Newsletter Edition 26

For various administrative and financial reasons emanating from the European Parliament, it will not be possible to circulate individual MEP's newsletters as regularly or to as many people as has been the case up to now.

However, that does not apply to websites and I shall be publishing my Reports from now on through this medium. Please feel free to download and circulate to your Membership.

Sir Robert Reports...

The Local Elections have been and gone and, like the curate's egg, were good in parts. We took back Fylde, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, and Congleton but gave up Carlisle to NOC and lost way in Barrow, Blackpool, West Lancashire and Wyre. Good wins were recorded in Allerdale, Bury, Wirral, Rossendale and Eden but we are making little or no headway in the towns and cities. Consolidation was really the order of the day and the results bode well for the European Elections next year. However, the highlight for me was Dulcie's re-election in Garstang (Wyre) where she achieved the highest total of any Councillor in the Borough - 1066 - and her Agent's name was Hastings!

Despite those domestic pressures, I managed to visit a number of key wards in various Boroughs and was suitably impressed by the efforts of all concerned. We even got some local media coverage in one or two places! Next year the local and European Elections will be on the same day, so there will be an even greater incentive to campaign throughout the region.

The enlargement of the EU has happened since January and both Brussels and Strasbourg have been inundated with "Observer Members" representing the various countries due to join formally at the next elections. 69 of the 162 have opted to join the EPP-ED Group, raising our numbers to 301, by far and away the largest bloc in the European Parliament. Needless to say, travel, hotel bookings, restaurants, translation facilities etc. have all been put under added pressure and we have even lost our fixed seating plan in favour of a free-for-all in the Chamber. It's just like the House of Commons!

I have been heavily involved recently in a debate on Environmental Liability, which has taken place in a number of Parliamentary Committees. I was the Rapporteur for the report on my Committee and extremely concerned by the implications for British Industry in general and British Nuclear Fuels in particular. Determined attempts to make companies pay for absolutely everything were only to be expected from the Greens and Liberals, but the big surprise was that Labour MEPs also jumped on the bandwagon. This was in absolute opposition to the policy of the British Labour Government, who you will be delighted to learn were supporting me and following my lead!

So North West Labour MEPs, together with our Liberal MEP, have voted to levy huge extra costs onto local companies, damaging profits, threatening jobs, increasing bureaucracy and ruining effective operations. It is essential to get the balance right between the so-called "precautionary principle" - under which you would not cross the road in case a bus runs you down - and the need to "make the polluter pay" for damaging and uncontrolled manufacturing processes. I challenge our opponents to justify their extraordinary voting actions and to explain their reasoning to those who lose their jobs.

Much sound and fury is being generated in the media about the Convention on the future of the European Union, under the Chairmanship of former French President, Giscard d'Estaing. Rightly so, since the effects of the Convention's expected conclusions will be largely inimical to British interests. The Party's view, which I share, is that there must be a referendum on the subsequent decisions of the Inter Governmental Conference of Ministers (IGC) before any commitments are made by the UK. I am especially incensed by the patronising attitude of France and Germany in actively preventing the ten new States, who are about to join the EU, from voting on a structure that, in a year's time, will as fundamental to their futures as it is to the present 15.

The full team of prospective Conservative European Parliamentary candidates assembled in Brussels last month and an impressive group they make. Because of the effects of enlargement there will be 78 seats for the UK instead of the 87 as in 1999 and one of those reductions will be in the North West. We will have 9 instead of 10 MEPs in 2004.

The North West Regional Assembly plods on its relentless, costly and bureaucratic way, although I was delighted to see that the "Leader" of the "Assembly" lost his Council seat in Allerdale this time round together, incidentally, with an ex-"Chairman" of the "Assembly". My spies tell me that the former had got a little too big for his boots and that he should have devoted more time to his Council rather than the NWRA.

Lancashire County Council (Labour controlled, remember!) have withdrawn from the "Assembly", following certain legal advice, and Cheshire and Cumbria may follow suit, so the whole edifice is looking increasingly unrepresentative and precarious. That will not stop Prescott from going ahead with his pet white elephant but it will make it more difficult to justify the "jobs for the red brothers" and more likely that it will be scrapped following a hostile referendum result. So that must be our objective!

Parliament has continued to debate the Iraq War and the fall-out from the divisions and disagreements between the Member States of the EU. There is understandable frustration at the minor involvement of the UN in the rebuilding of that beknighted country and concern that the EU's offer of funds has been somewhat churlishly dismissed because of a desire to link it to a UN presence. Surely it must be in the coalition's interests to withdraw from Iraq as soon as humanly possible and to allow the Iraqis themselves to establish their preferred method of government, aided and abetted by resources and finance targeted by independent international agencies.

Finally Tory MEPs are bringing pressure to bear upon Commissioner Byrne to implement animal welfare regulations right across the EU - with no exceptions. For too long "interpretation" of these standards has been uneven and sometimes non-existent. We can be reasonably satisfied with British practices but there are certain of our neighbours who need to be brought into line. It is time that some barbaric treatment is ended once and for all.

I hope you approve of the new upgraded Website. The specialists have tried to make it more informative and interactive and I would value your comments. Please feel free to download anything of interest.
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