Newsletter from Europe Issue 7/2003
Bashir Khanbhai MEP
(Norfolk and Suffolk)





Last month's shock by-election victory in Thurrock for the extreme right wing British National Party (BNP) should shake us all out of the apathy which seems endemic in voters. BNP victories in Oldham, Bolton and other northern towns and cities are often attributed to tension between immigrants living in ghettos and the local indigenous communities. The BNP’s victory in rural East Anglia is a shock for all those who have worked hard to build good community relations.


While the BNP seems to be making ground in working class urban areas at the expense of Labour voters, all three main parties have to be on their guard. And here's a warning signal for us all in the Eastern Region. The BNP is targeting rural areas because it claims to have a solution to all the problems we are facing  - rural depravation, the loss of key services such as transport, shops and health care, and the future livelihoods of farming. Don't be fooled!


The BNP might sound convincing, but underneath its new found polices mask a pernicious set of extreme views centred on race, immigration and asylum. The BNP has neither a comprehensive manifesto covering all aspects of the national economy nor any sound policies to manage the social fabric of modern Britain.


The main political parties have a duty to expose the BNP and come up with policies which overcome the anxieties of ordinary people.


This Labour Government has failed to formulate and implement an asylum policy that is based on strict control of those who may apply and vigilance at our borders. Sadly, this failure has lead to a number of voters looking for an alternative in the extreme right.


All three major parties must now ensure that they spell out their policies to the rural and urban voters of the Eastern Region and beyond so that there is no room for extreme parties such as the BNP to divide and destabilise our local communities.




In September, I addressed a health conference in Budapest on the challenges facing the ten Central and Eastern European states when they join the European Union next year .


Creating a pan-EU healthcare system, which provides almost 500 million EU citizens in twenty five countries with equal access to quality healthcare, is a challenge for all stakeholders. I discussed how such a health system could be funded in order to meet growing patient expectations, the uneven spread of state-of-the-art medicines across EU markets and ways to close the gap in the poorer health status of some of the accession countries.


The enlarged EU faces the challenge of helping the accession countries to upgrade and connect their health systems with those in the existing Member States. This requires investment in manpower, infrastructure and training of medical personnel from surgeons to technicians.


In order to realise the EU's dream of creating a truly single market, we must reform the delivery of healthcare so that every EU citizen is entitled to the same treatment.




East Anglia shoppers may be unwittingly encouraging a cruel trade in cat and dog fur when they buy hats, gloves, shoes and cuddly toys. Over 2 million cats and dogs are slaughtered each year in China alone, in order to satisfy demand in Europe and it has been estimated that 66 tonnes of cat and dog fur was imported into Britain in 2001.


These animals are raised, and in some cases farmed, under deplorable conditions and then killed either by stabbing or hanging. Occasionally, they are even skinned alive. After being turned into full-length coats, fur trimmings, or linings in ski boots and gloves, these goods are purposefully mislabelled as rabbit, fox or simply as fake fur. This trade in cat and dog fur is not only an act of barbaric animal cruelty, it is a blatant display of consumer fraud since most of us are unaware of what we may be purchasing.


At a Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in November last year, eight ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark strongly supported Sweden's request for an EU-wide ban on sales, as well as imports and exports of cat and dog fur and skins. However, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, David Byrne, argued that this is not an EU-wide problem and that it should be up to individual countries to address the issue.


I disagree with the Commissioner as this is clearly a matter for EU control. The EU's single market with open borders allows these goods to make their way easily from one member state to another. While Italy has already banned such sales, individual state action is not enough. Only a complete EU-wide ban will put an end to this barbaric trade.


Instead of outlawing the trade, the British government has so far simply welcomed a voluntary labelling scheme which is being set up by the fur trade itself as of this month. This scheme is not compulsory and will do nothing to stop the trade in dog and cat fur.


In the European Parliament, we have submitted a declaration requesting the European Commission to immediately draft a regulation under internal market powers to ban the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog furs and skins across Europe.


I urge consumers and animal lovers to put pressure on their local Westminster MPs to raise this matter with the Government and to write to Commissioner Byrne (European Commission, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium) demanding that he take immediate action to ban the import, export and sale of these products.




I addressed students and lecturers at the University of East Anglia's new School of Pharmacy, in Norwich, which opened its doors to the first intake of 72 undergraduates this September.


As a pharmacist with over thirty years experience, I welcomed the decision by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to open the school of pharmacy which is currently the only one in the six counties of Eastern Region.


The East of England currently has the highest vacancy rate for pharmacists across Britain and I hope this new degree course will help to address the acute shortage.


The pharmacy school is headed by a young and energetic team and I am sure that alongside the medical school it will bring added distinction to the UEA, which already has a very strong academic reputation in both science and health disciplines.


I spoke on a variety of issues, including my involvement in the current review of EU Pharmaceuticals Regulation, the future of the pharmaceutical industry after enlargement of the EU and the pricing of cheap drugs for developing countries.




17 Sep      Ipswich CPF

18 Sep      EUW Cambridgeshire

24-26 Sep Enlargement Health Talks, Budapest

1 Oct         UEA School of Pharmacy

2 Oct         EUW Norwich & King's Lynn

6-9 Oct      Party Conference, Blackpool

10-15 Oct  ACP-EU talks, Rome

16-19 Oct  Interfaith Conference, Istanbul

30-2 Nov   Health Insurance Institute Conf, Sofia


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