Tag Archives: Labour Government

The Tories and UKIP vote against Children

You would have though that investment in pre-school education and care would be pretty uncontroversial. However, the Tories and UKIP have other ideas, voting against or abstaining on my report looking at how countries across the EU can try to give their children the best possible start in life. 

Just to illustrate how backward looking and out-of-touch the European Conservatives and Reformist Group, which comprises a majority of British Conservatives, and UKIP really are, my report on early years education and care received 506 votes in favour, 27 against and 55 abstentions when it went through the European Parliament today. The abstentions were from the ECR Group while UKIP voted against.

My guess is that the Tories and UKIP do not know about the body of research showing that those who have received a high standard of care and attention plus some education in their earliest years prior to statutory education achieve better at school, are healthier and are more likely to be employed than those who were not so fortunate. Or perhaps they have just chosen to ignore the findings.

Early years learning, which can encompass anything from formal pre-school education through to advice to parents about how to help their children understand the world around them, is crucial in laying the groundwork for success in school and beyond.

As far as the EU is concerned, Europe is made up of a rich and diverse mix of educational traditions, with early education provided in a host of different ways across the continent. And it is important that these services are available for all, in a way that does not stigmatise children by focussing just on people from disadvantaged social or economic backgrounds.

All the more reason to be concerned about the impact of the UK’s Tory-led coalition government’s austerity dogma on children’s services and Labour’s Sure Start legacy. Figures from earlier this year suggested that 250 Sure Start centres could close as a result of funding cuts, while 2,000 will have to provide a reduced service.

 Staff at 1,000 centres have been warned about the threat of redundancy, according to the survey of almost 1,000 centre managers across England.  It has been claimed that the closures and reduced services as a result of government cuts could see 60,000 families lose their local centre.

It is heartbreaking that there is a real danger that the Labour Government’s efforts will have been undermined by short sighted Tory-led coalition cuts that are neglecting children’s long-term needs. But it’s also very clear from our European Parliament experience that the Tories just don’t care.

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Getting Creative with Creative Rights

 

I had the pleasure of being invited to take part in a panel discussion at a conference run by the EU Observer, called Online Content and Creative Rights. The discussion was entitled ‘Get paid when you get played’ and I shared the platform with Liberal MEP Cecilia Wilkström, Jörg Evers, Chairperson of GEMA, and Jean-Eric De Cockborne from the European Commission.  The debate focused on what we as legislators could do to tackle this important and difficult issue while Mr. Evers provided an industry perspective.

It was an enlightening debate, one that brought in to sharp relief the complex nature of the problem.  The Reflections paper released by the European Commission has suggested that there be a single European Market for copyright, with big international collecting societies providing a “one stop shop” for everyone – from i-Tunes to BBC Radio 1 – wishing to purchase a license to play or distribute music.  This sounds like a perfectly sensible and workable idea, especially when you think about the current situation where rights to music have to be negotiated on a country by country basis, meaning that some music available in one country won’t be available in another.  This can encourage piracy, since if a song is not available legally in a particular country then some would simply look for an alternative, most likely illegal, source on the internet. 

But this single market idea does have a lot of problems, especially when you consider cultural diversity, something that the European Parliament is very keen to protect.  Artists and creators from smaller member states or more niche markets might get lost or forgotten in a huge, pan-European system.  So already a difficult question and we haven’t even started talking properly about piracy yet.  Needless to say when we were asked questions by the floor, a great many forthright views were expressed.  It was very useful for me and my fellow legislators to see the strength and diversity of feeling on these issues.

The Labour Government is introducing some very good legislation at the moment which is going to tackle this issue head on, punishing those who download and upload content illegally.  I hope that we can be as constructive at the European level.  This is one of the big issues in the Culture and Education Committee, and as the Coordinator for the S&D group, I will be working with my colleagues to make sure we find the right solution.  The internet has meant that the old way of doing things for collecting societies and the record industry is now quickly becoming obsolete, so it is up to them as well as us here in the Parliament to find solutions.  It is time for us all to get creative with creative rights.

I did an interview for the EU Observer website afterwards which you can find here, along with a number of other interviews from people speaking at the conference.

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David Davis puts the Cat among the Pigeons

David Davis

It’s gratifying to be proved right, though rather less gratifying when it’s on such a fundamental subject as Britain in the EU.

Since I posted yesterday, David Cameron has been put in a very invidious position by the ex-Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.  Davis has, in effect, issued a direct challenge to Cameron’s authority on Conservative policy towards Europe.

Writing here in the Daily Mail, Mr. Davis has called on the Tory leader to offer the public a referendum on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.  Davis’s challenge is, of course, a direct result of yesterday’s announcement that Cameron has abandoned his “cast iron” pledge that the Tories would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Cameron and the Tories have consistently and constantly argued that the Labour Government should have held a referendum on Lisbon.  What price honesty now, Mr. Cameron?

As we all know, the Conservatives made their U-turn after the Czech government caved in and signed up to the Treaty yesterday, removing the final obstacle to its ratification.  I would have thought Cameron and co might have anticipated this happening and made their policy accordingly.

For David Davis all seems startlingly clear.  He proclaims today:

“What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes to the European Union.

“The question should contain four or five specific strategic aims which clearly summarise our objectives.

“The sort of things we might include are: recovering control over our criminal justice, asylum and immigration policies; a robust opt-out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; serious exemptions to the seemingly endless flood of European regulations which cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year; a recovery of our rights to negotiate on trade; exemption from European interference into trade in services and foreign direct investment rules; and an exemption from any restrictions on our foreign policy.

“The referendum should be the first piece of legislation in the new parliament, and should be held within three months of the election.

“Some fear this would become an ‘in or out’ referendum, a decision on whether to continue our membership of the European Union. It would be nothing of the sort. Killing this tired old canard is one of the reasons the referendum question has to be absolutely clear in language and intent.

“Of course it is possible that we will not achieve every change we want.

If that is the outcome, we should give the British people the right to accept or reject it in a further referendum.”

So that’s all right then Mr. D.  Hold a referendum which will have no status whatsoever with the EU Council of Ministers, the European Commission or even the European Parliament and then seek to impose Tory Party prejudices on the EU as a whole.  Wow, that’s one hell of a policy.  I’m glad you believe it Mr. Davis because I can assure you no-one in the EU will give it even the smallest chink of the light of day, your referendum notwithstanding.

This David Davis nonsense only serves to highlight Tory wrong headedness on Europe.  The Davis faction, which to an outside observer seems to be the Tory grassroots, most Conservative MPs and the majority of the Shadow Cabinet, are quite honestly living in la la land.  It will simply not be possible to do what they want.  It is not a credible policy.

Since the Lisbon Treaty for the first time allows existing EU member states to withdraw from the European Union, the only referendum which makes any sense at all is the one on whether the UK remains in the EU or comes out.    

 David Davis in his article rejects such a referendum on EU membership, presumably because he thinks the he and the anti-Europeans would lose.

 The views of the Tory Party, as opposed to those of David Cameron, on Europe obviously remain confused to put it mildly.  It will be interesting to see whether my hunch that Cameron will go with his Party turns out to be correct.

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