Newsletter Edition 53
What a splendid Conference! I am almost tempted to believe that my last newsletter had an effect, so determined were we all to rally behind David Cameron and his team and to demonstrate unity in the face of Brown. It does prove the point though - that a united, positive, attacking Conservative Opposition really can put the wind up a Labour Prime Minister. So let's keep doing just that until the next General Election.
Some opponents of our campaign for a referendum on the EU "Treaty" suggest that, as a plebiscitary democracy, we should debate the issues of the day in Parliament and not ballot the people at the drop of a hat. And that, when we were in government, we did not have a referendum on the Single European Act or the Maastricht Treaty. I agree. But that is missing the point. We never promised referenda on these occasions. Blair and Brown did, in the 2005 Labour Manifesto. It is a simple matter of honour. They made a solemn promise and they are now breaking it. End of story. That is what upsets the country and we must hold Labour accountable for its deceit and dishonour.
There has been much celebration here in Strasbourg amongst most Poles about the startling result in that country's recent elections. The "Brothers Grimm", alias the Kaczynski twins, really came a cropper and the new government will be formed by the Civic Platform Party which is practically a clone of the Tory Party. The defeated Law & Justice Party of the "Brothers Grimm" represented a very nationalistic, Catholic and homophobic strand of Polish politics and the younger generation simply ceased to tolerate them.
It came to light last week that the European Commission has concluded, that because the British Government has failed to monitor properly the allocation of EU funds within the UK, some of the money will have to be paid back. This relates to some £4 billion of EU taxpayers' money and - surprise, surprise - the worst problem encountered by the Commission was in NW England. This could cost our region tens of millions of pounds and is a direct result of Labour Government incompetence. Heads should roll. I have asked local MPs to pursue.
I visited two by-elections recently, in Congleton and Sefton, both with good results. In Sandbach we won back a seat which we lost in May by just 4 votes! And in Manor Ward we took the third seat which had previously been Labour. Excellent news on both fronts and congratulations to the winners.
Equitable Life (continued)
A Westminster colleague, Mark Hoban MP, came to Brussels a week or two back and I was pleased to have a chat with him. He shadows the Financial Secretary to the Treasury within whose portfolio falls responsibility for the Equitable Life debacle. Mark was well briefed on the UK position but I was able to tell him about the activities of the European Parliament's Special Investigatory Committee which provides some good ammunition for a proper attack on Government and Regulator incompetence.
I have received a number of letters from worried disabled constituents over the last few weeks about an EU Directive purporting to ban scooters used by those with a disability. I checked with the relevant Commissioner and was pleased to be able to tell all and sundry that there were no such plans and never had been. Another scare story spiked.
I went to a huge fund-raising dinner last weekend, promoted by the Bolton NE Conservatives. It was a splendid and very enjoyable 'bash' with a James Bond theme and Francis Maude as the Guest of Honour. I hope that it raised thousands for Bolton NE itself and for the marginal constituencies nearby.
We have just had two major debates in Strasbourg on environmental issues - car emissions and the use of pesticides. Both debates resulted in a huge number of controversial and contested votes but the upshot is as follows. Vehicle emissions will be cut to 115 grams of CO2 per kilogram by 2015. This will be the most ambitious target in the world but will allow manufacturers a longish lead time so that cleaner cars will still be affordable.
As to pesticides (or Plant Protection Products!), attempts were made by the Green/Socialist/Liberal groups to restrict farmers, horticulturists and even the owners of public parks, railways and other open spaces from using any product which is even vaguely dangerous and to limit the area being treated. At one point, it became apparent that the whole of the Netherlands would be spray-banned because of the proximity of so much water there! Common sense prevailed, however, and some restrictions and duty of care proposals have been agreed.
I don't suppose that I was alone in my disappointment at the "failures" of the England Rugby team and the F1 racing driver, Lewis Hamilton. As a former Sports Minister, I have seen similar events and been party to similar disappointments. But that is all they were. They are not "failures" by any stretch of the imagination. Both contenders did hugely well, better than we ever expected at the beginning and they deserve our heartfelt congratulations. But this was sport - with financial implications, I know - but sport nevertheless. Would that we were giving the same warm welcome and adulation to the servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - especially those injured in the course of duty - or to the families of those killed, whose relative will never return. Let us keep it all in perspective.
Under Conservative Party rules on MEP re-selection, I am not allowed to make any contact with Party members from 1st January 2008 until 25th March 2008. Therefore, I shall be unable to provide Newsletters, Press Releases or any other material during that time.
However, they will be available for you on my website:
I cannot be in touch with you but you can contact me or my office to request any of the above.
I am sorry for the inconvenience but the decision is not mine.