EUROPEAN Parliament issues were put under the spotlight at a debate in Cirencester last Friday.

The debate, organised ahead of this month’s European parliamentary elections, was arranged by Cirencester Conservatives with Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and Julie Girling, Conservative Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the South West.

It featured a largely Tory audience and was chaired by Victoria Atkins, the Conservative candidate for Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012.

A major topic for the night was the party’s drive for a referendum on British European membership.

Mr Clifton-Brown said he felt that was important so that the Conservative Party could make changes in the European Parliament.

“I think these European Elections are a lot more important than the press credit,” he said.

Other topics discussed included the European immigration policy and reforming the two courts in the European Parliament – the Human Rights court and the European Court of Justice.

Mr Clifton-Brown said he felt the number of immigrants coming to work in the United Kingdom through ‘free movement’ was too high and that policy needed to be changed.

The threat of Ukip was also raised, which prompted some critical comments from Mrs Girling who continued to say that she did not want to get drawn into that topic as she wanted the debate to remain positive.

The South West MEP was told by one member of the public that she needed to be more vocal about what she was doing for British people. Mrs Girling said her difficulty was the British press which were inclined to spark panic over trivial European issues.

She said she was frustrated that one of her biggest jobs in her time as MEP was dealing with complaints about jam jars caused by newspaper reports which deflected from her work on issues such as fishing policy.

And while she promotes information about her work it was often overlooked while trivial issues stole the headlines.

“It is the press that are interested in these laws,” she said.

“It is hard for us to get across what the European Parliament does.

“You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.”

l The European elections take place on Thursday, May 22.

Visit for a full list of candidates from all parties.

For more information contact Cotswold District Council’s elections team by e-mailing or calling 01285 623229.