Thursday, 27 November 2003
Address by Ms Dana Rosemary Scallon, MEP.
I wish on my own behalf and on behalf of all members of Seanad Éireann to welcome Ms Dana Rosemary Scallon, Member of the European Parliament, to the Seanad today and her family which is here in the Visitors Gallery. Dana was elected as an MEP in 1999 for the constituency of Connacht-Ulster. Prior to her political career, she was a national figure, due to her success in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1970. Since then she has had a multifaceted career, and in whatever task she has undertaken she has expressed her views clearly and cogently. She has always conveyed a genuine enthusiasm and passion for the task in hand. I look forward to hearing her address in the Seanad today in accordance with Standing Order 52A.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
A Leas-Chathaoirligh, Members of the Seanad and Leader of the House, I am delighted to be with you. I thank you for the opportunity to meet and to share with you some of my experiences in the European Parliament. This is an important initiative. Many of us in the Parliament have wished we could have had this opportunity more frequently. I hope it will be the beginning of a regular exchange of ideas. For maybe too long there has not been sufficient communication between Europe and Members of the Oireachtas. Members of the Oireachtas will sometimes find regulations presented to them for consideration which we have been discussing for two years or more in Europe, when they must then face the music on their doorsteps.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
I am new to politics. After I first dipped my political toe in the water I was welcomed to the Seanad. I recall that day well. It meant a great deal to me. It is a great honour to be here today. I am a member of the largest grouping in the Parliament. I knew that as an Independent Member it would be important to have the clout of a big grouping and so I joined the European People's Party, which is basically a centre-right group. I am the first independent MEP to be accepted into the group. It means I have access to committees and to speaking time. Otherwise, as a lone Independent Member, it would be difficult.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
I enjoy the work in the European Parliament. The problems we face here on a national level are generally reflected in every country. One is able to find alliances and support for issues that are important to one's constituents from diverse areas. It is extremely important not to be caught in one political corner and so I have close colleagues from the Socialist and Green groupings and even one in the Communist grouping. We are all struggling to try to support the needs of our constituents. That support must be sought on many different levels and on diverse subjects.
I chose as my first committee the Committee for Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism. I considered that these were particular needs for my region of Connacht-Ulster. It is acknowledged that there has been a huge problem of under-investment in the Connacht-Ulster region and I considered these areas to be a priority. I also attend, as a substitute committee, the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport. We do not have a competence for sport and I am not very good at it, but we are moving towards education through sport. A base is gradually being built for some kind of competence in this area. I consider that the two committees dovetail. They meet basically at the same time and on the same days. I am sure Members sometimes face the same problem here.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
One tries to run from one committee to the other and to cherrypick the different reports that one feels are relevant. In the cultural committee I have been contributing to debates on the protection of children on the Internet, the protection of intellectual copyright and, of course, education through sport. Those are the areas I have dipped into and I have made contributions to reports on these aspects.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
In regional policy, transport and tourism two large committee areas, covering transport and regional policy, were merged. As a new member I had no idea that this was a schizophrenic committee. Halfway through the meetings, about 50% of the members would leave. I would sit on. The two aspects covered by the committee have gradually blended together, although they retain a distinct focus.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
Transport is extremely technical. We deal with safety in all forms of transport. Inter-modality is most important but it is difficult for the western and the southern regions of this country to attain it because there must be an equal balance and support between road transport and rail transport linking into sea transport. The west of Ireland desperately needs a north-south rail link. Otherwise it will not have inter-mobility and this will impact greatly on freight transport. The taxation of road users is also being discussed at present. Members will be pleased to know that we are discussing the development of a chip, to be installed in each new vehicle, which will be monitored by the new satellite system in Europe. Road users will then be taxed according to their road use. That is fine if there is an excellent road transport system but if somebody in this country wishes to choose rail, they will be severely disabled in doing so.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
We are also coming to a conclusion on the single European sky. There are different needs and focuses in the various countries but one of the main ones is how to divide the military zone from the civil zone where air usage is concerned. We do not have a single European sky at present or a single military control. Various countries are anxious to ensure they will not be curtailed in the use of military zones by a central decision making process.
The speed with which reports go through the European Parliament is increasing. There have been incredible changes in the working methods of the Parliament, even over the past five or six years. The powers of the Parliament have increased since I was elected, specifically in this term as a result of the dismissal of the previous Commission. There is now co-decision in a number of areas and that will become more common. I believe it is a good thing. However, the speed with which we have to debate reports means juggling a number of items in the air.
