. The campaign aims to force the European Commission to introduce a "one-in, one-out" rule for all new legislation and to make sure that the costs of legislation on small businesses are impact assessed before they are brought into law and once passed are then regularly re-considered.

Vicky Ford said "We all know that heavy handed European laws can put huge costs onto businesses - small and medium sized enterprises often bear the brunt of this. Surveys have shown that most small business owners spend on average seven hours a week just doing paperwork.

The campaign has good cross party support from UK MEPs but to be sucessful we need to make sure that the "Action not Words" campaign is supported by over 50 per cent of the 785 MEPs from across Europe - we have 8 weeks to get those signatures.

It would be very helpful if those readers with friends, colleagues and clients in other EU countries could encourage them to contact their own MEPs asking for their support. A simple email to any MEP asking them to support the written declaration number 88/2010 will make all the difference. If we get enough signatures from MEPs then the European Commission is legally forced to take action."

Ends

Download this as a PDF


08 NOV 2010

Port of call for Euro MP, Vicky Ford

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England on a recent visit to Harwich and Felixstowe docks was very pleased by what she saw. Even before being elected as an MEP last year, Vicky helped to support bids for EU funds to support Felixstowe docks with improved rail infrastructure.  

Vicky said,

"I was incredibly impressed by what I saw on both sides of the water. In Harwich the work relating to offshore wind turbine construction did not even exist 18 months ago and already they are leading the UK. This is a rapidly growing industry and we discussed the opportunity for jobs and growth that may come if the company is able to fastrack the Bathside Bay proposals for increased business in off shore wind. We also talked about other possible options for public support including EU funding.

The work on the Felixstowe side is also mind blowing - for a company like Hutchison Ports to invest £350 million at any time is impressive, for this to be happening in the middle of this recession is visionary. The new investment will allow Felixstowe to stay ahead of the game as the UK's largest container port and help to bring work back from overseas ports.

I was also pleased to get to see the railway network first hand. Getting freight off the roads and on to rail is a priority not only for road users but also for the port users and many of their customers too.

Hutchison Ports are currently bidding for approximately €5 million from the EU which will enable them to expand rail facilities and increase the number of containers per train by over 30 percent.

Vicky ended the day with a whistle stop tour of the Visual Arts Centre in Colchester.

She said,

"Colchester is about to be endowed an extremely impressive new building and whatever the debate has been in the past about the rights and the wrongs the building is there and it is time to look to the future. I heard from Firstsite that they are already taking bookings for the building 12 months ahead for the use of the facilities, this is no mean feat in these difficult economic times. I wish them every success and look forward to coming and seeing the building when it is completed."

 

 

Download this as a PDF


29 OCT 2010

East of England's electric vehicle bid shifts up a gear

The East of England's bid to become a haven for electric vehicle owners shifted up a gear today when the financial plans for a £7 million project to install 600 plug-in posts across the region were delivered to Westminster.

The East of England bid team was led by Vicky Ford MEP and Simon Wright MP, who delivered the region's final ‘Plugged in Places' business case to the Department for Transport's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

Talking about the East of England's bid, Vicky Ford MEP said:

"The East of England - the UK's ‘ideas region' - has today submitted an outstanding bid to become the UK's next ‘Plugged in Place'. Not only do we connect London and Milton Keynes, which are well underway installing their own charging post networks, but we also have the ideas and know-how to take full advantage of what an electric vehicle network could bring.

"With innovative local businesses throughout the advanced manufacturing and low carbon sectors, the East of England has the potential to lead the way and become a real test bed for new technologies - to drive forward the development of next generation electric vehicles. A successful Plugged in Places bid will provide the infrastructure required to unlock this potential and create significant supply chain opportunities for local businesses."

The East of England's bid, which is called ‘Evalu8', has provided detailed plans to install 600 plug-in posts across the eight key clusters of Bedford (75 posts), Cambridge (84 posts), Ipswich (63 posts), Norwich (84 posts), Peterborough (75 posts), Luton and Hertfordshire (105 posts), and Thames Gateway South Essex (114 posts), together with London Stansted Airport (10 posts).

The bid puts forward a proposal for £3 million funding from OLEV, with an additional £4 million committed by public and private sector partners and a pending bid for additional European funding through the European Regional Development Fund.

The planned network would mean that any local business or resident in the East of England would be no further than 25 miles away from their nearest charging post, making the whole of the region navigable by electric vehicles.

Evalu8 has received widespread support from a large number of organisations hoping to install a public plug-in post, including the 11 local transport authorities across the East of England. And with big industry names backing the project including EDF Energy, Vauxhall Motors, Ford, Lotus, BT, BAE Systems, Marshall Group and Millbrook Proving Ground, the East of England's bid is incredibly strong.

The University of Hertfordshire will take over from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) in leading the installation phase of the project on behalf of the region, should the bid get the green light from government later this year.

Keith Bevis, a director of EValu8 Transport Innovations Limited - the company set up by the University of Hertfordshire to manage the project - said:

"This is a really exciting time for the East of England. We are on the verge of leading a step-change in consumer culture. The lack of public plug-in points is seen as the biggest barrier to buying an electric vehicle. If successful, this major infrastructure bid to install 600 posts across our region - linking us to the London and Milton Keynes networks - will kick-start a consumer revolution.

