I was in Strasbourg last week for the plenary session and we voted on some really crucial issues. Labour MEPs have been leading the European Parliament's action on the fight against tax evasion. We voted for greater corporate transparency and tougher action on tax dodging.
We believe that public country-by-country reporting - whereby companies report exactly where they make their money and where they pay their taxes - is vital in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion, even more so in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. Does it surprise you that Tory MEPs voted against the proposals for public country-by-country reporting?
Labour MEPs also voted for a resolution calling on EU ministers to block full Market Economy Status for China unless it stops dumping cheap steel on to the market. The dumping of cheap Chinese steel - selling it at below the price it can fetch at home, or exporting it at below the cost of production - is threatening the future of the UK's steel industry. Labour MEPs are also pushing for the EU to modernise its trade defence measures and use all the tools at its disposal to protect European industries against dumping and other harmful trade practices. We have long been calling for action to ensure China complies with the rules, enabling our industries to compete on a level playing field.
Labour MEPs also voted to adopt more family friendly policies and to fully implement the parental leave directive. This means that we backed guaranteed paternity leave, so that dads can spend more time with their newborn children. Again, this wasn't backed by Tory MEPs...
More info about Strasbourg can be found here.
During the session, I was also able to speak 5 times highlighting several important issues: EU policy to support mountainous regions of the EU (like Cumbria); the importance of genocide prevention and commemoration; the World Humanitarian Summit, outlining the position of the EU as the world's biggest donor of humanitarian aid; the importance of EU assistance to Jordan and Lebanon, for post conflict peacebuilding and to empower women and girls, during the refugee crisis; and displacement and demolitions in the Palestinian West Bank, including of structures funded by the EU. You can find these all speeches and more on my YouTube channel.
Also in Strasbourg I attended a historic founding meeting of the Elie Wiesel Network, an EGAM initiative for parliamentarians who are committed to raising awareness of genocide and genocide denial. This issue is very important for me personally as I stood against the BNP Nazi Holocaust denier, Nick Griffin, winning a seat back for Labour in the 2014 European elections. Labour MEPs also had a very productive meeting with the veteran campaigner, Labour Party's Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.
I returned to the UK to attend an exhibition opening of work produced by the inspirational organisation In Place Of War which helps rebuild post-conflict communities through cultural entrepreneurship. The iconic 60s singing star, Sandie Shaw, is a great supporter of IPOW's work and also understands the crucial importance of the EU as a peace project.
On Friday I joined fellow NW Labour MEPs and local campaigners in Liverpool and St Helen's to campaign for the Labour REMAIN campaign. It was wonderful to have Jeremy Corbyn with us in the afternoon to launch Labour Students for Europe.
This was followed by a meeting of anti-racist campaigners with EGAM Project Officer Christopher Metz, who hails from Blackburn but now works in Paris - a great example of the mobility we enjoy through our membership of the EU.
Saturday saw me out campaigning in Blackpool with Gordon Marsden MP and local people, before attending the opening of a fabulous exhibition of work by Birkenhead-born Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey at the Grundy Art Gallery.
On Saturday evening I spoke to the Kashmiri diaspora at the Pakistan Community Centre on the importance of remaining in the EU to further their cause for self-determination in the motherland, and then ended the evening at my old theatre, Contact, watching Kate O'Donnell's wonderful show about life as a transgender woman.
Kate supports The Mermaid Trust which was set up to help children and young people experiencing trans-gender issues.