Monthly newsletter Edition 13 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2
There have been a number of visits to Brussels and Strasbourg recently and I had the pleasure of welcoming the Townswomen's Guild of Westmorland & Lonsdale and the City of Chester Conservatives. I also joined colleagues in meeting Conservatives from Chorley. All looked to be enjoying themselves!
It is heartening to be recognised occasionally by one's political opponents and I was gratified to be consulted last month by Labour Transport Minister, Lord Whitty, who wanted to "take my mind" on aviation matters in general and air traffic control in particular. He was very receptive to the proposals in my Parliamentary Report on Air Traffic Congestion and told me that the industry was of like mind to me. The Government might get something right, for a change!
A small delegation of Trades Unionists from British Nuclear Fuels at Sellafield and Springfields came to see me recently in Brussels, specifically to thank me for defending their interests in the recent debate about the transportation of nuclear material. I managed to assemble a coalition of MEPs to reject the Green attempts to ban such transport, which would have had a severely damaging effect on jobs in the North West.
I had dinner with Transport Commissioner Palacio a fortnight ago, in the company of a few colleagues from across the EU, and she wanted to talk about Gibraltar. She is a former Spanish Minister and therefore has a different view about the Rock's future to me! The anomalous status of the British Colony within the EU is a real thorn in the side of both the aviation and telecommunications industries and, whilst conceding absolutely nothing against Gibraltar's interests, Tory MEPs want progress to be made on both fronts. I suspect that the issue goes wider than just this but something has to be resolved otherwise there will be no flights and no telephones!
Another hat I wear is that of Chairman of the Lancashire CCC Development Association. It is a real pleasure to be able to turn one's love of cricket to good effect and the Association raises huge sums of money for the County Club and also to assist in the game's growth amongst local clubs and young people. I presented a series of cheques the other evening amounting to over £10,000 and I was delighted at how well it was all received.
I was lobbied quite hard the other day by the NW branch of the Pharmaceutical Industry, which is very concerned at the threat to jobs in our region caused by the South African Government ignoring registered patents of drugs. The argument centres on the supposedly high cost of AIDS-related treatments in Third World Countries and South Africa has taken the law into its own hands by manufacturing the products without permission or payment. I do understand the desperate need for these drugs but their development costs many millions of pounds and our Pharmaceutical Companies - and the people they employ - are entitled to fair recompense. The Commission must protect our interests as well as those of Africa.
Visits this month have included Rossendale & Darwen, Westmorland, Blackpool North & Fleetwood, Lancaster & Wyre and Wallasey.