Written Declaration on Online Child Abuse

Labour Party

Despite its many positive advantages, unfortunately the internet has opened an all too accessible front for child abuse. All of us are only too aware that criminals and paedophiles are able to use websites around the world to distribute and share child abuse content.

Along with MEP colleagues Emma McClarkin ,Vicky Ford , Timothy Kirkhope, Silvia Costa, Richard Howitt, Gay Mitchell, Roberta Angelilli, Iva Zanicchi , Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Seán Kelly and Diane Dodds, I have co-signed this European Parliament Written Declaration:

1.   Child sexual abuse content is one of the most abhorrent types of content available, and the production, possession or distribution of such content is universally considered a criminal act;

2.   The cross-border nature of most online child sexual abuse content shows that strong international cooperation is necessary;

3.   The commercial distribution of such content could potentially be profitable for organised crime structures;

4.   Behind every image of child sexual abuse there is a real victim;

5.   The most effective way to deal with such content is to remove it at source in cooperation with law enforcement agencies;

6.   It is therefore important to share internationally information and expertise regarding the fight against online sexual abuse content;

7.   Adequate reporting and take-down mechanisms in respect of child sexual abuse content in every country are crucial;

8.   The Commission is called upon to consider developing as well as developed countries when establishing international cooperation to combat online child sexual abuse content;

9.   The Commission is called upon to support the creation of online child sexual abuse reporting mechanisms that meet acceptable global standards regarding transparency and freedom of expression;

The laws governing illegal online content differ from country to country which makes taking down abusive content and prosecuting the criminals responsible time-consuming and difficult.  In many cases there is also a commercial dimension to online child abuse content with the distribution of illegal material being profitable for organised crime.

In 2010 it was estimated that over 200 images of child pornography are put into circulation ever day and that the victims are getting younger and the content more violent and graphic. Other studies suggest that 10-20% of European children will suffer some form of sexual abuse as a child. This is an issue which is growing in severity and impact. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström hit the nail on the head. “The response of the EU cannot be too clear or too resolute. Whatever the EU can possibly do against that, the EU must do and will do.”

Global action is needed to fight online child abuse.  As you will have seen, this Written Declaration is a cross party project involving members from every main European political grouping. Ending child abuse is an issue that transcends party lines and enjoys support across the political spectrum. I hope we will see huge support from the European Parliament for the Written Declaration.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Labour Party

Richard Howitt Labour MEP for the East of England together with fellow MEPs Boguslaw Sonik and Marek Siwiec from Poland, German Alexander Graf Lambsdorff  and Dennis De Jong from Holland today launched a Written Declaration in the European Parliament asking that we all to take our share of responsibility for the Holocaust.

The Written Declaration

1.  Underlines that the Holocaust was executed by Germany, but with support from other Europeans, however marginal, including organised institutional and spontaneous collaboration of individuals and groups on the territories occupied by Germany;

2.  Appreciates the German government’s condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Third Reich and praises its many efforts to educate the new generation about the horrors of the past.

3.  Praises the Polish government’s efforts to safeguard the museum in Auschwitz and welcomes the official apology from the President of Poland for the massacre of Jews in Jedwabne in 1941.

4.  Praises the Romanian government’s 2004 acknowledgement of the death march of up to 380,000 Jewish victims.

5.  Gives its highest admiration to all such activities to establish historical truth and remembrance.

6.  Underlines that Western Allies remained largely passive in the face of the Holocaust; Auschwitz or the railways lines to the gas chambers were never targeted.

7.  Remembers that Jews fleeing persecution in 1939 were turned away from the United States and Cuba.

8.  Recognises the Holocaust as a unique part of European history, and in accepting what happened in the past across countries of today’s European Union, we accept our responsibility to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust never happen again.

9.  Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names   of the signatories, to the Council and the Commission.

 The following quote is from Richard Howitt as he launched the Written Declaration.  I completely agree with Richard and welcome this initiative.

 “Those who seek to deny the Holocaust are given succour by all of us who condemn its horrors but who choose to neglect or cover-up those in our own countries who supported it directly or indirectly.

 “We all have to support the deeply painful but essential process through which the Romanian government acknowledged the death march of hundreds of thousands of Jews by their soldiers, and the efforts of Poland to recover the sign stolen from Auschwitz and to preserve it as a museum. These stand as an example to us all.

