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UK MEPs have the worst record in Europe for voting in favour supporting the environment, according to research published today by Europe's biggest environmental group, Friends of the Earth [1].

An analysis of MEPs' voting habits over the past five years shows that Britain is still the "dirty man of Europe", with the majority of UK MEPs (51%) voting against environmental improvements in ten key votes [2].

The European Union is responsible for around 90% of environmental laws in the UK.

Danish MEPs [3].came out on top with 84% of votes in favour of the environment, followed by the Swedes (81%) and the Austrians (77%)

Five UKMEPs voted against every environment vote they took part in and ten others voted against the environment ninety per cent of the time. All are either Conservatives or from the UK Independence Party [4].

Fifteen UK MEPs have a 100% record of voting green - (ten Liberal Democrats, two Green Party, two Plaid Cymru and one SDLP [5]).

The England, Wales and Northern Ireland political parties' votes for environmental improvement were ranked as follows:
  1. Greens, Plaid Cymru, SDLP - all 100 per cent

  2. Liberal Democrats - 99 per cent

  3. Labour - 70 per cent

  4. DUP - 50 per cent

  5. Conservatives - 13 per cent

  6. UUP - 12 per cent

  7. UKIP - 0 per cent

A recent report by the European Commission showed that the UK had one of the worst records for infringement actions for failing to properly implement EU laws [6]. Recent research shows that over 30 per cent of UK citizens are "very worried" about environmental issues [7]. The environment is one of the few areas where the European Parliament has co-decision making powers with the Commission and Council of Ministers and is therefore one of the few areas where MEPs can make a significant difference.

Friends of the Earth's Campaigns Director Mike Childs said:

"These results are shameful and show that the UK fully deserves to maintain its reputation as the dirty man of Europe. Time and time again British MEPs are voting against environmental improvements. The Conservatives and the UK Independence Party are clearly the worst offenders. Michael Howard needs to see these results as a wake-up call and recognize that if he wants people to see his party in a softer light and attract the millions of people who believe that politics should improve our environment and quality of life then he'll have to control his MEPs."

He added:

"European Union laws have been the driving force in cleaning up Britain's drinking water, rivers and beaches. It waste laws are improving safety standards at waste disposal sites and improving recycling. The EU is an important influence at international negotiations on issues such as climate, trade and wildlife protection. If people want to see further environmental gains then they can use this new interactive website to see how their MEP has voted in the past and which parties are greener than others."


[1] The research is available as an interactive website at

[2] The ten key votes were identified by, amongst others, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Birdlife and Greenpeace. They were on: Agriculture, Air pollution, Chemicals, GM food, Liability, Nuclear power, Recycling, Renewables, Transport. Further details on the precise nature of the votes and background information is at

[3] Ranking of Countries by MEPs for environmental improvements was carried out by analysing total number of votes by a country MEPs for environmental improvements against total against. The following is a list of percentage of votes for environmental improvement: Denmark (84 per cent), Sweden (81 per cent), Austria (77 per cent), Belgium (76 per cent), Netherlands (75 per cent), Finland (75 per cent), Greece (70 per cent), Spain (69 per cent), Portugal (67 per cent), France (66 per cent), Luxembourg (63 per cent), Ireland (59 per cent), Germany (57 per cent), Italy (57 per cent), UK (49 per cent).

[4] The UK MEPs with the worst voting record are:

  • Conservatives - Charles Tannock, John Purvis, Roger Helmer, Robert Goodwill, Jacqueline Foster, Densmore Dover, Giles Chichester, Philip Bushill-Matthews, Philip Bradbourn, Richard Inglewood, Ian Twinn.

  • UKIP - Graham Booth, Nigel Farage, Jeffery Titford.

[5] The UK MEPs with the best voting record are:

  • Green Party - Caroline Lucas, Jean Lambert.

  • Liberal Democrat - Nicholas Clegg, Christopher Huhne, Sarah Ludford, Bill Newton-Dunn, Elspeth Attwood, Chris Davies, Andrew Duff, Baroness Nicolson, Diana Wallis, Graham Watson.

  • Plaid Cymru - Jill Evans, Eurig Win.

  • SDLP - John Hume

[6] A common claim made by Euro-skeptics in the UK is that UK businesses are at a disadvantage because it is only the UK that properly implements EU laws and that other countries do not. A recent report by the European Commission shows that the UK has more actions against it for failure to implement EU laws than 10 other member states. Only 4 other states have a worse record than the UK. 2003 Environment Policy Review, Consolidating the environmental pillar of sustainable development, Com (2003) 745 final of 3.12.2003.

[7] European Opinion Research Group, December 2002, Eurobarometer 58.0, the attitudes of Europeans towards the environment, DG Environment. Available at: (PDF format)

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust