Newsletter from Europe Issue 3/2003
Bashir Khanbhai MEP
(Norfolk and Suffolk)





The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) Report on retail pharmacy services in the UK threatens the continued viability of thousands of independent pharmacies. If this leads to a change in UK law then pensioners, the elderly and those requiring regular medication from local chemists, will suffer. This will have a serious impact on East Anglia, especially rural Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.  

The report is likely to result in legislation allowing supermarkets to open in-house pharmacies competing directly and unfairly with independent chemists. At present, supermarket pharmacies are permitted wherever there is a genuine need and where they do not threaten independent chemists rendering a valuable service to the local community. 

Further deregulation of the £8.6bn dispensing market will be devastating for those chemists already suffering from increased competition with toiletries, cosmetics and over-the-counter medicines sold by supermarkets. If their prescription trade is threatened by an unlimited number of in-house supermarket pharmacies, they will simply go out of business. 

Our pensioners need regular medication and rely on the local independent chemist they know and trust for medical advice. The impact of closure of these chemists will severely disadvantage and inconvenience these pensioners, pregnant mums and the chronically sick. It could result in less mobile older people being forced to collect their prescriptions from supermarkets, which may not be found locally. 

The British regulation on ownership and location of pharmacies is already significantly more liberal

than in most EU Member States. In Finland and Sweden, all pharmacies are state owned, while in Spain and Germany, only pharmacists are permitted to own and manage retail chemist shops.  

Despite the drive to achieve an open, competitive, free single market, there is no pressure from the EU on the UK to change its current legislation and disrupt our system of retail sale of medicines which will create problems for our pensioners and the chronically sick.  

We must not allow the Labour Government to close down our rural pharmacies and further diminish the quality of services and life in rural East Anglia.




The Institute for Citizenship organised a major debate “Should the UK adopt the Euro?” for over 200 school children aged 14-18. It was Chaired by David Dimbleby and I was on the panel with Commissioner Neil Kinnock, Nick Clegg (Liberal MEP), Caroline Lucas (Green MEP), the Chairman for Business in Sterling and the Chairman of Britain in Europe.  

I said:-

“Current assessment of the UK economy and the Five Economic Tests set by the Treasury, suggests that we should NOT join the Euro now. I give the following reasons:" 



Despite our higher interest rate, the UK economic growth rate is higher than the Eurozone. The UK has and maintains a lower rate of inflation.


The £/ exchange rate has also fluctuated by almost 30% - far more than the band of 2.5% required to join the Euro.


UK unemployment is about half the EU average, despite higher interest rates and higher take home pay because it has a flexible labour market.



The UK attracts substantial foreign inward investment because it offers a pool of skilled labour with lower non-wage costs of employment. 


The USA, Canada and Mexico in the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) have achieved free trade across their borders whilst retaining their national currencies and political sovereignty. 

Therefore, the UK can have free trade without adopting the Euro. 


Financial Services & the City

The City of London has more Euro deposits and Euro transactions than any other capital of the EU and so we have not lost out by not adopting the Euro as our currency. 


Employment and Growth

The Eurozone countries e.g. France, Germany & Italy have breached EU maximum limits for the Growth & Stability Pact. Despite lower interest rates and greater public expenditure their economies are stagnating. 

Whilst the benefits of euro membership for Britain are fairly limited and unknown, the costs could be quite considerable. At the moment, our economy is out-stripping that of the eurozone. If at any time in the future economic conditions require the UK to reconsider its position, then we must reassess the arguments. 

At the end of the debate, the audience was asked the question "If there was a referendum, would you vote to join the euro?". The result of the vote was 59% against and 39% in favour (2% spoiled ballot papers). 




A new tracking and verification system for tuna fishermen will ensure correct labelling so that consumers who are anxious about the conservation of dolphins will not need to worry about enjoying a grilled tuna steak or a tuna sandwich.

The European Parliament approved legislation that will prevent rogue traders labelling tuna caught by fishermen without appropriate precaution to safeguard dolphins. This legislation will minimise dolphin loss in tuna fishing – an initiative that will be most welcome by all environmentalists and nature lovers in East Anglia.

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 Promoted & Printed by Conservative MEPs in the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, Brussels: Khanbhai, Sturdy, Beazley & Van Orden