Kendal Meeting

19 April 2002

Just a brief note of a few of the speakers I either recognised or whose names I managed to catch at the Kendal EU meeting this morning.

The Chairman was Jan Mulder of the Netherlands with only two other MEPs on the front panel. The EU entourage present was only a fraction of that at Gretna on Thursday and although plenty of chairs had been set out for the audience, there seemed very few present. There was supposed to be 50 invited guests.

Chris Collier of Cumbria Tourist Board opened up with a brief explanation of the effects of the FMD outbreak on tourism in the county last year, aided by an overhead projector. She included the headline "Keep Out" of the countryside and descibed its effect on business as "a tap being turned off". Tourism in Cumbria is normally a £1 billion pound industry. She criticised the early decisions made in the crisis and called for some joined up thinking in Government in any future crisis.

This set the tone for what we probably all thought was to be a tourism based meeting but this wasn't to be. Luckily we only had a few brief statements from a few of the MEPs present in the Chairman's efforts to give everyone a chance to speak, if only for a few minutes, as they had to leave on time to catch their flight back to Europe.

Amongst those who spoke were the Labour Leader of Cumbria County Council; a selection of business people involved in tourism who spoke about vaccination, Ruth Watkins, Prof Fred Brown and MAFF incompetence as well as their own business problems; a health worker talking about the mental effects of the outbreak; a gentleman from Wensleydale highlighting the problems there; three well known members of the local NFU ( Peter Allen, Steve Dunning & Gordon Capstick) plus another farmer; the vets Helen O'Hare (on animal welfare) and Jim Clapp (on the use of TVIs); a gentleman requesting the EU look at the legality of the contiguous and 3 km cull; and me asking if the EU committee could return to Cumbria again and have a proper fully open public meeting as we did not think we were given a proper chance to air our views at Gretna.

Time was then called and hasty farewells made as they rushed off to their coach to Manchester Airport.

I heard that the previous night's meeting had been somewhat contentious with the farming and tourism sectors on directly opposing sides. Today there were distinct efforts to try and bring the two sides together.