Monthly newsletter Edition 20 Sir Robert reports:- Page 1
Further to my campaign to save War Graves from the depredations of French and Belgian Transport Ministers, I paid a brief visit to Ypres and the Menin Gate to see the sites for myself. I never cease to be deeply moved by the neat rows of beautifully maintained gravestones, representing so many lost lives, and especially the sheer enormity of the Menin Arch with its thousands of names of the undiscovered dead. It confirms me in my commitment to an ideal to prevent any more such carnage within Europe. I and my colleagues will maintain the pressure to preserve these sacred sites.
The issue of US tariffs on steel imports from the EU rumbles on and there is considerable embarrassment amongst Labour MEPs at the antics of Tony Blair. Not least his close association with Lakshmi Mittal - taking a £125,000 donation for Labour from him and then watching him stab British steel workers in the back so as to protect his US and Romanian interests. I raised this dubious behaviour with Commissioner Lamy at our last Committee who commented that the British-based Socialist millionaire was creating "a ticklish position" for the Commission's negotiating stance. He also told me that he was "monitoring the British media to watch developments". This is a shabby betrayal of British interests and the PM should disown his phoney crony and give the money back.
I attended my second meeting of the EP's South African Delegation last week, at which was present their Ambassador to the EU. I gave him a hard time by questioning his country's weak and vacillating stance over the rigged Zimbabwe Presidential "Election". Despite the revered Nelson Mandela urging Zimbabweans to rid themselves of Mugabe, President Mbeki described the result as "free and fair", in flagrant contradiction of the facts. The detrimental implications for democracy and good government in Southern Africa are huge, not least for Western investment and financial involvement. The Ambassador was obviously fully aware of this and very embarrassed to have to defend his Government's policy. Perhaps the message from the Delegation will be passed back!
There has been a brief discussion about Tourism issues in the Industry Committee, with some of our left-wing Members trying to hedge round this essentially entrepreneurial sector with unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy. I was able to secure a majority to defeat one proposal which would have required all part-time workers and casual labour to be treated on exactly the same terms as full-time employees - a substantial extra cost burden on small to medium-size tourist businesses. It remains to be seen whether the Council of Ministers will recognise my concern.