 “Our declaration also makes clear that the Western Allies ourselves should have done more to block the rail lines to the gas chambers and to welcome Jewish refugees.

 “The importance for all Europe today is that in accepting what happened in the past, we are accepting our responsibility to make sure it never happens again.”

Nick Clegg needs to find a Reverse Gear

Labour Party
Richard Howitt & Ben Bradshaw

Richard Howitt & Ben Bradshaw

One of the things Gordon Brown got right in his excellent speech yesterday was his promise on the alternative vote system for Westminster elections. As many of you will know, I am a supporter of Electoral Reform and spoke this evening at the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform’s fringe meeting at Party Conference, along with fellow MEP Richard Howitt and Ben Bradshaw MP Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. As a long standing campaigner for electoral reform I have always viewed Liberal Democrats as allies in this endeavour, if not anything else. I have, therefore, been frankly surprised by what appears to be the Lib Dems white flag to the Conservatives in direct contrast to Labour’s fight back. They have positioned themselves to try and take Labour seats, but clearly hope at best to just limit losses to the Conservatives. Where, you may ask, are they running hard campaigns to win seats from the Conservatives?

Strategically the holy grail for Liberals and now Liberal Democrats has been a hung Parliament. Now they have a potential double whammy. A Labour government or a hung parliament offer prospects of real electoral reform. A Conservative majority slams fair voting prospects shut for a generation. Nick Clegg has a chance that Thorpe, Ashdown, or Kennedy would have given their right arm for. Will he reach out and seize it? Tactically and strategically the tantalising prospect of real electoral reform only comes about by Labour winning or staying the largest party. The Lib Dems seem to think they can build on successes often based on protest votes in cities to win Labour seats in the coming general election.

Yet their calculations are muddled tactically, and crass strategically. Almost every seat they won last time from Labour had a substantial student population. The cocktail of Iraq and university tuiLCER09 030tion fees is no longer available. So tactically what is it they think they can work on? ID cards? Gordon ruled that out too. Millionaire properties? Those are far more in Conservative and Liberal seats. There aren’t many millionaire properties in Kilmarnock, Keighley and Caerphilly. Let’s just consider the fleeting and highly unlikely possibility of the Conservatives with an overall majority.

Will a Labour Opposition put electoral reform at the top of its list when it gets back into government? Much as I think electoral reform is important, the first task will be to repair the schools, hospitals and other public services that will have been damaged by the Conservatives. So Nick Clegg, who had a dire conference, now has to put his hand up and fess up to another error.

He should, of course, divert resources from Labour target seats and put them into taking Conservative seats. He should instruct no hope candidates to tell their supporters that only a Labour win can help the Liberal Democrats.

I have got a slogan for them……. Liberal Democrats you can’t win here!

The Conservatives need to win 131 seats for an overall majority. They expect to win 30 seats or so from the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg needs to come out and welcome Gordon’s announcement.

He needs to commit to supporting electoral reform.

Most importantly Clegg needs to divert all possible Liberal Democrat resources to achieving a result at the next election that allows electoral reform to be delivered. In short he needs a reverse gear/U-turn/mea culpa.

Make your mind up Nick, I am committed to campaigning for electoral reform, are you?

Live blog from Labour Movement for Europe Fringe meeting

Labour Party

lme 001Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century along with the battle against global poverty.  So it was with a mix of interest in the subject and sadness about the results of the European Elections last June that I went to the Labour Movement for Europe (LME) fringe meeting at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton this lunchtime.

Chaired by former MEP Richard Corbett, one of the select band who have kept the LME going over the years, we discussed the Copenhagen targets on climate change, including the contribution made by Gordon Brown. Glenys Kinnock spoke first, and was as passionate and lucid as ever; she is an excellent Minister for Europe respected by all of us.

It is regrettable that President Obama has shown very little commitment to climate change and  no firm commitment on levels of finance.  On the other hand the European Union has promised a  20 per cent cut in greenhouse emmisiions by 2020, and the  EU will up this if the Copenhagen discussions come up with higher targets.  The money for this must be new money – Gordon Brown in very clear on this.  Europe must also act together.

Glenis lme2 001Willmott was the second speaker with Richard Howitt with his purple tie taking the fouth slot.  Where else would you fiind a platform of two Richards and two Gleni(y)ses?  Is this a metaphor for Europe hedging its bets or maybe an example of European consensus?