Being an Independent MEP has many advantages in that I can say and do what I wish. That is not to say one cannot do that in a party but sometimes one pays a price for doing so. As an Independent I have a great deal of freedom. However, a member of a party has a great support system and access to people who specialise in particular areas. There are many advantages to being a member of a party.
Every type of question comes my way. I dip in and out of various committees, such as agriculture and fisheries. Indeed, I have even had to deal with the way animals are kept in zoos in Spain on foot of a request from one of my constituents who is now living there. Another issue concerned how much green and white there should be on a leek. There are all types of questions.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
Exactly. I read a great deal. In fact, to prove how detrimental that has been, I am now obliged to wear glasses. It is a fascinating experience and one for which I am most grateful.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
That is a quick overview of the work. During a debate, a Member is given one minute of speaking time. At a maximum, the Member will be given two minutes if he or she is a main contributor to a report and three minutes if a rapporteur. As one can imagine, the debates can be extremely sterile. It is also frustrating because one cannot insult anybody or make a joke. By the time it is translated, two further people have spoken and one could end up insulting the wrong person. Nothing is as frustrating as making a joke and seeing people starting to laugh about five minutes later. It is a somewhat sterile atmosphere.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
There should be more time for debate, it should be conducted at a slower speed and there should be less regulation. The regulations are over burdening although they originate with the best of intentions. Where there is a gap we try to find some way of filling it or to answer a need. However, there is, and this probably applies at national level too, a burden of regulation and detail, which is having a detrimental effect on growth and enterprise. We are raising this at European level.
I wish to refer to two further inter-related areas that concern the lack of communication with the elected or appointed members at national level. If we do not have open channels of communication, it makes the national parliament's work impossible and our work extremely difficult. One of the imminent issues we are dealing with is the Intergovernmental Conference on the constitutional treaty. After I became a Member of the European Parliament in 1999, our group was given an initial presentation on the charter of fundamental rights by Mr. Aznar, the Spanish leader. He advised us that since the ongoing ramifications of a charter would be far reaching and deep, we should make it a politically endorsed rather than a legally binding document. We simply did not have enough time to explore it sufficiently. That was the first time I or members of my group heard the charter mentioned. The advice made sense because if one does not know where something is going, one should be extremely cautious.
Two weeks later, during a group meeting, I picked up a document which informed me that our group had unanimously agreed to support a legally binding charter. I knew it had not been discussed in my presence and I had attended all group meetings. When I asked senior members of the group, two German women, if it had been discussed, I was informed that it had not and was immediately concerned. Members will have heard talk about the democratic deficit in the European Parliament, of which this is a prime example. The three of us asked for the right to discuss it in the group but we were told it could not be discussed until our summer study days, which took us through to the summer of 2000. By then, it was well under way and a convention was to be put in place.
The Taoiseach's position in Nice was absolutely correct. He was advised by the Attorney General that it could not be made legally binding and the Taoiseach stated as much at Nice. He would only politically endorse it if it could never be made legally binding. Members of the Parliament were asked to vote on it. We had no translation into any language except French and we had to vote on it within 24 hours, knowing that we could not change a syllable. The charter was passed. We were advised prior to voting that the charter would be the first pillar of an EU constitution at which point I knew I could not support a document that had never been discussed in the Oireachtas, one the Taoiseach expressly said could not be legally binding. I opposed the Nice treaty because we were consistently reminded that we were moving towards a constitution of Europe. I began sending out press releases and, at the time, I would have welcomed an opportunity to come here and talk to Senators.
Much is written in the press about people and, unless one has a chance to sit down and talk to people on a one to one basis, misinterpretations of one's intentions can arise. I am not against Europe. I support fully the European project. However, I believe it is moving too fast, too soon, without informing the people. When it moves so far ahead of the people, how can they ever catch up? I strongly believe that the only way to protect the democratic process, fragile and often weak as it is, is to ensure that the voice of the people is reflected in the decision-making process. Members of the Seanad and Dáil and our elected leaders are that voice. The more isolated from the people decision-makers become, the more one damages the democratic process. I could not support Nice I and the enforcement of Nice II was against European law. It was a very bad example of the ability to overturn European law. I was very concerned about this.
