A packed week involved lots of good things happening in Brussels as well as at home in the constituency.
It was great to be with Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, along with Labour’s excellent Parliamentary candidates in Bristol on Friday. I chaired an event at Bristol University on Friday at which Keir and Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) spoke about Brexit and how the Labour Party and its candidates are the progressive choice in the upcoming General Election - it was encouraging to see so many young people engaging with both the election and the topic at hand. In the evening, I attended the Society of Labour Lawyers dinner in Bristol with Keir, Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East), Karin Smyth (Bristol South) and Thangam.
Thangam, Karin and Kerry are really strong representatives for Bristol and the Labour Party - they have led on Labour issues in Westminster and given steadfast opposition to the Tory Party in Parliament and I sincerely hope that they will continue to represent the great city of Bristol in the future. On Saturday, I joined Ben Bradshaw on the campaign trail in Exeter. Ben has an extraordinary reputation in his constituency and is standing on the record he has built up in his twenty years as Exeter’s MP.
I was also able to appear on ITV West Country to discuss Labour’s plans for affordable housing. Whilst under the Tories house-building has fallen to its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s, Labour is pledging to build over a million new homes in five years, including half a million council homes. Brilliant Labour councils like Stroud and Bristol demonstrate what can be done with limited resources, but it requires a Labour Government to unleash the house building programme that the whole of the country needs.
This week I attended a meeting with other members of the ITRE committee to discuss energy efficiency and the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, which establishes an overall policy for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 – to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets. All EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020.
On 30 November 2016, the Commission published a proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive to make the EU a global leader in renewable energy and ensure that the target of at least 27% renewables in the final energy consumption in the EU by 2030 is met.
Child Online Sexual abuse
This week I presented a file to the FEMM committee for which I am shadow rapporteur. The file is an opinion which will be presented to the LIBE committee to influence their upcoming report on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The rise of the digital age has changed the way children interact with others and exposes them to previously unknown challenges and dangers, whilst the growth of the internet has also seen a rise in different techniques used by criminals. It is the responsibility of the FEMM committee to ensure that the gender aspect of child abuse, child exploitation and the production and distribution of child pornography is not overlooked.
I met with representatives of Commissioner Moedas to discuss the future of the EU research programmes, in particular, the Commission's proposal to establish a European Innovation Council to replicate the success of the European Research Council. The UK has been a winner with the ERC, receiving the largest amount of grant money of an EU Member State (€951m), to finance cutting edge innovation in our universities. UK universities receive more money from Horizon 2020 than all other European Universities combined, and it makes up approximately 16% of university income across the UK.
It is vitally important that the UK continues its relationship with the EU Research programmes, for the sake of our universities, our industry (which develops hundreds of millions of pounds worth of innovative technology with EU money), and for the employability of graduates, students, and highly skilled workers across the UK.
Sky and Space lunch
I attended a meeting of the Sky and Space Intergroup, where we discussed the future of innovation in the aerospace sector. The EU's Clean Skies initiative has brought together successful UK companies like Airbus and Rolls Royce to develop new cleaner, environmentally friendly technologies for aircraft. This initiative has invested heavily in plants around the UK, and has helped ensure quality jobs in places like Filton. I am anxious that we do not lose that cutting edge in aerospace technology for the South West when we leave the EU, and I think it is vital to keep all options open in ensuring a successful future cooperation in these innovative technologies with our EU partners.
This week I met with Katie Cavell from the office for Cornwall in Brussels. Cornwall is facing a difficult future, with a shortfall in funding predicted due to our exit of the European Union. There is a great deal of worry for the future, but there is a great deal of work to do in order to mitigate the potential risks of Brexit for Cornwall. Unfortunately the minority Tory Council in Cornwall is not facing up to these challenges, so we all need to work together to ensure that Cornish businesses are able to compete with their European counterparts after we have left, that infrastructure projects remain funded, and that we ensure the best possible outcome for Cornish communities.