Monthly newsletter Edition 12 Sir Robert reports:- Page 1

The impact on NW farmers of the dreadful scourge of Foot & Mouth Disease is now well-known. I hope by the time you read this that the epidemic will be in decline but the long-term effects on our rural areas will be devastating. I have contacted those directly affected by the virus and offered whatever help and encouragement possible but we all need to appreciate the distress caused to people losing their livestock and their livelihoods. Tory MEPs raised the issue immediately in the European Parliament and have lobbied Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler, on behalf of British farmers and food processors. I continue to liaise with the NFU and maintain a close watching brief.

It is almost as bad for local fishermen, in that the EU restrictions in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland waters will drive many out of the industry altogether. The need to conserve cod, in particular, in the face of the savage depredations of large, mechanised, foreign beam-trawlers is all too apparent and it puts a serious question mark over our continued participation in the Common Fisheries Policy. Sadly, the protests of Tory MEPs went unheard in the European Parliament, when our amendments to two Reports relevant to fishing were lost. This may just be the last straw for the likes of Fleetwood and Whitehaven and it is imperative that Labour Ministers recognise and fight for proper compensation for those who suffer.

The controlling Labour Group in the North West Regional Assembly have recently changed the rules - without any vote - to ban me from speaking or participating in any way, despite earlier promises that my involvement would be positively encouraged. I have been relegated to observer status, stopped from sitting with the Conservative Group and sent, like a naughty child, to the back of the hall. It is a complete negation of free speech when an MEP, elected under Labour's own regional system, is prevented from contributing to political discussions about the Region's domestic and European affairs. It is more like a one-party state than a multi-party debating chamber and is a disgrace to democracy. It is entirely typical of Labour's present arrogance of power and I hope sincerely that the Electorate will curb it through the ballot box. It will hardly surprise anyone to learn that the next Conservative Government will abolish the Assembly and restore the powers of the County Councils.

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