Cut EU Waste and Help Small Businesses Sept02

Many people at home in the UK are probably unaware that last week, the European Parliament celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the common assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community. Far from joining in with these celebrations, I am taking the opportunity to highlight the enormous amount of taxpayers money being wasted by the European Union each year.

Members of the European Parliament spend three weeks every month in Brussels. For just three and a half days each month, more than 3,000 people - MEPs, their assistants, translators, Parliament staff, Commission and Council (including chauffeurs, ushers and catering personnel) move cities to the second seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Every Friday before the Strasbourg session, 17 lorries loaded with metal trunks containing documents and personal effects travel 300 miles to Strasbourg - and back again seven days later! Yet another convoy transports mountains of paper from Luxembourg where the translation service and secretariat are based. At the end of this week, the buildings in Strasbourg are deserted until the next session. This travelling circus costs European taxpayers over 100million every year, a figure that will rise dramatically when the EU expands eastwards in 2004!

To most people in the East of England, the European Parliament is a remote and irrelevant institution. Our farmers, industries and businesses suffering from falling incomes and excessive EU legislation cannot accept this waste of public money. The French cannot force the rest of us to use Strasbourg as the seat of Parliament if they do, then they must bear the full cost! The best anniversary gift European politicians could give the people of Europe would be an offer to return 100m in savings by abolishing the wasteful Strasbourg meeting.

On the other hand, the EU can and does make significant contributions to businesses and projects throughout Europe. A vast amount of EU funding is available to the UK and I want to make sure that Eastern Region's businesses know how to access these funds. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), from every sector, create jobs and economic growth and I am determined to help them prosper in our region. That is why I am currently organising a conference for our SMEs to address this need.

"EU Funding Explained" will give participants the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the types of EU funding available to small businesses and how they may apply to secure this assistance. Practical advice and examples will be given during three presentations by representatives from Euro Keys, an independent European Public Affairs company, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the European Information Centre.

Such a conference will appeal to a wide variety of organisations from across the region, including local businessmen, farmers, voluntary organisations and council directors for business development.

The seminar, which is primarily open to SMEs from Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, will take place at the Bury Lodge Hotel, near Stansted Airport in Essex on Friday 11th October 2002, 10.30am-2.30pm. Admission is strictly by pre-booking with Louise Fox (Tel.: 00 32 228 47953 or email: bkhanbhai@europarl.eu.int) by 4th October 2002. The fee is 25 and includes a buffet lunch.