What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Jul 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

Straight Talking - March 2004

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter or to quote from it. If you want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

Second Edition: We get two Strasbourg Sessions in March, so you get a bonus newsletter!

Spring Conference in Harrogate

The Conservative Spring Conference took place over March 5th/7th in Harrogate, amid drifts of white, purple and yellow snow-drops. It was the occasion for Michael Howard's first Conference speech as leader. And it was a new Conservative Party. Since Michael took over, we have 20,000 new members -- more now than Labour and the Lib-Dems combined. Donations to the party are coming in. We are the largest party of local government. We have the largest political youth movement, with Conservative groups in most major universities.

Above all, we have a new mood of confidence. Attendance at the Spring Conference set a new record -- 50% up on last year. Now, when we say that Labour can be beaten, we really mean it. And we are looking forward to the euro-elections in June with relish.

Conference Quote:

"Sovereignty shared is sovereignty surrendered" -- Michael Ancram, Shadow Foreign Secretary. He was speaking of Gibraltar, but his comment is equally true of the EU.

Disaster in Madrid

All decent people will feel a deep sympathy for the people of Spain in their grief and shock at the appalling outrage which took place on March 11th in Madrid. Equally, we all respect their dignified display of determination and solidarity as they turned out in their millions across Spain to demonstrate against terrorism.

It seems a pity, therefore, that on Sunday March 14th they decided to reject a centre-right government which had stood firm against international terrorism, and to elect instead a socialist government which is committed to breaking the united front against Al Quaeda, and withdrawing Spanish troops from the coalition forces in Iraq. They have offered Al Quaeda a sort of reward for the atrocity. Those who support extremism will rejoice at Al Quaeda's success in changing the government of a major Western democracy.

Appeasement is always attractive in the short term, always disastrous eventually.

Welcome Sarah Richardson

We expected that the quota of MEPs for the East Midlands would reduce from six to five in 2004, as a result of EU enlargement, but to everyone's surprise, we found we were one of only two UK regions keeping the previous complement. So we had to select a sixth candidate.

After a regular selection process, the region chose Sarah Richardson, a journalist. I met her for the first time in Harrogate, and I was impressed. She will make a great contribution to our campaign. She is also the fiancée of Damian Collins, our PPC for Northampton North, and they are buying a house in the constituency.

Welcome to the team, Sarah. And after you've helped us in the euro-campaign, you can be sure that we will all help Damian in Northampton North in the General Election. The photo of the full team, including Sarah, can be seen here.

EU's double whammy for women's insurance

A new EU measure designed to ensure equality for men and women could end up costing the average woman in Britain an extra £100 a year - and could damage the insurance industry into the bargain.

The proposal calls for equal treatment for men and women in the supply of goods and services. But at the moment, women benefit from lower car insurance rates - because they tend to drive more safely than men - and from lower life insurance, because on average they live longer. According to the Association of British Insurers, the change could cost women in Britain an average of an extra £100 a year.

Insurers point out that their business involves assessing risks on a range of factors, including age, occupation, location, health status and driving history, as well as sex. But to exclude one of these factors arbitrarily will distort pricing, and disadvantage women who currently enjoy lower rates.

On March 8th in the EU parliament's Industry Committee in Strasbourg, I introduced amendments designed to exclude insurance from the measure and to maintain favourable terms for women. In a very tight vote, the amendments were lost because one East Midlands Lib-Dem MEP, Bill Turncoat Dunn, voted against.

The proposal still has to go through further stages before it becomes law. But if it does, women across the East Midlands will know that the higher rates they pay are down to Newton Dunn.

We all agree that arbitrary or unfair discrimination should be banned, but differential pricing based on hard evidence is an essential part of the insurance business, and should be protected.

Lib-Dems' Little Yellow Book

Liam Fox and CCO have produced a marvellous "Little Yellow Book" of quotes from (and about) the Lib-Dems. A taster: the first quote is from Charles Kennedy "People want honesty in politics". The second quote is also from Charles Kennedy: "Sometimes in politics, you have to lie". I'm trying to get more hard copies -- they seem to be in short supply -- but in the meantime I've posted the content on my web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com

This is vital resource material, especially for those of us facing a Lib-Dem challenge.

Quote of the month (2nd edition!)

In the Sunday Telegraph of March 14th, Matthew d'Ancona comes up with a hilarious parody of a John Cleese sketch. "With each passing year, it becomes ever more clear that the plan to join EMU is, to adapt John Cleese, a stiff, bereft of life; it has ceased to be; it is an ex-project".

The advantages of the euro-zone

I just went to draw some money on my Brussels euro-account from a cash machine in the European parliament in Strasbourg, but the machine wouldn't deliver. So I went in to the adjacent Societé Générale bank to complain. "Ah" said the man, "We've just had a new machine put in, and it won't take foreign cards".

"Hang on", I said , "This is a euro card on a euro bank account in the euro-zone. That's in the EU. And you're telling me it's a foreign card?".

"Yes", he replied. "This is France, and it's a foreign card".

"Here we are in the European parliament", I said, "With MEPs from fifteen countries, soon to be 25, and we can't cash money here?". "Sorry", he replied.

Just for the record, I have had no problem in using this card in Tallinn, Estonia, in Prague in the Czech Republic, in Seoul in Korea. But not in the Strasbourg parliament in the heart of the euro-zone. It's surreal. You couldn't make it up, could you?

Bill Turncoat Dunn does it again!

Our favourite defector has come up with two brilliant new brain-waves. He wants European action to prevent drivers putting petrol into diesel cars, and vice versa. He says that 120,000 incidents of "mis-fuelling" take place in Britain every year. My bet is that any mechanical or electronic device to prevent mis-fuelling will cost at least £20 (probably much more), so that's £340 million across 17 million cars in Britain -- never mind the cost of adapting the petrol pumps. On that basis, each mis-fuelling incident would cost more than £2800 to prevent.

And he's commissioned a group of thirteen American college students at the Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, to prepare a report for him on the creation of "an FBI-type police force in Europe". Let's hope that at least they do better than the Lib-Dems would by themselves!

Worm's eye view: BND has seen the above remarks, and in an extraordinary and intemperate outburst he accuses me of "Lying, twisting and distortion". So just in case you think his opinion is worth a second thought, I have posted the original news reports on my web-site. Judge for yourself whether I have summarised them fairly and accurately.

Galileo: the Trojan horse threatening the Atlantic alliance

The EU is proposing to build a satellite positioning system, similar to the USA's GPS system, at a cost of up to 6 billion euros. This is piece of wasteful posturing, as the US allows us access to its own system for nothing.

Dr Richard North is an adviser in the parliament, who recently joined the Conservative Party. In his article Galileo: the Trojan Horse he warns of the threat posed to Britain by Galileo. The EU has partnered China in an ill-advised attempt to reduce American influence, simultaneously boosting the military capabilities of potential enemies of the United States and her allies.

Britain appears to be caught between the two systems. Do we stick to the transatlantic alliance which has served us so well for decades, or do we throw in our lot with an untried EU system which has the potential to compete against the US? Could Galileo force us to say au revoir to the Atlantic alliance?

The full text Dr. North's article can be found here on the Bruges Group website.


That's it for now. Please remember to check this website for more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.