Letter – The UK’s energy needs have been badly neglected for decades

Dear Editor,

Closing down the UK’s coal-fired power stations within a decade will doubtless cheer the environmentally-correct brigade but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

I understand the desire for new gas-fired and nuclear replacements but until they are functioning we should not be arranging to close down these existing power stations, which provide approximately a quarter of all the UK’s electricity.

It’s all very well the National Grid claiming that we don’t need to worry about the lights going out but I do worry about it. And I also worry about the tens of thousands living in fuel poverty, particularly pensioners.

We are all aware that winter has definitely arrived now and for many elderly folk that is literally a chilling thought, having to choose between eating or heating. And a major reason is the high cost of energy because of green levies on our energy bills resulting from the impossible carbon emission targets demanded by the EU.

This country’s energy needs have been badly neglected for decades and a coherent, comprehensive and long term solution is needed. One that will assure supplies and cheap prices, not one cobbled together aimed at appeasing the EU and climate summit meetings.

Energy minister Amber Rudd is proposing the coal-fired station closures under the banner of energy security but it doesn’t seem very secure to me if she means ever more dependence on politically unstable sources like Russia.

Meanwhile Germany is currently building or refurbishing a couple of dozen coal-fired plants. Why is the UK planning to close ours when other EU countries are building them and Poland is refusing to give up its coal capacity?

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Commission Question – Returns Directive – Domestic law

Question for written answer E-010262/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Returns Directive – Domestic law

There exists in EU law means by which illegal immigrants can be removed from EU territory if they are found to have broken EU migration law (Directive 2008/115/EC).

Could the Commission please provide details of whether any Member States have transposed this into their own domestic law?

How many Member States have done so, and which?

EN

E-010262/2015

Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos

on behalf of the Commission

(12.11.2015)

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its Communication on EU Return Policy1, which includes, in part IV, a detailed report on the transposition of the Return Directive 2008/115/EC by Member States.

1  COM(2014)199 of 28.3.2014

Commission Question – Greek exit from the Eurozone

Question for written answer E-011527/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Greek exit from the Eurozone

Could the Commission inform me whether the European Central Bank is making preparations for a potential Greek exit from the Eurozone? Also, is the Commission aware of any EU Member States making preparations with their Central Banks for a potential Greek return to the Drachma?

EN

E-011527/2015

Answer given by Vice-President Dombrovskis

on behalf of the Commission

(18.11.2015)

The Euro summit of 12 July 2015 has paved the way for the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding linked to a new stability support programme for Greece under the Treaty establishing a European Stability Mechanism (ESM). On 19 August 2015, the Commission, acting on behalf of the ESM, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Greece following its approval by the ESM Board of Governors. The ESM provides for further stability support of up to EUR 86 billion over three years (2015-2018) conditional on the implementation of a third economic adjustment programme.

The key objective of the programme is to help Greece return to financial stability, fiscal sustainability, competitiveness, investment, employment and growth and prosper in the euro area.

The Commission has published the full set of documents related to the new macroeconomic programme for Greece1.

1 http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/assistance_eu_ms/greek_loan_facility/index_en.htm

Commission Question – Turkey’s sanctions against the EU and IPA funding

Question for written answer E-009116/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Turkey’s sanctions against the EU and IPA funding

Turkey has imposed sanctions on Luxembourg, Austria and the Vatican as a result of its opposition to EU nations remembering the victims of the Armenian genocide and the human disaster this caused to at least one million people.

As a direct result of this lack of recognition of the right to freedom of expression, will the Commission consider stopping its allocations of IPA funding that have been scheduled to be paid out for the period 2014-2020 to the tune of EUR 4 453.9 billion?

EN

E-009116/2015

Answer given by Mr Hahn

on behalf of the Commission

(17.11.2015)

 

At the moment, the Commission is not considering suspending its assistance to Turkey, for the same reasons explained in its answer to the written question E-001159/20151.

1  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/parliamentary-questions.html?tabType=all

Grave concerns for North East following latest report

North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has expressed grave concerns for the region after a new report has highlighted its gloomy economic position.

“The House Price Index report from the Office for National Statistics states that ‘the North East is the only English region yet to surpass its pre-economic downturn peak. Prices in the North East remain 2.4% below the peak of January 2008.’

“That is a very depressing picture and as all the hype about the Northern Powerhouse appears to be just that, particularly as far as this region is concerned, I feel sadly pessimistic,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP and member of the EU budget committee.

