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Straight Talking - March 2009

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

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 receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the
e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on .

Alternatively you can subscribe with this form.

The EU: It'll have the shirt off your back

A new study from the Taxpayers' Alliance (those guys have been doing some great work lately) shows that the EU is now costing us an average of £2,000 a year for every man, woman and child in the UK.  That's an astonishing £4,700 per household.  This was far too much even in the good times.  Now that we're staring recession in the face, it's intolerable.

To coincide with the launch of the TPA study, I'm running a regional ad campaign with the headline "The EU: taking the shirt off your back".  The ads feature a striking picture of a shirtless voter.  It's a compelling image which will command attention, and it makes its point with economy and with humour (see the ad on my home page, www.rogerhelmer.com).

The campaign is supported by postcards featuring the ad on one side, and a list of key points on the other: the EU costs £4,700 per household.  It will add £350 a year to electricity bills, and £800 a year to a family's food bills.  Its employment rules cost jobs and damage our economy.  And EU rules drive everything from Post Office closures to fortnightly rubbish collections.

Postcards and posters for the campaign are going out to constituencies this week (w/c March 9th).  More detail on all of these points is available here

I daresay that a few crusty old lefties will complain that the image in the ad is "sexist".  But then, I was never very good at political correctness.  Conservatives may wonder why, just weeks before the June 4th euro-elections, I make no reference to the Party or the election.  That's because parliament rules on the budget line restrict its use to information about the EU.  I may not use the money for Party electoral purposes.  The line on the ad describing me as "a non-attached member" is also there as a parliamentary requirement -- it means I'm not in the EPP group.  

Say "No" to a wind farm at Low Spinney in Leicestershire!

Visit this website to register your opposition to the proposed wind farm at Low Spinney, South Leicestershire.  

The Florenz Report

This report -- the final report on the work of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change (unless it rises like Frankenstein from the grave for the run-up to the Copenhagen Conference in Dec 2009) was voted through in Straz on Feb 4th.  You will recall that I sat on this Committee.

The Florenz report is an extreme climate-alarmist measure, with all the overtones of an anti-capitalist, anti-business, anti-energy ethos.  My very sound Czech colleague Ivo Strejcek MEP describes it as "neo-Maoist, but green not red".  It is associated with the EU's improbable renewables targets, and its Climate and Energy Package, which according to Open Europe will cost the UK £9 billion a year.

Afterwards I texted Jim Gibbons, who puts together video news packages for ITV, and asked if he'd like me to do a piece to camera on it.  His reply was classic: "I'm afraid there's not much interest in what this august institution (the European parliament) decides on climate change.  Sorry".  That's me told.  I don't know if his comments are more damning for the parliament, or for the issue.

British Jobs for British Workers

I must admit that I have some reservations about our open-door immigration policies for EU workers.  And I am accused by others of being "protectionist".  I am not protectionist: on the contrary, I am a passionate free-trader.  But in classical economic theory, free trade was about goods, services and capital -- never about workers and unfettered immigration.

Not only is "free movement of labour" not a principal of free trade.  In fact the free movement of goods, services and capital should make the movement of labour unnecessary!

My hero Milton Friedman, the high priest of free trade and classical liberal economics, makes the point well.  He discusses why most Americans think that 19th Century immigration was a good thing for America, while also thinking that late 20th Century immigration was a bad thing, and he goes on:

"Because it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both. If you have a welfare state, if you have a state in which every resident is promised a certain minimal level of income, or a minimum level of subsistence, regardless of whether he works or not, produces it or not. Then it really is an impossible thing."

This applies equally to immigration into the UK today.  And it applies equally to EU and non-EU workers.  We in Britain need a planned immigration policy related to the needs of our economy, and the capacity of our country and our social infrastructure to absorb more people, and in my view, that policy should apply to all foreign immigrants including EU citizens.  Of course we cannot do that within the current EU Treaties -- another reason why in my view we should be Better Off Out: www.tfa.net/betteroffout/ .

The Freedom Association

Short of a gift idea? One generous Freedom Association member recently bought subscriptions to The Freedom Association for six of his friends. A rather unusual gift perhaps, but a great idea.

