All posts by John Kaponi

EU backs innovative small business

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the British Business Bank, have signed an InnovFin agreement for Small and Medium sized enterprises, which will enable the British Business Bank to lend £30 million.

Loans of up to £2 million will support the development of new products and processes, stimulate research and innovation and help businesses target new export markets.

Commenting on this agreement, Richard Ashworth Spokesman for the Conservative Party in the European Parliament said: “This £30m will help small, innovative firms across the UK to invest and achieve their full potential.”

The MEP for the South East went on to say: “This further proves the value of remaining inside the EU – outside the EU we would not have access to such valuable instruments.”





Conservatives MEPs support strong action on tax avoidance

Conservatives in the European Parliament have backed proposals which will help tackle corporate tax avoidance by multi-national firms.

These legislative plans, put forward by the British EU Commissioner Lord Hill, would force multi-national companies to publicly report their tax dealings on a country-by-country basis. It also ensures a level playing field within the Single Market by removing the unfair tax advantages which are available to large corporations, but not on offer to smaller European businesses.

Conservative MEPs also opposed a politically motivated amendment backed by Labour which sought to add public tax reporting to separate piece of legislation considered by the European Parliament.

Following the vote Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said: “Large multi-national corporations operating in Europe should pay the same tax and face the same rules which small businesses in the South East have to comply with. Ensuring a level playing field within the EU Single Market in terms of taxation is beneficial for British businesses.”

“By remaining within the EU the UK can be part of broader cooperation with our neighbours to clampdown on aggressive corporate tax avoidance by multi-national companies.”

“I opposed the Labour-backed amendment as placing this politically motivated text within a piece of technical legislation is inappropriate and cheap opportunism. Conservatives in the European Parliament are committed to creating good legislation that will tackle tax avoidance, not empty political gestures.”

Terrorism and organised crime doesn’t stop at borders

The following has been sent to local media on Friday 13 May 2016 

Police and security cooperation across the EU will be strengthened after MEPs voted in favour of an expanded role for Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.

Countries across the EU will be able to respond more quickly to developing threats through new platforms for enhanced operational cooperation and information exchange between national police forces. Europol will be better equipped to deal with transnational terrorist threats thanks to enhanced capabilities for the new ‘Internet Referral Unit’; this has proven particularly effective in working with EU states to help take down terrorist propaganda and recruitment material.

These new rules also increase the oversight powers for national parliaments over Europol, whilst also enhancing data protection supervision.

Following the vote Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said: “Terrorism and organised crime doesn’t stop at borders so why should the way we tackle it? Our continued membership of the EU ensures that British police and intelligence agencies are best equipped to protect us. Cooperation and intelligence sharing with our neighbours through Europol, an EU agency, safeguards Britain and is firmly in our national interest.”


Clearer labelling would help both shoppers and local producers


Richard Ashworth, Conservative Agriculture spokesman and MEP for South East England, has called upon the Commission for mandatory country of origin labelling to be extended to some dairy and meat products.

Currently there are EU mandatory country of origin labelling requirements in place for fresh beef, swine, sheep, goat and poultry meat as well as a variety of other foodstuffs. These rules mean that the products covered must clearly and consistently note the country of where the food was produced on its packaging. However currently there are no compulsory country of origin labelling requirements for other meats or any milk and dairy products.

The European Parliament has backed a resolution calling upon the European Commission to bring forward plans for information on where raw materials are sourced to be made mandatory  on milk and lightly processed dairy and meat products such as cheese, cream, bacon and sausages.

This would rebuild consumer trust following recent food scandals, enable shoppers to make informed choices when buying food and assist local producers. Mr Ashworth said there was a demand from both consumers and producers for more information on packaging. This means that the benefits would outweigh any limited extra costs that might be incurred.

Mr Ashworth said during the debate: “Consumers are giving a very clear message. They want to know where their food comes from and country of origin labelling doesn’t only benefit consumers, it can be an opportunity for food producers as well.”

“In the case of processed meat and dairy products, for example yoghurts and sausages, there already is a very high level of voluntary declaration and this is a cost that consumers are prepared to pay. So in the interest of fairness and consistency, I urge the Commission to bring forward proposals for mandatory country of origin labelling for all lightly processed products.”


Cheaper phone calls, texts and data when travelling abroad

British consumers will see lower charges for using their mobile phones when travelling within the EU. The cost of calling, texting or using mobile internet in another Member State (roaming) will get cheaper, this is ahead of roaming charges being entirely scrapped in June 2017.

These reductions are coming into force after Conservative MEPs backed the proposals in the European Parliament in October 2015. When travelling in the EU, mobile device users will only pay a small amount on top of their domestic prices: up to €0.05 per minute of call made, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data.

Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said after the reduction in charges: “These reductions in roaming charges are concrete evidence of how our membership of the EU benefits people in Britain. Millions of Britons travel to Europe for both business and leisure every year. Now thanks to EU law the costs associated with this travel will be reduced and British consumers will save millions of pounds a year.”

