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Straight Talking - April 2007

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.

Celebrating 50 years of the EU!

The EU presented its "Berlin Declaration" on March 25th, the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome (and spent £1 million of your money on a Berlin street party -- sorry you missed out on that one!). Meantime Parliament Magazine in Brussels invited MEPs to contribute their own personal Berlin Declaration to mark the occasion. Mine was as follows:


1.   We recognise that the European project has failed. The EU is making us poorer, less democratic, and less free. Europe is in long-term relative economic decline compared to other advanced economic regions.

2. We know that the European social model is failing. It is a prime cause of poor economic performance, and has led to historically high levels of unemployment.

3. The CFSP is undermining NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance, so reducing our security in a dangerous and unpredictable world.

4. The EU is anti-democratic: it is an élitist project which rides roughshod over the identities and aspirations of citizens

5. Accordingly, we agree to dismantle the existing treaty structure and to replace it with a new vision of a Europe of free, independent, democratic nations based solely on free trade and voluntary intergovernmental cooperation

On March 14th we had a plenary debate in Straz on the Declaration, which was a little bizarre as we hadn't seen even a draft at that stage. The document was drafted in secret by the German Presidency. This was one of those debates where only group leaders get to speak, but I managed to get two minutes for the Unattached Group (which has no leader), so yet again I was the only Conservative to speak.

Joseph Daul, the new leader of the EPP, spoke on behalf of his members (including the Conservative delegation) to say how the EPP had always been committed to further European integration, and that its great task today was to complete political union in Europe. My speech gave a rather different (and more Conservative) message.

So what would a Tory government do about Europe?

A constituent wrote to me asking "How can Cameron pull us out of the social chapter without breaching the treaties?". He'd done his homework and actually sent a direct quote from Commission President Barroso. So I asked our Shadow Europe Minister Graham Brady MP.

His reply (not yet Party policy, but his personal opinion) is clear. We should ask our partners for a treaty change, which would require unanimity. If they refused, we should then exercise our veto (in those few areas where we retain it) on every possible occasion until they agreed. We should bring the legislative machine to a partial halt. This is very much the nuclear option. But Graham is right -- it might prove to be the only way forward.

I am delighted that a senior Conservative is taking such a robust view. More strength to his elbow!

What price democracy now?

Tony Blair proposes to press ahead with EU Constitution Mark 2, without giving us a referendum. And the Conservative Party has proposed a re-selection method for MEPs which effectively disenfranchises members. You will be able to rank incumbent MEPs in the top group on the list, and to rank newcomers in the bottom group. But you will not be able to rank a bright newcomer ahead of an incumbent.

Richard Ashworth MEP (SE) is our well-respected Chief Whip in Brux. In the 2003 selection, he managed to beat two incumbent MEPs in the South East. But under the proposed rules for next time, he would have been excluded from winnable positions.

I fear that this procedure will tend to alienate Party members from the reselection process, and perhaps from the euro-elections as well. It will also deter the bright young newcomers (including women and ethnic minorities) whom we say we want to attract. It is a deeply disappointing decision.

Cost saving, EU-style

The European parliament has a plush London office in Queen Anne's Gate, but for reasons of efficiency, it is planning to move into new premises which it will share with the Commission's London office. Quite why the EU Empire needs these facilities in its vassal states is not clear, but it seems to think it does.

Following discussion of the issue in the delegation, we now have the details of the costs involved. The current Parliament London office costs £436,000 a year to rent and the Commission building costs £370,000 a year. A total of £806,000 a year. The new combined premises will cost £1.3 million a year. In normal circumstances two organisations combining would produce some cost savings by eliminating duplication. Not, apparently in the EU.

Your pint of beer: the Crown mark

For centuries, pint measures in the UK have been guaranteed by the Crown mark on the glass. Now the EU proposes to replace the Crown with an EU mark. Voters across the East Midlands have been up in arms, as have the brewers and pub chains who have written in protest to the Prime Minister.

