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EMRA: Full Assembly Report: Roger Helmer MEP


October 2008

I have been actively involved in a range of work related to my membership of the parliament's Unemployment Committee, the Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, and on other issues. See more on my website at www.rogerhelmer.com, on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com, and on ITV's new "My Europe" web-site at http://www.itvlocal.com/central/myeurope/east/. I have spoken frequently in the chamber: video clips are available on the blog.


Financial Crisis:

Amid knee-jerk calls for new and onerous regulations on financial institutions, I have drawn attention to the fact that our current problems result not only from irresponsible banking, but also from serious failures of policy and regulation. See http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/market-failure-or-policy-and-regulatory-failure/ In 1999, the Clinton Administration asked Fanny Mae to relax lending criteria for low-income and minority borrowers, setting the sub-prime episode in motion. Alan Greenspan kept US interest rates too low for too long, allowing an asset bubble to build. Gordon Brown's tripartite regulatory model created deep uncertainty as to who was responsible for banking supervision in the UK. The attempt to achieve an orderly rescue of Northern Rock was stymied by EU transparency and state aid rules. Given that government policy and regulation have been a large part of the problem, it is not clear that more regulation is necessarily the answer.


Agriculture/Pesticides:

One of the big issues of the past few months has been pesticides. I have received hundreds of enquiries -- from local farmers, from a variety of local businesses, and from concerned constituents -- relating to a recent Commission initiative which proposes to ban a huge range of agricultural chemicals which have been used safely for years, and to introduce even more stringent criteria which would lengthen the list of forbidden chemicals, and broaden the criteria for products requiring substitution.

Our government's own Pesticides Safety Directorate is seriously concerned at the huge potential damage to agricultural yields, so people in the region are understandably anxious. Not only would these measures have adverse economic consequences for Britain generally and the East Midlands in particular (with its relatively large agricultural sector), but they also seem perverse at a time of dwindling food security world-wide, rising food prices and demand for bio-fuels.

I have been briefed by the NFU both from the region and from their Brussels office, finding out more about what can be done to help local industry in the face of this threat. And I attended a meeting last week on the damaging impact of this Directive on disease prevention in African countries, where I was briefed by Richard Tren, the Director of Africa Fighting Malaria.

The second reading of the pesticides report has yet to reach the Parliament, but when it does I will do my best to support any amendment which may reduce the threat to agriculture in the East Midlands. We shall be calling for a proper economic impact assessment of the proposal.


Biofuels:

Biofuels is another matter of concern for the region and I have received hundreds of enquiries on it. There is little doubt that the development of bio-fuels is adding to pressure on food prices, and is contributing to the destruction of tropical rainforest in Brazil and Indonesia -- potentially doing more harm than good to the environment. I have issued a press statement, which I have also sent to all constituents writing to me on this subject, in an attempt to explain more about what is happening in the European Parliament, as well as to assure them that I support their objections to the current proposals..


Energy and Climate Change:

As part of my role on the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, I have done a great deal of work on climate and energy issues. I have published a DVD on climate change as a follow-up to the leaflet I drew to your attention in my last report. I am in the process of issuing this DVD to interest groups and concerned constituents. If you wish to receive a free copy, please email my UK Press Officer at:

I was invited to speak on the topic of climate change at the American Legislative Exchange Council's Annual Conference in Chicago in July. I specifically looked at the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, which is failing to deliver while piling huge costs onto industry, and at the Renewable Energy targets, including the problems associated with biofuels.

I have worked to draw public attention to the huge economic damage that the EU's Climate and Energy proposals will do. According to the think-tank Open Europe, the measure will cost the UK economy 9 billion a year. A House of Commons report says that existing wind turbine subsidies are already adding 14% to domestic electricity bills, and more to commercial bills. A new report by Ian Fells, Emeritus Professor of Energy Conversion at Newcastle University, argues that the government's stampede for wind power (driven by EU targets) is simply unachievable. If it were achieved, he says, the grid could not cope with 30%+ of its power from randomly variable sources. In any case, any emissions savings from wind power are likely to be nugatory, given the embedded energy in the turbines themselves, and in their foundations and erection; the major works needed on the grid to distribute wind power; and the requirement for conventional power stations to run at sub-optimal capacity in order to be able to provide instant back-up when the wind drops.

Worse still, the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive will require the closure of at least half-a-dozen major power stations over the next few years. Our power supply situation is touch-and-go anyway: this directive will make rolling blackouts and three-day weeks inevitable by 2015.


Wind farms in the region:

Wind farm planning applications are breaking out like a rash across the East Midlands, especially along the Leicestershire/Northants M1 corridor. Many of them are on inappropriate sites and are unduly close to homes, schools and villages with a consequent threat of visual intrusion, housing blight, and adverse health affects.

Chris Heaton-Harris and I have been very active in supporting a number of the local protest groups seeking to defend their homes from this threat. Please see a short interview on the topic, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sl_dmbrEFUQ


Local Action Groups:

I have been working with local activist groups in Sharnford and in Narborough, campaigning for traffic noise and congestion reduction. I have been supporting the Motorway Action Group for Enderby and Narborough seeking to obtain noise barriers on their section of the M1. The Sharnford Traffic Action Group, on the other hand, is concerned with the B4114 through the town centre, and its dangerous lorry traffic. I have been in contact with the local highways department, and with local businesses using the road. We have been able to make real progress over time, with the Leicestershire County Council agreeing to a number of mitigating measures. One major company has agreed to reduce the number and speed of its trucks driving through the village.


Animal Welfare Issues

Horses: I have been working with World Horse Welfare (formerly ILPH) on issues around the long-distance transportation of horses -- potentially a very cruel practice.

Dogs: I have received numerous enquiries relating to the activities of The Kennel Club in the past couple of months, following a rather biased and alarmist BBC documentary, with constituents expressing concern over the issue of breed health. I have corresponded at length with The Kennel Club, and received assurances that this issue is high on their priority list. Indeed The Kennel Club is calling on the Government to introduce new legislation on the accreditation of breeders.

Seals: I have met with the Canadian Ambassador-at-Large for Fisheries and the sealing industry, which supports many thousands of low-income indigenous people in Canada.


Conservative Party Conference:

At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham in October, The Freedom Association, of which I am Honorary Chairman, organised the Freedom Zone, perhaps the biggest fringe event ever to take place at a Party Conference. Over two days, a series of lively meetings debated a wide range of issues related to the objectives of the Freedom Association: liberty with responsibility, enterprise and free markets, low taxes and limited government, national independence and national defence. Speakers at this fringe event included David Davies MP, John Redwood MP, economist Ruth Lea from Global Vision and Simon Heffer from The Daily Telegraph. I was also able to Chair a very interesting and constructive debate with Conservative Euro-candidates from across the country.