Newsletter Edition 31Defence of Sellafield:
A major regulatory package concerning the Nuclear Industry passed through Parliament last month, largely uneventfully, despite serious destructive attempts by the Liberal/Green Group to amend or stop it. There is just a majority for common-sense on this issue but it is a constant fight to hold the line. For example, an Irish Green MEP, Mrs Aherne, sought to smear Sellafield - again - by way of a Parliamentary Question demanding closure of the site, on the spurious grounds that plutonium is damaging children's teeth. Needless to report, I jumped in with a supplementary which gave the lady very short shrift and defended the jobs and communities that rely on the Nuclear Industry in our region. But for six months at least there is an Irish Presidency in the EU and it was quite clear that the Minister who replied to the above question was very sympathetic to Mrs Aherne. So the battle continues! Please click here for more
The threat to the European chemicals industry - from yet another Green, Commissioner Wallstrom - has receded slightly. As a result of the combined actions of the Centre-Right Group and some sensible Socialists, consideration of the proposed legislation has been deferred until after the Elections. It will now be dealt with by three committees - i.e. not just Environment - but the substance of the proposals will still need significant remedial amendment if it is not to continue to be seriously detrimental to an essential industrial sector.
North West Postal Voting:
John Prescott wants the North West to have 100% postal voting at the European Parliament and Council Elections in June, despite the firm recommendation of the Electoral Commission that our region is not an appropriate area in which to experiment. Hardly a surprise, given that No. 4 on the Labour European Election List is the most susceptible to defeat by us and he just happens to be the European Parliamentary Private Secretary to - guess who? - John Prescott! I am positively in favour of more postal voting but there is already evidence of serious fraud in the pilot areas that have tried this system - for one simple reason, that there is no longer a Declaration of Identity. That means that whoever gets hold of the Ballot Paper envelopes can exercise the vote, without any check whatsoever, and can do so in numbers. Blackburn witnessed all this last time and local Tories submitted a detailed dossier to the Home Office which was ignored. Nevertheless, if it happens, Conservatives will master the process and will try to get the best out of the system. But keep your eyes open for dubious activities and malpractice!
Referendum on the Proposed EU Constitution:
You may have noticed an advertisement in your local paper recently, on behalf of your Tory team of MEPs, inviting the public to agree with our opposition to the proposed EU Constitution and our demand for a referendum before Blair signs up to it, lock, stock and barrel. All the indicators are that we have the majority of British opinion with us and, despite media reports to the contrary, it has NOT gone away. Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister and currently President of the Council of Ministers, is determined to get it back on his agenda. Please click here for more
Referendum on Regionalism:
In addition to this, there is the other referendum nonsense about Regional Government for the North West. The "NO" campaign is now getting into full swing and is representative of the political spectrum. Sir David Trippier is the Chairman, with George Howarth MP (Lab), George Osborne (Con) and Sir Cyril Smith (Lib) as his Vice-Chairmen. The Government, in its literature and general publicity, deliberately avoids telling the public that the status quo is still very much an option so the message we have to communicate to the electors must be simple and effective - "The North-West Says No!" Please click here for more
I was present last week - indeed was a Witness - at a Public Inquiry into the Boundary Commission Proposals for new Parliamentary Constituencies for Lancashire. Somewhat surprisingly, we and the Labour Party were largely in agreement about the increase in seats from 15 to 16 and almost all the new boundaries. It was the Liberal Party who produced a complicated and geographically unsound scheme, provoking the expense of the Public Inquiry, and who then did not even have the courtesy to turn up to defend it. What a bunch they are!
Conversations with the Israelis:
I had dinner recently as a guest of the Israeli Ambassador to the EU and splendid indeed was his hospitality. But there are questions to be asked of all sides in the Middle East, some of which must be directed at Israel. I made the point to his Excellency - with which he agreed - that many people were irritated by the suggestion that to be critical of the policies of the Israeli Government did not mean that the critic was anti-Semitic. The whole subject, of course, is a controversial and vexed one and it was instructive to be able to pursue particular views with a receptive and informed host without prejudicing friendly relationships.
There was a suggestion last month that the EU should put the 'Ring of 12 Stars' on every maritime flag of Member States. That did not go down very well with any of the major maritime nations and not at all with British Conservatives. We value the Red Ensign as an historic and emotive symbol and see no need whatsoever to alter it in any way. Please click here for more
So too with a proposal to abolish the "Made in Britain" trade mark along with "Made in Germany" and "Made in Spain" etc. The idea is to replace all national descriptions with a "Made in the EU" common to all countries. Again there was very little sympathy for this amongst anyone and I hope that it, too, will vanish without a trace! Please click here for more
A League Table:
An interesting statistic has just been published by the Commission which shows that the worst implementers of Commission regulations are Belgium and France (54 outstanding) Germany (53) Greece (48) and Italy (46). The UK is 11th with 22 and Denmark is the best with just 5. What does that tell us about the law abiding countries?
Tories in Good Health!:
Lancashire Tories had a rally last week at County Hall, Preston. On a cold wet Saturday morning there were nearly 150 activists present for two hours and morale was sky high. What a difference Michael Howard has made to the Party and what price now for a splendid victory in the European Elections and, then, the General Election!