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Straight Talking - October 2002

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

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French beef ban over

Chris Heaton Harris and I, with our Conservative colleagues, have been campaigning against the French ban on British beef for three years -- ever since our famous march down the Champs Elysées in Paris in 1999.

On Thursday September 19th the French Food Safety Agency AAFSA declared that British beef was safe -- but of course that did not mean that the ban was over. It was imposed by the French government, and only they could remove it. Then on October 2nd, they finally caved in. Chris and I would like to thank all those party members across the East Midlands who backed our campaign and sent our postcards to the French President. (And apologies to all those farmers who pointed out that our cartoon cow was a dairy cow, not a beef animal -- but the card was meant to be a political initiative, not a text-book on animal husbandry!).

Not that it's all over. The next battle for the British beef industry is to re-establish our trade to France, which will be uphill work. Meantime Chris and I will be demanding compensation for our farmers from France for losses caused by the illegal ban.

A Fantastic Party Conference!

The London Evening Standard -- no friend of the Tory Party -- has said that "This could be the Tories' Turning Point". I think they were right. The sort of new policies coming forward are those I've wanted for years.

Twenty years ago, everyone thought that our NHS was the envy of the world, and we simply couldn't talk about radical change. Twenty years on, no other country has copied it, and despite the huge efforts of dedicated professionals, it's clear that British public services are failing to deliver, even when Gordon Brown hoses money at them. How could they, when they're run on a centralised, top-down model? When the government tells us what we can have, and when we can have it?

But the public are getting wise to it. They've been to continental countries and seen that they do it much better over the Channel. Voters are ready for radical ideas, and we're ready to offer them. Services won't improve until patients and pupils and parents can vote with their feet. We will give them the Power of Choice.

IDS speaks out on Europe -- at last! In a Conference interview in the Daily Telegraph, Iain Duncan Smith said "If you ask me whether I'm a withdrawalist at heart, it depends who is withdrawing from what. If Europe goes on down the path to full political union, it will have withdrawn from Common Sense". I couldn't have expressed my own view any more clearly.

The Gall of the Gauls

Chris and I have been calling for an end to the parliament's lunatic monthly commuting between Brussels and Strasbourg -- which costs you, the tax-payer, over £100 million a year. Now a French MEP, Margie Sudre of our own EPP-ED group, has denounced our call. She says that the Strasbourg venue is in the treaties (which is true), and that we are in breach of the treaties by calling for a change (which is rubbish).

For bare-faced cheek, this takes some beating. France has been defying the European Court for years with its beef ban. It is close to the top of the league for infringements of EU law. And Madame Sudre has the gall to criticise us for not following the treaties!

With the so-called "Constitutional Convention" going on in Brussels, everyone and his uncle are queuing up to demand treaty changes. Madame Sudre goes on to suggest that if we don't like the treaties we should leave the EU. I know quite a lot of Conservatives who would say Amen to that.

Working on the Research Brief

As Conservative Spokesman for Research in the EP, I've has been working in the parliament's Industry Committee toward completion of the 6th Framework Programme (FP6). As many businesses and universities will be aware, final agreement on FP6 is in sight, and I met with representatives from the British Medical Research Council last week to discuss ways of maximising the UK's share of FP6 money. For more information, please see the contacts below. I have serious reservations about the whole system of EU grant funding (see my 2000 book STRAIGHT TALKING), but as long as the money's there, I want to see Britain get the lion's share.

There is still one very controversial issue: research on human stem cells and embryos. The official line is that this issue has been put on hold until December 2003, when we will have yet another debate. But this is an unsatisfactory compromise. We can't afford to get left behind in this key technology area. At the same time, countries with strong cultural resistance in this area, like Italy and Ireland, should not be forced to participate. Yet another case where national interests should take precedence over EU policy.

To view the history of the 6th Framework Directive -

For more information on making an application, contact Tish Bourke (UK Universities) - 0207 419 5405, Or Martin Penny (UK Research Office) - 00322 230 5275

Customs harassment continues

I am still receiving complaints from constituents and coach operators who are being harassed by Customs and Excise when returning from Europe with purchases of alcohol and tobacco. The European Commission has threatened court action against the UK for breach of Single Market rules. The courts recently ruled that Customs has no legal right to stop people without suspicion of illegal activity. I have written to HM Customs and Excise to protest about their high-handed approach and their apparent contempt for the law and for court judgements. Please let me know if you or your businesses is being affected by Customs behaviour.