"The University of Hertfordshire is proud to take the torch on behalf of the region. We are pleased that the team of EEDA staff and consultants Future Transport Systems will continue to work with us through these important planning stages. EValu8 will be a focus for innovation in the region."

Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South, said:

"The East of England leads the country in generating electricity from low carbon sources, and it would be appropriate for the region to also lead on electric vehicle infrastructure. The prospect of zero-emission cars driving around the region, powered by electricity generated by offshore wind from the east anglian coast is very exciting. In addition, this bid potentially leads to new jobs and investment across the region. We have the expertise, the ambition, and the support of industry to win this bid. I'm delighted to be backing it."

A final decision from government on the allocation of its Plugged in Places funding is expected by the end of December.

Download this as a PDF


08 OCT 2010

Visiting Anglia Farmers in Norfolk

Vicky Ford, one of East Anglia's MEPs, visited Anglia Farmers Limited today to meet with Clarke Willis, Chief Executive. During their meeting they discussed a wide range of issues including CAP reform, meeting Norfolk's broadband needs, food labelling and the egg industry, as well as the benefits of local biomass energy plants and difficulties with supplying larger power stations.

The topic of commodity derivative trading is soon to be presented to the European Parliament. Anglia Farmers is the UK's largest buyer of commodities such as fertiliser, agrochemicals, seed, feed and fuel for its members. Vicky was also interested to hear Clarke's views on the benefits of forward markets for farmers to risk manage the problems they face with very volatile pricing in fuel, wheat and fertiliser.

Vicky said "I was so impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of Anglia Farmers - putting its members' needs first in local as well as global markets. It is vital that we make sure East Anglia's voice is heard in these international negotiations."

Download this as a PDF


01 OCT 2010

European Parliament takes steps to unlock funding for research

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford today welcomed significant steps taken to simplify the process around accessing EU funding for research.

 The framework programme for research has a budget of around €51 billion, disbursed to a whole array of research areas from developing energy-efficiency technologies to crop science.

 Following appraisal of the existing programme and consultation with industry and universities, the parliament passed recommendations to enhance the current process and outline priorities for the next research programme, due to start in 2013. 

Proposals seek to simplify and accelerate the application process, ensure that funding is sustainable and rationalise financial controls, whilst maintaining transparency and accountability.

Vicky Ford said:

 "There are more businesses, universities and other research institutions participating in European programmes for research and development from the UK than from any other country.

However, the programme has a reputation for being the most bureaucratic in the world. A whole industry exists just to help people fill in the application forms.

In these difficult economic times it is vital that Europe prioritises its innovative industries and research centres - steps taken today will ensure monies earmarked for research actually reach the laboratory"

Ends

Download this as a PDF


14 SEP 2010

Letter to Editor - EU Funding

Dear Sir,

It is a little known fact that the UK has more universities, businesses and other organisations participating in European programmes for research and development than any other country. This is often research that can affect all our futures - from medical research, to testing disease resistant crops to the development of more fuel efficient cars.

This programme is a vast amount of public money - the EU budget for Framework 7, which runs from 2007 to 2013, is 51 billion Euros. In fact, the amount of money spent in the UK on Research & Development from EU budgets is about equal to the total amount of support given domestically through Research & Development tax credits.

The European system of "Framework" grants has a reputation for being the most bureaucratic and complex system in the world. Nevertheless, supporting research and development is vital for innovation and fundamental to future economic growth.

In light of this I have volunteered to be one of a small group of MEPs, and the only UK member, on a working group looking at the simplification of Framework grants and future strategy.

I would be interested in the experiences and opinions of readers across East Anglia who have been involved in Framework funding projects in the past. Please email comments to office@vickyford.org.

Yours faithfully,

Vicky Ford MEP
Conservative MEP for the East of England

Download this as a PDF


12 AUG 2010

Speech supporting East of Englands bid for Electric Car charging infrastructure

Thank you for inviting me to speak today and a pleasure to support the East of England's bid for the plugged in places initiative.

It is an honour to represent the East of England as an MEP and an even greater honour to be the only East of England MEP with a seat on the European Parliament's Industry, Research, and Energy Committee.

Electric vehicles are just one of the places where industry and research come together to help new energy solutions. It is no coincidence that these 3 subjects of Industry Research and Energy are all grouped together as one in the European Parliament. Industry needs Research for innovation and Research needs industry not just for investment but to ensure that ideas become real. Of the challenges faced by Industry and Research one of the greatest is the Energy one - it is not a single challenge but a 3 pronged attack - the need to meet ever increasing energy demand, the need for cleaner energy and the energy security challenge.

Across the East of England we are leading the work on how to meet this challenge. Not just nationally but across Europe and often Globally. When I talk about the East of England in the European Parliament I'm afraid I often use the C word. That's Cambridge - Heads turn across the entire debating chamber when I mention Cambridge - because the rest of Europe knows about our world leading university. They also know about the entire innovation cluster that has been built around that University over the past few decades. Other countries want to replicate this - what thSey often do not know is that we already have replicated it. With Cambridge being one of 5 world leading universities in the East of England and innovation clusters in every one of the 6 counties I represent including the one here in Hertfordshire.

In industry again we have world leaders. Last week I went to the Ford Research facility in Dunton, Essex. This is not Ford's East Anglia research facility, it's not their UK research facility or even their European one. It is their global research and development facility for developing Diesel engines. Every single new engine development is tested so it won't overheat in the Sahara sun and start in a Siberian winter - I'm sure you all agree thats pretty vital to cope with the weather at home this year. It is a critical facility, for meeting the energy challenge in vehicles will not in the short or even medium term be met by electric vehicles alone but by continually improving those fuelled by diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles too.

In electric vehicles the East of England is leading the world. At Lotus from Norwich produced the parts that make up over 40% of the Tesla electric car. Telsa is the first motor company to go public in the USA since 1956. We are also leading the drive for cleaner sources of energy. Those who have visited our Norfolk Beaches this summer will have seen the commitment to Offshore energy - and the East Anglian Array will bring many more. We have they are the cleanest beaches in Europe with clean energy too, not just renewable but at Sizewell in Suffolk nuclear as well.

But innovation in the East of England doesn't only happen in the laboratory - on the shop floor at General Motors in Luton I have seen first hand how ideas come from the bottom up. There is no co-incidence that this plant is GM's most efficient in Europe. I have seen similar stories in manufacturing facilities across the East of England. In Norfolk I've met the company that fits air systems for the world's tallest buildings to and another company makes that parts for NASA space programs- In South Essex I even met a maker of garden equipment whose good are so much in demand they export plastic products to china .

But is no good if ideas created here end up being embraced and adopted overseas whilst those of us at home are left behind.

The people of the East of England have already embraced the climate change challenge we do this every day in our own kitchen bins. Year after Year the East of England tops the league tables for household recycling. This was not achieved by local councils and businesses telling people how to behave but by giving people the access to the infrastructure that they needed to enable them to change. In the same way I believe our households are ready to embrace new energy savings technologies both in the home and on the road, but they need to be given the infrastructure to do so.

Driving an electric car is not a challenge. I was recently given the chance to test drive the prototype GM Ampera extended range hybrid in Brussels. The challenge is the infrastructure both for recharging and in creating a green sustainable electricity grid that can meet the charging demand. This will not happen overnight but it must begin.

In Spain you can now recharge your car at a phone box, Portugal started working on its national network of charging points nearly two years ago, there is already basic car charging network all over Finland which you can use to warm up your car on a winters morning and France's 14 point plan for electric car development calls for 2 million electric or hybrid vehicles on the roads by 2020. It is clear that we need to focus urgently on our own infrastructure or risk being left behind.

This needs investment we know that every penny of public money is few and far between. The value for money will need to be proven. The Plugged in Places bid is a first step in the infrastructure investment. The East of England's bid has the added benefit is not just public money but private investment too. I understand that our scheme will also bidding for European Funding through the European Regional Development Fund which here in the East of England has been earmarked for low carbon economic growth.
So to conclude here, in the East of England we are perfectly positioned to test drive the electric cars of the future. We have the research expertise, we have the manufacturing expertise, we have a population of consumers willing to embrace environmental innovation and we are rising to the challenge of providing clean green energy both from renewables and nuclear.

But we don't have one thing. I'm told there is a real white knuckle moment for every electric vehicle - this happens when negotiating a mountain range - will my car get to the top of the pass before it needs recharging? Well here in the East of England from Cromer to Watford, Southend to Peterborough and Lowestoft to Luton drivers will have a white knuckle free journey - No one will ever have to push a car up a mountain in East Anglia.

Download this as a PDF


05 JUL 2010

GM potatoes on the table for Vicky Ford MEP

Vicky Ford MEP dropped by The Sainsbury Laboratory on Norwich Research Park to see first-hand the ground breaking work they are doing to develop blight resistant potatoes, funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council. The research centre in Norwich has in the past benefitted from European funding for scientific research.

The new strains have been developed by introducing a gene for blight resistance from a wild South American potato into the commercial variety, Désirée, and the trial is designed to see how they respond to natural infection in the field.

Vicky Ford said:

"Most people will be aware of the catastrophic effect of potato blight in Ireland during the great potato famine but few may be aware that even today our farmers need to spray potato crops up to fifteen times a season to protect them from blight.

"If this trial is successful it will substantially reduce the need for chemicals, save energy and reduce prices.

"I was very impressed by the site security and the controlled manner in which this trial is being conducted - as potatoes are not grown from seed the trial has no risk of cross pollinating traditional varieties. If we are to protect the environment and meet food demand for the growing population, we need a sensitive, safe and intelligent approach to new developments."

Simon Foster, Laboratory Manager for The Sainsbury Laboratory said:

"It was a pleasure to meet with Vicky and to have the opportunity to explain how our approach to reducing losses due to potato blight will benefit consumers, farmers and the environment by reducing the chemical inputs associated with growing potatoes".

Catherine Reynolds, Head of Communications said:

"We were delighted to welcome Vicky to the campus. We were also able to give her a background briefing on nanotechnology as it relates to food. We hope this will be the first of many visits".

Download this as a PDF


03 JUL 2010

'EU phone home' - Conservative MEP hails end of exorbitant mobile bills when travelling

Conservative MEP for the East of England Vicky Ford has welcomed EU legislation which significantly caps data roaming bills when travelling in Europe.

