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
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 email@example.com.
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
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
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.