Week in the life of Bashir Khanbhai MEP Apr04


AS one of the four Conservative Members of the European Parliament representing the East of England region, it is my responsibility to promote and protect the interests of my 5.4 million constituents in Brussels and Strasbourg. I focus on Norfolk and Suffolk and my wife Maria usually accompanies me wherever I go in the constituency - she enjoys the company of our constituents and leaves the politics to me!


Agriculture and the rural economy are crucial in Norfolk and Suffolk as they support the urban areas. In the parliament, I also focus on several key areas which regularly involves exposing EU fraud and mismanagement, promoting our region's small businesses, protecting the livelihoods of our farmers and fishermen and amending EU legislation, which could otherwise prove detrimental to the East of England.


From Brussels, I keep in close contact with the East of England consulting regularly with our MPs, councillors, local government authorities, voluntary agencies and regional agencies like EEDA. I take time to read the Internet columns editions of the leading newspapers - including, of course, the East Anglian Daily Times.


Because MEPs are often regarded as remote, I believe in communicating with electors. I write regular newspaper columns and ever since I was first elected as MEP in 1999, I have published a monthly newsletter that summarises my activities. It is sent by email to councillors, farmers, fishermen, small businesses, voluntary agencies, schools and many other constituents. Anyone constituent receive it free by sending me an email request to bkhanbhai@europarl.eu.int.


A typical week in Europe starts on Mondays when I fly to Brussels (or Strasbourg once a month for one week) and straight to the Parliament's Committee at 3.00 p.m. - either Committee for Industry, External Trade, Energy & research or the Committee for International Co-operation & Development. Committee work involves consultation, discussion and voting on EU legislation that impacts on our businesses and daily lives.


Currently, I am drafting a legislative proposal on "Addition of vitamins and minerals to food". This affects all food and beverages right across the EU and it is important that I secure appropriate provision for sound nutritional value with safety to ensure consumer protection without overburdening food producers with legislation and unnecessary costs.


On Tuesday, in the Industry Committee, I presented my amendments to the legislative proposals on the use of fluorinated carbons in mobile and fixed air-conditioning systems which will require a switch from fluorinated hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide. Clearly, any change in vehicle air-conditioning systems requires careful consideration on the basis of science, environmental safety, costs and the feasibility of adoption over a sensible time scale.


Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian energy multinational, invited me to see the system actually working in a couple of vehicles. I often take such opportunities to liaise directly with industry or business that will be most affected by EU legislation. My industrial pharmacy background and ability to communicate in French and Spanish help me enormously in consulting and negotiating legislative compromises in Committees with continental MEPs.


In some months we have a mini plenary session of Parliament in Brussels and this week was one of those. On Wednesday I spoke against forced nationalisation of land and violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. I highlighted corruption and fraud in EU institutions and the continued lack of audited annual accounts from the Commission for the EU's budget of 60bn!In Brussels, I am known as the fiercest critic of the European Commission in matters of accountability.


In the evening, I met the Secretary General of the European Pharmaceutical Wholesalers to discuss the implication of the expected EU Pharmaceutical Legislation where my amendment ensures uninterrupted supply of prescription medicines from manufacturers to wholesalers, hospitals, pharmacies and patients.


On Thursday, I studied key amendments before voting in Plenary. In the afternoon, I tackled the huge postbag from sugar beet farmers worried about the reform of the sugar regime, the welfare of farm animals. when transported over long distances. and the fate of horses transported for slaughter in Italy and France. I wrote to Commissioner Fischler and Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for DEFRA, about my support for Option 1 for sugar reform as it suits most of our region's sugar beet growers. I also welcomed the announcement that more than 400,000 of European Union money is to be spent in Ipswich helping separate traffic from pedestrians and cyclists in the exciting an innovative Ipswich Village project. I am keeping a close eye on the University in Ipswich project - Suffolk is a net exporter of students and I want our young people to be given the option to have higher education studies available in the county


On Friday  I take the early morning flight to London Heathrow and continue my journey on the motorways (M25/M11 and A12) to the constituency. In recent weeks, I have visited a sugar beet farmer, spoken to Lowestoft Conservatives, addressed the East Anglia Branch of the UK's Tropical Agricultural Society in Eye, Suffolk and addressed Bedford Conservatives.


On Saturday and Sunday, if I am not canvassing or speaking at a Conservative Association  meeting, then it is time to be with Maria and our son Hamid who is in his final year at university.