Customers using their mobile phones in another EU country need no longer worry about running up such huge bills when surfing the web using mobile networks. Mobile roaming call charges are to be reduced further and operators will have to impose a monthly default cut-off for data roaming of around 40 GBP.

Vicky said,

"We have all heard the horror stories about mobile data charges when travelling abroad - that first phone bill after coming back from holiday can often be a real shock. These new rules will prevent UK consumers being charged horrific rates and provide clarity about how much we are actually spending when using our phones elsewhere in Europe.

I am delighted that these much-needed reforms have finally come into effect - families and businesses across the East of England will now have far greater certainty over the mobile charges they will incur while travelling in Europe."

 

Download this as a PDF


06 JUN 2010

Local MEP joins in the Brussels debate on future for Van manufacturers

This week, East of England MEP Vicky Ford took part in a Brussels debate on EU targets for carbon dioxide in vans - a key issue for General Motors in Luton, where around 1,400 people are employed on the van production line.

The EU is currently looking at legislation which would set long term targets, both for reducing CO2 emissions in vans, and for making them more fuel efficient. In the debate, Vicky explained how many van drivers, including self employed trades people, have told her their worries about rising fuel costs and their desire to drive fuel efficient vehicles. Earlier in the year she visited the General Motors plant in Luton, and saw at first hand the work that is being done on the production line.

"It is clear from discussions with General Motors in Luton and other manufacturers that they are already striving to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles and indeed the entire production process. It is important that the EU gets the right balance - the targets must be challenging, but should not be set so low that they are effectively impossible to achieve"

In the debate, Vicky also mentioned the issue of speed limiters. "It seems to me that if a driver chooses to buy a vehicle with a speed limiter, or another innovative technology to reduce fuel consumption, then the manufacturer should be allowed to count the resulting lower emissions when trying to achieve the target – this debate should not just be about the engine but a view of the vehicle as a whole. It would encourage manufacturers to be innovative and drivers having to spend less at the pumps. It is important that the voices of both small and medium sized businesses and large manufacturers are heard in this debate."

Download this as a PDF


05 JUN 2010

MEP calls for help not hindrance from EU on rural broadband

Vicky Ford, MEP for the East of England, raised the issues surrounding rural broadband access in the European Parliament this week. Speaking in a debate with Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital agenda, Vicky described the two-tier scenario that is developing between those homes and businesses with broadband access and those without.

Vicky, whose previous business experience included raising finance to build some of the UK's first mobile phone networks, has in recent months attended meetings in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to bring together members of the local council and representatives of local business as well as broadband providers.

Vicky said:


"This is a huge issue and I don't currently see a one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are lots of clever, innovative providers who want to help our towns and rural areas.

If isolated, hard to reach, areas are to achieve broadband access then it is important that there is a more efficient use of existing fibre and other infrastructure, including public sector owned internet connections.

However, when I have been speaking to council representatives and broadband providers in East Anglia, I have found a lot of confusion about EU state aid rules. These appear to be adding confusion and delay for projects which look to harness existing public sector infrastructure to deliver maximum benefit to local people.

It was pleasing to see such a senior Euro-official treating the matter of rural broadband with the same level of concern as I do. She has offered to meet me in the coming weeks so I hope we will get clearer guidelines that help unlock local solutions."

 

Download this as a PDF


16 MAR 2010

European Commission's damning indictment of Labour's debt crisis

Brussels, 16th March 2010 -- The European Commission will today criticise the Labour government's failure to tackle the national debt in a damning indictment on Labour's economic record.

The commission is publishing a report on the UK's efforts to meet the 2015 deadline of cutting its deficit, saying that it is unlikely to achieve sufficient savings. The commission also questions Treasury forecasts for the UK's economic growth in the coming years.

Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative Economic & Monetary affairs spokesman in the European Parliament said today:


"The European Commission has joined the growing chorus of businesses and investors warning that our soaring national debt must be tackled.

"Gordon Brown has failed to spell out how he would tackle the national debt crisis, whilst George Osborne has been straight with people even when the message was tough.

"This government has deliberately put off the difficult decisions that this country needs to take, and it has put party before the economic health of our country.

This is clear in the foreign exchange markets where the pound has fallen, it is clear in the bond markets where the UK is having to pay ever higher interest rates, and it is clear to international organisations like the European Commission.

We need a government that is honest about the challenges this country faces and not one which tries to hide them."

Ends

Please contact Vicky Ford: 0044 777 181 2976 for details.

Download this as a PDF


15 MAR 2010

"Conservatives will reignite the entrepreneurial engines"

Today (Monday 15 March), local Conservative MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden and Vicky Ford welcomed businesses from across the East of England to a conference in Cambridge to listen to business concerns and explain how Conservatives would help businesses to prosper.

Keynote speakers were Caroline Spelman MP*, Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Jonathan Djanogly MP*, Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Matthew Hancock*, Mark Spelman* and David Morall* from the East of England Development Agency who spoke about the current funding process.

Geoffrey Van Orden said:

"Cambridge is a recognised global innovative centre and therefore an ideal place to bring together businesses from across the region. The UK economy is in a poor state and needs urgent attention - Conservatives will reignite the entrepreneurial engines. It is business that will lead us out of the recession - in particular, our innovative capacity -and government needs to provide the right framework and get off the backs of business. That means cutting red tape, encouraging access to finance, and making it easier for businesses to create jobs. As MEPs we know that European legislation is a particular worry for businesses and that is an area that we are actively addressing."

