Vicky Ford MEP

Member of the European Parliament for the East of England

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18 JAN 2016

Personal protective equipment

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the issue of personal protective equipment.

This file has been an interesting case study of:

-how the single market operates for both businesses and consumers across the EUs 28 different countries,

-The roles of the commission, Europe council of ministers, and the European Parliament and how they interact

-and why is important to have a seat at negotiating tables.

Just a few weeks ago, many of us saw the shocking images of a factory in Turkey manufacturing thousands of fake life jackets. Instead of helping a person to float these jackets would make it more likely that the wearer would drown.

In order to prevent fake fraudulent or dangerous equipment from entering our markets the European Union has had common standards on PPE for over 25 years.

This covers lifejackets, crash helmets, safety harnesses as well as equipment used in so many different work places.

I'm sure colleagues will remember the recent Ebola crisis, where PPE was crucial to protect nurses and doctors from infection.

Our European rules cover the responsibilities of the manufacturer, any importer and distributor.

They make it easier for our market surveillance authorities to track products that are found to be dangerous and remove them from the market.

Having a common standard across Europe can often help our manufacturers to secure sales in other parts of the world, thus boosting our own trade.

The technical changes in my report that we are debating today will help simplify and modernise the legislation.

This is welcomed by manufacturers, by consumer organisations and by all market players - and I welcome this too.

However one of the key quandaries of the single market is always how much standardisation is necessary. In the Commission's initial approach they suggested increasing the scope of the legislation to domestic gloves.

I believe we need a better approach to regulation; new laws should be based on a clear analysis of the costs and benefits. There was no impact assessment to justify the increase the scope.

Furthermore I do not believe that we need an EU level agreement on what we wear in our homes to do the washing up. Fundamentally I went into politics to get out of the kitchen, not to write rules about what people do in their own sink.

I'd like to thank my colleagues in this Parliament's Internal Market committee for voting to reject the Commission's suggestion to extend the scope to domestic gloves ...

We then went into a negotiation with the Council, the representatives of Europe's 28 governments. After much discussion they agreed with most of what the MEPs had suggested.

There will be no EU law on domestic washing up gloves; there will be no EU law on those handmade artisanal products which we see in our Christmas markets and craft fairs.

But 27 of those ministers have voted by large majority that they would like an EU law on factory-made oven gloves - I personally don't see this need but I do respect their democratic decision.

Furthermore I understand that many countries including my own already have market standards on these products, so I do not believe that this particular element will add to costs for consumers. I concede.

The gloves are off - or at least the washing up ones. There will not be an EU law on umbrellas or reflective running kit.

By being at the table and involved in the detail we have managed to negotiate a better position.

I tabled 146 amendments to the commission proposal, largely to simplify rules and remove bureaucracy, 117 of those amendments are now in this final legislation.

By being at the table and negotiating the detail, there will be simpler, clearer, less bureaucratic and also safer rules for what is so often life-saving equipment. This has been done in a manner that should not increase costs for consumers, manufacturers or market authorities but will make it easier to trade across the EU and further afield.

I thank you for your support.

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My Political Priorities

Economic Stability must come first. Without a strong economy we can not deliver a strong society. I work with businesses and consumers to keep Britain open for business, cutting red tape, boosting trade opportunities and helping to deliver jobs and growth for all.

I support Science and Research which is key to delivering better medical care and improved lifestyles for all our families.

Strong security is vital in today's uncertain world, which requires robust policing and defence and deep international relationships that we can depend on. I work with others to achieve this.

I care about the Countryside and the Environment and making sure that rural and urban communities flourish.