Conservative MEPs have backed moves to make news and current affairs programming more widely available across the EU.

The draft legislation approved today by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee would mean broadcasters could not stop viewers in one country from watching such programmes in another, so called "geoblocking".

However, damaging proposals to extend the move to other copyrighted content such as entertainment programmes, which would have undermined the business case underpinning  popular TV productions, were defeated with Conservative support.

Conservative Legal Affairs spokesman Sajjad Karim MEP described the committee's decision as "an excellent outcome".

He said: "Freeing up news and current affairs content is particularly important to linguistic minorities who wish to keep up to date with events in their own language.

"But attempts to widen the scope of the legislation would have been immensely damaging to  both the industry and viewers, making the continued production of many existing programmes unaffordable.

"Production companies often rely on sales to individual countries to finance programmes, while co-financers may only become involved on condition they gain exclusive national rights. At a stroke the rules originally proposed by the Socialists and Greens would have wiped out this business model.

"I am delighted we helped persuade the committee to think again."

The draft legislation will now be considered by a full session of the European Parliament. 

EU-wide rules protecting people who buy digital content across borders today cleared an important hurdle today in the European Parliament.

The legislation will introduce safeguards for consumers purchasing a wide range of content, from music and video games to anti-virus software, from another EU country.  This should translate into increased consumer confidence in the European market place and simplify arrangements for businesses.

Conservative MEPs voted for the report at today's meeting of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee, having secured some important changes, including the exclusion of many free apps from having to follow the same rules as paid for content providers.

Consumer Protection spokesman Daniel Dalton MEP said: "Some countries, such as the UK,  already have robust digital goods rules and their consumer rights regimes are explicitly protected in these proposals. However, other Member States don't have any, which leads to legal uncertainty and practical problems for consumers when things go wrong.

"This legislation means people would have guaranteed rights whichever country they purchased their digital goods from.

"Businesses would benefit from greater certainty and a reduction in red tape, being able to supply consumers throughout the EU on the same set of contract rules."

Under the proposals someone purchasing and downloading digital content which then does not work properly can ask for the problem to be fixed. If this is not possible or completed in a reasonable time,  they would be entitled to a price reduction or full refund within 14 days.

The report will now be considered by the full European Parliament. 

Plans to close a loophole which hampers the sharing of criminal records between EU Member States have been unveiled.

Conservative Home Affairs spokesman Dan Dalton MEP is today presenting proposals for a new centralised database to improve the exchange of criminal record information on third country nationals within the EU.

Such information has a wide range of uses, from assisting prosecutions to allowing checks to be quickly carried out on people applying for jobs in sectors such as education, health and childcare.

The new system will be a crucial tool in tackling crime and terrorism.

The proposal fills a gap in the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), which since 2012 has enabled Member States to quickly share previous convictions of EU nationals. However, using the system to check individuals from outside the EU is cumbersome and inefficient.

Mr Dalton said: "This relatively simple step will improve information sharing and pan-EU co-operation in the fight against crime.

"Easy access to an individual's previous convictions can be vital in a complex police inquiry. It is clearly worrying that while Member States share information on EU nationals, the current arrangements do not allow a similar exchange of details on third country nationals.  

 "We need to close this loophole as quickly as possible."

Mr Dalton's report limits access to the new database to those bodies already using the ECRIS system and includes clear data protection rules.

He said: "It is a priority of mine to ensure that the rights for access for individuals are clear and fair. Therefore I have looked to ensure that requests for correction and deletion are dealt with swiftly."

 

The report will be considered by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. 

Links between New Zealand and the European Union will be strengthened following the approval  today by MEPs of a comprehensive partnership agreement.

Piloted through the European Parliament by Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Tannock MEP, the agreement formalises co-operation in a range of areas including trade, education, culture, climate change and counter terrorism.

It will come into effect once ratified by MPs in New Zealand and EU Member States.  Separate talks  on an EU/New Zealand free trade deal are due to begin shortly.

Dr Tannock said: "New Zealand is one of the EU's closest partners, a country with which we share common values and interests. This agreement cements and develops those links, allowing for closer co-operation and more regular ministerial dialogue.

"I strongly support the emphasis placed on combatting climate change, international terrorism and supporting sustainable development. The agreement also reaffirms the arrangement for New Zealand to contribute militarily towards EU common security and defence missions. As our resolution notes, New Zealand plays an important role in contributing towards peace and international security, a role that is all the more impressive considering its size and geographical location.

 

"There is no doubt that the relationship between the EU and New Zealand is a force for good in the world."

Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir has secured an extraordinary debate in the European Parliament into the ongoing persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims.

The crisis, described by Prime Minister Theresa May as the "inhuman destruction of Rohingya people", will be discussed by a full session of the Parliament on 12 December and a resolution for further action voted on by MEPs.

Mr Bashir is delighted to have secured the debate, which he called for yesterday in an  impassioned plea to Parliament President Antonio Tajani. He hopes it will lead to the European Union arranging an inter-governmental summit in a bid to end the slaughter and persecution.

Mr Bashir said: "I am very grateful that the parliament's authorities have heeded my request and granted time for a debate.

"This reflects the urgency of this crisis and the seriousness with which the EU must respond. I sincerely hope that this can quickly bring about an inter-governmental summit because in my mind that is the only way to halt the bloodshed."

In September Mr Bashir travelled to refugee camps in Bangladesh to meet Rohingya survivors. His latest call for action has been prompted by a Sky News report revealing continued suffering in Myanmar.

"Hundreds of thousands have escaped Myanmar, hundreds of thousands are still trapped," he said. "Babies are being born on the beach. The lucky ones will be put on a boat to Bangladesh, the rest will be left to die.

                      

 

"For the sake of humanity, we should lead the way forward."