23/10/2011 The Politics Show West Midlands


Jon Sopel and Patrick Burns are here with the top political stories of the week.

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In the Midlands: the lorry drivers with loads on their minds.


The yew is planning height restrictions on HTVs. And what is


the connection between a Worcestershire chip shop, a German


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1775 seconds


hot-dog seller and a European Court Hello from the Midlands. As our MPs


prepare for the crucial vote on the European referendum, we also have


Europe on our minds. We will have the answer do the link between the


German hot-dog seller and a Worcestershire fish and chip shop.


Midlands road hauliers are in a tailspin over plans to restrict the


height of many of their HGVs the commission says it would make it


easier to move goods around Europe if lorries were no taller than four


metres. To help us get the measure of this, here with me today,


Malcolm Harbour, one of our Conservative MEPs for the West


Midlands. Ms Reynolds, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East and


newly-appointed as the shadow Europe Minister, and might mattress


-- Mike Nattrass, UKIP's MEP for the West Midlands.


Our transport correspondent has been talking to truckers.


Love them or hate them, HGVs are a common sight. Even with greater use


of the railways, the majority of the things we make or buy still go


by road. Concerns about the impact on the environment means that


haulage firms up sympathising with bigger lorries, fewer journeys and


less pollution. -- soubrette sizing. Some fans like Birmingham-based


Palletline claim that the EU proposals could see the brakes


being applied when it comes to going green. It is bureaucracy gone


mad. Clearly someone has not thought this through. They are not


aware of the problems back European hauliers face and particularly


British hauliers face. The EU is considering proposals to restrict


the height of lorry trailers to four metres like this one. The


reason according to officials is that it will make it easier to move


goods around or 27 EU countries. -- or 27. Some countries have low


bridges on major routes. Rather than rebuild them, the EU appears


to want to change the height of lorries, regardless of where they


operate. For the UK, that is a big problem was that according to


government figures, 80% of the lorry fleet is over four metres.


What it would mean for Palletline as an organisation and other


British hauliers is that potentially they would have to run


more vehicles, by more vehicles, employ more drivers and there would


be twice the number of vehicles on the road. This is what he is


talking about. The trailer being unloaded is well over four metres


and the goods are being transferred to a trailer that meets the EU's


proposals. As you can see, it does not fit so you need a second lorry.


Other companies have -- are just as concerned. This is the John Lewis


Warehouse in Redditch. Online orders are dispatched from here all


over the UK. Much of its fleet consists of double-decker lorries.


Here at least there is some good news. The euro appears to have done


a last-minute U-turn meaning that regardless of height, they can


still run. They form a major part of our environmental strategy. They


reduce our carbon dioxide by 25%. They are Keith in that ensuring our


environmental impact of our transport fleet is minimised --


they are key in ensuring. Under the current proposals, this 4.9 double-


deck trailer would be allowed on the roads. But this 4.6 metre


single deck trailer would not. Nat Copsey is an expert on all


things Europe and despite the confusion, he maintains that it


makes sense to harmonise. Harmonisation is what allows the


single market to function proper to -- properly. The single market is


our largest trading partner. We have to have the same rules and


regulations in place across the 27 EU member states otherwise it will


not work. The government is not impressed. A statement from the


Department of Transport says, we share the concerns of the UK


haulage industry about the European Commission's proposals. It adds


that it will press the Commission to maintain the existing right of


member states to set the permitted height of lorries.


Already, several haulage firms have gone out of business because of the


recession. There is our best that any new EU rules could see even


more going the same way -- there is now the rest.


Confused? Me too. I can see that Mike Nattrass is itching to get on


it. I will come first to the two of you who want Britain to stay in the


European Union forever, as far as we can see. Isn't this exactly the


sort of issue that makes Europe such a hard sell? It does look like


it is making regulation a fetish. Part of the problem is that your


report, I'm afraid, is very misleading. First of all, we are


aware of the problem. I have been working on it for months. The


commission is very much aware of the problems. What is the problem?


