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Internal Market Committee - September 2013

Catherine Stihler MEP

It has been another busy and varied year in the Internal Market Committee. A lot of focus has been on the vital Public Procurement Directive and an agreement has finally been agreed.

The directive, once implemented, will do a great deal to improve public sector procurement in Scotland. It will improve the way procurement processes and systems operate whilst also breaking down barriers for SMEs including social and environmental factors.  If implemented correctly this should deliver substantial savings over many years. This is good news for Scotland and I have no doubt that the Scottish Procurement Reform Bill will reflect and complement it well. An agreement was also reached on the Professional Qualifications Directive. This means that Scottish professionals such as nurses, doctors and architects will have the flexibility and ability to work in Europe as their qualifications will be recognised. Furthermore it also ensures and maintains standards when Europeans wish to work in Scotland. It is important to break down these barriers to the single market step-by-step.    

Currently product safety & market surveillance are coming through the European Parliament. Product Safety is crucial to our everyday lives. Ensuring the safety of our products, and maintaining the confidence of consumers, is vital for all stakeholders. Product safety is the foundation of consumer trust.  It is vital to ensure the standardisation of safety requirements and ensure compliance. At the moment product safety is fragmented and for the safety of all consumers, this cannot continue.

Meanwhile there has been much discussion and action on a Retail Action Plan and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The high street and the retail sector have heavily suffered during the crisis and actions need to be taken to address this.  This has also enabled me to promote a great initiative from Scotland, the Test-Town competition.  This asked young entrepreneurs to submit their business plans to develop innovative businesses that could be delivered using vacant spaces in a town centre environment. This innovation needs to be encouraged on a European level. Meanwhile, unfair trading practices have come to the forefront in the UK with debates in the garment and clothes sector but also in the food supply chain.  Action needs to be taken to protect the most vulnerable suppliers and workers to ensure safety, prosperity and fairness.  

In the next year I will be focusing on key consumer rights legislation. Before the summer the European Commission released its proposals on Air Passenger Rights and Package Travel. There have been developments in both these areas.  In Package travel, the development and growth of e-commerce and passenger rights and the ash cloud a few years ago have all highlighted key issues within the legislation.  Therefore the Commission now feels that there needs to be greater clarity within these pieces of legislation to ensure and protect consumer rights.  These proposals are very much welcomed and I look forward to working on them to ensure that Scottish consumers are better protected.

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