Since Novemberís newsletter you should all have received our annual illustrated report sent out in January giving a combined feedback on some of our activities over the year and our contact details should you wish to give us any suggestions for the next one. We now have behind us the December 2000 Nice Treaty which not only extended QMV (i.e. relinquished the veto) in 30 areas but also included as an annex the European Charter of Fundamental Rights which has taken anti-discrimination measures to absurd lengths and potentially threatens many of our 80's Thatcherite reforms with the newly cited economic and social rights (I have written a separate article on this and will send a copy to anyone interested on request).† Nice also lays the foundation for a European Army and probably also a European Constitution, but does not address the key issue of enlargement, which we Conservatives support, by bringing about the much needed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy or Structural Funds without which enlargement looks unaffordable at current levels of the EU budget.† No doubt, Tony Blair will claim as usual to be at the heart of Europe and deny that powers are constantly ebbing away to Brussels. This approach is very much against our policy of a flexible, free-trading, low tax, lightly regulated Europe, and yet represents another brick in the construction of a centralised superstate.
Against this background, I have been busy with my London Tory colleagues fighting to protect your interests.†As I write this today from my Strasbourg office, I am the duty whip for the week and have spent the morning in the Plenary session giving thumb signals to my fellow MEPs on how to vote on Reports ranging from "The fight against fraud" (on which we abstained since no matter how laudable its aim it mentioned the creation of a European Public Prosecutor as the solution!) to "Energy efficiency", where once again we supported the principle as environmentally sound, but where the proposed solution was an EU-wide Carbon Tax and new energy competences which naturally we could not support. However, it is not all gloom as Theresa Villiers and I have been busy supporting Commission initiatives in the Single Market in Financial Services and, in particular, the recent Lamfalussy Report (likely to be adopted at the forthcoming Stockholm summit) which provides sensible proposals for delegated fast track legislation with a single financial passport and mutual recognition for the huge European securities markets, thus providing great business opportunities for the City of London.† I am currently the EPP-ED shadow Rapporteur on the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee for the Insurance Mediators (Brokers) Directive which will open up the market for British brokers to set-up shop and sell their products anywhere in the EU subject to their fulfilling certain minimum standards of competence and subject to home state regulations.
As a consequence of representing the British Conservative whip on the Emergency resolutions Committee, I have spoken in the plenary on areas as diverse as the trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders, the controversy surrounding the British nuclear submarine HMS Tireless berthed for repairs in Gibraltar (which fits neatly with my second role as nominated representative for Gibraltar where I also presented a petition calling on the Commission to investigate the continuing go-slow at the frontier with Spain). Recently, with so many of my constituents having friends or family affected by this tragedy, I co-authored a resolution extending condolences and appealing for more aid for the victims of the Indian earthquake. I have also written a letter to the Polish President Kwasniewski calling on him to not veto the law compensating the owners and their descendants of property confiscated by the post-war Communist government and I asked him to extend this to members of the Polish Jewish community who suffered losses from Nazi confiscations.† Many
of these claimants live in London.
Last week I gave a speech in Geneva defending the rights of small offshore British dependencies (who have no representation in the UK or European Parliament) e.g. Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Gibraltar etc. to maintain their fiscal sovereignty, provided they abide by the laws against money laundering and tax evasion, on the basis that low tax jurisdictions serve a number of useful purposes including putting downward competitive pressures on global tax rates.† It is worth remembering that previous British governments encouraged these territories to become economically self-sufficient by developing offshore financial services, and if they were now destroyed they would become again dependent on the British taxpayer, cause a number of Europeans to return home unemployed, while not a penny more in tax would be raised as the capital would be driven to other jurisdictions outside the EU e.g. Hong Kong or Bahrain!
Together with Theresa Villiers and three other Parliamentary colleagues, I recently sponsored a cross-party motion asking the Commission to look at ways to protect dolphins from unnecessary suffering as a result of being caught in fishing nets. We received over a hundred and twenty signatures (including those of MEPs from every European Member State) which is high for a resolution of this kind, and which helped to raise awareness of the problem in the Parliament. I have also been holding the European Commission to account by asking formal questions on a range of issues ranging from the level of VAT paid on repairs to churches and other buildings, the budgetary contributions of different Member States, the safety of food and the extraordinary levels of subsidy paid to producers of sub-standard tobacco in Southern Europe.
It was a great pleasure to meet so many senior members of the London Party and PPCs at the Harrogate Spring Conference which was uplifting to Party morale. I am more than ever convinced that the polls are wrong and that we can still deliver a nasty shock to this arrogant and untalented government on what looks likely to be May 3rd. I very much look forward during the campaign to meeting as many of as you as possible as I and my London MEP colleagues get round the Region, with particular focus on our target seats, in the coming weeks. Remember we only hold 11 seats in London and to win the general election we need to gain over 30.† So we certainly have a challenging fight ahead, but with our excellent team spirit, combined with good policies on taxation, health, education, pensions, law and order, Europe and defence of the pound and a renewed desire to win we can do it...