Howitt irritates his rivals

RICHARD Howitt, Labour's only Euro MP for the East of England, is at the centre of angry exchange with the region's other MEPs with his claim that they "are failing to represent our area.

RICHARD Howitt, Labour's only Euro MP for the East of England, is at the centre of angry exchange with the region's other MEPs with his claim that they "are failing to represent our area."

The row centres on the continuation of EU funding to the region and Mr Howitt claimed that while he had been "working furiously behind the scenes for over a year," other MEPs had been anonymous.

"I was the only one to submit parliamentary amendments on behalf of the region and to attend the preparatory meeting in Bedford to discuss and agree this. Only Liberal Democrat Andrew Duff and myself voted for the funding in the European Parliament last week.

"All of us had been asked to do so in writing by the East of England Regional Assembly officers. Hundreds of millions of pounds are at stake for Essex and Suffolk over a seven year period 2007-13, and the Tories have put their ideological view to oppose all European funding ahead of the need to secure the best share for our region."

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Mr Howitt added: "Despite naysayer predictions that there will be no money after 2006, I say that there will be. I predict that Britain will get over 75% of its last allocation, which will account for over £9bn. My key concern is to see that a fair share of this money is distributed to our region."

If he expected the other MEPs to take that on the chin, he was mistaken. Geoffrey Van Orden (Conservative) said it was both "highly misleading, and arrogant for the one remaining Labour MEP to try and claim credit just for himself."

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He added: "Conservatives have been active at every level in order to ensure that our region continues to get its fair share of so-called `EU funding' and that this funding is put to good use. In the committees of the Parliament and in plenary session, with our political allies, we have proposed and supported legislation that will benefit the East of England.

"At the moment there is not even agreement on the future budget for the EU and so the amounts that might be returned to the UK cannot be accurately forecast at this stage. We are confident that money will continue to come to East Anglia, albeit in reduced amounts compared with previous years. And European cash such as the Social Fund has always been available throughout the whole of East Anglia - no fresh action was required to bring this about. The problem is making sure the money is used wisely.

"The East of England is receiving over £320 million during the current 7-year funding period. It is of interest that around £2 million was returned to Brussels in the last funding round as administrators were unable to utilise this money in a manner that was in compliance with the rules.

Andrew Duff said he was "amazed at Mr Howitt's hysterical self-aggrandisement. The fact is that it is the British Labour government which is trying to reduce the size of the EU budget and, in order to do so, aims to reject the Commission's future spending plans for England from the regional development and social funds."

AMID the unimaginable carnage caused on three underground trains and a London bus last week, the personal items which seem to have been untouched by the blasts have been the mobile telephone.

Paramedics have launched a national campaign to encourage people to store contact details in their phones to help the police and medical services contact relatives in case you are caught up in a terrorist outrage, a road or train accident, or perhaps collapsing in the street.

Enter the acronym ICE - In Case of Emergency - into your mobile's phone book and store the details in its memory of you next of kin who should be contacted in an emergency.

As an example, go to phone book, click onto `add name,' type ICE (wife's mobile) and then her number and press `save.' I've also entered ICE (home) and ICE (son's mobile) to cover all bases - and because I travel abroad independently I've used the international prefix of +44, dropping the initial 0 of the relevant UK STD or mobile number (thus for Ipswich it should be +441473 plus the six digit number).

The scheme was devised last year by Bob Brotchie of the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust after he struggled to get contact details from shocked or injured patients.

Research shows that 75% of people carry no details of whom they would like called after a serious incident - which brings us to the Government's plans for identity cards.

Last week's events have proved they would have little or no impact on stopping a terrorist atrocity, but if we all carried an ID card, life would be that much easier for the emergency services and would be a prime tool in a stop and search operation designed to catch suspects or their controllers.

In a response to the London bombings, the Prime Minister this week pledged urgent action to exclude and deport radical Muslim clerics who come to Britain to incite religious hatred.

The planned legislation will focus on measures to deal with the "incitement and instigation" of terrorism as well as terrorist acts themselves. Ministers intend to publish a draft Bill this autumn before tabling legislation in the spring - although that could be speeded up if police and the security services say they need new powers more quickly.

Mr Blair will hold talks the week after next with Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy to try to reach agreement on the new laws. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister will host a Downing Street meeting with Muslim community leaders which will also include Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy.

LIBERAL Democrat benches were virtually empty on Wednesday for the first Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons after the outrage.

Instead of showing solidarity with the massed ranks of the other parties, Mr Kennedy had sent most of his MPs up to Cheadle to campaign for votes in the by-election which took place yesterday. What a shame politicking comes ahead of national unity.

ESSEX North MP Bernard Jenkin has joined other Tory politicians and business leaders in forming the European Reform Forum, with the aim of carrying out a complete re-examination of the institutional framework of the European Union during Britain's six-month EU presidency.

The group believes that the rejection of the proposed European constitution in referendums in France and the Netherlands has created an opportunity for a rethink of the EU's treaties to boost the continent's economic growth.

The Forum will hold evidence sessions in public, taking written and oral evidence from a range of witnesses. Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary and Chairman of the group, said it hoped to ask supporters of European treaties to justify their continued existence.

Members hope to take evidence from the Prime Minister and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, as well as other interested parties from all sides of the debate.



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