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Straight Talking - December 2002

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

If you would like to receive Roger's newsletter by email, click here Important Note: Normally I invite Constituency Associations to circulate this newsletter to members if they so wish. However because of strict re-selection rules, constituencies should not circulate this newsletter between January 8th and 27th 2003. If you receive a copy second-hand and want to go onto the e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on .or by this form.


Yuletide Edition! Merry Christmas!


George Cross Island appeals for help

I've just been approached by two ex-Prime Ministers of Malta, who believe that the accession terms offered to Malta by the EU, and especially the Common Security Policy, breach the terms of a Treaty between Malta and Italy, under which Italy guarantees Malta's neutrality. I shall be checking this out with the parliament's legal services.


Euro-sceptic appointed new Bank of England Governor

The Government has announced that Mervyn King will be appointed next Governor of the Bank of England. This is the man who was asked by a Commons Committee how long it would take to assess whether Britain had converged enough to join the euro-zone. His reply: "Two or three hundred years"!

This is further evidence that the government is unlikely to go for a euro referendum before the next general election. And I suspect that after 2005 they may have something more immediate to worry about!


CBI: The worm turns!

For years, the CBI has been cosying up to New Labour -- ever since their famous "Prawn Cocktail Offensive" before the 1997 election. As Labour piled on stealth taxes and red tape, the CBI kept its fingers crossed and hoped for the best. But finally, the worm has turned!

In a scathing attack on the government at the CBI Conference in Manchester, Digby Jones, the CBI's main man, accused the government of piling 47 billion of extra taxes on business since 1997. Britain is now more highly taxed in overall terms than Germany.

And in an equally telling point, the CBI issued a list of their top ten least-wanted regulations. It came as no surprise to find the Temporary Workers' Directive top of their list -- and seven out of ten regulatory problems came straight from Brussels!


Temporary Workers Directive

I have had dozens of letters from East Midlands businesses protesting against this proposal, which could cost ten thousand jobs in the East Midlands alone. I have been opposing the measure in the parliament and I met affected companies in the region in late November.

An agency I met in Leicester typically has 600 temps in place at any one time. It reckons that 60% of the temps who leave its books take up permanent employment with a client company. This is a hugely successful employment (and re-employment) machine, and the EU is determined to destroy it.

Our own Patricia Hewitt, a Leicester MP, told the CBI Conference that Labour would stand up to Brussels to oppose excessive regulation. I have written to her to ask why her own Labour MEPs voted in Brussels to make the Directive even worse, when the government's policy is to oppose it altogether!


Quote of the month

Lord Browne of Maddingley, Chairman & CEO of BP plc, speaking at the CBI Conference in Manchester on November 25th: "You are doing a great job -- and you have a great job to do". He was referring to the CBI, but the same quote applies to Conservative Party activists!


January Newsletter

With the Euro-election hustings taking place in the East Midlands in January, the selection rules do not allow me to issue a January Newsletter -- normal service will be resumed in February! In the meantime, though, the web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com will continue to be updated, for anyone who is missing the news from Brussels.


Take action for horses!

I've been calling on the EU Commission, along with other MEPs, to take action to ensure that EU rules on the welfare of horses in transit are properly observed, especially on routes from Eastern Europe to Southern Italy, where we know dreadful cruelty takes place.

Now the Commission has set up a web-site for public consultation on the issue -- although, with their usual sensitivity and thoughtfulness, they omitted to mention it to MEPs who have been active on the issue, and we discovered it by chance. We've alerted the International League for Protection of Horses, who had not been informed either.

If you're concerned about the humane treatment of horses in transit, please make time to visit the site and express your views. If I may suggest, on transportation the Commission should act to ensure implementation of current rules. On livestock markets, there is possibly a case for new EU regulation to bring continental markets up to UK standards.

The site is at
http://europa.eu.int/BFM/consultation
(Click on the option Protection of animals during Transport)

But hurry -- closing date for the consultation is December 15th.


Ordnance Survey feels the pinch

I just had a visit from the Ordnance Survey, who are very worried about the "Public Sector Information Directive". In the interests of transparency, this would make all non-sensitive government info free to the public. A great idea, except that the Ordnance Survey survives by selling very valuable information, and everyone is very happy with the way in works (except the EU Commission).

We'll try to get an amendment exempting quasi-commercial organisations like the Ordnance Survey -- though a better long-term solution might be to move it to the private sector, where it would not be affected.

The Ordnance Survey representative has considerable experience of working with the EU, and he made a brilliant comment about EU regulation: "It's difficult to see a lot of this stuff as an opportunity". Understatement of the year, I'd say.


Conclusion

That brings us up-to-date with events in Brussels and Strasbourg. Remember to check my web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com for more background on current parliamentary business and other issues. And Merry Christmas!

RFH