Here's my monthly round-up of activities in the Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. Sadly in October it's two round ups as we are forced to travel two separate times to Strasbourg to fulfil the Treaty obligation of 12 plenary sessions a year in the Strasbourg building. MEPs including me have voted consistently to abolish this ridiculous travelling circus and base all our activities in Brussels, but until national governments reach an agreement to change the Treaties we continue to travel. I support the Single Seat campaign to abolish this as soon as possible.
I was very pleased to see a piece of legislation I have been working on in the International Trade committee adopted by the full Parliament. MEPs voted to close loopholes in the Anti-Torture Regulation which prevents any items intended for torture being exported from the EU. The new rules will also ban any transit or promotion of these goods inside the EU, and reinforce the ban on European pharmaceutical companies exporting any drugs which will be used in the lethal injections. The Parliament will now enter into negotiations with national governments in the Council to reach agreement on the final text. Shockingly UKIP and some Tories refused to support these new measures, in what I think is a new low of putting petty Euroscepticism before human rights.
We also voted to abolish roaming charges in the EU. From June 2017, the compromise date found with the national governments, there will be no additional charges for using your mobile phone for calls, texts or data anywhere in the EU. Fees will be reduced next year before being abolished altogether the following year, great news for any of us shocked by a bill after a holiday. As part of the same telecoms package MEPs voted to secure net neutrality, guaranteeing internet service providers will treat all online traffic equally and not create a 2 speed internet.
After the Socialist & Democrat Group nominated Raif Badawi for the annual European Parliament Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, the Parliament agreed to award it to him this week. Raif is a blogger in Saudi Arabia who was imprisoned and sentenced to 1000 lashes for insulting Islamic values. The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz appealed to the Saudi authorities to release him, and we hope he will be free to come to Strasbourg and receive his human rights award.
We voted this week for greater package holiday rights to give consumers the same rights of cancellation and right to information if you buy combined flight + hotel packages as is already the case for package holidays bought through a travel agency. We also voted for stronger tourism safety standards to ensure all tourist accommodation in the EU meets minimum standards. There have been tragic cases including the death of two UK children from carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday in Greece which prompted MEPs to strengthen the minimum rules in the EU tourism sector.
Between voting sessions I met the Pakistan trade minister who was visiting Strasbourg. Pakistan receives preferential trading access to the EU market provided it makes continuous effort to improve human and labour rights, and we discussed the progress. I also had an update from the TTIP negotiator on progress in areas including the sustainable development chapter and services.