Monday, 27 September 2010

Mandy Hand-me downs

Disgusted I am at news over the weekend that Lord Mandelson is receiving pay from the EU for doing absolutely nothing. Two years after leaving the post as a commissioner, Mandy is among 17 former commissioners still receiving half of their former salaries. Not only that but it's £8,600 a month!
I mean really, how many other people leave a job and are still getting paid for NOT doing it two years later? It's not like Mandy's been hard up, on the dole, trying to get by from week to week. Even on this half salary he could pay the dole to around 15 people who really did need the support.
It sickens me that at the same time, I am fighting tooth and nail to make sure the EU doesn't pull the plug on funds to Wales which have been in place for years now and are responsible for thousands of jobs, because if the money suddenly disappears God knows what will be flushed down the sink and in what state Wales would be left.
This week a delegation from Welsh Local Government Authority are over in Brussels lobbying for protection of Regional Development monies after 2013 in East Wales and Barroso himself is coming over on Thursday to discuss Structural Funds (and enjoy the golf no doubt). While I am fighting to make sure men and woman struggling in Wales stay in employment, and demanding the UK taxpayer sees some return on the amount of money poured into this undemocratic organisation, it is galling to see the likes of Mandy still receiving 8 grand a week for having sold our country to Brussels.
I suppose his autobiography couldn't have sold that many copies afterall, because surely no one would suggest he was THAT greedy???

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Frankenfish and Farce

I've read today that apparently a new breed of GM salmon could soon be winging its way to Europe and could well be on a table near you very soon. The genetically altered specimen grows twice as fast as a normal fish and has been approved by American authorities as safe for human consumption. We already face encroaching widespread fish farming as Brussels' Common Fisheries Policy drains our oceans of stock, but the thought of genetically modified farmed fish makes my skin crawl.
GM crops are one thing, but man made fish is surely taking the laws of nature and totally ripping up the rule book. European legislation suggests each member state is able to decide how much they wish to use genetic modification, but does put a ban on cloning. However with the amount of meat and fish brought in from third countries via trade deals, and repackaged and sold in supermarkets, it is likely at some point the Frankenfish will descend on Europe. Chilling.

Meanwhile whilst we are facing cuts a plenty here in the UK, Baroness Ashton has the cheek to demand an eight per cent budget increase for her new EU External Action Service (read here "EU Foreign Affairs".) Not only is there surely no room to maneouvre for a so called external service when foreign affairs is supposed to remain a sovereign dependency, but whilst the rest of Europe scrimps and saves post recession, the good Baroness has thrown frugality out of the window.

I received a big cheer from the hemicycle today after once again pointing out to the wasteful Commission that few MEPs can see the worth in travelling all the way to Strasbourg once a month (or even twice, as it has been this month) to hold debates which could more easily and cheaply be conducted in Brussels. Why we transport thousands of staff with a cargo of trunks packed with documents across the continent to a rather grandiose building used but 12 times a year, all funded by the taxpayer, I surely don't know. It is an absolute farce and should really rile the hardworking citizens of Europe who are seeing public services cut, taxes raised, prices shoot up all under the watchful eye of the supposedly austere European Commission.

It's more a case of "do as I say" not "do as I do" and quite frankly it has to stop. This issue unites MEPs from all countries and parties, other than a handful of French whose country no doubt benefits from the monthly circus coming to town. I thought the Gallic trend was currently to evict workshy, tax-feeding foreigners? Perhaps not!

Publish Post

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I am, and I'm not.

Ok, ok, forgive us our sins oh mighty BBC!
To err is human, and being able to laugh at ourselves, well, that's something essential if you are to stay sane in the world of politics. There's always a scrum of journalists waiting for the smallest slip up.
My ever industrious press officer issued a statement on my behalf yesterday and missed the vital word "not"in the opening sentence. That is, she failed to put the not in "I am NOT standing in the leadership contest."
Yet the rest of the statement was typed to perfection and one would think the sentences that followed explaining my decision not to stand would have elucidated the fact that the exclusion of a negative in the opening sentence was a typo. It's surely happened to us all hasn't it? And the poor girl is suffering rather grizzly sounding aberrations of the cornea at the moment, leaving her somewhat partially sighted and struggling at the mercy of a computer screen.
To clarify the matter she quickly hurried out an amendment. By that time however the blogpost was almost at fruition, and it would be a shame to let a good joke go.
Thankfully we both find it funny.
But just to clarify
I am NOT standing.
Got it Betsan?

Betsan Powys Blog:
"Another race, another set of bookies' odds - this time the UKIP leadership, which John Bufton MEP is 5-1 on to take. But he's not standing. Or is he?
He's just released a statement in which "the MEP for Wales believes he must clarify that he is taking part in the leadership contest".
That's clear then. He is.
"While I am of course flattered to hear that I have received backing to be UKIP's next leader I must reiterate that I will not at this time be nominating myself as a candidate for the role".
So he's not?
As I type, the statement has just been re-sent: "Statement from John Bufton MEP on UKIP Leadership contest (with slight amendment)".
The "slight" amendment? "Not". Got it?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Last Post

For years now people have been campaigning about the closures of local post offices. But rarely in the protests have you heard criticism of the EU.

Yes, successive Governments have stripped support away from the psot office. They've failed to help Royal Mail modernise as more and more licensing applications are done online, benefits paid directly into the bank account and so forth. The post office needed revolutionising and it just didn't happen.

