Monthly newsletter Edition 3 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2
As Tory Spokesman on the Regional Affairs, Transport & Tourism Committee, I led a Delegation of Tory MEP's to see Commissioner Barnier a week or so ago, to pursue with him concerns that we have with the geographical allocation of European Structural Funds. We left a document with him detailing specific points of difference with the Labour Government in every region of Britain and urged him to send back the British proposals for reconsideration. From our North West perspective, I talked about parts of Cheshire, West Cumbria and East Lancashire and, whilst the decision is for the Government alone, M. Barnier promised to do what he could. He also informed us that we were the first and only delegation from any political party or any Member State that had been to see him. Your Tory MEP's leading the way again!
The frustrations of European air travel larger week by week and the Parliamentary Questions about air traffic congestion that I tabled recently have struck a chord in and around the industry and amongst businessmen, holidaymakers and other regular travelers. So much so, that I have asked some more about the threat to Europe's airports from the "Millennium Bug", based on a recent industry report that some Member States simply have not addressed the issue.
Tourism is hugely important to the North West and I have been agitating to get my Committee to address the subject and to press the Commission into improving the "Cinderella" image of the industry that is so prevalent through the EU. Britain is top of the EU league on visitors to our country and we have a significant slice of that market in our region. I made the point that there must be more coherence and co-ordination but without the weight of unnecessary regulation and extra bureaucracy.
Labour MEP's pulled the carpet out from under Tony Blair last week by voting for "a comprehensive political agreement on reinforced tax policy co-operation" (!) In simple terms - tax harmonisation - something that the Prime Minister says he is against. So just who are we supposed to believe?
In company with five Tory MEP's I was in Northern Ireland last month, to express support for the hard-pressed law-abiding citizens of the Province and to evaluate the effectiveness of EU funding. I was Minister of State there for two years and developed a great empathy and affection for all concerned. We had detailed discussions with David Trimble MP; Unionist, Alliance and SDLP Members of the Assembly, the Chief Constable and General de Chastelain (responsible for weapons de-commissioning). We were present in the Assembly Chamber of Stormont for the historic first meeting and witnessed the real desire amongst a majority of the Members for democracy, peace and normality to become the order of the day. It was a fascinating time to be there and allowed us to reinforce the Tory commitment to the Union.