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 - December 2006

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for Conservative Party members and activists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about developments in the EU. If you want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

A Merry Christmas and an Independent New Year to all my readers!

And please visit our e-Christmas Card. Remember to turn on the sound!

The 'wisdom' of Bill Newton-Dunn...

At the East Midlands CBI lunch in Castle Donnington on Nov 17th, someone asked "How do we make East Midlands manufacturing more competitive?". Bill's answer? "Britain should join the euro". This was not well received.

Asked "How do we stop this damaging torrent of employment regulation?", Bill said that we'd already banned discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, religion and age, and really he didn't expect much new employment regulation.

...and the wisdom of Stephen Dorrell

I'd already had my say, but Stephen said he couldn't resist the urge to respond to Bill. He compared Bill's remarks to Nye Bevan's naïve idea when the NHS was launched in 1948, that it would sort out the current reservoir of illness, and after that people would be healthy and there would be little demand for health services.

Bureaucracies like the European Commission (said Stephen) exist in order to regulate, and it's wishful thinking to imagine that they might draw stumps and go back to the pavilion. He also made another key point: that where governments want action, but can't afford the budget, they can simply regulate and force the costs onto employers. That, he said, is why the costs of regulation are so high. And of course he's right.

Thoughts of a London cabbie...

Later on Nov 17th, I was in London for a reception at the London HQ of Diageo (my former employer), in Henrietta Street, for a delegation of state legislators from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In the taxi, the dread word "Brussels" came up, and the driver launched off: "All we ever wanted was trade and jobs. We never wanted political union, or the euro, or the Constitution. And what about that Neil Kinnock? He's a disgrace! Supposed to sort out corruption, but he fired Marta Andreason simply for blowing the whistle!".

Spot on. And exactly the views of most East Midlands Conservatives, and indeed most of the British people. I've never yet met a London Cabbie who wasn't sound on Europe, but I was astonished by just how much this one seemed to know.

...and of Ségolène Royal

Now that the fragrant Miss Royal has secured the Socialist candidacy for the French Presidency, she's decided to reveal her blueprint for Europe. She wants Old Europe, based on the Franco-German axis, to press ahead with most of the EU Constitution, plus an extra measure of trade protection­ism in the face of global competition. And the recalcitrant Atlanticist foot-draggers, led by Britain? We'd have a choice. Either sign up. Or not.

Put aside for a moment the tendentious, take-it-or-leave-it tone. In fact it's rather a good idea. It establishes the principle of an à la carte Europe.

Already we're largely outside the euro and Schengen. As a Party, we are committed to exiting the social chapter and the Human Rights Act, and we're flirting with the idea of quitting the iniquitous CFP. Outside Ségolène's new structures, we could extend our shopping list, and get out of the CAP, and corpus juris, and...

In fact we could get to where we want to be -- a Europe of independent nations based on free trade and intergovernmental cooperation. And whether you choose to call that "Associate membership", or "Not membership at all", I really don't mind.

So wasn't the EU's Single Market supposed to be a great Conservative achievement? I used to think so. But it was hi-jacked by the EU institutions and used as an excuse for massive and damaging over-regulation, so that as Commissioner Gunther Verheugen admits, the regulatory costs are now three to four times as high as any trade benefits. We should be Better Off Out.

Expect an EU propaganda onslaught

Last month I said that a new story about Blair's EU ambitions could be breaking. It's still not much more than conjecture, but several facts hang together. Julian Priestley, for years the top bureaucrat in the European parliament, is retiring and returning to the UK. In an interview with EU Reporter, he was coy about his plans. But he is close to Blair, Mandelson and Alistair Campbell. And the one thing he was prepared to say was that he wants to promote the European ideal in Britain and fight euro-scepticism.

The word in the corridors is that he could have a major role in a new propaganda onslaught in the UK in support of EU political integration. This might well involve a key EU role for a post-Downing Street Blair.

