from Europe Issue 6/2003
quality of gold, silver and platinum in jewellery shops across the region
could be under threat if the latest proposed EU Directive to harmonise the
hallmarking of precious metals across Europe is introduced.
gold and silver are soft metals which wear away and lose their shape if
made into jewellery without additives. Therefore, manufacturers of
jewellery alloy gold and silver with copper or other cheaper metals in
order to harden them. This necessary adulteration of precious metals with
cheaper ones provides the dishonest with an opportunity for easy fraud.
Because of these wide possibilities for deception, the need for standards
for precious metals, reinforced by a system of compulsory hallmarking, has
long since been recognised.
British hallmarking system has proved to be of great value in guaranteeing
quality of precious metals, offering a control standard for the
manufacturer and consumer and a reference pricing guide for the retailer.
UK has been a signatory to the International Convention on Hallmarking
since 1972, allowing the UK Assay Offices to strike the Convention
Hallmark recognised by some countries e.g. Austria, Denmark, Finland,
Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
other countries such as Italy, France, and Germany, do not have an
independently verifiable system of hallmarking that allows their
manufacturers to offer similar guarantees to their jewellery retailers and
buyers. Italy is Europe's largest jewellery manufacturing nation and its
lack of compulsory requirement for hallmarking
contributed to an EU-wide problem of under-carating and fraudulent
this, the Italians, who currently hold the EU presidency, are insisting
that the EU scraps independent assay and hallmarking on the grounds that a
non-harmonised system in Europe distorts the market. This would introduce
an inferior system of hallmarking, thereby forcing the UK to relax and
even abandon its own system.
Italian-driven EU Directive on Precious Metals, is a dangerous threat to
consumers and the whole industry. It will allow manufacturers and
importers in Europe to self-certify their jewellery and put it on the
market anywhere in Europe, including the UK, without going through an
independent third-party Assay Office. It will end the UK's Compulsory
Independent Hallmarking. It would be impossible to trace the origin and
reliability of any set of marks and would deprive the buyer of any
independent guarantee of quality and so diminish his or her confidence in
the value of all jewellery!
EAR FOR EU
unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in the EU Commission have been
busy inventing their very own 'weapon of mass destruction' for British
agriculture, particularly sheep farmers. In order to control and manage
future outbreaks of animal diseases such as BSE and Foot and Mouth,
Commissioner Byrne (Environment & Public Health) wishes to ensure the
"traceability" of all EU sheep.
has 37 million of the 100 million sheep in the EU and it is the largest
"sheep" country in Europe with both a domestic and export market
for its lamb. Like millions of Brits, I look forward to a Sunday lunch of
roast British lamb with mint sauce, but for how much longer will we be
able to enjoy such a meal?
new EU Directive will require every one of our 37 million sheep to have
two plastic ear tags carrying an individual 14-digit number, pinned on the
sheep's ear. Every time any sheep is moved, its individual number will
have to be checked and recorded. If the tag is lost for any one sheep, the
farmer must identify and check the missing number and apply for a
replacement plastic tag.
is estimated that about 15 per cent of the sheep will lose their tags.
Therefore, for 600 sheep scattered over miles of moorland, a hill farmer
would have to round up his entire flock to determine which sheep have lost
their tags and then record all the 14-digit numbers on the sheep that
still have their tags. He will then know which of the 14-digit numbers are
missing by referring to his master list. Having established this, he would
have to apply for the missing numbers and pin the right tag on the right
sheep as before!
three minutes for each tagging or checking of a number and with labour
costs at around £12 an hour, the expense of this scheme to an average
sheep farmer in the UK will be £13,00 to £16,000 a year! There are about
67 million sheep movements a year, therefore, writing down all these
14-digit numbers will take 3.35 million hours, costing around £40m! The
cost of replacing tags is estimated at £14m and the on-farm cost of
record-keeping is estimated to be at £8m. Considering that an average UK
sheep farmer earns around £12,000, how can such a scheme be implemented
and how can it be afforded by farmers who are already suffering from
substantial loss of income from the recent loss of farm animals?
EU Commission bureaucrats ever consult farmers directly, visit farms and
markets before sub-contracting consultants to draft such ridiculous and
legislation, which impacts on all of us, should be in the hands of elected
Members of the European Parliament. The EU Member States must strip the EU
Commission of its power to initiate legislation by restricting its
function to that of a civil service. I am urging the Inter Governmental
Conference (IGC) that will decide on the new treaty for the EU in October,
to incorporate such a change.
SHARE DEALS SAVED
The European Parliament made crucial amendments to ensure
that the cost of buying and selling shares does not increase. The Economic
and Monetary Affairs Committee voted on the Investment Services Directive
(ISD) which threatened the survival of low-cost, 'execution-only' share
The Conservatives tabled amendments to the ISD to lift
the threat to execution-only business and confine suitability tests to
advice services. Different
political groups and nationalities supported the amendments, which have
been extensively lobbied for by UK shareholders.
The European Commission's proposals for new red tape on
execution-only services could have been a fatal blow to these low margin,
'no frills' services.
Investors would have been forced to buy advice they
neither needed nor wanted, costing them as much as 20 times the price of
an execution-only sale.
This unnecessary red tape has been rejected by MEPs in
committee. We now have to ensure that the full plenary session of
parliament supports the removal of a red tape threat to execution-only
services and preserves investor choice.
FUNDS IN CHAOS
Conservative MEPs have been vigilant in monitoring the
expenditure of structural funds in the EU. Our efforts to minimise fraud
and misuse are often undermined by Labour MEPs, who even vote against
their own government. This month, they blocked a move to repatriate EU
regional and cohesion policy, a measure supported by the Conservatives.
The European Commission and Member States have failed to ensure that our
money has been properly spent. There are still billions of unspent Euros
sitting in the Commission's coffers. The system is in desperate need of a
complete overhaul and must give member states control of the funds. I will
continue to fight this fraud and mismanagement in the EU at all levels.
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Promoted & Printed by Conservative MEPs in the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, Brussels: Khanbhai, Sturdy, Beazley & Van Orden