First of all, what your report did not say is that 22 out of 27


countries already do not allow trucks of more than four metres to


go on their roads. That is there now. That will continue. If the


issue is that member states, including Britain, can allow larger


trucks to operate. We have already had the double Decker trailers


which are significantly higher and there is no question but a dark and


I would be astonished if the commission also did not make a


concession for the normal trailers. They are also very good green


reasons. If you look on the roads, streamlined the trailers are saving


CO2. I think you have not actually reported the facts. Why is it that


so many including some in your constituency are so anxious about


it? First day, let me say, I am a pro European, I believe in the


benefits of our membership of the European Union and I believe in the


benefits of the biggest single market in the world. His commission


proposals are not to get final. Because we have a strong voice in


Europe, we are able to influence these. That is very important. I do


not think that the commission should, when it comes to the


European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, I do not think they


should decide to restrict the height of our hauliers. I think


that will be what happens in the end. Mike Nattrass. 80% of the


trailer fleet would be out of order on this regulation if imposed. A I


think it should be the result of our government and what they need


to tell us and our roads are capable of taking traffic and very


little to do with Europe. If these traders have to go into Europe,


obviously they have to abide by the rules of any of the individual


countries. But we should not be told to restrict the height of our


vehicles because it is a green issues. You are saying the result


would be more lorries, each of them a bit smaller and therefore more


traffic was sacked more Denny's, lorries. -- more journeys. The


distinction between using the trucks on the road and the


technical regulations... If you make trailers, all the braking


systems and construction is common so you can make a 40 ft trailer


anywhere in Europe and get it approved locally and it can run


anywhere. That is an important part of the single market if you are


manufacturer in trailers. Also, other countries have the same


issues as we do. In Sweden, they run bigger trucks because they have


longer open highways. This is perfectly normal and there is no


reason at all why we cannot get the permission to set it up and frankly


we have been working on it for a long time. It does seem to be a


more prescription for more lorries, more congestion. I think we can win


the argument on this one. It is not clear that these are the final


Commission proposals. I feel it is a bit dramatic to say that these


are already the proposals and these are going to have this kind of


implication when we do not even know what the commission are going


to propose. Nat Copsey says that you should not see the issue in


isolation, it is part of a broader harmonisation to make the single


market work. It is none of their business. They should not be


discussing the height of trailers within the UK. But they have to run


across Europe. Our trailers can change. We do not have to run those


trailers into Europe. The single market, we are looking to make


things easier for manufacturers and also for exporters. But that does


not mean to say that we have to apply every single role within our


own roads. We have in some cases different speed limits, for example.


The government is putting up speed limits on motorways where different


speed limits... We have different road signs, we have different


alcohol limits, different driving licence regulations. This is the


same thing. If Labour from a government, we do not have you have


moved on to something less double- ended did tell than this? I do not.


There is an important issue. In some cases it, it is very important


to have an effective single market and that they are roars across the


27 member states. In other cases, it is not important for that to


happen and it is no better handled at a member state level. This is a


case in point. I do not think that this will be hopefully the


commission's final proposals. I am worried that we are worrying about


this too early. You can choose any product that you like. You can


choose manhole covers and you can find that the French hold -- friend


specification is being used of manhole covers which is putting


business that in why is it that every time I want to speak, Malcolm


Harbour is coming in. I never speak when you are speaking. There is


plenty of mileage left in this but at this point, we have to go. Thank


you. At last, the answer to the puzzle linking a Worcestershire


fish and chip shop with a German hot-dog seller who took a test case


to the European Court of Justice. The result was that VAT had to be


cut on hot takeaway food throughout the land of the Frankfurter and the


hamburger. Now the Worcestershire chip-shop is hoping to emulate his


German counterpart because VAT was after all originally introduced as


a European harmonisation tax. Ben Sidwell reports now from Hannover


and Hagley. Fish and chips, they are about as British as you can get.


Our place -- Our Plaice is one of the best trip and fish shops in the


country. Now they have their sights set on Europe. Cod and chips please.


There are over 10,000 fish and chip shops in the UK but you may not be


aware that every what time you buy it food from one you are paying VAT


on it. That could all be about to change banks do a sausage seller


He in at Hannover, like the rest of Germany, the sausage is big


business. It is one of the most popular takeaway foods. So when one


sausage seller decided to challenge the government over tax laws, it


became very big news. The sausage seller who goes by the name of


Manfred Bog claimed that he supplied simple easily prepared


food. And unlike a restaurant, did not offer any service. Therefore he


should not pay VAT, he said. On Mars 10th this year, the European


Court of Justice found in favour of Manfred Bog and three other similar


cases. It was a ruling that could Here in England, our sausages are


much bigger. But this is not a row about size. It is all about money.


