Monthly newsletter Edition 16 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2

Tory MEPs won a minor victory last week on something called the Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive. Only minor because - yet again - Labour MEPs voted against British interests and even the wishes of their own Government. Arcane though it sounds, the effects of this Directive are to limit the time spent by drivers of vehicles such as tractors, excavators, bulldozers etc - sometimes to as little as two hours a day - in order to prevent back pain. Laudable in its objective, no doubt, but totally unrealistic in its implementation, especially for British farmers. So we tabled an amendment to exclude certain categories of drivers but were only able to win on farmers, who now have a five-year exemption.

Despite the spin, the Government is still failing Cumbria after the devastation of Foot & Mouth. I asked Regional Affairs Commissioner, Michel Barnier, what he could do to assist the County and he confirmed that State Aid is available for the Agricultural and Business sectors but that the Labour Government has made no application on behalf of Cumbria. That is unacceptable and pressure must be bought upon Ministers to put the money where their mouths are.

Last Wednesday we had the privilege in the Parliament of being addressed by the Dalai Lama. Everyone in and around the Chamber applauded his entrance and he made a most moving address, largely about China's abuse of Tibet but also about current affairs. He is a most remarkable and saintly character with a lively sense of humour and a delightful demeanour. Truly a man of his people and yet entirely at ease with the modern world.

Tory MEPs have been most impressed by an early visit to Strasbourg from Iain Duncan Smith. Since William Hague was unable to find time to come to see us during his entire tenure of office, we were pleasantly surprised to note the change of attitude. The Leader of the Opposition told us that he was there to listen to and learn about the European Parliament and also to meet various leading MEPs from other countries.

I made a brief foray into the North West Regional Assembly last month. It has not changed much, in that the Labour Brothers still ignore the views of the minority and crash on regardless of taxpayers money, excessive bureaucracy and incomprehensible paperwork. I have to record that one or two improvements have resulted from the Tory takeovers of Cheshire and Cumbria, as Tory Group Leader, Les Byrom, and his deputy, Paul Findlow, are wielding more and more influence. And the Assembly appears also to have come round to the view that even troublesome MEPs might have a tiny role in the scheme of things!

Recent visits have included Chester, Tatton, Denton & Reddish, Fylde, Heywood & Middleton, Westmorland, Liverpool and, of course, Lancaster & Wyre in the company of the Mayor Garstang!

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