“I have said all along that this so called Powerhouse will only live up to its promise if it is properly funded and every statistic that emerges from the North East shows that it is always the Cinderella at the ball.

“There is fantastic economic potential just waiting to be unleashed but it needs a careful and well-thought out strategy and investment. Transport links are a key to this but so far we have just seen proposed rail network improvements downgraded and delayed and proposals for the much needed dualling of the A1 revealed as covering just 13 miles.

“Only last month employment figures showed the North East still has the highest unemployment rates in the country at 8.5% compared with the national average of 5.5%. and average weekly earnings have fallen.

“This litany of downward trends and government neglect must not be allowed to continue. The region is literally crying out for help and the government must put its money where its mouth is,” said Mr Arnott.

My Column – Shoot-to-kill: Why Jeremy Corbyn Is Unfit to Become Prime Minister

I’m writing this shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s comments in the wake of the Paris attacks suggesting that a shoot-to-kill policy to stop terrorists is a bad thing.

Unsurprisingly, many people in his own Party have attacked him over this: the BBC, for example, have reported that John Mann – whose niece was trapped in a Paris toilet for hours on Friday night ‘thinking she was going to be murdered’ – is less than chuffed with this approach. I’m not going to defend Jeremy Corbyn on this one. I’ll be more critical of Corbyn the politician than Corbyn the person though.

I think Jeremy Corbyn is just completely out of touch with the feelings of the general public. I suspect that he’s trying to make a point, but putting it across in completely the wrong way. I think he’s trying to say that governments shouldn’t kill people needlessly – even if they’re terrorists – if you could safely capture those people alive.

With all due respect to academics, I can imagine that one being debated by philosophy professors, argued backwards and forwards, about the sanctity of all human life. What I don’t understand is how a politician could possibly zero in on that particular suggestion.

The questions on everyone else’s lips after the Paris attacks are surely very different. Even if Jeremy Corbyn has commented on these questions, he must surely understand politics well enough to know that it’s his off-the-wall comments that will be widely reported. There are far more important considerations that he should be spending his time on. What can we do to assist the French in their response to this terrible tragedy? How can we catch those responsible and bring them to justice? Do we need to step up control of our borders? Do we need to do more to fight ISIS in their own strongholds? What are the chances of a similar attack in the UK? Are we well prepared? Do our security services have the resources they need? Can we give intelligence services more power without creating a ‘snoopers’ charter’ which could be used against ordinary citizens? Do we need to step up security in key public locations?

But no, Jeremy Corbyn asks a very narrow question about a shoot-to-kill policy. Frankly, by asking that question he has spectacularly missed the point. Back in the real world, let’s suppose that a terrorist is armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades. They are shooting people indiscriminately and quickly. A delay of even a few seconds could result in the deaths of innocent civilians. Even if armed police or soldiers could somehow disarm the terrorist, they may well be wearing a suicide vest which they could detonate as a last resort. It’s almost impossible to conceive of a circumstance in which non-lethal force would avoid putting further lives at risk. The question about lethal force is a purely academic one.

I have no problem with Corbyn – as a fellow human being – thinking about that question. But as Leader of the Opposition, it’s utterly ridiculous. There are far, far more important issues of national security that he could be contemplating. When he ignores the fundamental questions that matter to the British people at a time of tragedy and uncertainty, it shows that he doesn’t really ‘get’ politics. He’s spent decades as a lone eccentric voice in Parliament. Such comments wouldn’t be completely out of place from a maverick backbench MP with his own agenda. But he’s no longer sniping from the sidelines, he’s auditioning for the job of Prime Minister. In yet again failing to recognise that basic distinction, he reminds us exactly why he’s unfit for that office.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website. You can view it here.

My Column – Motocross Track Gets Farm Subsidy: What We Learned From the EU’s Auditors

From claiming agricultural subsidies for a motocross track as ‘arable land’ to the curious case of the non-functioning sewerage system in Greece, this year’s Court of Auditors’ report shows that the European Union remains rotten to the core.

It’s a big blow for those who have spent year after year championing elusive ‘EU reform’. After 42 years of the United Kingdom trying to reform the European Union, the report shows that the system remains as bad as ever. The Conservatives failed to reform the EU, then Labour did, then the Conservatives did. Then Labour failed again, then the Coalition failed, and now the Conservatives claim they’re going to manage it. Of course, they’re not asking for any meaningful reform so they’ll spin almost anything as successful renegotiation.