I do not know if Members have received a copy of the European constitution. Our only hope of keeping track of and being able to contribute to and shape policies in the European Parliament is to be aware of them, even prior to a proposal from the Commission. We receive a prior indication of proposals from the Commission. At that stage it is essential to be aware of what is proposed. Once it becomes a proposal from the Commission, 99 times out of 100, one will end up with what the Commission proposed. This was confirmed during a journalists' lunch by a senior diplomat in the European Parliament. When the matter was put to him, he confirmed it was correct. By the time a proposal reaches national level it is invariably too late to shape it. It is insulting for Members to receive a copy of the European constitution today because it has been in print since June.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
That is good. We received the first draft of the European constitution in June 2003. It was a little book and we were given a copy each. I copied it and wrote notes where I felt there was a conflict between our constitutional position and sovereignty and the proposals within the European constitution. This is very worrying but we do not have time to go through its details. A major issue is the legal personality which is given to Europe, including the article which states that it takes precedence over all national law and constitutions. The counter-argument is that it refers only to European law and the institutions. However, 78% of our national law is decided in Brussels. The earlier one can be involved in the decision-making process, and make a contribution to policy and documents like this, the more chance there is of representing the needs and concerns of people and of protecting the democratic process and the sovereignty of our own country.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
This brings me to a related matter, namely the recent debate on Ireland's position on embryonic stem cell research. There are different levels of concern in this regard, including the personal and moral position. I am sure I do not need to reiterate my position. I believe it is wrong to take human life and kill it for research purposes. Then there is the constitutional position, which has been strongly challenged. Article 40.3.3o was understood by the people who voted for it to protect life from the moment of conception. This is our constitutional position until challenged.
I have been a member of the bio-ethics group since 1999 and I was one of the 60 strong ad hoc committee which was given the task of drawing up ethical guidelines for embryonic stem cell research in 2000-01. I was intimately involved in developing the guidelines, which pitted industry against ethics. These are like oil and water and do not mix. The scientists said to us that they do not make the laws, that we should make them and they will work within them. At the end of a year's debate among a very mixed group, from the far left to the far right, a political conclusion was reached. We have a very small pot of public money. It is European law not to finance in the area of research what is illegal in one member state. There are absolutely no positive results from the use of embryonic stem cells. They are, in fact, considered high risk. However, there are positive results from the use of adult stem cells, therefore, let us as a Community place the small pot of money we have where it is legally within the limits of the Union and where there is certainly as much hope and more positive proof of developments in adult stem cell research.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
In that case, Senators can ask me what happened next. I thank them for this opportunity, which I hope will continue throughout the coming months and years. I hope this opportunity for dialogue will be supported and extended to whoever is representing us at European level, although I may not be among them.
I welcome Ms Scallon, MEP, and thank her for giving of her time to provide the House with an insight on how she operates within her work agenda. She said she works in the policy area of transport and tourism and referred to what she described as a democratic deficit and a lack of communication.
The purpose of this exercise in the House is to ensure there is dialogue. This aspect needs to be reinforced. Since the second referendum on the Nice treaty the Government has attempted, through this Chamber, to create dialogue in this area. In addition, the Joint Committee on European Affairs, of which I am a member, has at all times been in contact with the various processes of the convention charged with drafting the constitution on the future of Europe. Furthermore, the National Forum on Europe has gone out of its way to meet at various venues throughout the country in an attempt to correct the democratic deficit. We are doing our best and it is why we ask Ms Scallon to do her best to get her message across.
It is a reflection on the democratic deficit that I was not aware of Ms Scallon's membership of the European Parliament's transport and tourism committee. As an educationalist I would like to know the extent and nature of her brief in the area of education and sport. Perhaps she would comment on this aspect.
I welcome Ms Scallon to the House. I admire her because she has convictions and beliefs and sticks by them. That is refreshing in comparison with the Government whose members express different opinions and beliefs. This is reflected in the recent remarks by Deputy Andrews when he described himself as a dissident because he agrees with Government policy. Ms Scallon should be commended for her beliefs and strong convictions.
Like Senator Ormonde, I was not aware Ms Scallon was involved in the European Parliament's transport and tourism committee. I am privileged to be a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and perhaps I can ask a few questions on that area. What view does the European Parliament committee on transport and tourism take on Ireland's failure to control budgets in terms of transport issues, for example, with regard to the delivery on time of the Luas light rail system, and is the committee concerned about this? While most funding for infrastructure projects derives from Irish taxpayers, some EU funding is provided.
