UKIP MEP Derek Clark covers the most recent Strasbourg plenary session (Feb 24-27), focussing particularly on what went wrong during Wednesday's vote on the Tobacco Directive
•A short week for me, and others. Due to the Spring Conference in Torquay I am returning home on Wednesday [Feb 26].
Tuesday Votes on a report about countering violence against women, what for? Is violence of any sort, especially directed against women, not against the law in all countries? It is in the UK, what else do we need? But this was about FGM and that becomes a religious matter and, we think, best left to individual countries to sort out for themselves.
Plant breeding was also voted on with many amendments. Like others I have received emails about restrictions on seed varieties which have been around for ages, but the EU does not like them. Must be harmonised, you see.
Wednesday A very big voting session, well over an hour and a half. Two reports stand out.
There was the report on “eCall” in-vehicle systems. This sounds OK as it enables cars fitted with the system to be assisted in an emergency (as all cars will be by EU law) without the driver calling rescue services. All cars will be fitted with an automatic device which will tell the police to send for assistance if you crash, even if all car occupants are rendered unconscious. That obviously means the police, or whatever agency, will have you pinpointed wherever you are at all times. How do you like that, big brother watching over you. From there to the device mentioned before, enabling the police to bring a car to a halt wherever it is, is but a step. The installed transmission system for the one is easily modified for the other.
Then came the McAvan vote on the Tobacco Directive. In voting sessions it has become very noticeable that the lists have been arranged so that reports with a lot of “RCV” [roll call] votes are being located at the end of the vote session. An RCV is a vote made electronically and recorded, so that those who wish to see how we voted can do so. No problem, even when we get people asking why we voted a certain way, like the email I received last week. People keep an eye on things, quite right too.
But an RCV has another function. As well as signing in every day record is kept of one’s RCV votes. If an MEP fails to record half of the RCVs in any one day, and that happens for half the days over a period of time, we can be required to repay the money received under, "General Expenditure Allowance". This is the funding for the office in the UK and all that goes with it; rent, phone bill, purchase of computer, supplies, newspapers, periodicals and so on. A tidy sum.
It is not uncommon to see MEPs counting up the RCVs as we go along and leaving the chamber when the 50% has been reached. I don’t do that normally, not least because our assistants have spent hours over the paper work to advise us of our vote and I do not like to see that wasted. Their work is discussed in a voting meeting of the assistants and MEPs immediately prior to the voting session. Gerard [Batten], as our whip, will have spent at least a half hour before that with the assistants knocking it into shape. (Or, me when Gerard has not been present, a rarity).
Hence the comments above and the new-style placement of reports with lots of RCVs.
So, imagine our surprise when it went wrong on Wednesday. This was in the vote on the McAvan report. This has already been aired in a previous plenary session and it was up today for final vote. Our Vote list had only 3 votes,- 1, The text as a whole, 2 to adopt the Commission proposal and 3 to authorise legislation. Suddenly, as the vote was to start we were informed of a change. The committee responsible had earlier asked to submit the text to vote in several different amendments but this had been refused, all in one was ruled, votes as per above. Now, in the last hour before voting, an email had been circulated giving permission for the Text to be in several votes after all. But we did not have that information, de-valuing our votes. Remember, this has been the subject of acrimonious emails between MEPs and the vociferous smoking lobby over a period of time.
I do not believe our assistants were to blame. As noted above they were all busy with either Gerard, or all of us, in the vote meetings for at least the hour when the president’s email was sent out. In any case, in a previous voting session this month a rapporteur was furious that his request to speak before the final vote was taken. He had emailed the president’s office with the request before-hand but the president for that vote session had not received it, so the vote went ahead, ignoring the rapporteur’s wishes.
Can you believe that the outcome of important votes are subject to last minute emails, which require someone to be watching a computer all the time!
You should not be. Remember my video of a few weeks ago when I complained about the lack of transparency in the budget report which authorises the spending of billions of taxpayers money? Now we have fudged votes, the outcome of which will affect a great number of companies and traders. But don’t worry, “Its how we do things here”!
Our next group of MEPs will take up the fight I’m sure but, in the meanwhile, what about you? You are all dedicated to UKIP’s fight to get us out of this undemocratic mess but the great British public needs information, hence my commentaries. These are not confidential nor are they subject to copyright: they are ammunition. Use them in the pub, in letters to the papers, in chatting to your pals, but use them. Just get the facts right as written, that’s all.