Is your MEP hot or not?

Open Europe has done a survey based on published sources (Google and Lexis-Nexis) of the media coverage achieved by British MEPs, and they've ranked all 78 in order. So how did our East Midlands MEPs do? In reverse order, Glenis Willmott (Lab) was 69th; Derek Clark (UKIP) 66th; Bill Newton Dunn 61st; Robert Kilroy Silk 42nd; and Chris Heaton-Harris 20th. And how did I do? Modesty forbids. Check it out on:


Or visit www.tfa.net (The Freedom Association site).

Vote early, vote often!

The BBC is having a "Christmas Repeal" poll. As I write, you can nominate the law you'd most like to see the back of. Later, you'll be able to vote on a short list. You may like to vote for (or against!) the 1972 European Communities Act, on www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/vote/2006vote/

Education, education, education

Now that we've abandoned grammar schools, we need a new big idea. It's no good saying "We'll do roughly what Labour did, but try to manage it better". A new article by David Green of Civitas (I'm on the Civitas schools speaker panel, by the way) reviews the performance of education vouchers in Scandinavia and the USA, and shows they're a huge success.

A key presentational point emerges. The Polly Toynbee tendency dismisses vouchers as a bung to the articulate middle classes. But in the US, the City of Milwaukee has offered vouchers only to parents on below-average incomes. All the evidence is that poor children benefit most from vouchers -- they are the only ticket out of deprivation, sink schools and the ghetto.

Just before I read Green's piece, I had been making much the same point in an article I was writing for the European Journal. Calling for market forces in health and education, I wrote "We need to remove the dead hand of Whitehall, and set free the invisible hand of Adam Smith". See my article for this month's European Journal, "The Devil and Polly Toynbee".

MEPs: A big carbon footprint

I have some reservations about the current global warming hysteria. But I'm against gratuitous waste, so I was well impressed by a media coup that Chris Heaton-Harris achieved in the Indy on Sunday Nov 19th. He'd asked the parliamentary bureaucrats how much CO2 is emitted as a result of the parliament's manic commuting, twelve times a year, between Brux and Straz.

The answer? 190,000 tons of CO2, spewed out every year to no good purpose. A statistic to remember, alongside the cost of the operation, which you will recall is around £130 million, or €200 million, or $260m.

Do as I say, not as I do!

The Europeans are given to moral posturing. They're the good guys. They signed Kyoto. The Americans are the bad guys. They refused to sign Kyoto.

But the fact is that only two EU countries are set to meet the Kyoto targets, and sixteen years on the Commission is still massaging the 1990 base-line figures in a desperate attempt to spin the outcome and reduce the penalties that will be incurred. Since 1997 when the Kyoto commitments kicked in, the USA has actually done better on emissions than the EU: see


EU-15 CO2 emissions are up by 7.97% since 1997, while US emissions are up by only 6.57% (despite faster economic growth in the USA).

The BBC loves to refer to the USA as "The world's biggest polluter". But all that means is that the USA has the world's biggest economy. The real question is energy intensity. How much energy does the US use per unit of output in its economy? The answer is that the US is very comparable to the EU, better than many EU member-states, and (critically) is reducing energy intensity much quicker than the EU is. So is it better to sign Kyoto, like the EU? Or to bear down on emissions, like the USA? BBC, please note!

Garden ornaments, not power stations!

A report by the Renewable Energy Foundation finds that most wind power installations in England are producing even less than the 30% of rated capacity which the government has used as a basis for planning. For some urban sites, the percentage is in single figures. Their comment? "We are really talking about garden ornaments, not power stations". Surely this must be the put-down of the decade!

Labour peer defends market forces...

On Nov 28th I attended a meeting of the All Party Automobile Group in the House of Commons, and I was astonished to hear Lord Truscott, on behalf of the government, welcoming "The early successes of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme".