Forget the headlines about whether or not the accounts have been signed off. Read one newspaper, and they’ll say the accounts were signed off. Read another, and they’ll tell you they weren’t. They’ll say it’s now two decades and counting. So what’s the truth? Well, the accepted ‘error rate’ is 2% – if there’s less than 2% of the EU’s budget mis-spent, then it’s considered acceptable and the accounts are approved. That’s never happened. This year the figure is 4.4% – and that’s after some of the calculations have been relaxed to make the target easier to hit.

Fed up with eurosceptics pointing out the obvious, the pro-EU lobby leaned on the European Union. They don’t want the anti-EU cause to be able to say that the accounts haven’t been signed off for 20 years in a row. So the auditors continue to express an ‘adverse opinion’ on the accounts, and say that they’ve been ‘materially affected by error’. On that basis, eurosceptics point out that another year goes by without the accounts being properly signed off. But the Court of Auditors now ‘signs’ the accounts despite expressing an adverse opinion on them. This way, the pro-EU side can – sometimes even with a straight face – claim that the accounts are indeed ‘signed off’.

The sewerage system in Greece is a classic example of a total failure of joined-up thinking. Back in 2006, an application was made for EU funding to build a sewerage plant and networks. Seven years later, the project was completed in 2013. But no-one thought to connect the sewerage network to private households, making the whole project completely irrelevant and pointless. It’s rumoured that now there are some plans afoot for the system to be connected. Maybe.

In Castilla La Mancha (Spain), there is a piece of land set aside as arable land. At least, that’s what they claimed EU funding for. But upon closer examination it turns out to actually be a motocross track. Naturally.

In Romania, staff were paid three times the going rate for working on an EU-funded project. Elsewhere, a truck was purchased for a ‘small business’ which turned out to actually be a large company. In Italy, a high-speed rail project claimed for what appears to have been an out-of-court legal settlement with a subcontractor.

From part-time employees being paid as full-time, to elaborate schemes with businesses setting up subsidiary micro-enterprises to qualify for small business grants, it’s clear that there’s something deeply wrong with the system.

Every year, the discussion out here in Brussels is a carbon copy of the previous year’s. They may as well simply play a recording of last year’s and save the trouble of debating it again. Every year we are told why next year will be better; it never is.

The problem is actually quite fundamental. We hand over £55 million a day to the European Union, and we’re given about £22 million of it back to spend on EU projects. However, the EU has a string of complex rules for those projects. Applications for funding are complex and bureaucratic. So even if there is no actual fraud (and in many cases there is), the level of difficulty involved when dealing with Brussels and national governments leads to the system being riddled with errors.

Outside the European Union, how simple life would be! Instead of handing them £55 million and getting £22 million back, we could give the £22 million to worthy causes ourselves – and much more efficiently, leaving them to get on with the jobs that they do best. Then we could keep the other £33 million a day for ourselves, either to cut the deficit hugely or to employ an army of doctors, teachers, police officers and nurses. Or, come to think of it, we could actually do something about the actual army.

Yet the EU will continue to take credit for all that ‘EU funding’ that they give us, warts and all. They shouldn’t be given credit for giving us some of our own money back. I can’t be grateful for that; will this confidence trick really con the British public into voting to remain in the European Union?

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website. You can view it here.

Jonathan Arnott MEP describes million pound hospital trust salaries as “appalling”

News that the chief executive of a struggling NHS trust earned a pay package of £1.26 million has been described as “appalling” by regional MEP Jonathan Arnott.

Tricia Hart runs the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on a salary between £220,000 and £225,000, with added pension benefits worth up to £1.04 million.

Yet under her management, the Trust’s financial deficit grew from £2.9m to £4.4m in 2013/14 and it has also been admonished for failing to meet targets on infection control.

Ms Hart’s remuneration package was revealed as part of a wider investigation into “fat cat” salaries in the public sector by the Daily Mail.

Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP said: “I’m appalled by this and I’d be astonished if anyone other than public sector fat cats would think any differently.

“This is an outrageous amount of money being diverted away from actual health care and instead into the pockets of those who are effectively administrators.

 “An entry level student nurse starts on a little more than £21,000, so that could have paid towards 60 more nurses to provide care for patients.

“It is no good the NHS complaining about needing money when vast amounts of its budget goes on scandalously sky high wages for non-clinical staff.

“If we are to keep the NHS free at the point of access and cherished for the institution it is, we urgently need to look at the ridiculous sums of money being diverted away from patient care,” said Mr Arnott.