Wrong altogether. No food should have VAT on it. All countries


should be treated the same way. really is unfair. We want a level


playing field for our members. May, Gregg Howard was elected as


President of National Federation of Fish Friers, representing every


fish and chip shop in the country. They have now appointed a by --


advisers to fight to the VAT battle. It is a matter for the courts.


There are some complex legal arguments in play here and it is


for the courts to decide. I think it is better than a 5050 chance


that some of these principles and indeed other principles should


apply to the UK zero rate. As we are all part of the European Union,


does it follow that rules in place in Germany should be applied it to


the UK? The tax man here does not think so. Her Majesty's Revenue and


Customs say, the European Court of Justice judgment has no


implications for the United Kingdom. It should be across the board. If


it is good enough for Hannover, it is good enough of Hagley. It should


be exactly the same across Europe. We are all Europeans. If the fish


and chip shop industry win their case, other takeaways and could


soon follow. Whether that means cheaper food for us, that remains


to be seen. That is one that sausage and chips and one of fish


and chips. Do you want to VAT on those?


That really is a question, isn't it! Ben Sidwell has found his true


calling on life. Mike Nattrass, a clear example where most people


would see tax harmonisation as a good thing. In Yorkshire, the best


fish and chips you can buy, in Whitby. UKIP are supporting tax


harmonisation? Certainly not. VAT is a European tax. We regret I have


to speak about harmonisation in Parliament. There is a prospect of


harmonisation of VAT across Europe. That is heavily guarded against by


a number of member states including the UK. We believe that we should


have control of our own taxation. I strongly believe that we should do


that. But if you try to reduce VAT, the European Commission get excited


because they are going to cut. So, if for example the Labour


government want to zero rate fuel, gas or electricity, they cannot.


Malcolm Harbour, you were shaking your head through much of that.


What is your concern? First of all, VAT is a comment type of taxation


that we have agreed to. Member states, have different rates.


have a zero rate and Germany has a 5%. The show hearers -- Series... I


think it is most unlikely that it will change in Germany. That is


certainly the impression they have in Germany. I do not think so. They


must have read the judgment. It came up from the lower courts


because Manfred Bog said in a VAT plane which said that this is food


and where people eat at my school, I charge VAT, which is something


that goes on with cold food here. It has been referred back to the


court to make a judgment. The judgment does not actually support


his case. The whole issue is what is food and what is a service. If


you look in the UK rules on VAT, they are very clear. If you heard


hot food, heating is delivering a service. Before week loom on to the


other issues, what do you think Emma Reynolds? I can see that the


fish fryers are looking at the German hot dog sellers and thinking,


if they have managed to win it, if they do managed to win it, is in


not quite similar, serving a sausage in a square in Germany and


providing fish and chips in a chip shop in Hagley? This is much more


of a product than a service. I can see where they are coming from. We


do not have total harmonisation of VAT. We have got to bear that in


mind. Quick word about the referendum vote which is looming.


Mike Nattrass, yew and the Independent MEP are the driving


forces between the British and. delivered it to Number 10 a month


ago and it is now going to be debated. We got 14 MPs saying at


that time that they would speak to it when it got behind the chair.


Now it has caused a lot of problems. Reopening all of the traditional


divisions within the Tory party. The European nightmares under way


again. I do not think that is true at all. David Cameron is right to


say that why should we have a referendum now? They are big issues


to be sorted out and there are three questions on the ballot paper,


including the idea of having a change relationship based on trade


and corporations. Nobody knows what that means. I do not believe we


should go forward without a referendum without a policy behind


it. If it is a diversion. We have big problems to sort out now and


big opportunities within the European market to help growth and


recovery and we should be focusing on that. And a Reynolds, to pursue


at the German theatre -- theme. I am sure you feel an element of


schadenfreude. You have rebels on Labour's benches as well. You are


not exactly united on this one either. The vast majority of our


parliamentary party Labour MPs will vote against the question of a


referendum tomorrow. The truth is that David Cameron, when he was in


opposition, he should have been saying what he is now saying in


government that our membership of the European Union is in our


national interest. If he had not been quite so opportunistic,


calling his MEPs out of the centre- right grouping in the European


Parliament, perhaps he would not be facing he is tomorrow. I agree.


agree says Mike Nattrass. We will end there. We are going to have to


leave it. A fascinating moment in politics. Thank you all very much


for being with us. That is about it from us here in


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