Monthly newsletter Edition 21 Sir Robert reports:- Page 1

Dulcie has finished her term as Mayor of Garstang and has enjoyed herself immensely - as indeed have I as her Consort. Although only a Town Mayoralty, it has been a privilege to be associated with an ancient office and to see what makes a thriving Market Town tick. As the debate on regionalism develops apace, it is important to remind ourselves of the vital role played by Town and Parish Councils, particularly in the close relationships established with local people on local issues. Another wasteful tier of bureaucracy and political posturing will serve only to distance real power and authority from ordinary people and further reduce involvement, commitment and election turnouts.

I visited BNFL at Springfields, near Preston, last month (now known as Westinghouse) and was delighted to meet Management and Trades Union Leaders for discussion over lunch. The site is the manufacturing location of a significant regional company and provides the nuclear fuel rods for many of our power stations. I toured the fuel canning section, producing for Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors, and was impressed by the ultra-high standards of health and safety under which employees work and also how proud they are of their jobs. It was only a day or so later that I learnt that Finland's Parliament had voted to build their first new nuclear power station for 30 years, because they now believe that the future of our world's environment demands the cleanest and most efficient power generation. If other EU Member States follow the Finnish lead - and Energy Commissioner Palacio is urging them to do so - that is very good news for BNFL.

Whilst on the subject of fuel, we had a fascinating discussion in the Industry Committee about bio fuels. These are organic energy sources, such as from slurry or willow trees, and are already powering vehicles in various parts of the EU. They could provide an alternative to finite carbon-based fuel but before everyone celebrates the end of oil-fume pollution, just remember the outcry that followed the proposal for a Severn Barrage or that still surrounds unsightly and noisy wind generators on the Pennines or in the Lake District. And to grow the necessary quantities of bio fuel crops will almost certainly require intensive farming and probably the use of genetically-modified varieties.

I have been honoured to be asked to become Chairman of a newly-formed all-Party Parliamentary Group to develop the interests of Sri Lanka in the EU. In that capacity, I had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Wickramasinghe again on his recent familiarisation visit to Brussels. He came to the Parliament, attended our Group Meeting and had various meetings with Commissioners, Ministers and MEPs.

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