Ireland's unique island status poses greater challenges in terms of transport. Ms Scallon hinted at this in her speech and perhaps she would elaborate on the difficulties this status presents in other areas by comparison with the situation in other member states. The Government's bias in favour of road funding at the expense of investment in public transport means investment in the former is not always matched by investment in the latter. This approach is an exception in the EU.
Ms Scallon referred to the possibility of computers using chips to monitor road usage. It is an interesting concept on which she might elaborate. The Australian Government imposes a tax on petrol for the purpose of ensuring that those who use their cars less frequently pay less tax.
Ms Scallon is also involved in the European Parliament committee dealing with the media. Her position in the west was affected by the BCI decision on radio licensing as it affected North West Radio. Members of this House have expressed their unhappiness with the procedures adhered to, including the lack of an appeal procedure. In my constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, Radio Kilkenny lost its licence, which was a cause of great unhappiness. Perhaps Ms Scallon would outline how an EU dimension can be used to address the concerns raised.
Earlier this week the House debated the decision of the German and French Governments to ignore the limits set by the Stability and Growth Pact. This has happened over three consecutive years. Members of the House were unhappy at the example they have set. We considered they got off lightly. Perhaps Ms Scallon will outline her views on this issue.
The issue of fraud at EU level continues to be a cause for concern, especially following the recent findings of EUROSTAT. Ms Scallon referred to the removal of the EU Commission four years ago following allegations of its failure to deal with fraud. At the time, everyone thought the problem would be addressed but, unfortunately, it is still ongoing. This damages the credibility of the EU institutions with the public.
I welcome Ms Scallon to the House. It is a pleasure to have her here. I am sorry she could not elaborate on the question of stem cell research. I support the view taken by the Government and I believe the Tánaiste dealt with the matter courageously and clearly. All medical research should have ethical controls and guidelines. As Members will recall, four yeas ago I tried to introduce legislation by way of a Private Members' Bill to regulate in vitro fertilisation. Unfortunately, it was not accepted, although the purpose of the legislation was simple. All that was required was for clinics to be registered, that they be obliged to say what they did, outline their success rate and what they charged. It is unfortunate that four years later we still do not know how many clinics are operating in the country.
I want to take the issue of the proposed EU Commission guidelines on stem cell research a little further. Many people may not be aware that their purpose is to control what is going on. I was particularly taken by the fact that the precautionary principle is in place, whereby if it is possible to use adult stem cells they and not embryonic stem cells should be used.
There is a very difficult situation with regard to the pharmaceutical industry in this country. Most of the pharmaceutical companies here are derived from parent companies in the United States. Biotechnology firms within the US specifically grow embryonic stem cell lines. Two of the largest of these firms – Vestigen Corporation and Geno Corporation, both based in California – undertake toxicity testing on embryonic stem cells for, I understand, almost all the American pharmaceutical companies.
The Leader will recall I tried to get this aspect debated when the House held an excellent debate on stem cell research, a debate that was far better than the one that occurred in another place. Does Ms Scallon consider that we should allow drugs into this country no matter how efficacious if, in any part of their development, the toxicity has been tested on embryonic stem cells, because this is happening more and more? Should we even countenance allowing these companies to have factories here given that they use biotechnology companies which are very profitable for testing drugs for toxicity and even if the drugs which are tested on embryonic stem cells are not made here, although I gather this will become an increasingly important aspect?
This is an issue we all need to address. It must be remembered that the pharmaceutical and chemical industries here are responsible for 40% of our exports and are big and good employers. As well as addressing the position of the companies, will Ms Scallon outline her views on whether drugs which have been tested on embryonic stem cells should be permitted for use here no matter how efficacious?
I join with others in welcoming Ms Scallon to the House. I suspect I would not agree with many of the views she has expressed but there are many thousands of people who do and it is good that their views find reflection in the European Parliament. I wish to take her up on the two issues on which she concentrated, that of the European project and the issue raised by Senator Henry.
I have a difficulty in pinning down the views expressed by Ms Scallon on the current standing of the European project. She says she is in favour of the project and, specifically, of more co-decision, which inevitably detracts from some notions of national sovereignty, yet she is very resistant to the notion of repeating in the constitution of Europe something that has been part of European law for many decades, namely, the notion that European directives pertaining to European competences take precedence over national constitutions and laws. Forgive me if I am wrong, but she seems to support the project, yet she is pushing all the buttons the sceptics and cynics push. Maybe she is doing this for electoral reasons and knows well what she is doing, but it seems there is a contradiction. Will she explore this further?