Glenis told us how Labour has taken the lead on climate change  and has worked to persuade the other parties to come on board.  The Heads of EU Governents eventually agreed their targets, including 20 per cent of EU energy coming from renewable sources.  This was no thanks to the Tories who would almost certainly not have pursued the climate change agenda.  The Tories have, as we all know, left the mainstream EPP to join a bizarre group of right-wing misfits, including climate change deniers from the Czech Republic.  Tory MEPs do not support measures to deal with climate change when voting in the European Parliament.

And finally, Richard Howitt.  All of us were with Richard when he siad just how much he misses Richard Corbett in the European Parliament.  Along with Glenis Willmott, Richard paid tribute to Linda MacAvan who led for the Socialist Group on the climate change negotiations, making a real impact on our behalf in working to introduce the EU targets.  As the Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard explained how European money had hepled Lowestoft with its water shortage problems, showing how Europe has a concrete effect at local level.

As EPLP Spokesperson on Foreilme2 003gn Affairs, Richard explained how Foreign Affairs is becoming more and more about climate change.  Conflict now is as much about water as oil or security issues.  The European Global Climate Change Alliance working with developing countries shows the way things are moving.   The EU has come into its own over climate change.  Global problems require international solutions.


Labour Party

I am, I hasten to say, writing this before the Norwich North result is declared.  Having worked in the by-election yesterday and the day before, I thought I would share a few thoughts and observations.  I have, as many of you know, a special affection for Nowrich North as I was the Labour candidate in the 1987 General Election, a fact recently pointed out by Iain Dale.

I would like to pay special thanks to my colleague Richarrd Howitt, MEP for the East of England, who helped organise my trip.  Richard worked assiduously in the by-election.  He has always had a reputation for hard work, and is definitely one of the most conscioentious of the Labour MEPs.  

Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, visited the Constituency on Wednesday to an enthusiastic response.  I was pleased to see Phil Dilks, London Labour Party Press Officer, during David’s visit.  I understand that the Director of the London Region, Ken Clark was in Norwich yesterday, though we didn’t actually meet up.  A belated hello to Ken.  In additon, I had the opportunity to catch up with several of the Labour Party national staff who were there – Ray Collins, General Secretary, Alicia Kennedy, Deputy General Secretary, Hilary Perrin and Roy Kennedy.  Emily Thornberry MP for Islington South arrived at the election centre in Mile Cross Ward while I was there and I gather I just missed Stevenage MP Barabara Follett. 

One of the most striking things during my two days in Norwich was the number of young people who turned out to help the Labour Party.  Students, in particular, had come from all over the country.  Who says young people are turned off politics?

The weather was almost perfect, hot and sunny without being oppressive, just what is required for an election.  There can be very few more pleasant cities than Norwich in the summer.


Labour Party

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), the Labour MEPs, held our AGM today. Unsurprsingly it was a subdued affair, with all of us feeling the loss of respected colleagues. All credit to Richard Corbett, Glyn Ford and Neena Gill who all came to the AGM, as they are entitled to do. I know I speak for all the EPLP when I wish them the very best and hope they are given useful and gainful employment.

We did, of course, have one newcomer, Derek Vaughan from Wales. Welcome to Derek – hope you enjoy your time in the European Parliament.

The EPLP Officers are:

Leader Glenis Willmott

Deputy Leader Claude Moraes

Chair Richard Howitt

Whip Brian Simpson

Good luck to all of them. We have not as yet made any decisions about Committee membership or posts in the European Parliament. This will happen when we go back to Brussels towards the end of June.

The meeting was addressed by the new Minister for Europe, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a former colleague, and the first Europe Minister for a very long time who understands Europe and is qualified to do the Ministerial job.

Harriet Harman followed Glenys and received universal acclamation for her role in the European election campaign and the way she handled the sorry saga of MPs expenses in the media.

We, as Labour MEPs, now have to do the very best job we can in Europe and work hard to take the European message out to the country at large. This is where we start out fight to bring home the relevance and the benefits of Europe to the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the European cause has been put back some long way by the results announced on Sunday. But this is no time to give up, and I know all my EPLP colleagues will do their level best for Britain and for the Europe.