Vicky Ford added:

"We wanted to ask businesses what we could do for them; and I'm delighted at the debate and feedback we've had today. I think the delegates came away with a clearer idea of how the Conservatives want to help business thrive again in this country. We heard many references to, for example, the need for improved high-speed broadband access and better access to research funding, and these are areas that we are focusing on."

Nick Hillman*, Conservative PPC for Cambridge commented:

"I want Cambridge to be at the heart of Britain's economic revival. We need to capitalise on its global recognition."

END

Download this as a PDF


12 MAR 2010

News from Strasbourg

The East of England's newest MEP, Vicky Ford has spoken out in three of the Parliament's debates that took place in this week in Strasbourg. The Parliament meets approximately once a month in Strasbourg and this is the main time MEPS join together a debating chamber - speaking time is strictly limited and MEPs have to bid for the opportunity to speak.

On Monday she warned against new taxes being implemented at a European level.

"There is a drive by some MEPs to use the financial crisis as an excuse to pass significant more power from the UK and other countries to the EU. I have no problem with asking banks to pay back the taxpayers for their bailouts - and would support Obama's proposed levy on banks as a globally co-ordinated move. But, the idea that the EU could start to extract its own taxes potentially on every UK citizen's pension fund, saving or investment is not acceptable. It is has always been sacrosanct that taxation is a national government decision and not subject to far removed decision makers in Brussels or Strasbourg".

On Wednesday, Vicky spoke out for UK citizens who have moved to Spain and found their dreams and livelihoods shattered when changes in planning laws have caused their homes to be bulldozed. She joined other Conservative MEPs Roger Helmer, Dan Hannan and Robert Atkins in a series of questions to the President of the European Council; the Presidency rotates every 6 months and is currently held by the Spanish. Vicky explained

"The procedures of the European Parliament are quite formal so it is sometimes difficult to get an issue a proper hearing. Whilst the Presidency is not strictly speaking meant to answer on domestic Spanish issues, some of us felt that this has been going on too long and just too far - people have lost their homes and their life savings, by asking a series of questions we certainly put the Spanish representatives on the spot. They got a clear message that UK MEPS are not prepared to let this issue fester out of the spotlight."

On Thursday Vicky was back again in a debate about investing in Low Carbon technologies. She supports new ideas for energy saving and diversification of energy for security reasons. She reminded the chamber that EU funds are taxpayers funds and pointed out that the East of England already has experience with using EU funds for investment and research.

"Companies and Universities across the East of England around Cambridge and elsewhere are often worldwide leaders in research. The EU has a phenomenal 50 billion euro budget for research. Some good projects have come out of the joint work that is done with other European countries and part funded from EU budgets. But there are also some very serious issues with bureaucracy, complexitiy (especially for smaller companies), inflexibility at adapting to new developments in science and some terrible stories about late payments from the EU to struggling businesses. Before the EU embarks on a new strategy for spending taxpayers money they could do with learning the lessons of the past."

Away from the main chamber, Vicky was also supporting moves to stop the "Strasbourg circus" which causes the Parliament to up-sticks each month from Brussels to Strasbourg at vast cost to the tax payer. In a debate on financial services and specifically financial derivatives she described her recent visit to Thomson Holiday's head quarters in Luton. They are the UK and Europe's leading holiday company which organises holidays for over 30 million people every year. She pointed out that they, like many other companies, need to manage foreign exchange and fluctuating commodity costs like airline fuel - She implored other MEPs to understand that new EU regulations on derivatives must make sure that it becomes impractical for companies to hedge their risks. The costs would be borne by the customers, whether on their holiday or at home.

For further information contact
Vicky Ford 07771 812 976
vicky.ford@europarl.europa.eu

Ends

Download this as a PDF


11 FEB 2010

Local MEPs give boost to horse welfare

 

 Local Conservative MEPs Geoffrey Van Orden and Vicky Ford have strongly supported a campaign organised by World Horse Welfare to end ill-treatment of horses being transported for slaughter, a problem largely affecting horses on the continent of Europe.

Currently some 100,000 horses a year are being transported across Europe to slaughter, many of them without proper rest, food or water and in overly cramped conditions.

A written declaration (similar to a House of Commons Early Day Motion) calling on the Commission to enforce rules governing the welfare of animals during transport to slaughter was adopted by the Parliament today (11 February), after Conservatives actively campaigned for the necessary number of signatures.  

They emphasised, however, that this initiative focuses exclusively on slaughter horses, and warned against unnecessary legislation being imposed on the thoroughbred trade and racing sector, which already upholds exemplary animal welfare standards.

 Geoffrey Van Orden said,

 "Conservatives are very supportive of animal welfare measures. Now we want to see that rules already in place are properly enforced on the continent. A distinction has to be maintained between the transportation of animals for slaughter and for other reasons. In the UK, and in the East of England, the thoroughbred industry has an excellent record on transport conditions, and of course, has an interest in seeing that the horses are treated well in transit. Horseracing and breeding is an important part of our local economy, employing some 7,000 people in the Newmarket area."

 Vicky Ford said,

 "Horse lovers across the East of England have been totally shocked by the stories that have unravelled from continental Europe. Most of these journeys are completely unnecessary as slaughter facilities exist across Europe - we want to see an end to slaughter horses being moved around like this. There has been an overwhelming response to the World Horse Welfare campaign from East of England residents, and I am delighted the declaration has been adopted."

