Yesterday, the European Parliament debated one piece of EU legislation that almost everyone considers a good idea — everyone, that is, except the Conservatives, the French Front National, and presumably UKIP, none of whose members bothered even to speak in the debate.
The proposal is to include an inbuilt ‘eCall‘ mechanism in new car manufacturing specifications. In the event of a serious accident, the system would automatically call the emergency services and furnish them with location details. This could save thousands of lives, as ambulances can get to an accident more quickly and directly, even when the victims are unconscious or simply don’t know exactly where they are. And the cost of this innovation is very low — even the highest estimate is that it would be no more than £80 per car.
As with all European law, we need to ask not just whether it is a good idea, but also whether we should do it at European level rather than nationally or locally. In this case, the reasoning is clear. Imagine if only some countries did it. It would work only when you are driving in some countries and not in others. Some foreign drivers here would have it, others wouldn’t. The benefits of a comprehensive system would disappear. Car manufacturers would have extra costs if they had to have two production chains, one with and one without the eCall facility.
Some have worried that such a system would be an intrusion of privacy, as a crash would automatically trigger a message giving your location away. But if you seriously believe that the emergency services (the data doesn’t go anywhere else) being able to locate your car is an invasion of privacy in the event of an accident, then presumably you want to abolish number plates too as an invasion of privacy!
No, the reason why eurosceptics are embarrassed into staying away or opposing this legislation is that they can’t abide the idea of European legislation bringing clear-cut benefits.