Monthly newsletter Edition 19 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2
Some very grand and distinguished politicians - as well as some ordinary ones! - are now meeting in Brussels in the guise of a Constitutional Convention. This august body, under the Chairmanship of former French President, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, is examining the implications of enlargement (when yet more countries will become members of the EU) the structures of government and the way in which democracy and Parliament might be improved. A daunting task - with the probabilities of clashes of great personalities, complete disagreement with the objectives on the part of some members and more than a suspicion that the recommendations have already been decided! Time will tell whether this is a watershed in the development of Europe or just another long-winded talking-shop like the NW Regional Assembly.
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar visited us in Strasbourg in February and we had detailed discussions about his stance over the "negotiations" between Jack Straw and his Spanish counterpart, to change the status of the Rock in the face of the wishes of Gibraltarians. Peter Caruana is an able, charming and articulate British-trained lawyer and he will be more than a match for those who wish to sell out Gibraltar. He will have the complete support of British Tory MEPs.
Wearing my new Trade & Industry hat, I have been active in debates following the controversial decision of President Bush to slap up to 30% import tariffs on steel imported into the USA. This appears to be wholly in contravention to the rules of the World Trade Organisation and could have severe detrimental effects on British companies and jobs, not least, of course, in our Region. I pressed the Commissioner to take strong action, which he is doing, tabled a critical Motion, raised it at our Group Meeting and spoke on the subject in Parliament. I privatised the steel industry when in Government and I remember the traumas of restructuring, job reductions, plant closures etc. which just had to be endured if the British steel industry was to have any kind of future. We do not want that to happen again as a result of external decisions outside our control. Incidentally, it is rank hypocrisy for the Government to attack the Tory record on steel in view of the recent activities of Tony's crony, Mr. Mittal. This gentleman gave Labour £125,000 during the General Election, demanded the PM's support for a strange deal involving a Romanian steel company and yet was at the forefront of lobbying President Bush to impose import duties on British producers, to protect his US interests. What price loyalty?
I had the great privilege of being the Guest of Honour at Liverpool Soroptomists 75th Anniversary celebrations in February, in the presence of the Lord Mayor and the President of Soroptomists International. There were well over a hundred ladies and their guests at Liverpool University and they had much of which to very proud. Their charitable commitment to their City is deep and wide-ranging and the physical record of 75 years service which was on display was a real eye-opener. Times have changed somewhat since 1927, but the Soroptomists' energy and enthusiasm in raising huge sums of money for local, national and international charities goes from strength to strength.
There is a proposal by the Commission to reduce noise in places of public entertainment which will cause difficulties. I was instrumental in bringing in the present tough noise legislation in Britain, so I defer to no one in my desire to control a potential nuisance. However the regulation stipulates a 50% reduction in noise, which means that earplugs will be necessary at an orchestral concert - really! And pub entertainment will practically become a thing of the past. This clearly goes too far and Tory MEPs will vote against it unless common sense prevails.