Measures unveiled today by the European Commission to tackle unfair practices in the food supply chain are an important step forward, according to Conservative Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre.
The proposed directive aims to protect farmers and suppliers from practices including the cancellation of contracts for fresh produce at short notice, late payments by retailers and by demanding more clarity in agreements.
It draws on the experience of the UK's Groceries Code Adjudicator, a position created in 2013 to re-evaluate the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.
Miss McIntyre told MEPs today that she warmly welcomed the Commission's proposals.
She said: "Farmers don't always get a fair price and they don't always get fair treatment. Processors and supermarkets are often those who take the lion's share of the profit when of course they wouldn't take any profit at all were it not for the raw commodity provided by the farmers.
"The UK adjudicator is a very good example of how to make progress in this area and I am pleased to hear the Commission has used it as a model. When the system was set up one of the worst practices I came across was of farmers being charged by supermarkets for replying to customers who wrote complementing the quality of a product.
"Proof of the effectiveness of the adjudicator is that the number of complaints and issues raised by farmers has reduced year on year."
Introducing the proposed directive today, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed the UK "had been specifically looked at in drawing up this proposal."
He added: "Companies have come into line as a result of the work of the groceries adjudicator."
Mr Hogan stressed the EU measures would complement, not replace, steps already taken by Member States.
Measures which would have made it easier for companies to work across the European Union have been rejected today in a move branded protectionist by a senior Conservative MEP.
Daniel Dalton said the internal market committee's decision exposed politicians who claimed to support the internal market but then voted to restrict competition.
Mr Dalton, the Conservative's Internal Market spokesman, said: "Today the goal of opening up the internal market for services has been set back years.
"The report was backed by Europe's businesses, particularly small and medium sized firms, and would have helped consumers access a wider variety of services. Yet some MEPs chose narrow protectionism over a freer market. I was particularly disappointed to see British Labour and UKIP MEPs joining forces to help defeat sensible proposals that would have considerably reduced red tape for UK companies.
"In recent years we have made good progress in establishing a single market in goods but not nearly enough in services. Today the stalling continued."
Under the draft laws companies wishing to provide their services in another EU country would have been able to complete administrative formalities in their own country and language. While they would still have needed to adhere to local laws, such as labour rules, the so-called e-card aimed to reduce much of the bureaucracy that comes with offering services in another Member State. Construction was expected to be one of sectors to benefit most from the reforms.
Flemish MEP Anneleen Van Bossuyt, who belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group along with UK Conservatives, was a co-rapporteur for the report along with Morten Lokkegaard from ALDE. Both supported the proposals.
Responding to Jean-Claude Juncker's letter congratulating Vladimir Putin on his election victory, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:
"This is a disgraceful letter from Jean-Claude Juncker.
"To congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election victory without referring to the clear ballot rigging that took place is bad enough. But his failure to mention Russian's responsibility for a military nerve agent attack on innocent people in my constituency is nauseating.
"The European Commission President is appeasing a man who poses a clear threat to western security."
Airlines based outside the EU could face protectionist measures against them after the European Parliament’s Transport Committee voted to update the EU’s competition rules today.
The revision to the EU’s aviation rules would allow the EU Commission to impose penalties on third-country airlines before complaints against them have been properly investigated. The plans would also allow the Commission to sanction airlines flying under Member States own bilateral aviation deals.
Conservative Transport Spokesman, Jacqueline Foster MEP, said: “MEPs have really scored a hat-trick today by backing revisions that could increase ticket prices for consumers, cost jobs and send a protectionist message to our partners around the globe.
“This revision would enable uncompetitive European airlines to complain about their rivals and give the EU Commission the power to punish them before reviewing the evidence. It's right we crack down on unfair competition but it is outright protectionist to sanction airlines, who may not be guilty, before their case has been heard.
“Consumers benefit from having access to airlines from around the world; it drives down prices, provides greater choice and a better service.
“The EU should not be interfering in Member States own bilateral aviation agreements. It’s a clear power grab by the Commission to claim the right to investigate these agreements and impose penalties on airlines.”
She added: "The UK has a world class aerospace industry providing thousands of high skilled jobs, with customers around the globe. If the Commission starts cracking down on our trade partners unfairly, it jeopardises those trade links, putting British jobs at risk."
Time is running out for countries to make good on their pledges to help Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar before the monsoon season arrives, a Conservative MEP warned today.
Speaking after visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh, Baroness Mobarik said it was not acceptable that 40 per cent of the initial $83 million promised by the international community to the UNHCR had still to be donated. Tomorrow the United Nations is expected to call for hundreds of millions of dollars more to be made available to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Baroness Mobarik said: "Almost 1 million refugees are living in makeshift shelters built on steep sandy hills that are at risk of collapse when the monsoon rains arrive. The conditions are desperate now. If the shelters and temporary latrines get washed away the situation will become intolerable, contaminating drinking water and heightening risk of serious disease such as cholera.
"Bangladesh has stepped up to the plate and is doing its best. So are the aid agencies on the ground. But they cannot look after hundreds of thousands of refugees without help and it's unacceptable that some countries have acknowledged the disaster I saw unfolding, promised money but then do not followed up on their pledges.
"The refugees cannot wait. The monsoon is coming and before that danger of cyclones. They need help now."
Scotland MEP Baroness Mobarik travelled to several Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh the largest of which, Kutupalong, is now equivalent in population size to the country's fifth largest city. She met officials from UNICEF, the UNHCR, Oxfam and the Bangladeshi aid agency BRAC. She also held discussions with the British High Commissioner, representatives of the Bangladesh Government and the EU delegation to Bangladesh.
Baroness Mobarik added: "Of course the goal has to be a political solution that allows the Rohingya to return to their homes in Myanmar with guarantees over their safety and long term security. But that must not distract the world from addressing the very serious immediate problems the refugees face."
Page 6 of 88