David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

Strasbourg Roundup, May 2015

Roundup of the European Parliament Plenary Session,18 -- 21 May 2015

The big story of the week was the vote on Conflict Minerals. This proposal aims to hold companies who trade products containing Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and gold, to account. These raw materials are heavily mined in conflict zones are workers are frequently exploited. Thanks to a massive push and excellent campaign from the Socialists and Democrats Group, the vote passed by 378-300 on an amendment for mandatory regulations for the whole supply chain of such products.

Negotiations will now begin between the European Parliament and the European Council, and Labour MEPs along our colleagues in the S&D Group will continue to push for the mandatory system as the legislation progresses.  These measures have the potential to tackle human rights violations across Africa by forcing companies to prove where the parts they are handling came from.

In other news, Labour MEPs voted in favour of a resolution calling for the European Commission to present a new legislative proposal that will take greater steps to protect pregnant workers, and also provide stronger maternity and paternity rights. Labour remain at the forefront of this issue, with Conservative MEPs voted against these any development. We believe that for women to be able to play a part in the economic recovery and for all parents to have a healthy work-family balance, we must ensure that there is flexibility for those returning to the labour market.

The European Parliament voted to adopt the Anti-Money Laundering Directive. Through new registers for beneficial ownership, we will know and be able to track exactly who owns and is funding our businesses and from where. These registers will create much-needed means for transparency and will not only help us clamp down on tax crimes and evasion, but also help us combat money-laundering and terrorism funding. The UK Government has already pledged to make our registers public.

One story that everyone has been following over the past few weeks is the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. The dire situations faced by those crossing on smuggling boats that has come to light in the last few weeks has caused the European Union to reassess its migration strategy. Whilst Labour MEPs support the tripling of resources to the EU's border agency, Frontex, and increasing the operational area of Triton, we have expressed our concerns over the militarised approach to combating the smuggling boats. This strategy could pose a significant threat to the civilian migrants travelling on board. We will continue to push the Commission to maximise security for the migrants and to focus on lowering the death toll.

Thousands of constituents have been emailing Labour MEPs over the last few months to express concerns about VATMOSS - the system designed to support small businesses affected by the new EU rules on VAT for digital services, books and papers. For months now Labour MEPs have been lobbying Commissioner Ansip on this matter, urging him to redress the disparities that threaten the livelihoods of thousands whose small businesses rely on the digital market. Despite being met, once again, with vague answers, we intend to immediately write again to Mr. Ansip and continue putting pressure on the Commission to re-assess the VATMOSS mess.

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