Supporting Animals for the Disabled

I was delighted to be able to support an event in Brussels on October 1st organised by IAHAIO, the snappily-named International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organisations, an umbrella organisation for charities providing animals to assist the disabled. Not just guide dogs for the blind, but hearing dogs for the deaf, therapeutic dogs for sick or elderly people and convalescents, and of course our old friends Riding for the Disabled.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tracy Lewis, who is profoundly deaf, and her Shi Tzu, Budgie. Budgie will draw Tracy's attention to doorbells, alarms and the telephone, and she finds him invaluable. I also met an Austrian Haflinger pony, with the unlikely name of Gyllyr (pronounced Gitly, apparently), representing Riding for the Disabled. Because I live around horses, I usually have the odd sugar-lump in my pocket, and Gyllyr seemed to appreciate it! See my web-site www.rogerhelmer.com for pictures.

A few days earlier I had a meeting at home in Leicestershire with the ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses), and I am continuing to work with them on welfare issues relating to transportation and abattoirs.

Spectacular waste at an EU jolly

The Presidents of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, and of the parliament, Irish Liberal MEP Pat Cox, are organising a three-day party in Strasbourg, November 19th/21st. They have invited large numbers of parliamentarians, journalists and big-wigs from the ten accession states (the countries planning to join the EU in 2004). And the cost will be -- wait for it -- Euros 725,000. That's getting on for half a million pounds in real money.

This is the way the EU works. They butter-up political leaders and opinion-formers in the media, and expect the general public to follow like sheep.

Why didn't we MEPs vote against this extravagance, you may ask? We never had the chance. This was an initiative of Prodi and Cox (what a photo-opportunity!), and the parliament was never asked to approve it.

Pat Cox breaks cover

Parliament President Pat Cox promised to be politically neutral when he was elected in December 2001. But he's now said that he will take time off "in a personal capacity" to campaign for a Yes vote in the Irish referendum on October 19th.

This is an outrageous weasel. He will be introduced at meetings, and reported in the Irish Press, as President of the parliament. So much for "personal capacity". Being President of the parliament is a big job, and he should stick to it. He is equivalent to our Speaker at Westminster, and should be neutral on divisive issues. He should also respect the decision of the Irish people in 2001, when they voted NO, and not ask them to change their minds a mere seventeen months later.

"The organisation formerly known as the EU"

Ex President of France Valery Giscard d'Estaing, now Chairman of the so-called "Constitutional Convention" meeting in Brussels, has called for a new name for Europe under his new constitution. He has suggested "The United States of Europe". I hope this finally nails the myth that "no one in the EU wants a super-state". Clearly Giscard wants one.

The EU keeps on changing its name. The ECSC, the Common Market, The European Economic Community, the European Community, the European Union, and next, perhaps, the United States of Europe. Usually companies change their names when the old name is irremediably sullied, so perhaps there's a lesson here.

The economy of the Eurozone is in tatters, the euro itself looks rocky, the Common Foreign Policy is falling apart, the EU is losing the confidence of the people, yet all Giscard wants to do is give it a new name. He should be reforming the substance. He should work towards a new, looser, flexible Europe of independent, democratic nation states. But no. He offers us more of the failing programme of integration, and a new name. That's how things are done in the organisation formerly known as the European Union.

Subscribe to the "No Campaign" e-newsletter.

The No Campaign publishes a regular e-newsletter which summarises recent news-stories about the euro and reactions to it. It's succinct, accurate, invaluable -- and encouraging! I strongly recommend it. To subscribe (free of charge), e-mail

Visit the Website -- www.rogerhelmer.com

There's far too much going on to give you more than a taste in this monthly newsletter. So here are just a few of the things on the web-site as I write:

"Labour all at sea on health" -- comment on their party conference
"Degrading Democracy" -- Labour's regionalisation programme
"Refugee status" -- the sensitive question of immigration policy
"Targets good, action better" -- Kyoto and US environment policy
"Welcome to the People's Republic of Europe" -- the EU constitution
"Busting the EU Myths" -- 10 common EU fallacies rebutted

Lots more -- please visit!

You might also find this story from The Sprout interesting: www.thesprout.net/graft/graft07.htm


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.