25 May 2013

Responses to my questions for London Labour's MEP candidates: #1 Seb Dance.

I'm grateful to Seb Dance for being the first, and so far only, London Labour MEP candidate to respond to my questions on European issues and the selection process. His answers are below.

Again, thank you, Seb, for your thoughtful and comprehensive answers.


1. The biggest challenge faced by the European project this year has been the Cypriot banking crisis. What is your assessment of the measures put in place by the so-called 'troika' to deal with this and what lessons have been learnt should similar crises arise in comparable euro-denominated economies?

SD: Depositors and savers should not bear the cost of bailing out banks from collapse caused by their own reckless activities. When the crisis hit in February, the Cypriot Government chose to put the burden on the all bank savers therefore breaking an important EU principle that deposits of up to €100,000 would be protected. This was a bad decision and thankfully the Cypriot Parliament rejected the deal.

The situation in Cyprus and the emergence of yet another banking crisis underlines the need to push ahead with tough reform to change culture and structure of our banks. Banks are still too big to fail with the Cypriot banking sector estimated by the IMF in 2011 to be 835 per cent of GDP and banks' assets in relation to GDP have tripled in size since 2000.

We need to implement reforms across Europe which would separate a bank's essential retail services from their more risky trading activities. The separation would mean that even if a bank fails depositors and savers could still access the accounts and use payment services without government or tax payer bailouts. It is not acceptable that the Cypriot banks remained closed for 10 days and that citizens were left without basic banking services. These reforms will ensure no interruption to deposits and payments services and ultimately no run on a bank.

2. A longer term challenge is that of reducing carbon emissions. It has been claimed that the cap and trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been undermined by the European Parliament's recent failure to agree to the 'backloading' of credits. In such a scheme, do you believe the 'cap' or the 'trade' feature to be the more important? Has the ETS reflected this importance? If not, what reforms or alternatives for regulating the use of carbon would you support?

SD: So-called 'backloading' is very important in order to raise the price and make the scheme more effective. In the absence of measures such as this the ETS certainly has its shortcomings, but nevertheless it has already helped the EU bring down its emissions and it is taken as an example by other regions of the world.

There is currently a surplus of 900 million allowances which has in turn brought the price down from €30 - as originally calculated by energy producers - to €2.80. This imbalance is distorting the market and hindering Europe's transition to a low-carbon economy.

On reform, other than stressing the importance of backloading I think it is best to see what position the Rapporteur can come up with following the report's rejection. I believe Labour MEPs are in consultation with him on this.

3. A growing pan-European economy is dependent upon the flow, exchange and exploitation of information. This whole opportunity is becoming better known as 'Big Data'. What are the threats to this from EU legislation concerning data? How do we balance the potential for businesses and consumers with the need to protect privacy and maintain member nations' national security infrastructures?

SD: As you say, the need here is to ensure that the correct balance is struck between protecting people's data and allowing Europe's economy to benefit from the enormous potential of new technology.

As such I would broadly welcome the Commission's proposal on reforming data protection but there are some important principles I think we need to ensure are put in place: 1) that protection applies to all citizens in the EU regardless of where the data is being stored or processed; 2) that anonymous data should not be subject to the same restrictions - indeed it should be incentivised; 3) that processing of data is subject to consent, compliance with obligations on guarding it and that, generally, data referring to ethnicity, sexuality, health records, membership of trade union and other data of a personal or sensitive nature is not to be processed by public bodies except in extremely specified circumstances and with strict safeguards.

Citizens should in all cases have the right to know what data is held about them and this right of information must cover both public and private bodies. It should be clear to anyone using a company's services what data is being collected and - crucially - how it is being used.

4. Although no fault of any of those selected, it has become increasingly clear that the selection processes for the regional lists was unsatisfactory. In London, only 100 or so applications were made. (Just so as you know, I was one of them so do not write this entirely disinterestedly). For a job that has 8 vacancies and is worth a six figure annual salary, that's astonishingly low and points towards a lack of communication and promotion to the regional membership. How would you rectify this for the 2019 process? Whatever the numbers of members interested, is a pre-selection for selection necessary at all? Given modern campaigning and communications techniques, are short-lists for a regional list necessary at all? How could the regional party better facilitate the participation of more than eight people in the selection for 2019?

SD: Dan, I am sorry to hear that you did not get on the shortlist but it is fantastic that you applied; like you I agree that there ought to be many more members applying to be an MEP.

I feel very privileged to be on the shortlist and to be able to represent Labour in these elections. Ultimately I would like to see some way for more members to have a say in the selection process as early as possible, but the party must make the decision on what is possible logistically and

I would hope that in the coming weeks you will have an opportunity to see all of the candidates debate and discuss the issues that matter to all members and be able to make a choice accordingly. As internal party selections go, there are few as comprehensive as this one!

1 comment:

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