Monthly newsletter Edition 15 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2
A small group of Zimbabweans visited the Parliament recently to tell MEPs about the harrowing state of affairs existing in their country. Mugabe's Party thugs, protected by a supine police force, are destroying the homes and livelihoods of farmers and their workers and are using the worst forms of violence and brutality to pursue their ends. Our visitors included the Swedish wife of a dispossessed and injured farmer, a Member of the Opposition MDC and the Director of the Commercial Farmers' Union. Their courage and determination impressed us greatly and we promptly tabled a Motion in the Parliament, spelling out the details of Mugabe's activities and offering support. It was signed by many colleagues across all countries within the EU. Tory MEPs have also nominated Morgan Tsvangirai, Leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, for the Sakhorov Prize as recognition of his brave fight for freedom.
Deep Vein Thrombosis came up again in Strasbourg, when we voted on the Report investigating this problem. I was one of those who questioned witnesses at the European Parliament's Public Hearing and join with the Report's Author, Pat Collins (Ireland), in pressing for urgent remedial action from the Commission, airlines and the aviation industry as a whole.
The process of Enlargement within the EU continues and we voted on the progress reports of some of the Applicant Countries at the last Strasbourg plenary. These were Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Malta and Cyprus. I am Vice-President of the Parliament's Joint Committee with Cyprus and therefore have a continuing interest in the progress of the Island's application. As a well-developed economy, Cyprus is probably at the top of the list of those expected to join the EU but there are particular problems that cannot be ignored, notably the partition of the island between Greek and Turkish Cypriot and the complete lack of progress in resolving the dispute. I am committed to supporting Cyprus's application but I abstained in the vote last week because I am not satisfied that the Turkish viewpoint is being heard properly. I intend to ensure that some balance is restored in the months to come.
The Foot & Mouth Epidemic continues, despite the claims to the contrary by Tony Blair. I have now contacted over 1,600 farmers in the North West affected by this plague and, sadly, am still writing. How is it that the Dutch, Irish and French Governments were able to contain and control the disease in a short time, yet this Labour Government has failed to do so in eight months? I join with the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers Union in pressing for a full Public Inquiry into the whole sorry affair. And how dare Agriculture Minister, Elliot Morley, describe farmers as "an ungrateful lot" or Labour luvvie, Lord Haskins, suggest that those devastated by FMD are "better off"! Do they care nothing for the distress and trauma of this terrible curse?
On a lighter note, in August I presented a cheque for £130,000 to Jack Simmons, Chairman of Lancashire CCC, the proceeds of the County's Development Association - of which I am Chairman - and its successful fund-raising for local cricket.