Monday, 31 January 2011

weekly brief on super cars, pensions, and gold

I meant to post this on Friday but it was a bit of a busy time.... here were my highlights of last week.

Lotus I met representatives from Lotus Cars who were in Brussels to meet with the European Commission to explain their new business plan. Lotus are intending to move into the “super car” market. EU legislation on co2 emmisions will to set targets for each manufacturer. This was agreed a couple of years ago before I became an MEP but in the following months the actual targets will be set. .

Lotus is a Norfolk based company. This was a very helpful update. It is important that we focus on how legislation affects local companies when rules are implemented as well as during the initial negotiations.

Pensions My amendment calling for a review of the EU’s own pension scheme was passed - at least at the committee stage.

Pension costs are a large and growing element of the EU budget so I have been calling for a review of the pensions policy of EU institutions. The EU pension scheme has a retirement age of 63 and was last reviewed in 2004. Given that in many EU countries people are being asked to work longer I thing it is only right that the EU should take a fresh look at its own policies. Last Autumn my Group didn’t get support from the rest of the Parliament on this in a similar vote - but this week in the Economic Affairs Committee we (just) got a majority. This will now go to another vote of the employment committee and then hopefully full parliament in upcoming weeks.

raw materials and recycling this week I went to a “hearing” in the Parliament on raw materials - these events often bring in experts from industry and others. We learnt about the importance and value of including precious metals in recycling - especially as these become rarer. For example one tonne of ore in a gold mine will on average produce just 5g of gold - but a tonne of mobile phones contains around 300 -350g. Yet less than 2 percent of mobile phones are recycled. The phrase “urban mine” was a new one to me but one I expect to hear more of.

Banks and Finance - I’ve had a series of meetings regarding banks and finance this week. Including listening to Danish bank, Nykredit, telling MEPs about their unique system for financing mortgages which gives the house buyer direct access to market prices. I also joined a group of German, French and Austrian MEPs on a trip to London meeting MPs, members of the house of Lords, the Treasury and the Bank of England. The MEPs were given clear messages about needing to work on better thought through regulation not just at a European level but globally too - as well as the importance of getting lending working for the wider economy.

Economic Governance - As one of the 6 MEPs working on the “Economic Governance” package I took part in the debate on these reports. An other MEP are called for countries to have to have their economic budgets audited by the European Court of Auditors - and for them to have to pre agreed economic forecasts with the European Commission. Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to expect countries to provide clear transparent information and listen to concerns of their neighbours, in my view national budgets are a national decision.

Finally - Sharon Bowles MEP, chairman of the Economic Affairs committee kindly let me sit in on a meeting with Jamie Dimon, head of JP Morgan. He had come from Washington via Brussels en route to the World Economic Forum in Davos. At the European Commission he had been given the red carpet treatment but on arrival at the European Parliament there was such a huge queue for visitors he couldn’t get through security - so we had the meeting very publicly in the entrance lobby! We discussed issues from bank capital to derivatives to market transparency to the global economy. Now thats not being lobbied behind closed doors.