Sorry about the extended silence, but it’s my mid-year resolution to write more often (until I go on holiday in 3 weeks time that is…)
We start with the story doing the rounds on EU rules reducing your pensions, which started in the FT and then moved to the Express. This reminds me of the claims that equal pay legislation would price women out of the labour market – and we have seen that that didn’t occur. A case of over-simplifying, and extrapolating from one factor in a decision to an overall effect. All our proposal tries to do is address the need for sound financial institutions, and I think a lot of people can live with that. While I am sure that our proposals need refining, and the process means that if the case is made for sensible changes they can be incorporated, it isn’t going out on a limb to say that changes are needed in the financial architecture, and prudential rules are part of that. Pensions are going to be at least as much affected by the last year’s market volatility as anything the European Commission can come up with. That’s what this and other proposals, at national, regional and hopefully international level, seek to address.
For months we’ve been wrangling with the issue of electronic identification for sheep. The UK was at the forefront of calls for electronic identification of sheep in the aftermath of the foot and mouth crisis, when a report for the government recommended its quick introduction. The UK agreed to the legislation when it was put forward, and supported the Commission when it did its implementing legislation. But now, as the memory of foot and mouth has receded, much (but certainly not all) of the farming industry and members of the government are against it. The Commission, aware that there are costs involved in introducing the technology, has made financing available to help farmers at the beginning, but I understand that issues with co-financing mean this isn’t so readily available to farmers here. EID is already being used in the UK, including by the 2007 and 2008 winners of Farmers Weekly’s Shepherd of the Year.