Another busy week in Strasbourg saw votes on combatting tax evasion, debates on anti-dumping measures in the steel industry across the EU and calls for effective EU action to tackle violence against women. I also spoke in plenary on the need to put the development agenda back at the heart of the WTO ministerial conference and on how we can use the EU Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam to start effective human rights dialogues with Vietnamese leaders.
Following the attacks in Paris two weeks ago and the security situation in the region since, MEPs called for unity and strength in remaining true to Europe's values of upholding human rights and freedoms of expression. New measures must be agreed as soon as possible to improve cooperation among member states to keep EU citizens safe.
Labour MEPs have been using our voices in the European Parliament to raise the issue of the steel crisis and its impact in the UK. We know that UK ministers are blocking EU action against steel dumping and reforms that would allow more to be done to stop countries like China selling it at below the price it can fetch at home, or exporting at below the cost of production. There should be mechanisms in place to ensure that countries and individual communities affected can bring complaints against companies who dump their steel and the EU and the UK government should help ensure that quick action can be taken once an investigation has begun. Currently, and investigation usually takes 15 months.
Wednesday the 25th of November was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against women. For years, Labour MEPs have been strong amongst those voices in the EU calling for an overarching EU directive, as part of its gender equality strategy, to tackle what a majority of European citizens see as the most pressing gender equality issue. Certain individual measures do exist within the EU which try to help women in specific circumstances, but not nearly enough is being done despite one in three women in the EU suffering physical or sexual abuse. The UK has the fifth highest rate of violence against women in the EU.
To bolster our campaign of improving working conditions for UK employees, my Labour colleagues and I backed a report which called for a new EU-wide strategy to boost protection at work. We want this to include better access to quality health and safety training, proper protections for those working with chronic or terminal illness, and screening systems for diseases caused by asbestos and other carcinogens. In the UK alone there were 142 work-related deaths in 2014.
In the week that George Osborne delivered his autumn statement saying that £5 billion would come from 'measures on tax avoidance, evasion and imbalances', his party's MEPs in Strasbourg were voting against EU measures to do exactly that. This Tory government that says the public need to tighten their belts has once again shown its opposition to implementing aggressive measures to stop big business from fiddling their tax responsibilities. Luckily, the votes in favour were in the majority. Labour MEPs supported the report, which included extra protections for whistle-blowers who speak out against tax-dodging businesses, public country-by-country reporting of tax arrangements and a common European list of tax havens.
A report which called on the European Commission and EU governments to take action to reduce inequalities, particularly in child poverty highlighted grave concerns about factors such as wealth redistribution, labour policies, salary levels and social rights which have can have a severe impact on a child's quality of life. The report suggested steps that could be taken to address these issues and provide greater security for families, especially terms of labour rights. 2.3 million children in the UK are living in poverty and we need a real commitment from governments to ensure that these issues are addressed and adequate solutions implemented quickly.
MEPs voted for the winner of the LUX film prize on Tuesday; a prize created to celebrate the diversity and social relevance of cinema in Europe. This year's final three contenders dealt with issues of immigration, the role of women in neighbouring societies and the impact of the economic crisis on day-to-day life. Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Mustang was picked as the winning film. It tells the story of five young, strong women searching for freedom whilst they struggle with the constraints of growing up in a conservative society. Mustang was also selected for the 2015 Toronto and Cannes film festivals, and has been selected as the French entry for the 88th Academy Awards