Monthly newsletter Edition 17 Sir Robert reports:- Page 1
The continuing debate about the implications for the European aviation industry of September 11th absorbs much of the time in the Parliament's Transport Committee. The over-riding need to restore public confidence in flying has dictated that a number of initiatives be implemented as a matter of urgency. For example, there was a Public Hearing of my Committee last month, at which leaders of the professional organisations representing all sectors of European aviation spelt out their detailed concerns. They are desperate for their industry, for the future viability of airlines, for the potentially substantial loss of jobs, for the restrictions on freedom of movement, for the deterioration in convenience, comfort and access and, especially, for the increased threat to life and limb. They made the point that the US Government was no friend of state subsidy for failing companies but that it did realise that the WTC outrage, and its damaging effects, required special action - to the tune of $18 billion. In contrast, EU Governments are failing to provide the requisite support for European aviation - the industry's view, not just mine - and it is essential that resources are made available to meet the huge costs of the necessary tightening of security at airports. The British Government has, thus far, refused to agree and it must be shamed into doing so. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate.
Somewhat to my surprise, I have managed to persuade the Spanish Minister of Transport to help defend British maritime interests, in the absence of any desire to do so on the part of the British Labour Government. A Directive on Market Access to Port Services has just passed through Parliament, with the intention of liberalising the management and usage of EU ports. However all British ports were privatised in 1994 and have been very successful since then. So the terms of the Directive are superfluous in our case, will add more bureaucracy and could threaten the present ownership. Accordingly, I tabled amendments to exclude the UK from the Directive, all of which were defeated by a coalition of Socialists, Liberals and Greens. Labour MEPs also voted against, thus defying their own Government but, they having done so, Labour Transport Ministers refused to reverse the decision. Through the good offices of a Spanish Parliamentary colleague, I asked the Spanish Conservative Minister, Senor Fernandez, to help and he will table my amendment at the next Council of Ministers. It has come to a pretty pass when a British MEP has to use the services of a foreign - but friendly - government to fight the British corner. What an indictment of a Labour Government!
Excellent news on two fronts recently. I read with great pleasure that, after only a few months of Conservative control, Cheshire CC has been hailed as the best performing local authority in the UK, with 80% of residents expressing their satisfaction. This despite receiving the lowest allocation of Government funding of any shire county. What a splendid reputation to achieve so soon and what a great tribute to County Councillor Paul Findlow and his team of effective and efficient Councillors!