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Straight Talking - January 2003

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

If you would like to receive Roger's newsletter by email, click here Happy New Year!

This is the first newsletter of 2003 -- somewhat delayed because of the "purdah" period before the hustings!

Photo-Finish at Leicester Racecourse!

We now have the Euro-team of prospective candidates for the 2004 euro-elections, following hustings meetings at Lincoln, Nottingham and Derby, and the final meeting and count at Leicester Racecourse. And a nail-biting finish it was! I and Chris Heaton-Harris came first and second, after several recounts, with only ONE POINT between us. This seems to me to be the moral equivalent of a dead heat, which is entirely appropriate as we have worked so closely together both in the parliament and in the region.

Third is Pauline Latham, leader of Conservatives on the Derby City Council. She was #6 in 1999. Fourth place was offered to ex-MP Peter Butler, but he preferred to go on and take his chance in the West Midlands hustings, and rejected fourth place, so Sharon Buckle (#5 in 1999) takes fourth place, with Jonathan Bullock (who fought Gedling in 2001) in fifth.

I believe we have a great team. Parliamentary experience plus fresh ideas. Lots of campaigning experience -- four of us fought the Euro-elections in 1999, three of us have fought Westminster seats. Youth and (in my case!) age. Men and women -- and I for one am delighted to see our two doughty women prospective candidates at three and four, up from five and six last time.

Enormous thanks are due to Regional Chairman Christopher Saunders, and Vice Chairmen Dudley Bryant and Byron Rhodes, who listened to the same jokes four times over. Also to our regional agent David Surtees, ably assisted by Ruth Morrison, and all the agents who helped. Plus the tellers, who worked so long on the recounts. And most of all to the 418 party members who took the trouble to attend the meetings. Perhaps I ought to add our thanks to the four out of our fifteen MPs in the region who found time in their busy schedules to attend -- Edward Leigh, Ken Clarke, Patrick McLoughlin and Tim Boswell.

European parliament condemns British anti-terrorist measures

In January, the European parliament passed the Swiebel Report on Human Rights, which was highly critical of British anti-terrorist measures (particularly the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001). As our Justice & Home Affairs spokesman Timothy Kirkhope said, "This is an outrageous intrusion into our domestic affairs .... unwarranted attacks on valuable public servants such as policemen and prison guards are completely unacceptable". The report flouts the convention that the parliament should not interfere in the internal affairs of member-states.

The rapporteur on this report was the improbably-named Madame Joke (sic) Swiebel, a Dutch socialist of extreme left-wing leanings. By a bitter irony, the report was passed just days before the slaying of a British policeman by a terrorist asylum-seeker in Manchester.

We Conservative MEPs voted against the report. Labour and Lib-Dem MEPs voted for it -- as usual, putting political correctness ahead of our national interest. And the Labour MEPs were effectively voting against their own government's handling of the issue.

Asylum and immigration: Recent news reports

A Taliban fighter from Afghanistan has been given asylum in the UK because he fears persecution if he returns home. On that basis, the whole of Saddam's army could claim asylum!

The press are estimating that more than a hundred Algerian terrorists may be here in Britain, legally or illegally.

The government is taking over hotels to house asylum seekers. This avoids the planning problems they have experienced when trying to set up large "accommodation centres" in rural villages.

The Spanish government is to offer Spanish nationality to persons of Spanish extraction in South America -- and the queues are already forming at Spanish embassies. With Spanish passports, these people can come to Spain -- or any other EU country. In effect, it's as if the Spanish government could offer British citizenship to Argentinians.

It is clear that Labour's asylum policies have failed totally, and that our government is out of tune with the people. It is difficult to see how we can have a sane asylum policy under the terms of the 1951 UN Convention on refugees, or the European Human Rights Convention. It's time to think the unthinkable and recognise that these conventions were for an earlier age and need radical review in the 21st Century.

Lib-Dems promote Tory Book!

I just got an e-mail from a supporter giving me a link to the Lib-Dem web-site www.bookshop.libdems.co.uk. Clicking on the site, I was astonished to find them offering my book "A Declaration of Independence". Do we have a Tory mole in their system?

Cause and effect?

France and Germany propose an extraordinary scheme for the future EU to have not one but two Presidents. Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar are widely thought to be up for one of the jobs. Tony Blair wants to give away Gibraltar to Spain, and to give away our fisheries -- also to Spain. Coincidence? Or conspiracy? Is Blair trying to buy Aznar off?

More generally, how do we explain the fact that as a dominant Prime Minister with an historic majority in the Commons, apparently unassailable (except by Gordon Brown), Blair nevertheless wants to give up control of huge areas of our governance (including our currency) to Europe? Surely he wouldn't do it just for his own career, and his place in history? Would he?

In case you missed it...

A letter in the Daily Telegraph of January 27th, from a Mr. Bob Wydell of Oswestry: "European Commission statisticians have decided that Britain is not an island: we should invite them to walk over and discuss the matter".

Seen in the Spectator, 18 January 2003: "The Lib-Dems have 110 fewer MPs than the Conservative Party, making them the effective opposition in much the same way as Scunthorpe United threatens Arsenal."

Quote of the month:

Bob Clark, of the National Federation of Anglers, commenting on the Labour government's anti-hunting proposals, and on alternative proposals for a "Middle Way": "The middle way is for the government to clear off and leave people alone".

If hunting is banned, we can be sure that shooting and fishing will be next in the firing line.

Inward investment and the euro

The latest wheeze of the pro-euro lobby is to claim that Britain is losing inward investment as a result of not joining the euro. They're half right. There does now seem to be some evidence that Britain's share of inward investment is dropping. A report from accountants Ernst & Young makes this point very clearly -- but it does NOT link the decline to the euro. On the contrary, it is quite specific. It blames poor economic performance in the USA, where much of our inward investment comes from. Key points to remember:

Research shows that investors come to Britain for low taxes, low regulation, and the English language -- not for the EU or the euro

Britain has always got the lion's share of investment from the US -- so a US downturn hits us first

EU enlargement gives investors ten new low-wage destinations in the EU -- another threat to inward investment in Britain

The CBI says this Labour government will have increased taxes on business by 47 billion in eight years. Labour has also massively increased regulation -- and seven of the CBI's top regulatory gripes come straight from Brussels.

David Frost is Director General of British Chambers of Commerce representing 135,000 businesses. He says: "Our competitive advantage is being eroded. We have seen a growing burden of legislation and red tape hitting business. That tax and legislative burden is not shared by our competitors. The impact has been that our share of foreign investment is going down".

So let's be clear. Inward investment is going down, but it's nothing to do with the euro. It's the fault of this Labour government, allowing our tax and regulatory advantages to be eroded -- and of Brussels for piling on red tape.

The Greek Presidency

Under the EU's (current) six-month rotating Presidency system, Greece took up the reins in January. I have many pages on their plans for their six months in the limelight, but you can get the gist from the following quote, put out by their Ministry for Foreign Affairs: "It is up to us all to make enlargement a catalyst for accelerating European integration". So now you know.


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.