For those of you not familiar with the Association (of which I am Honorary Chairman), we are a cross-party organisation dedicated to defending personal and political liberty (www.tfa.net).  We were one of the first groups to oppose identity cards, and are also the people behind the Better Off Out campaign, which was started in 2006 to put the case for freeing Britain from the bonds of the EU.

Membership includes a subscription to the excellent bi-monthly magazine, Freedom Today. Standard membership costs just £25 per annum, with concessions for senior citizens and students.

If you would like more information, or to join, please contact Vicki Stevens on +44 (0)845 833 9626 or at The Freedom Association, PO Box 3394, Farringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 7FN.

In related news, The Freedom Association has just launched a new branch in Northamptonshire. We are planning to campaign on behalf of people in Northamptonshire, who have problems or issues they would like to raise concerning their liberty. We face an ongoing erosion of our individual freedoms, so aim to increase awareness of these failings and give people an outlet to express their dissatisfaction and push for change. 

If you have an issue you would like to raise with Northamptonshire TFA or are interested in becoming involved with the branch, please email: .  

Gesture Politics Rules OK

MEPs have just had a letter (Feb 10th) from the parliament's top civil servant Harald Romer, advising us that the parliament will be turning off the public-area lights for a whole hour-and-a-half on Friday Feb 13th, from 6 p.m. until 7:30.  This is an energy-saving gesture designed to raise public awareness of climate hysteria and the need to conserve energy, and to reduce our carbon footprints (feetprint?).  Members and staff are invited to join in by turning off the lights in their offices (and perhaps using candles instead?).

Since virtually all MEPs go home of a Thursday, and most staff will have left by six on a Friday afternoon, there will be almost no one in the building, and no power saving.  And almost no members of the public will notice.  It is, indeed, the most spectacular and gratuitous example of trivial, pointless gesture politics that you could imagine.

Now my good friend and colleague Mogens Camré, an extraordinarily sound Danish MEP, has written to Mr. Romer to ask him how much power, and carbon emissions, we should save if we were to close the Strasbourg building and stop the lunatic monthly commuting by the whole parliament.  (Last time we asked, the answer was 90,000 tons of CO2).  Some hope.  The European parliament is delighted to join in with pointless gestures and posturing.  But do something to make a real difference? And upset the French?  That would never do.  

The Guardian Gets Real

"Scientists must rein in misleading climate change claims" wrote Vicky Pope in the Guardian on February 11th. At last -- the Guardian is getting real! If more scientists stuck to the truth and depended less on apocalyptic predictions to sell their science then the climate lobby wouldn't be half as effective as it is currently. Let's hope some of them are listening ...

Education: Helping children achieve?

I came across a heart-warming story recently, which took place on Jamie Oliver's TV show, Jamie's Ministry of Food. I believe the premise of the programme was to encourage people to learn to cook good food at home, and to pass those skills on to friends and neighbours, so Jamie started by teaching a few willing participants some basic recipes.

One of those whom he taught was a girl in her early twenties, who had a child aged around 6 or 7, and who didn't know how to cook anything at all. She had been living on benefits, feeding her child on take away food. By the second or third programme, having mastered a few recipes, she was already cultivating some vegetables in a small plot in her back garden and had really taken to teaching others her newfound skills. By the last episode, Jamie had identified her as having a natural talent in the kitchen, so he took her along to the local community college and informed her that she had, if she wanted it, a place there to learn to cook professionally. The girl emerged from the college in tears, and when asked why, replied that she had left school at 16, pregnant and with no qualifications so had assumed that her life was over. As far as she or anyone else was concerned, she would never amount to anything beyond being a mother to her little girl. But Jamie had shown her, for the first time, something she not only enjoyed and was naturally good at, but also that she could turn into a profession, and take pride in.

The shameful fact is that we have condemned generations of average and below-average-ability children to entirely inappropriate academic courses that fail to engage their interest or attention.  We have spent ten years and a great deal of money on each child, and all we have done is to prove to them, and to the world, that they're good-for-nothing failures.  Then we chuck them on the scrap-heap.

What we ought to have done is to offer them excellent vocational and skills training, equipping them for a life-time of self-sufficiency, self-respect and achievement.

So we have a choice.  Do we want first-class chefs, and bricklayers, and heating engineers, and mechanics?  Or do we want welfare-dependent couch-potatoes?  It's our call.

