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Newsletter from Fiona Hall August 2008

August 12, 2008 4:29 PM

Fiona Hall's August e-Newsletter

Hello and welcome to my August newsletter. Below is a round up of all my latest news showing what I have been doing in the North East and in Brussels.

Further details can be found on my website www.fionahall.org.uk which is updated regularly.

Please contact me if you have an issue I can help with or to tell me your views fiona@fionahallmep.co.uk.

With best wishes,

Fiona

Round up of the latest news

2011 should be the year of volunteering

MEPs are calling for the work of volunteers to be recognised by declaring 2011 the European Year of Volunteering. Along with 450 other Euro MPs, I've signed a European Parliamentary written declaration, which looks to highlight the all-round benefits of volunteering.

Dedicating a year to volunteering and volunteers would reflect the important economic and social contribution the sector makes to life in the North East today. A 2006 Eurobarometer survey revealed that close to 80% of respondents feel that voluntary activities are an important part of democratic life.

I read about the work of North East volunteers every time I open a paper and I'm fortunate to have visited many projects in the region which owe much of their success to the hard work and support of volunteers. As more and more people give up their free time to volunteer for projects they believe in, I think it is only right that we honour their commitment by endorsing a year of volunteering.

Cheaper texting from abroad coming soon!

It will soon be far cheaper to text from abroad, as the European Commission is going to make mobile phone operators reduce the cost of mobile data and texting. Since the European Commission was forced to introduce caps on roaming voice calls in 2007, I've been warning the mobile phone operators that unless they showed more willingness to bring down the roaming charges for data and texts voluntarily then compulsory measures would follow. Action at an EU level has come to the rescue of consumers, who have been exploited and manipulated by the mobile phone companies for far too long.

Newcastle is a City for Peace

I'm supporting the Newcastle City for Peace initiative - the aim of which is to encourage people to respect and understand the different people and communities living in Newcastle. The initiative has been set up to try and combat social exclusion in the city and I'm confident the scheme will be a success, building on Newcastle's reputation as a welcoming city.

I feel strongly that as an MEP I represent all the people living in the North East, whatever their age, nationality, mother tongue or religion. I hope the Newcastle City for Peace initiative will encourage a better understanding of the different cultures and peoples who think of Newcastle as their home.

Missing child alert system wins resounding EU support

I've signed up to a campaign to set up an EU wide missing child alert system and it has reached an important milestone - it's gained the support of more than half of all MEPs (417 out of 785). This means the European Commission will have to respond to the Written Declaration and it puts added pressure on the 27 EU governments to deliver the scheme.

The alert system would activate as soon as a child is reported missing, with the media being provided with photos and basic details whilst police and border officials step up vigilance to help return the child to their families.

The French run a similar scheme which has been very successful, so I hope the French EU presidency will work with member states to push things forward quickly. Once implemented, the amber alert system will bring reassurance to the thousands of British families travelling at home and abroad throughout the holiday season.

The smart way to lower energy bills

As gas and electricity bills continue to rise, with serious consequences for millions of British households, I've repeated my demand for the Government to bring in smart meters as soon as possible. Up to 4 million homes could be affected by fuel poverty - that is spending more than 10% of income on fuel - in the coming year. Smart meters help consumers to see exactly how they are using energy and help to cut spiralling energy bills and drive forward energy efficiency. I've written to Malcolm Wicks MP, the Minister of State for Energy to ask him when the Government will reach a decision on the domestic roll-out of smart meters. They work in other countries and there is no reason why they shouldn't in the UK.

Cutting car carbon

I've joined with the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s to cut car carbon on European roads by reducing CO2 emissions on new cars by 25% by 2012. This goes hand in hand with European Parliament proposals which include long term targets on carbon reduction, a "green star" rating system and penalties on manufacturers who do not deliver. The European wide campaign challenges the car industry to design and build more fuel efficient cars which will be cheaper for the average person to drive.

Lib Dems support tough action as North East knife crime figures are revealed

Liberal Democrats in the North East are calling for tough action against those people who use knives in violent attacks. Figures revealed by the Home Office show that 20% of violent crime in the North East involves knives, a picture only slightly better than for the North West (21%) and worse than for London.

The statistics also show that four local authorities in the North East witnessed above average levels of most serious violence against the person - with Easington more than twice the average national rate.

I'm supporting Northumbria police's knife amnesty which started across Northumberland, Tyneside and Wearside last week. I hope that it will be effective in reducing the number of knives on the streets. I also agree that tougher measures are needed to beat knife related crime, including a crackdown on alcohol related violence, a stop and search programme and harsher sentences for those people caught selling knives to children and young people.

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Fiona, along with details of what Fiona has been doing in the North East and in the European Parliament, by visiting her website, www.fionahall.org.uk.

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