 

END

 

Download this as a PDF


14 JAN 2010

EU COMMISSION SHOULD NOT KEEP RECORD £1.5 BILLION MICROSOFT FINE FOR ITS OWN ENDS

The record fine levied against the Microsoft Corporation for its anti-competitive behaviour should not be kept by the European Commission for its own ends, Conservative Economic spokesman in Brussels Vicky Ford said today.

Microsoft were fined for bundling of its internet explorer web browser with its dominant windows operating system.

In a statement from Brussels Vicky Ford said,

"The fine is a welcome shot across the bows for industrial giants who try and monopolise the marketplace. However, it will be of little benefit to consumers if the Commission keeps the money for its own ends.

The money should go back immediately to the member states that contribute to the EU Budget. Britain would receive hundreds of millions of pounds from this fine alone - a welcome boost to hard-pressed public budgets.

Imagine how helpful that would be to innovative British businesses that are often the victims of anti-competitive behaviour and struggling in today's recession.

When the government has only offered £150 million to its own innovation fund, this potential source of money could be a vital lifeline.

The European Commission cannot lecture people on monopoly if they then monopolise fines, hoarding the money for themselves."

Download this as a PDF


14 DEC 2009

EU urged to look to Cambridgeshire as model for the future

Whilst debating the future of European development in Strasbourg today, local Conservative MEP Vicky Ford urged the Commission President José Manuel Barroso to look to Cambridge as an example of successful research and innovation.

The president took part in a question and answer session on the vision for the future of Europe, dubbed 'EU 2020'. This includes a suggestion of investing in 'European Research Areas'. Vicky stressed that there are already excellent examples of world-leading, innovative R&D in Cambridgeshire and that other countries could benefit for learning from our own experiences. She said that otherwise the EU risks saying one thing and doing another.

Mr. Barroso passed on his congratulations to all those involved in creating the Cambridge phenomenon and emphasised the need to follow suit across Europe.

Vicky said:

"The aims of the 'EU2020' are laudable but in many ways they describe a utopia. We need to think about how to practically implement them. One of the key lessons that can be learned from Cambridge's world-renowned scientific cluster is the importance of financing for research and to help start-up companies establish and grow.

Unfortunately, some legislation in other parts of Mr. Barroso's Commission risks stifling these sources of funds, completely contradicting the aims he claims to be pursuing. Just last week a group of MEPs were told by the UK's Wellcome Trust that
new regulations for investments could reduce the amounts they have available for research by up to 2/3 - given that Wellcome Trust gave over £600 million to medical research last year alone we should treat their concerns very seriously. I am worried that Mr Barroso did not appear to have made the link between new regulations on financial services and the impact on funds available for innovative companies and research.

I welcome Mr. Barroso's praise for our region and sincerely hope he uses our experiences to better implement his strategy for Europe."

ENDS



For further information please contact Vicky on +44 777 181 2976

Download this as a PDF


14 DEC 2009

Local MEP calls for Brussels to tighten its belt and reject inflated EU Budget.

On Thursday the European Parliament will vote on the EU's budget for 2010. The total of nearly €123 billion is roughly equal to the amount spent on the entire NHS for England in a similar time period. The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU's budget. Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, announced her intention to reject any increase in the EU budget by voting against it in Strasbourg this week.

Vicky said

"We are now being asked to vote through an increase of €3 billion from last year, above the rate of inflation. In my first 6 months in the European Parliament I have seen politicians constantly asking for more and more taxpayers' money but very little attempt to find even the most basic of savings.

"About 80% of this money is sent back from Brussels to fund projects in different countries including the UK. Some of these are excellent projects, for example, East Anglia recently received €9.2 million to upgrade the railways for freight. However, recycling British taxpayers' money through Brussels is extremely bureaucratic and often adds additional costs.

"At home we know that our public spending needs to be reduced both in Westminster and locally - many Councils across East Anglia are already struggling hard to balance the books. Continually boosting the budget, especially in such dire economic times, is completely irresponsible; Brussels' politicians must be held to account."

For Further information please call:

Vicky Ford (+44) 7771 812 976

Download this as a PDF


02 DEC 2009

Local MEP stamps down on dodgy drugs

Local MEP and doctor's wife Vicky Ford has been leading discussions in Brussels this week on combating counterfeit drugs in the UK and in Europe.  MEPs are currently working on legislation to protect patients from counterfeit medicines.

 

According to the UK government's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, 70,000 packs of false medicines managed to enter the UK last year during a period of just 5 months.  Most of these, fortunately, were seized, but 25,000 packs managed to reach patients.  It is not only lifestyle drugs that are targeted by counterfeiters but serious, lifesaving medicines as well.

 

Vicky Ford said:

 

"We are all aware of dodgy drugs that are sometimes sold over the internet.  What may come as a shock is how many falsified medicines sometimes find their way into traditional pharmacies through no fault of our highly diligent and professional pharmacists. Counterfeiting drugs is a highly sophisticated and organised criminal network. We need to work cross-border with other countries to tighten security and stop these drugs from entering the supply chain.

