Saturday, 12 September 2009

A run in with the military police

When I left home yesterday I really wasn't anticipating a confrontation with the anti terror squad.

The invitation was to visit Happisburg in North Norfolk to discuss coastal erosion with 3 teenagers who are gradually watching their village disappear under the sea. It's important. I threw out some ideas, they threw out others --- we discussed their frustrations (those with responsibility have no budgets, those who have budgets appear to have no responsibility). I gave them some ideas on campaigning tactics. We concluded that they need to get local people and the local council to come up with a practicable local plan. If they get a plan I will do what I can to see if they can unlock some EU funds. Its a bureaucratic nightmare but my colleagues' experiences is that sometimes local residents' solutions are far more affordable than top down ones.

As we left the village I realised that we were only down the road from Bacton, where the UK's main gas refinery is located on the North Sea. As one of my committees in the parliament includes energy I had wanted to visit this facility anyway - but its is miles away from just about anywhere. As we were nearby I thought it would be worth a detour.

Turning up a the main gate I called security on their intercom and explained I was a passing MEP. I was politely told to make an appointment. My assistant took a couple of photos from the public road for the album and we drove off.

We'd only gone about 200 yards when suddenly two (armoured?) police 4x4s appeared with sirens blazing and trapped my trusty Astra in their pincer movement. Suffice to say that the military police are a formidable force and I had stirred the hornets' nest. I would not advise others to do the same. It took a lot of IDs, business cards, numberplate searches and general interrogation before they conceded that I probably was who I said I was and this might not a bad thing for an MEP to be interested in. Eventually I left on friendly terms.

Though it was pretty frightening, in retrospect, I am pleased that the MoD did demonstrate their strength. Energy secruity is an extremely serious issue. I'm also extremely glad that my colleague (and former Brigadier) Geoffrey Van Orden MEP will be making a more official trip to Bacton in a few weeks. I will certainly be arming him with some questions.

Next time I'm on the coast perhaps I will use up my freetime with a paddle and an icecream..... beats Brussels anyday!

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