Collis Gretton, one of the Euro-quislings who regularly write to the papers, argues that the beer will taste the same whatever the mark. Yes, Collis, and when Britain has become a remote offshore province in the United States of Europe, and freedom and democracy and self-determination are a distant memory, the beer may even then taste the same, but the country we love will be lost beyond recall.

See here for a picture of Chris and me raising our pint glasses to the Crown mark.

The Counter-Consensual Climate Conference

My Brussels Conference on April 18th was widely regarded as a great success. It attracted between 60 and 100 people through the day. Former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby gave a splendid key-note speech, and other speakers included economist Roger Bootle; Chris Horner, author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming"; Professor David Henderson of the Westminster Business School, Neil O'Brien of Open Europe; Dr. Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University; Julian Morris of the International Policy Network; and my MEP colleague Gules Chichester, who spoke on nuclear energy.

When I started to plan the event, I felt I was ploughing a lonely furrow. But since then, there has been a blizzard of comment, and a real debate has begun.

At the end of the day we screened the Channel 4 Film "The Great Global Warming Swindle". Those who had seen nothing but alarmist propaganda were amazed to hear the other side of the story. The film has attracted the predictable storm of outraged criticism. The producer's response is available on http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/18/ngreen218.xml

If you have seen Al Gore's propaganda film "An Inconvenient Truth", you may want to visit the Skeptic's Primer on An Inconvenient Truth, a detailed yet concise review of the film, and a rebuttal of its key points, at http://www.cei.org/pdf/5817.pdf (Adobe reader required).

"We're hurting the UK, not saving the planet"

Can this be the most succinct headline of all time? It headed the article in the Sunday Telegraph of April 1st by Chris Gibson-Smith, who is Chairman of the London Stock Exchange, a former group MD of BP, and an Earth Scientist. Excellent, measured, common sense.

The article can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/04/01/do0101.xml

The Freedom Association (TFA)

At a Council Meeting of The Freedom Association in London on Saint George's Day, April 23rd, I was unanimously elected Honorary Chairman, following in the illustrious footsteps of Lord de Lisle, Norris McWhirter and Christopher Gill.

As an honorary post and a figurehead role, I do not expect it to take too much time nor to impact on my ability to carry out my work as an MEP representing the East Midlands. But it provides a further way to leverage my MEP position so as to promote Conservative values on a wider front.

TFA is committed to liberty, personal responsibility, free markets, limited government, low taxes, the nation and its defence, and the family. As such, it fits particularly well with the traditional Conservative values on the basis of which I first offered myself as a candidate for the Party. As it happens, these are also the "Jeffersonian principles" which inform the conservative think-tanks and organisations in the US with which Chris Heaton-Harris and I have been building bridges.

TFA campaigns against EU integration, but also on a range of other issues close to Conservative policy -- for example, opposition to ID cards. As you may know, I have been writing for TFA's magazine Freedom Today for some time, as has John Redwood. Several of our front-bench spokesmen are TFA members.

I believe there is a clear synergy between my role as an MEP and the job as Honorary Chairman of TFA. Each will help the other. Find out more about The Freedom Association at www.tfa.net.

French train does 350 mph

Well done them. A great engineering achievement. But what they don't mention is that for trains (as for most forms of transport), fuel consumption increases roughly at the square of the speed. So at 350 mph, a train is using sixteen times the energy of a train at 90 mph, and is probably no "greener" than a plane.

A good omen at the Fernie Team Chase

Sunday April 1st found me at Tur Langton, Leics, for the Fernie Team Chase, an amazing equestrian event in which teams of four riders compete in a time trial on a wonderful cross-country course. The sun shone, the wind blew, and a great day was had by all. The teams have fairly jokesy names, like "Erica's Army", "Ship or Bust" and the "Marston Misfits". The event, which was the National Team Chase Championship sponsored by the Goring Hotel, was won by a team called (forgive me, ladies!) "B*ll*cks to Blair". A good sign.

