Graham's blog Friday 10 October 2008

October 10, 2008 8:00 AM

I had the pleasure this week of spending Monday in my constituency, showing the EU's Energy Commissioner (Andris Piebalgs, a Latvian LibDem) the opportunities for renewable energy generation on the Severn estuary. We were briefed first by Regen South West, then by the Regional Development Agency, on current renewable energy generation in the region and potential future development: then we took the Commissioner to the top of the hill above Uphill (Weston-super-Mare) to see where one of the possible barrage schemes might make landfall. We took him therafter to Bristol Port to discuss the impact a barrage or tidal fence might have on shipping and to see the Port's plans for more wind turbine capacity. My view remains that a series of tidal lagoons would probably be our best option; they could generate more energy than a barrage and be on-stream up to five years earlier. But a political decision is needed at cabinet level in Whitehall (due next Spring) and a proper enquiry thereafter to examine all the options.

I flew back to Brussels with the Commissioner on Monday evening for what my colleagues and I now call "super Tuesday". It was the day on which Liberal Democrats won almost all our amendments to three major pieces on legislation in the environment committee. If the committee votes hold on the floor of the House and if we negotiate skillfully thereafter with the 27 national environment ministers we will have a European programme for carbon capture and storage, a more rigorous system for the trading of carbon emissions permits and a commitment to serious levels of CO2 reduction across the EU.

On Wednesday we debated with President Barroso and the French EU Council presidency the preparations for next week's European Council (EU heads of government 'summit') meeting. I expressed the support of my troops for the action of the 27 finance ministers and the proposals of the European Commission to calm markets and regulate them better in future: and I proposed the use of the EU budget to provide more credit to small and medium sized enterprises through the European Investment Bank, because the banking crisis has already hit many businesses as banks have started calling in their loans. The chances of averting a major economic slump no longer look great, but there is much we might do to alleviate it. (For my speech, see www.grahamwatsonmep.org).

I was pleased to welcome to Brussels this week local authority representatives from across the South West of England, for whom the region's small Brussels office had put together an excellent programme. I talked to Cornwall County Councillors Bryan Preston, Andrew Mitchell and others about EU funded projects in the county and was briefed on the latest plans for Newquay airport. Cornwall has made good use of the so-called 'structural funds' available to it.

The high point of my week, however, was having 17 year old violinist Kate Suthers of Wells Cathedral School play a Bach adagio at a ceremony I hosted to commemorate the life of Bronislaw Geremek MEP. She was nothing short of superb. The school aims to become Europe's premier music school and I am doing what I can to help enhance its reputation. With ambassadors like Kate it will not be too difficult a job!

Today I am with eleven members of staff of my Group on a strategy planning retreat, so I will miss the south west regional assembly meeting. Tomorrow I am back for my normal weekend of constituency engagements and a pile of casework.

If any reader is interested in my chinese language teaching scheme for SW schools, there are still places available at the conference next Friday morning (17 October) at Exeter University at which the EU Languages Commissioner is a guest of honour. Contact my office: euro_office@cix.co.uk for details.