Thanks to everyone for their feedback on my last blog posting. The number of people that continue to contact me about the issue of Article 18 only makes me redouble my and other Conservative MEPs’ efforts to defeat these nonsensical proposals.
Following that vote, the Tobacco Products Directive is now undergoing a final ‘lawyer-linguistic scrub’, ahead of a plenary vote expected in March (10th – 13th). The problem we now face is this: the full parliament has already held one vote, on the proposal, to determine its position. However, it did not vote on the so-called legislative resolution.
In the parliament a proposal can go through several readings before it becomes law, but in recent years almost all legislation is agreed at the first reading; a fast-tracked approach at the expense of transparency. It often means that new laws do not reach the full chamber until after a handful of MEPs have agreed it with national governments. Not the most democratic approach. On this directive, MEPs wanted to set out their position in a vote, but holding a legislative vote would have closed the First Reading and sent the whole directive back round the process it had just gone through. Instead, they negotiated a so-called first reading agreement with national governments.
Because of the rather convoluted manner in which this has been done, only the environment committee is now able to submit amendments to the proposal. Because of the lack of support from other groups in the committee, we will not be able to take this route.
However, there are still actions we can take under the parliament’s rules, which we have combed through for options.
Firstly, our Group will submit a request to the parliament for the agreement be opened up for so-called split and separate votes. This would allow us to pull out and vote separately on the parts that we do not like. The decision to open up the file rests entirely at the discretion of the President’s office. So you may like to email President Martin Schulz at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to support the ECR request to open this file. We’ve already submitted a request which the President’s office is ‘considering’.
The second option is that the ECR Group could request that the whole directive be referred back to committee at the start of the vote itself. This would need a simple majority of MEPs. Given the European elections looming such a request is almost certain to see left-wing MEPs vilify me in the media for siding with big tobacco to attempt to derail this directive. I’m happy to live with that, not least because I made a deliberate decision not to meet with any representatives of large tobacco companies at the start of this directive’s passage through the parliament. And of course, ironically the left-wing MEPs are doing big tobacco the biggest favour of all by discouraging them to move from tobacco and on to e-cigs.
Both of these options are still going to need your help. Please keep emailing all your MEPs. Facebook, tweet, send letters, attend public meetings, call their offices. If you have the means then come to Strasbourg and lobby direct. Please do all you can to help us turn this situation around. We’ve made common sense prevail in a plenary vote once. We need to do it again.