Don't do it, Archbishop!

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, comes across as so reasonable and measured on the television. So it is all the more disappointing that he has made the bizarre suggestion that the Church should pay "reparations" for slavery.

It is preposterous that we in the 21st century should be asked to pay reparations for injustices that took place in the eighteenth. It is frankly offensive to see well-heeled middle-class activists seeking to profit from the sufferings of their long forefathers. No one wants to belittle the dreadful suffering of the slaves, but the fact is that their descendents are almost certainly better off now than they would have been if they had remained in Africa.

Many decent Christian folk who give of their hard-earned income to support the Church of England will think twice about their contributions if they are to be used on politically-correct gestures like this.

We should give priority to our clergy's pensions and the fabric of our church buildings before we support this mawkish and self-indulgent proposal.

The case for capital punishment

The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer has said that Soham murderer Ian Huntley should die in jail. I agree. So why not get on with it?

Google tells me that the average cost of keeping a prisoner in jail was £38,000 in 2002. But a convict like Huntley would have to be in a single cell to prevent assaults by other inmates, and is (I assume) also on suicide watch, so it is a fair bet that he will cost double the average. He might live forty years. That's a cost of about £3 million. I don't see why the tax-payer should cough up for that.

In a case like Huntley's, capital punishment satisfies our sense of natural justice. It is the only sentence that comes close to matching the enormity of the crime. It ensures that he can never escape and re-offend. And it may in some circumstances act as a deterrent. We should do it.

Name a Navy Ship for Maggie!

Sign up to the e-petition calling for a new Royal Navy ship to be called HMS Iron Lady in honour of Margaret Thatcher. Visit http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/HMSIronLady/

Is the EU America's friend or foe?

For a remarkably cogent analysis from the Heritage Foundation in Washington, visit www.heritage.org/research/Europe/hl983.cfm

The "You couldn't make it up" department

A March 29th newspaper headline reveals what could be the crime of the decade. "School caught selecting best pupils"! The Lady Margaret Church of England School in Palmers Green has been using junior school references, records of attendance and punctuality and -- wait for it -- parental support, in assessing applications. The school has been instructed to admit pupils formerly rejected and, of course, to pay compensation.

Labour's relentless campaign against quality, performance and achievement continues unabated, as does its proto-Stalinist obsession with punishing the bourgeois middle classes. The sooner we get rid of this wretched Labour government, and get David Cameron into Downing Street, the better.

Heritage Panel: The video

I referred to my visit to Washington in the March newsletter. You can watch my speech to The Heritage Foundation on: http://www.heritage.org/Press/Events/archive.cfm

Blue Ribbon Dinner

The Conservative Women's Organisation is hosting a Blue Ribbon Dinner on Tuesday 15th May at the Savoy in London. This is a fundraising event, with David Cameron as the guest speaker.

Contact Elaine Hall: for more details.

Council Tax: Pay more, get less

Rubbish collections are being stealthily cut back in the name of recycling, and the rules are getting so complicated that I despair of knowing what rubbish I can put in which box. Meantime we are being softened-up for new rubbish collection charges. As rubbish collection is about the only visible benefit I see for my Council Tax, I resent paying for it twice.

As always, these well-meant moves have unintended consequences. The more difficult and expensive it gets to dispose of rubbish, the more fly-tipping we see in country lanes.

The BBC: Phone and complain!

The BBC's instinctive, thoughtless prejudice in favour of left-wing policies, Brussels, terrorists etc etc goes on unchecked. If like me you find it tries your patience to the limit, try calling then on 0870 0100 222. Mind you I was a bit surprised recently when I realised I call the BBC complaints line so often that BT have added it to my "Friends and Family" numbers!

Quote of the Month

"Next time academics tell you about the importance of diversity, ask them how many Conservatives they have in their sociology Department".


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check my web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com for more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.