“Both Conservative MEPs and government ministers have fought hard to secure these cuts in roaming charges for British travellers. Not only is this a tangible benefit of our EU membership, but an example of the level influence we have at the top table in Europe to secure Britain’s interests.”


Statement on expenses

The following statement relates to the parliamentary expenses of Richard Ashworth MEP:

Richard is an active member of three committees in the parliament, the Committee on Budgets, Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as being a substitute member of the Committee on Budgetary Control.

He receives exactly the same salary and pension contributions as all 750 MEPs, and works all week to deliver a better deal for Britain in the EU. The majority of the funds provided for MEPs to carry out their duties are flat-rate allowances given to all MEPs, and not claimable expenses.

Along with his Conservative colleagues, Mr Ashworth has voluntarily published breakdowns of how those allowances are used in his work to deliver the best deal for the eight million people in his large constituency which covers the South East of England.

Mr Ashworth submits his spending,  confirmed annually by an independent Chartered Accountant, as being fully in line with the rules of the European Parliament. The publication of the breakdowns of allowances and expenses can be found here:

Myth-busting United Kingdom Trade with the World

Myth-busting United Kingdom Trade with the World
(Source: UK Office of National Statistics – Pink Book 2014)

Myth busting United Kingdom Trade with the World

1. ‘Our most important markets are China and the US – not the EU’
Not true. The EU is the world’s biggest single market, and it’s far and away our biggest trading partner, amounting to 44.6% our exports and 53.2% of UK imports of goods and services. The EU is particularly important to smaller firms with over 60% of their exports going to the EU.
2. ‘The EU needs us as a trading partner’
This implies that the EU is more dependent on us than we are on them. UK exports to other EU countries amount to 14% of our GDP; conversely, trade with the UK for other EU countries equals around 3% of EU GDP. The rest of the EU is far more important as a trade partner for us than we are for them – which suggests the opposite balance of power in negotiations post-‘Brexit’.
3. ‘If we quit the EU, we could go global’
Not quite. The Leave campaign claims that we could get better trade deals if we negotiated them separately as Britain. Firstly, we will have to negotiate new trade deals with countries across the world, to replace the ones we currently have via the EU (more than 50 countries). Secondly, chances are small that we’d be able to secure a better deal than we already have, negotiating with China, Japan, the US and others just as Britain alone. We are an important market for those countries, but nowhere near as significant as the EU as a whole – the world’s largest single market.
Even President Obama has said that the ‘UK is going to be at the back of queue’ for a free trade deal with the United States – only

Passenger Name Records: a Tool to Fight Terrorism across Europe

Passenger Name Records a tool to fight terrorism across Europe (2)

A more interconnected world is a better world and global travel brings with it countless possibilities. Yet, this greater freedom also provides opportunities for those who wish to do us harm. The European Union provides a framework for Member States to coordinate their actions in the fight against terrorism and organised crime; successful examples include the European Arrest Warrant which allows for extradition of suspects across the EU, whilst the European Criminal Records Information System permits judges and policemen to access criminal records across the Union. To further protect citizens from potential attacks, the European Parliament has voted for the Passenger Name Records (PNR) report, steered through the Parliament by a British Conservative MEP.

Five South East SMEs gain EU funding for innovative products

Five small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the South East have been awarded funding from the EU’s Horizon2020 investment scheme. Each of these small businesses will receive €50,000 (around £40,000) to finance feasibility studies for new innovative products which have the potential to revolutionise their respective sectors.

The following projects have been financed across the South East:
• Cranleigh (Surrey) – using a new bio-mechanical process to convert straw waste into three high value products including bleached paper pulp.
• Abingdon (Oxfordshire) – a new portable home device which uses information from the Cloud for the treatment of moderate to severe depression.
• Milton Keynes (Buckinghamshire) – a portable solar array which can be deployed quickly from a small transportable container in order to generate power from renewable energy.
• Tadley (Hampshire) – a labour-efficient, organic herbicide-free and micronutrient infused seed tape and delivery mechanism.
• Walton-on-Thames (Surrey) – a total cyber protection service to small businesses operating critical infrastructure as well as to residential customers.

The South East received the second highest amount of funding under this latest round, only coming behind London. Overall UK SMEs were the most successful in Europe with 36 beneficiaries accepted for funding receiving a total of €1.8 million.

Commenting on the announcement, Conservative MEP for South-East England, Richard Ashworth said: “this is a clear example of why remaining within the EU benefits businesses in the South East. The EU recognises the importance of providing stable sources of investment to enable small businesses to grow successfully.”

“SMEs are the life-blood of our economy and provide 60% of all private sector employment in the UK. The EU SME Instrument enhances research and development, which, in turn, benefits the British people. Clearly, membership of the EU is good for the science and research which stimulates growth and drives our economy.”