“…I am writing to seven of my elected representatives in the European Parliament about the implications of EU procurement law with respect to Fair Trade. I really need your help to fix a problem with EU law.

Recently the UK Government consulted on proposed procurement rules including “At least 50% of tea and coffee is certified to be fairly traded.”[1] The public wanted the Government to go much further than 50%:

“The majority of those who responded on this criterion felt it was not ambitious enough and should be either increased to 100% for tea and coffee or that other products such as bananas and cocoa should be included.”[1]

But EU procurement law stops the UK public sector from going 100% Fair Trade:

“We are keeping this criterion as it stands as there is significant cost. The 50% also allows some flexibility as EU public procurement laws make it impossible to specify fairly traded produce and other methods need to be used.”[1]

EU procurement law is presumably designed to stop discrimination against certain types of suppliers but in this case discrimination in favour of Fair Trade suppliers is exactly what is needed.

I feel very angry about this law and the implications it has for Fair Trade. Please could you each let me know what can be done to get this changed and what you personally will be willing to do to fix this. I know that some MEPs favour leaving the EU but this is unlikely to happen in the short term so I would ask those MPs to try to get EU law changed to allow public bodies in member states to go 100% Fair Trade if they choose to.

[1] http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/73619/response/189076/attach/6/2011%2004%2008%20Summary%20of%20all%20response%20to%20comments%204.pdf

Yours sincerely,
…”

This FOI release reveals a lot of public support for going 100% fair trade on tea and coffee:

“There were no comments that didn’t support inclusion of this criterion 50% fair trade]. The majority of those who responded on this criterion felt it was not ambitious enough and should be either increased to 100% for tea and coffee or that other products such as bananas and cocoa should be included”

But Government can’t go to 100% because:
“The 50% also allows some flexibility as EU public procurement laws make it impossible to specify fairly traded produce and other methods need to be used.”

The whole point of fair trade is excluding non-fair trade suppliers from the buying process. Someone has to get this fixed.

Prime Minister’s Questions is televised and covered by the media and the right to question government ministers about the work of government departments is well known. The Parliament website describes it thus:

“In addition to oral questions, MPs and Peers can ask government ministers questions for written answer. These are often used to obtain detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments. ” Source: Written answers Parliament website.

The “Department” drop down menu on TheyWorkForYou search page reveals that your MP can ask questions of bodies that are not classed as Government Departments, I list these below with my comments (I have excluded Lord Chancellor and Government Law Officers from this list):

  • Administration Committeesearch – considers the services provided to MPs by the House of Commons.
  • Church Commissioners -search – manages an investment portfolio (mostly in company shares and property) to support the Church of England
  • Duchy of Lancastersearch – one of two Royal Duchies in England, see Wikipedia: Duchy of Lancaster
  • Electoral Commission Committeesearch – a body created under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to scrutinise the Electoral Commission
  • European Communitysearch – it appears that MPs can ask the Lord Privy Seal questions about the European Community
  • House of Commonssearch – MPs have asked House of Commons about security arrangements, first aid and spam emails under this heading.
  • House of Commons Commissionsearch – the overall supervisory body of the House of Commons Administration in the United Kingdom
  • Leader of the Councilsearch – another name for Leader of the House of Commons, only one question found under this heading.
  • Leader of the Housesearch – MP has asked about the use of hand held devices in the Commons under this heading, another has asked about the time taken to answer written questions
  • Palace of Westminstersearch – no questions under this heading since 1981, when Mr. Garel-Jones asked the Lord President of the Council whether the State opening of Parliament would be televised.
  • President of the Councilsearch – many questions relate to work of Government but some questions relate to Parliamentary scrutiny e.g. in 2002 Mr Graham Allen submitted a question: “To ask the President of the Council if he will list for each Government Bill to be introduced this session the form of pre-legislative scrutiny to which it will be subject.”
  • Privy Councilsearch – The Privy Council essentially, a law making body through which the Queen makes Orders – see also Wikipedia:Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Most of these questions however appear to relate to the Government Department called the Privy Council Office
  • Public Accounts Commissionsearch – the Public Accounts Commission examines the National Audit Office Estimates and considers reports from the appointed auditor of the National Audit Office.
  • Public Accounts Committeesearch – only one question found under this heading and this dates back to 2001. The Committee of Public Accounts examines “accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted to Parliament to meet the public expenditure, …”