But the real threat to the Royal Mail was the EU Postal Services Directive, which ordered under competition law for the delivery of mail to be privatised. Without this, the Post Office was left with no choice but to rely on taxpayer's money to stay open, money which over the years has been withdrawn.

I presented this argument to the European Commission yesterday stating:

"When the EU ordered the postal sector open up to competition it destroyed a vital British service. As a sovereign nation our post offices were run by Royal Mail and linked with national savings, licensing, welfare and pension collection to name a few.

In 1975 we had 25,000 post offices, now there are less than 12,000, despite a population boom. After being forced to sell off its profit making arm, post offices couldn’t stay open without government support. Thousands shut, stripping communities of access to vital services.

The EU postal reform says good-quality postal services should be available throughout the Union. That is exactly what we had.

“It’s a disgrace to strip Britain of an efficient public service merely to satisfy Competition law. Do you wish to privatise the NHS too? The UK must be allowed to fully opt out.”

In 2008, our Government commissioned an independent review of the Postal Service. The Hooper report warned that a forced restructuring under European law would be highly likely. That same author today is advising Westminster that the only option left for Royal Mail now is to sell it off completely.

Government support for post offices was withdrawn, causing widespread closure of vital sub post offices isolating whole communities from access to necessary services.

It’s another example of erroneous EU law interfering with a perfectly suitable British model.

Successive Governments in Westminster have let down the postal service by failing to move with the times and account for technological developments. But what this has done is leave the door wide open for Brussels to march in and destroy Royal Mail and the postal service sector entirely.”

Today, Richard Hooper, who authored the report in December 2008, will recommend the Westminster Government that a sell-off is now the only way to raise the money to modernise the service, threatening huge job loss and massive service disruption.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Time Away

Summer recess gave people plenty of time to stew over the state of politics across Europe. It’s been a period of financial turmoil across the globe, leading to turning points in public opinion as nationalism has been pitched against internationalism. Aid to Pakistan only crept in, despite the flooding being one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the last decade, with many citing the impacts of the recovering global economy while others pointed the finger at the country’s international standing. What many voters seem to want to hear amid cuts, growing unemployment and escalating public debt is that charity starts at home. None more so, would it seem, than the Germans. Wearied by the weight of the Eurozone leaning upon German austerity for bail-outs, many Germans no longer want to be the piggy bank for the continent. Support for the European Union has plummeted to its lowest level across the continent. Greeks feel imprisoned in an economic stranglehold by Brussels, France has taken action over the country’s Roma population despite heavily furrowed brows in Brussels and Iceland, once a keen prospective member of the EU, has gone to war with Scotland over mackerel quotas, not only potentially decimating the North Sea’s population of the fish, but also their chances of entering the EU any time soon. So it is absolutely perfect timing for the budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski to state in a German newspaper that the UK rebate was no longer justifiable. Perhaps he was trying to soothe the embittered German public by suggesting the second biggest contributor to the EU would also be made to cough up more taxpayers’ money. But this is surely a fight he cannot win. Without the rebate, the UK's contribution as a percentage of national income would double that of France and be one-and-a-half times the size of Germany's. Already we have seen the rebate halved from 6 billion to 3 billion euro under Blair. Yet even with our rebate intact, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility the UK contribution is set to treble. The £3bn paid in to Brussels in 2009 will soar to a massive £8.2bn by 2015, despite many Government departments being asked to make cuts of up to 40 per cent. Not only that, a queue of poor countries knocking on the door to be let in to the EU, bringing with them roads that need resurfacing, town centres that need regenerating and millions of underpaid or unemployed workers with free passage to the UK will only exacerbate the levelling off of wealth across the Union.

But it’s not just direct cash payments and loss of jobs that has such a detrimental impact on our lives. Everywhere you turn Europe is casting a shadow over the way things are run in this country. Huge pharmaceutical companies are profiting from enormous price hikes on life saving medication, meaning essential drugs cannot be afforded by the NHS. EU laws that permit exclusive licenses to drugs manufacturers mean pharmaceuticals can hold the patents for specific drugs and place any price tag on their retail that they wish.

The working time directive is haunting the pages of the press again, with scores of UK doctors coming out against the impact the imposed 48 hour week has had on patient care. It’s suggested up to a quarter of junior doctors are leaving their training within 2 years, many to take up posts in other English speaking countries. The European legislation limiting individuals to a maximum working time has seen the NHS shake up rotas to make sure senior medics are on call during busy and stressful times, leaving junior doctors to work the majority of night shifts and weekends without proper supervision and guidance.

It’s remarkable to me that while high profile legislation such as the working time directive attracts media interest in retrospect, once the damage is done, very little is publicised prior to adoption, meaning rarely do members of the public get to protest against laws from Brussels before they are galvanised. Despite this, the European Commission, not content with media apathy, are seeking to revolutionise the President of the Commission’s communications staff to ensure Mr Barroso raises his profile across the Union. He will have a TV producer and photographer at hand 24 hours a day and a team of staff to monitor the blogosphere and quash any unpopular comment that may arise. All afforded by the taxpayer. The Commission will also pay journalists to follow Barroso on foreign trips. Yet this week in Parliament, the Commission has had the audacity to raise the issue of freedom of expression in the European media. It seems they are increasingly unhappy with certain state owned publications and insist that newspapers should be free from partisan patriarchs. That is despite having spent some eight million euros themselves on entertaining and “training” journalists, particularly in Ireland around the time of the illegal second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.