I do not claim any medical or scientific expertise on the issue mentioned by Senator Henry. However, it seems Ms Scallon's argument is diametrically opposed to the notion of in vitro fertilisation in the first instance. While many in this country do not understand or have not engaged with the issue of stem cell research, adult or embryonic, they do have some knowledge of in vitro fertilisation. Will Ms Scallon address this?
I am not a constitutional lawyer but do not believe we should accept that it is generally thought that the unimplanted egg has constitutional protection and that it is necessarily illegal to perform research in this field in Ireland. I would not be willing to accept it as a given because it is not.
I, too, join previous speakers in welcoming Ms Scallon to the House. I am afraid I am of such an age that she will always be known to me as Dana. I am delighted she is here. It says a lot for this small country that this House has been addressed by an Irish Independent President of the European Parliament in the morning and by an Independent MEP in the afternoon. It demonstrates the benefits of democracy and our success in electing people to represent this country on such a big stage. Given our relatively small population and the fact that the population of Europe is now approaching 500 million, this is a tremendous achievement. I congratulate Ms Scallon on it.
I also congratulate Ms Scallon on the way she represents her views on certain issues. I do not want to deal with stem cell research, which we debated, but it is topical. Ms Scallon raised it, it has been before us in recent weeks and will be again over the next week, during which time we will see how the debate progresses. The contradiction we face in Europe is such that we must ask how Irish elected representatives, who represent a small group, can embrace democracy while imposing our view on a population of 500 million. Do we not have to be tolerant of a diversity of views? Is this not what democracy is all about? Many of us are concerned about getting this balancing act right in Europe.
I have difficulty accepting Ms Scallon's statement about killing a human life for research even though I am very much pro-life and have always held this position. The definition of the unborn has not been clarified in our own courts, nor has clarity been provided in the area of embryonic research. If such research is to be carried out, not necessarily in Ireland but in Europe, we as a small nation with pro-life views, and other nations should play an active part in influencing the introduction of legislation to ensure safeguards in this area. This is what we have endeavoured to do this week.
Ms Scallon sat on a committee drawing up ethical guidelines for something she may not believe in, which is a great act of democracy and a testament to the role she plays. The issues I have mentioned are complex and demonstrate the diversity of Europe. However, can the view of our 4 million people be sufficient to stop the momentum of 500 million people?
Ms Scallon is most welcome to the House. Her constituency of Connacht-Ulster is vast and it is now proposed that it be extended from Clare to Donegal. How does she keep in touch with her constituents?
What are Ms Scallon's views on in vitro fertilisation? I am told the church is against it. I cannot understand this because in vitro fertilisation has brought such happiness to couples by enabling them to bring forth a baby after their having been childless for many years. It is one of the success stories of research that hitherto childless couples can have a baby of their own. Does Ms Scallon agree with the church's teaching on the matter?
We have been attempting to address the democratic deficit in Ireland through the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs and the National Forum on Europe. What has Ms Scallon been doing to address it?
Ms Scallon, MEP:
On a macro level, it is not democratic if one is invited to discuss decisions that have been made when one has no hope of changing them. All I can do is raise such matters with the media. If we had an appropriate channel in the Oireachtas I could raise it with its Members at a very early stage and state what is happening and what we are being told. It would not have been democratic if, at the end of 1999, the Oireachtas was told a very strong force was to have a legal charter – I do not care what is in the charter – it had not debated and which our elected Head of State had never seen. All I can do is make press releases. As one knows, it is very hard to engage the media and they generally do not want to know about an issue until it becomes a topic on the national stage, by which time it is too late. I have been making such press releases but today presents a wonderfully freeing experience and an opportunity to talk honestly to the Seanad. I hope this process will continue because it will help address the democratic deficit.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
It robbed him of his right to influence it because a decision had already been made. The repercussions of this are evident today, four years later. The charter will be legally binding as part of the constitution. This is robbing one of one's democratic right. I was not reflecting on what the appointee did but stating what happened.