 

New rules being worked on in Brussels will help to provide protection to pharmacists, prescribers and producers but above all my first consideration is patient safety.  This is a good example of countries working together, although we must not allow it to slip into the realm of Brussels bureaucracy and unnecessary extra costs."

 

For further information contact Vicky Ford MEP 07771 812 976

 

Ends

Download this as a PDF


26 NOV 2009

European Parliament must stop wasting taxpayers' money says Ford

Local MEP Vicky Ford says the EU should not get complacent despite an improved Court of Auditors' Report.

As the recently published report was debated in the European Parliament today, Mrs. Ford said that there was a perception in Britain - the second largest contributor to the EU budget - that money was treated frivolously. This perception was eroding trust in the European Institutions the MEP said.

Speaking in the Strasbourg chamber, Mrs. Ford said,

"European finances cause great concern to my constituents and British people. The UK is the second largest contributor to European budgets and if there is one single issue that drives a wedge between Britain and Brussels it is the perception that taxpayers' money is treated frivolously by the European Union. This is true in other countries too. It is not just about a set of accounts but a fundamental breakdown in trust between the organisations represented here and the people we represent back at home.

"We must take note of the auditors' opinion. Yes, it is better than previous years, however even a clean audit opinion would not be in itself good enough. Every month since I was 18 I have received a statement from my bank - the numbers always add up, the audit report would be "clean", but that does not mean I have always spent my money wisely.

"If we are to deserve even a grain of respect from those we seek to represent then at this dire economic time we must treat our taxpayers with respect. This is my message to politicians at home, across the EU and to those of us gathered in this unnecessary, expensive second chamber in Strasbourg: we must stop wasting taxpayers' money." Ends

View full speech here

Contact: Vicky +44 (0) 7771812916

ECR Press Office - Alex Benjamin +32 (0)476 056 450

Release: immediate
Released by: Vicky Ford MEP
Contact: +33 (0)3 88 1 75672

Download this as a PDF


19 NOV 2009

Local Conservative MEP driving Europe¬’s energy saving agenda

Local MEP Vicky Ford has been very influential in forcing Europe to take a more responsible approach to energy consumption. Last night crunch meetings between leading MEPs and representatives of national governments finally produced an agreement on promoting energy savings in buildings prior to the start of the Copenhagen summit on climate change.

 

The EPBD (Energy Performance in Buildings Directive) is seen as a key part of Europe's strategy to meet its 2020 targets for emissions, since over 40% of European energy consumption is in buildings.

 

The UK has already set ambitious building standards to help homeowners reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. The Directive, which seeks to align the rest of Europe closer to UK levels, had passed through the European parliament with an overwhelming majority back in April but hashing out the final details with national governments has taken until now.

 

The UK's self-imposed target is for all new buildings to be zero energy by 2016, whereas the new European standard will be for "nearly zero" buildings by 2020. The agreement still requires Parliament's rubber-stamp before passing into law.

 

UK Conservative Vicky Ford was one of five MEPs from across the continent leading the last minute negotiations, she said:

 

"The need to reduce energy use is a critical issue, not just because of climate change but also because of mounting concerns regarding energy security. We can act at a UK level but we need a more international solution - this is an area where the EU can add value.

 

"We have agreed standards for new buildings, for renovations of existing buildings and common procedures for Energy Performance Certificates which so many UK residents have already found critical in helping them reduce their own utility bills.

 

To achieve consensus on many key issues of energy use amongst 27 different countries is definitely a step in the right direction but if we are really to tackle the growing energy crisis mankind will need some bigger leaps"

 

Release: immediate
Released by: Vicky Ford MEP
Contact: +44 (0)7771812976

Ends

Download this as a PDF


13 NOV 2009

Buncefield issue still burning in Brussels

Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for Hertfordshire, urged members of the European Parliament from all across Europe not to forget the lessons of Buncefield.  Taking part in a major debate on Europe's future gas storage capacity Vicky quizzed industry experts and academics on how the safety of local residents should be prioritised when planning future storage facilities for both oil and gas.

 

Vicky explained,

"In the UK there is a need for more gas storage. We have only 16 days worth of gas stored whilst Germany has enough for 73 days of consumption and France has enough for 91 days.  However, local people are concerned about safety.  The explosion that occurred at the Buncefield oil depot in 2005 resulted in the largest fire in Western Europe since World War II.  There were no fatalities but it could have been far worse.  Just round the M25 in Essex there are 45,000 people living close to a gas terminal on Canvey Island with only one exit route; they deserve to know that their safety is being taken into account."

 

In response to Vicky's question Mr. Kramer, chairman of Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), agreed that this is a vital issue.  He told MEPs that the track record of Europe's gas companies is excellent but they must remain vigilant and continue to maintain high standards of safety. 

 

Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge, director of the Research Institute for Energy Economics at Cologne University, added that there should be European standards for maintenance and safety levels of gas storage facilities.  He also explained that in some European countries gas can be stored underground in natural caverns.  Europe is considering creating a better network of gas pipelines so that in the future it may be possible for British people to share these underground stores.

 

Vicky concluded,

"We cannot afford to be 'NIMBY' but we must try to make sure that sites are put in the safest possible places."

 

Download this as a PDF


12 NOV 2009

Brussels Legislation could cost pensioners up to 20% of their annual income.

