Monthly newsletter Edition 17 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2

Secondly, and at long last, Lancashire has been declared free of Foot & Mouth. This will be a great relief to the farming community and an opportunity for them to start rebuilding their livelihoods. But Christmas will still be traumatic in Cumbria where the plague has not yet been eradicated. We must press the Government to respond sensitively and quickly to the special plight of those affected by the disease. And that means claiming the resources available from the EU for authorities like Cumbria. So far it has not done so and we must continue to focus public attention on the Government's inadequacy.

Transport Commissioner Palacio made another visit to my Committee last week and I questioned her on the White Paper that she has just produced. This is a wide-ranging evaluation of European transport issues but at its core is the curse of tax harmonisation - always up, never down! - as a means of forcing people off the roads and onto other modes of transport. Since a doubling of rail freight would reduce freight traffic on our roads by only 1%, I have never accepted the argument that road users, private or commercial, should be penalised. I told Mrs. Palacio that British Conservatives believe in evolution rather than revolution and that some of her plans would, therefore, be unacceptable in the UK.

Visits recently have included Liverpool, Ribble Valley, Stockport, Congleton, Blackpool N. & Fleetwood, Birkenhead, South Ribble and West Lancashire (By-Elections) and Blackburn. Not forgetting, of course, the duties of the Consort to the Mayor of Garstang!

Dulcie and I would like to take this opportunity of wishing every Association and its Members a Merry Christmas & a Happy and Prosperous New Year. It has been a traumatic twelve months for a variety of reasons, notably the General Election, the change of Party Leadership and the terrible events of September 11th. You have been sterling in your commitment to the Party and to me and my Colleagues and I am very grateful to you all. And, don't forget, we won back Cheshire and took over Cumbria, so there was some good news. What we need in 2002 is more of the same. That requires loyalty to the new Leader and a complete policy review - so there is much to do next year.

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