Monthly newsletter Edition 18 Sir Robert reports:- Page 1
MEPs are exactly halfway through the 5-year mandate that we received in June 1999 and it is a tradition in the Parliament that everything changes at this point. From the Presidency down to the most insignificant sub-committee membership, it is all up for grabs. As you might imagine, there is a huge amount of negotiation, manoeuvring, horse-trading and general chicanery before, during, and even after, the process is effected, as all the national delegations vie for status, power and influence. It is the first time since the Parliament's inception that the political axis has been tilted consistently to the right, after years of Socialist domination, and so the Presidency remains in our gift. Thus Pat Cox, former Leader of the EP Liberal Group, took over the Chair and is the first Irishman to succeed to this august position. The election was an excellent example of the Parliament in full democratic action - rather than just being part of a political stitch-up, as heretofore. There were five Candidates and three ballots and no one could really predict the final outcome. The centre-right supported a Liberal, as opposed to his chief rival, a Scottish Labour MEP, to ensure continuing non-socialist control of the Parliament's programme and administration until 2004.
There have been changes also in the Leadership of the British Conservative Delegation. Jonathan Evans, our sole Welsh Tory, contested the election against incumbent Edward McMillan-Scott (Yorkshire) and was successful (by one vote!) on the second ballot. I have been asked by the new Leader to relinquish my Transport responsibilities and to become the Principle Spokesman on Trade & Industry matters. This is one of the most important and influential Committees in Parliament - sometimes for the wrong reasons from the British viewpoint - and it is, therefore, considered a promotion. We have a Tory team of eight members and I am looking forward to the task with great anticipation. My supplementary Committee is now Employment & Social Affairs, which relates well to Industry, and I have also been invited to serve on the Parliament's South African Delegation, thereby forgoing my present commitment to Cyprus. However it will allow me to encourage the Republic to exert some real pressure on the tyrannical President Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe. All in all, a great deal to learn in a short time but much to keep me absorbed and involved.
Tory MEPs achieved a notable success in Strasbourg last week, in the face of determined opposition from Labour MEPs, under instruction from Tony Blair. We persuaded the Parliament to set up a temporary Committee to investigate the Foot & Mouth epidemic and national governments' reactions. This will dig out the facts and force British Ministers to account for their actions in public. It is a scandal that there is no proper Inquiry in Britain but this is the next best result. It would also assist our farmers if the Government were really to press the Commission to implement the European Court's December judgement in favour of British beef and against the French refusal to lift their ban on imports. It will take years to implement unless Ministers take up the cudgels on the Producers' behalf. We will continue to highlight this vacillating behaviour by our Labour Government.