Last Thursday saw the first of two sets of elections to be held in the next month. The local elections took place across most of the South West, including the inaugural contest for the West of England (Bristol, BANES and South Glos) Metro Mayor where our excellent candidate, Lesley Mansell, came within a whisker of winning the contest.
Firstly, I want to place on record my thanks to all those who stood as Labour candidates across the region - it is no easy task to put yourself in front of the electorate, especially in a part of the world that is not particularly fruitful for the Labour Party. Congratulations to those that won and will speak up for Labour values in our region.
My heart goes out to those hard working Labour councillors who lost their seats on Thursday through no fault of their own. We must now get on with the General Election campaign on June 8th. We are fortunate in having four great Labour MPs in the South West, in Bristol and Exeter. It would be fabulous to have more but we must ensure that we keep these four representing our region and our interests in Westminster beyond 8th June.
I was delighted to return to the more geographically distant part of my constituency for a visit to Gibraltar. I held productive meetings with, amongst others, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, the Minister forthe Environment and Education, as well as Unite the Union, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business. I was also able to visit both Gibraltar’s airport and border frontier with Spain.
Primarily, my discussions were focused on preparations for United Kingdom leaving the EU, bearing in mind Gibraltar’s 96% Remain vote in the Referendum and Gibraltar’s unquestionable right to self-determination. There are very specific issues that Gibraltar face as a consequence of the vote last June and I will continue to ensure that there is a Labour voice representing them in the European Parliament as well as to the UK Government.
I am looking forward to future visits to Gibraltar as the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU get underway.
Meeting with ALL Ladies’ League
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Brussels chapter of the ALL Ladies’ League to discuss their upcoming work in organising the Women’s Economic Forum (WEF) in Brussels next year. ALL is a worldwide web of women's leadership, friendship and entrepreneurship with over 500 chapters and over 50,000 members across 150 countries, committed to women's economic empowerment.
ENVI workshop on marine litter
A workshop was organised at the request of the ENVI Committee in order to contribute to European policy making to address marine litter. The workshop was part of the ENVI Committee’s follow up to the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Marine litter is one of the fastest growing threats to the health of the marine biosphere and a driver of socio-economic costs in a range of sectors. The committee was joined by many interesting guests who discussed issues such as marine clean-up measures, the challenges of preventing marine litter and the appropriateness of existing policy measures.
FEMM – gender pay gap
Last week in FEMM committee we voted to adopt a text which highlights the need for a better work-life balance, as well as the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap and fight inequality in employment. The committee calls on the Commission and Member States to strike a better balance between private lives for women and men including investments in childcare facilities and flexible working hours to combat inequality in career opportunities.
A “multi-faceted” approach, which addresses the disparities between men and women in terms of their careers and abilities to make pension contributions, as well as those resulting from the way in which pension systems are organised, is required to succeed with the strategy. I am delighted the report was adopted by 17 votes to five with 13 abstentions.