A recent report has found that in fact the EU's ETS is failing to achieve results. The EU's emissions are growing faster than the USA's. And an Open Europe report has found that the main effect of the ETS is to force British companies to spend £500 million a year buying carbon credits from continental companies.

I put these points to Lord Truscott, and he gave me a short lecture about why markets were the best way to allocate resources. But I already knew that. What I wanted was an explanation of the EU's failure to deliver. It seems to me that the answer is: the so-called ETS market is wholly artificial, and like most things created by Brussels it doesn't work. There are huge anomalies in initial allocations and in decisions on which companies are in or out.

Markets work. Artificial markets, created by the flourish of a bureaucrat's pen, don't work. And this one isn't working. That's why I agree with economist Ruth Lea of the Centre for Policy Studies, that actually (if we must interfere in the market) carbon taxes would be a better option.

... and Labour Minister backs Charter of Fundamental Rights

I also attended one of the HoC EU Scrutiny Committees, and heard a junior Minister defending the EU's so-called "Charter of Fundamental Rights" (part of the failed EU Constitution) as "merely a statement of political aspiration". Shades of Keith Vaz and his notorious line "No more legal force than the Beano". The fact is that the ECJ is already treating the Charter as though it had legal force, and great chunks of it are being legitimised by case law and precedent. And the government seems blissfully unaware of it, although Bill Cash MP made the point with great vigour.

The IPPR position on climate change:

"To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken". --Institute for Public Policy Research, August 2006

Quote of the month

"I've never subscribed to that 'cheese-eating surrender monkey' sneer .... As a neocon warmonger, I yield to no one in my contempt for the French, but that said, cheese-wise I think they have the edge".

(Mind you, I still prefer Somerset Brie! -- RFH).

This quote is from Mark Steyn's new book "America Alone", which I cannot recommend too highly. At once mordantly humorous and sharply challenging, it deals with the huge changes already happening in Europe, in terms of declining demographics and massive immigration, and the complete disruption of Western culture and values which he anticipates. I thought I understood these matters, but he's opened my eyes to the scale of the problem. If you read only one political book this year, make it this one. I'm buying it for friends for Christmas.

Blair apologises for slavery (almost)

Next year is the two hundredth anniversary of the abolition of slavery by parliament, so we should be celebrating the leading role played by our nation, our parliament, and the Royal Navy, in bringing this dreadful trade to an end. Instead we have pressure from lobby groups to "apologise" for slavery, and they want the apology for one reason only -- so that they can establish "guilt", on the basis of which they will launch multi-billion compensation claims.

Let's come right out and say it. No one alive today is responsible for the slave trade, and while we should all regret it, we may also regret the fall of Rome or the outrageous treatment of Boadicea by Caesar's legions. It is absolutely absurd to ask for an apology centuries after the event, and it would be more absurd to give one.

It is both absurd and distasteful to see well-heeled lobbyists, who claim descent from slaves, demanding money today for the sufferings of long-ago ancestors. There are problems enough in the 21st century without our making futile attempts to right the wrongs of the eighteenth century.

Reinstate Roger team comes to Brux

The web-based "Reinstate Roger" campaign was a remarkable symbiosis of internet technology and people power, and while I had no part in setting it up, I am hugely grateful to the three young men who did -- Andrew Woodman, a Party activist from Derbyshire, Richard Hyslop, previously a staffer in Brux, and Chris Palmer, a student at the University of Bath. Apparently the three of them came into contact on the web, and did not previously know each other.

On Nov 27th I had the pleasure of hosting a visit to Brussels for them. See this photo.

Mrs. Yulia Tymoshenko

On Nov 22nd I had the privilege of meeting the former Prime Minster of Ukraine (post Orange revolution) in Brussels -- and interviewing her for the Doughty Street video blog site. Committed to Western values, she's currently in opposition, and she's facing a current Prime Minister who's worryingly pro-Communist in outlook. But Yulia is another Mrs. T who deserves our support. See picture


That's it for this Strasbourg session. 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.