 

Following meetings in Brussels this week, Vicky Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England has warned pensioners that proposed EU rules could reduce their income by between 15-20%. 

 

Vicky took part in a questions and answers session with financial experts from across Europe.   She asked Europe's largest pension fund manager APG Asset Management how much it could cost pensions if new rules limit pensions funds to only being able to invest in traditional European stocks and shares and bonds.

 

APG told Vicky that the returns would be hit by 1 - 1.5% each year. To make up for such a reduction, either premiums for those still working would have to increase by 15-20%, or pensioners would see their income drop by a similar amount.

 

Around €230 billion of pensioners' money is invested by APG.  As well as traditional equity and bond markets, they now invest around a third of the money in what the EU is calling "Alternative Investments" this includes a wide range of different options from privately owned companies, to real estate, developing countries and hedge funds.  

 

Vicky explained

"The EU is introducing new rules that are intended to help protect investors from repeats of the market collapse that occurred during the credit crunch.  As with so many of the laws made in Brussels what started as a sensible intention now potentially goes much further.

 

Gordon Brown took the first 20% off pensioners' income when he raided the pension funds in 1997 - we can't afford to lose another chunk of our savings to poorly thought-out EU laws.  I will be doing my best to make sure that before these rules are finalised we dig into the detail and keep the costs for savers to more sensible levels. "

The full text of the Directive can be found here: 

http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/investment/alternative_investments_en.htm#proposal

Download this as a PDF


06 NOV 2009

"Conservatives continue to play a key role in Europe - letter to the Guardian 5 November 2008"

Dear Sir,

 

40% of Europe's energy is consumed in buildings. To show leadership in meeting climate change challenges the EU must deliver agreement on the proposed Energy Performance in Buildings Directive prior to the Copenhagen Summit. To this end, I have joined key MEPs from all parties across Europe this week to press ahead with negotiations between the Parliament, the Commission and the Member states in meetings that have run late into the evening. It is the nitty-gritty of heating, insulation and even air conditioning systems that ultimately drives our energy consumption.

Far from being marginalised in Europe, as some opposing politicians like to suggest, British Conservatives continue to play a key role in all areas of European legislation.  Indeed, their only complaint should be that British Conservatives are continually breaching the 48 hour week.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Vicky Ford

Conservative MEP for the East of England

 

 

European Parliament

05M085

Rue Wiertz

Brussels 1047

Belgium

 

+0032 2 28 47672

Download this as a PDF


03 NOV 2009

Lloyds break up must bring benefits to taxpayers and economy

Brussels 3 November 2009. Conservative Economic and Monetary Affairs spokesman in Europe Vicky Ford MEP today welcomed the break up of Lloyds and RBS as promoting greater competition in the UK banking sector but about the risks to taxpayers and the economy as a whole.

 

As part of the State aid requirements of the European Commission, the Government has agreed restructuring plans for RBS and Lloyds that include the divestment of a significant proportion of their retail and corporate banking assets over the next four years.

 

Ms Ford said,

 

"UK businesses and borrowers need access to a competitive bank market to get bank lending and the economy moving again, the intention of increased competition should be welcomed.

 

However, UK tax payers will be stunned by the vast amount of additional money that the government is proposing to put into the banks - nearly £40 Billion and more than the original bail out.

 

It is also vital that good parts of Lloyds or RBS are not disposed of at firesale prices. 

 

Ultimately this will come down to the government getting the best value for the taxpayers from sales - sadly the current government does not have a great record when it comes to asset sales - remember the gold." Ends

 

Contact: Vicky on +32 (0)2 2284 5672

ECR Press Office: Alex Benjamin +32 (0)476 056 450

Download this as a PDF


23 OCT 2009

Tory MEPs celebrate EU funding success

Tory MEPs celebrate EU funding success: East of England to receive £8 million for rail improvements

 

Local Conservative MEPs have expressed their delight at the announcement that £8 million of European funding has been granted for train line improvements in East Anglia.

 

On Wednesday (21 October), the European Commission released details of the first group of projects that will benefit from a total of €500 million worth of investment in vital transport infrastructure projects across the EU.

 

One of only three projects awarded funds in the UK is the Felixstowe to Nuneaton railway enhancement works.  The EU is contributing 20% of the £42m development, which will allow more freight to be transported by rail.   It is hoped this will alleviate congestion on the busy A14.

 

Conservative MEPs for the East of England, Geoffrey Van Orden, Robert Sturdy and Vicky Ford, were integral to the process, putting pressure on Network Rail and the Department for Transport for many years to make a bid for European money.

 

When an application was finally submitted earlier this year, the three Tory MEPs pushed hard for it to be accepted, with Mr Van Orden using his role on the Parliament's Transport Committee to ensure its success.

 

Mr Van Orden commented, "We have been fighting for this for years - we are delighted to have secured such a significant sum of money to benefit the people of East Anglia.  EU funding is in reality nothing more than British tax-payers money recycled through Brussels, so it's important we see more of it being put to good use for local benefit."

 

Mr Sturdy said, "We are pleased to see this official announcement from the Commission that they are supporting this project.  This money will bring much needed improvements to the Eastern Region's transport infrastructure."

 

Mrs Ford added, “This is excellent news for those of us who are fed up with traffic jams.   Making adaptations to the railway network to allow East-West freight to travel by rail provides a cost-efficient alternativ