Monthly newsletter Edition 6 Sir Robert reports:- Page 2
Some of the side issues that came up as a result of my investigation into ATC matters were the aviation difficulties caused by Spain's claim to Gibraltar. I took the opportunity to have a quiet meeting with Commissioner Palacio - a former centre-right Spanish Minister - to discuss possible solutions, in the company of my colleague, Lord Bethell, an acknowledged Gibraltar expert. We carefully avoided the main debate - on which there was little agreement! - but were able to highlight the nonsense of diverted flights having to go via Malaga and Tangier and then being forced to return to Britain. The Commissioner was receptive and something might just happen as a result.
I confronted a very senior Russian politician last month, one Vladimir Kalamanov - the President's Special Representative for Human Rights in Chechnya, and challenged him outright to investigate the evidence of atrocities and war crimes committed by Russian armed forces in that country. He was addressing the Foreign Affairs Committee and I was determined not to let him get away without asking that fundamental question. He was taken aback by the force of my enquiry and was very evasive but he left under no illusions as to how important an issue MEPs consider this to be.
My Tory colleague, Roy Perry, persuaded me to sign a Motion recently, demanding that Parliament put an end to the huge expense of running two Parliaments - at Brussels and Strasbourg. I did so willingly, as the cost is £90 million p.a., an absurd waste of taxpayers' money as well as being extremely inconvenient. Last month MEPs voted by 401 to 77 to accept Roy's plea - another success for British Tories! Now we must press the Council of Ministers to implement Parliament's decision.
I bumped into William Hague during one of his energetic campaign visits to the North West, this time to East Lancashire. He has put an immense effort into the Local Elections and deserves our plaudits for encouraging marvellous results such as we achieved throughout, especially in Rossendale and Hyndburn Councils where we took full control. Congratulations to everyone involved in the gain of 80 Councillors for our region, well in excess of expectations.
My visit last month included Council Campaigning in Barrow, Blackburn & Darwen, Blackpool, Carlisle, Chorley, Congleton, Crewe & Nantwich, Hyndburn, Macclesfield, Preston, Rossendale, Sefton, South Lakeland, West Lancs & Wirral as well as Eddisbury, Liverpool and South Ribble Constituencies.