Down on the farm

On Sunday Feb 22nd I visited a large poultry unit at Sileby, Leics.  Sunrise Eggs, run by Phillip Crawley, has many tens of thousands of laying hens, some in battery cages but increasing numbers in extensive free-range barns, fields and woodland.  Philip has planted tens of thousands of trees on the property. And he is very concerned about the proposed extension of the EU's IPPC (this is the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive -- not to be confused with the IPCC, which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  This EU measure was created to control pollution from industrial plants, and sits uneasily in an agricultural environment.  The changes currently proposed would extend the scope of the directive to include smaller agricultural units -- including seasonal turkey producers.

Concerns include:

1.   The farmer is presented with a list of some 80 potential pollutants (the list designed for general industrial units), and is required to sign a certificate saying that he is not emitting them.  Most of them he has never heard of, and has no means of assessing or measuring.

2. Even if the measure is appropriate for intensive, battery units, it is surely not relevant to extensive free-range operations

3. There appears to have been no Impact Assessment done on the proposal.  The objective is to limit emissions of ammonia (NH3).  But some 60% of agricultural emissions of NH3 (according to DEFRA) come from cattle and dairy, only 14% from poultry.  The EU has not attempted to tighten regulations on cattle, because it is too difficult and expensive.  But it seems happy to apply expensive restrictions to poultry.  The change which will result from the proposed tightening of the regulations is estimated at around 0.2% of total emissions, but will cost nearly £2 million.  We will save NH3 emissions at the extraordinary cost of around £3,000 per ton.  Poultry farmers are hit by the costs of EU regulation but get no subsidies from the CAP.

4. The costs of IPPC accreditation vary widely within the EU, ranging from around £200 in Belgium to several thousand in the UK.  No level playing field for British poultry farmers.

These costly and pointless impositions on our farmers will increase food prices in the shops, and encourage imports over local production.  They come on top of the hugely damaging Pesticides Regulations, and the costly measures for ear-tagging of sheep.

I am embarrassed to try to explain these measures to farmers.  Over and over again I have to tell them that while I agree with them, there is little I can do to stop the flood of damaging red tape.  As long as we're in the EU, we just have to grin and bear it.  

Join our Honest Food campaign

If you believe that British consumers have a right to know where their meat comes from, and that meat labelled "British" was actually born and bred in Britain, then sign this petition on The Conservative Party website.  

Common sense from Cambridge

Browsing through "CAM", the Cambridge Alumni magazine, I came across a review of a book on Sustainable Energy by David Mackay of Darwin College.  Mackay is a Warmist, and his book is endorsed by Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth, and by our own former Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth.

Nonetheless it makes some worthwhile points.  "Obsessively switching off the phone charger is like bailing the Titanic with a tea-spoon.  All the energy saved in turning off your charger for a day is used up in one second of car driving.  Switching it off for a year is equal to the energy in a hot bath".  At last, a sense of proportion!  

The Futility of Carbon Emissions Certificates

There was a superb article published on Speigal Online last week entitled Wind Turbines in Europe Do Nothing For Emission-Reducion Goals, which says it all, really.

As it's a German website the focus is on Germany, but they make a good case study: 15% of the country's electricity comes from solar, wind or biomass facilities, and yet emissions haven't been reduced by a single gram of CO2.

The reason for this is that, under current EU law, German solar panels and wind turbines do nothing to reduce CO2 output, they simply allow Eastern European countries to pollute more. This is because the EU-wide emissions trading system (in the form of CO2 emissions certificates), determines the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted, and this amount doesn't change, regardless of how many wind turbines are erected. The effect is to cause the price per ton of CO2, in the form of these certificates, to fall.

It's an issue no-one wants to discuss: Germany, recognised as a world leader in all things renewable energy, has no wish to see the Renewable Energy Law (EEG) fall into disrepute, whilst businesses are just happy to keep the status quo. However, even Germany's Green Party have realised what this means. One wrote in an email "the EEG won't do anything for the climate anyway. [It is] an instrument of structural change, but not an instrument to combat climate change".

The full article can be seen at www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,606763,00.html  


That's it for this Strasbourg session. Please remember to check this website and post a comment on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com