My Column – The curious incident of ghost voting in the European Parliament

During the mammoth voting session last Wednesday (I believe members of the European Parliament had to vote over 600 times in that one session alone) a point of order was raised by an eagle-eyed MEP from the centre-right bloc in the Parliament.

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt noticed that Marine Le Pen (leader of the French Front National) had been absent from the chamber.  Yet it seemed that she had been voting anyway.  How could this be?  She demanded an investigation.  Rightly so.

I’m a believer in democracy.  And however subversive of democracy the European Union might be, however much the European Parliament might lack the proper authority of a democratic chamber, this kind of ‘ghost voting’ is an affront to democracy.  First the facts should be established, then the guilty persons identified, and then the appropriate consequence should be applied.  I’m not sitting in judgement on this one, so I can make my personal view clear with no conflict of interest: I am disgusted and appalled that anyone could engage in such ‘ghost voting’.  They aren’t denying that it occurred.

The next day, prior to the start of the votes, the same centre-right MEP – Anna Maria Corazza Bildt – rose to announce the results of the investigation, and to confirm that wrongdoing had taken place.  The affront to democracy had now been compounded by an affront to justice; it’s fundamentally alien to the principles of natural justice for the person demanding an investigation to be the one to announce its conclusions.

Marine Le Pen gave an explanation, of sorts, for what happened.  She accepted that the  ‘ghost voting’ had taken place.  She had left her voting card in the machine when she stepped out of the chamber for a moment and her colleague had pressed the buttons on the voting machine.  Leaders of political groups or national parties do have to step out from time to time, if a crisis develops in their home country.  In a 2½ hour session of voting, sometimes a call of nature can hit anyone.

Walking around an empty Parliament chamber, you do usually see voting cards left in machines either accidentally or if they intend to quickly return to the chamber.  I’d estimate that 5% or so of MEPs on any given day leave a voting card in the machine.

There are only two possibilities:

  1. Marine Le Pen asked a colleague to place votes on her behalf
  2. The colleague acted alone in doing so

If 1 is the case, then both are equally culpable.  If 2 is the case, then only the colleague is guilty.

The President of the European Parliament has the power, with the agreement of the Bureau, to fine members who breach the rules; it is accepted by all concerned that the rules have been breached and I expect that some sanction will follow.

The situation was compounded when – on behalf of the Parliament’s Bureau – another member rose to speak.  Instead of dealing with the matter at hand, he began by insulting Marine Le Pen and accusing her of hating democracy.  Those sitting in judgement on a matter should not express a public opinion, let alone make such remarks.  We all agree that the offence committed is appalling, but due process must be followed.

It rather reminds me of the cowboy accused of stealing a horse. One of the cowboys said, “Let’s hang him.” The others replied, “Hold on a moment. Before we hang him, he deserves a fair trial. Then we’ll hang him.”

Members of the French Front National may have acted like cowboys in this respect, but even they deserve a fair trial.  Fair trials are for everyone, not just those that you happen to approve of.

Immediately afterwards, another MEP walked across the chamber towards Marine Le Pen, aimed his mobile phone in her face and started taking photographs of her.  This unparliamentary behaviour was also unhelpful.

Within the context of the unfolding shambles, one British Labour MEP took to Twitter to condemn their entire group for the actions of one or two individuals.  There’s nothing like overstating your case.

I started off being disgusted by the undemocratic actions of the ‘ghost voting’.  I was soon almost as disgusted by the lack of due process in the European Parliament.

Commission Question – Completion date for the Europa building

Question for written answer E-008845/2015/rev.1

to the Council

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Completion date for the Europa building

Does the Council have a planned completion date set for the construction of the Europa building (seat of the European Council) on Rue de la Loi 155 in Brussels? Could the Council also provide a breakdown of costs to date?

EN

E-008845/2015

Reply

(5.11.2015)

The latest completion date for the Europa building, as communicated by the Belgian Public Buildings Administration, is the end of December 2015. Taking into account the time needed for the provisional acceptance and for rendering the installations and services operational, the earliest date on which the Europa building could be occupied is September 2016.

The ceiling for the total project costs, at January 2004 prices, is EUR 240 million. This represents EUR 325 million at March 2015 prices.

The current estimate for the final construction costs provided by the Belgian Public Buildings Administration, at January 2004 prices, is EUR 228 million. At March 2015 prices, this represents EUR 309 million – an amount falling below the ceiling established.

These construction costs are broken down, at January 2004 prices, into EUR 20 million for demolition and EUR 208 million for construction (EUR 28 million and EUR 281 million respectively at March 2015 prices).