Newsletter Edition 46
It seems like a long time now since the Party Conference but the effects of that very successful week still resonate here in Brussels. The MEPs’ stall, the visit by David Cameron and the Petition against Strasbourg created a level of interest which has buoyed up my colleagues and transmitted itself through into the Constituencies. And the petition itself, now with over a million signatures, has been placed in front of the Petitions Committee for proper consideration.
David Cameron at the MEPs Stall
The sorry saga of Bowland Dairies in Nelson has now come to an end with the closure of the company and the loss of some 20 jobs. It came about as the result of a conflict of scientific opinion between the UK Food Standards Agency and the equivalent European Union Agency over the process used by Bowland to retrieve contaminated milk for food use. Despite being a hygienic, innovative and successful operation, sanctioned and licensed by the FSA and selling into more than a dozen EU countries, the Commission believe that the Lancashire Dairy was operating unsafely and illegally. The FSA were prepared to fight the Commission in court but, at the last moment, Ministers pulled the rug from under the Agency and told it to toe the EU line. So much for Labour defending British interests in Europe!
The Derelict Dairy
Two new members of the EU will join up next January - Bulgaria and Romania - and their respective Foreign Ministers were in Strasbourg last month to finalise arrangements. Both of them are centre-right politicians and therefore came to address our Group meeting. They are extremely articulate and personable women who used both their charm and intelligence to explain their policies and they did so in perfect colloquial English. I just had to watch the faces of our French colleagues, who believe their language should rule supreme in the corridors of European politics. They were a real picture!
The Foreign Ministers
The Foreign Ministers
We had splendid dinner at MUFC’s Old Trafford last month at which David Cameron was the Chief Guest and I had to “sing for my supper” in thanking him. Organised by the Tatton Association, it was designed to raise money for the North West marginal seats and the presence of nearly 1000 supporters achieved about £10,000 to that end. Many congratulations to all concerned, especially Tatton’s Agent, Hayley Brown.
The “Tatton Dinner”
Earlier on the same day I had addressed a Lady Taverners’ lunch at Lancashire CCC’s Old Trafford, again raising funds, but this time for the charity itself and in honour of Mrs Barbie Thompson of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The Lord’s and Lady Taverners’ spend huge charitable monies for disadvantaged children and it is recognised as cricket’s foremost charity.
Many national leaders beat a path to the door of the European Parliament, believing it to be influential in world affairs and receptive to pleas for financial and political support. In the last few months, quite a few stars of the emerging countries have spoken to MEPs in formal session and are always well-received. The Presidents of Lebanon, Georgia, Ukraine and Liberia (one feisty lady this and the first of her sex to become a President anywhere in Africa) have been recent attendees and they all deserved a hearing.
The President of Liberia
One of the most interesting - although, of course, now a Member State - was the President of Hungary who came on the anniversary of the 1956 Uprising against Communist Rule. It was a touch ironic that one of my Hungarian colleagues pointed out that the man had been one of the hard-line communist supporters of the Russian puppet Government that followed the failed attempt at change. But then now he is a democratic politician!
I have been involved in some Council by-elections recently, in Hyndburn and Ellesmere Port, and expect to go to Barrow shortly for a crucial fight on which the control of the Council may depend. Sadly the first two were wins for Labour, somewhat unexpectedly, and it shows that the Tory Party, despite the excellence of our candidates, still has some way to go yet before we can claim real support in North West urban areas.
Little Neston, Ellesmere Port BC
Rishton, Hyndburn BC
My campaign to resolve the Government’s inconsistencies over aviation and airport security continues, although I am greatly disappointed at the lack of understanding and the unwillingness to change which characterises the current attitude of the Secretary of State for Transport. I wrote him a detailed and comprehensive letter, following my visit to Manchester Airport, and it took Ben Wallace MP, tabling a Priority Parliamentary Question, to provoke him into answering my proposals some six weeks later. And then, the questions were not dealt with properly, the letter was clearly put together in haste and was signed off by the duty junior Minister. Complacency, short-sightedness, refusal to rationalise processes and a complete misunderstanding of the tolerance of the British public seem to be the order of the day. This Government really is the pits!
I paid a very interesting visit a fortnight ago to the Catalyst Museum in Warrington. I bet that you have never heard of it, any more than had I! Situated in an old soap factory on the banks of the Mersey, it is a fascinating and compelling advertisement for the chemical industry, so important in the North West. It is designed particularly for educational purposes and, on the day that I was there, was packed with children in various school parties. They were all participating in interactive demonstrations and carrying out experiments of various types and were learning about the vital part that chemistry plays in our lives. I recommend a visit.
The Search for Knowledge!
Three more social functions demanded my speaking presence recently, Merseyside Ladies Luncheon Club, Cartmel & Lower Holker’s Supper Club and the Morecambe Association’s Annual Dinner. At all of these members were in much better heart than I have seen for many months and were confident that Conservatives were back onto a winning formula. Of course, there are some worries about the various changes being instigated by David Cameron but also a real understanding of the urgent need for that change. And the opinion polls seem to suggest that the public like what they see. So far, so good but there is still some way to go, especially in our region.
Merseyside Ladies Luncheon
Last month I had a bit of a go about the Government’s policy towards our canal network. As a former enthusiastic Minister for inland waterways as well as a regular user, I do have some experience of the importance of this valuable recreational resource. Because our beloved Mrs Beckett, whilst at DEFRA, made a complete and expensive hash of Single Farm Payments to English farmers, the budget of her successor has had to be cut by a substantial amount. And where will those cuts fall? Why, on the British Waterways Board, thereby forcing reductions in maintenance, restrictions on use and even the possible closure of a canal. Is there no limit to this Government’s incompetence?
Last week was spent in New York, ostensibly for my son’s wedding to a delightful American girl, but it also allowed me to do some campaigning in the final days of the Congressional mid-term elections. I spent three days in different districts, the first in helping to re-elect Republican Congressman Vito Fossella in Staten Island, the second with Independent Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and finally with Republican Congressman Chris Shays in another part of the same State. All won, so I was not an obvious millstone for any of them. And the wedding wasn’t bad either!
Getting Out the Vote For Senator Lieberman