Senator Browne stated he did not know I was on the transport committee. Again, it is very hard to engage the media and this is the biggest problem. The committee is aware of the priority routes for the trans-European networks programme. We have one major priority route, which extends from Belfast to Rosslare. Feeder routes are also a priority. The initial plan was to have a circuit of Ireland to feed into this and to cross Ireland. One of the routes that fulfilled all the criteria for investment was the road from Dublin to Sligo. I brought over a group, including two major spokespeople for different delegations, and made them drive from Dublin to Sligo. Along the way we met every chamber of commerce and county council and in Sligo we met representatives of every party to whom I suggested the establishment of a steering group headed by private sector individuals so it would not become a political football. If we could get the private sector to head it up, and achieve unity, we would have a very strong platform to begin feeding into a major priority route. The next stage is the rail link to Shannon. I also had an American consortium interested in developing Knock Airport and I was looking for the arteries needed for sustainable development. The media have covered this but it is very hard to get it across.
Ireland is unique in Europe as an island and this entails disadvantages in costs. We are not part of the main land mass of Europe therefore we need special attention whenever there are Europe-wide initiatives, for example the taxing of inter-mobility to encourage people to choose the rail network. We do not have the same conditions as the European mainland therefore we need the special attention accorded to several of the islands. I am pressing for this and trying to work with other members. We are always told we are on the periphery of the periphery and we need special care.
Senator Browne asked about road funding versus public transport. In fairness, we had to catch up very quickly from a low level provision of infrastructure and we received significant investment, but this has been undeniably skewed. The investment figures of the National Roads Authority for 2001 show the west received 5% of infrastructure funding. We all know how that can happen politically but it helps neither Dublin nor Ireland to have an imbalance in regional development. Transport and infrastructure provisions must be tempered by regional development needs and we are struggling with that.
The most worrying thing about the North West Radio issue was the consultants' description of the listeners in the west. It was a deeply insulting profile of them as uneducated and all aged over 65 years. It has won the award for radio station of the year again. We can all do and think what we want but do we really listen to the people? Do we think we know what is best for them? If so we do not deserve to hold any kind of office to represent them. We have to listen to the people and if they enjoy the station and voted it number one it is mighty high-handed of a consultancy firm to say the listeners are not educated and do not know what is best for them. I studied the report, much of which focused on Sligo where there is a student population and probably a younger profile than most of the west. It comes down to whether we are listening to the people and representing what they want.
Over the past few past days I was here with the economic committee from the Parliament. There is a perception that as a small country we were hauled over the coals when it looked as though we were in danger of breaking the Stability and Growth Pact. The economic situation is very difficult and France and Germany did break it. Yesterday morning we met the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, who explained that Germany had tried to make some very stringent changes but could not manage to because of the economic atmosphere. It was felt that if Germany was fined on top of the difficulties this would hamper even more the two driving forces of the European Union. As it happens the Minister was right but if we are going to then have to live with an interest rate increase from the Central European Bank, that is wrong. We should not have to pay for this. Germany has until 2005 to get its finances in order. I told the Minister that during the Irish Presidency he should emphasise that any other country finding it difficult to stay within the 3% should benefit from the flexibility allowed to France and Germany, and we should not have to suffer an increase in interest rates from the central bank.
In response to Senator Henry's question on stem cell research, it was said that this vote in Europe was simply on the ethical guidelines. That is incorrect. The moratorium stated that the Commission could not fund it until the guidelines were in place so the vote was to open the door to funding. Ireland took the position of supporting the Commission proposal but would never have reached the qualifying majority because Germany, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal did not support the Commission's position. That was the truth of the situation. It was not simply on the guidelines. The decision had been taken by the Government in 2001.
Ms Scallon, MEP:
It is clear that the biotechnology industry is driving this. The BBC coverage of the vote in the Parliament last week suggested that this was for the biotech companies in Europe to catch up with those in Asia and China and to be one step ahead of the US biotech companies, whether one should have the drugs—
Would Ms Scallon allow drugs which have been developed using embryonic stem cells to test for toxicity in here and would she allow pharmaceutical companies which use such technology, for example in the United States as they do at the moment, to have establishments here?
Ms Scallon, MEP:
What one can do is to be perfectly honest with the public as to exactly what they will be buying or taking in, or what will be produced here, just as we have the same need for openness and honesty with genetically modified foodstuffs. People have the right to know. We also have a duty not to impose on them what we feel is right. We are servants of the people. We are not there to impose on them what we feel will suit the market. We must have respect for their wishes. At the end of the day, one has to be open and honest. One has to openly debate the matter, transmit the knowledge to the people, and take a decision.