• Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook

Search This Blog

Visit our new website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What exactly do MEPs propose to do about expenses?

If there's one thing the British public is sick to death of right now, it's politicians and their expense claims.

So you would have thought that the parties would've sought to address this in a big way in their manifestos for the European elections on 4 June.

Because if you think Westminster's rotten, you should look at Brussels. At least at Westminster there are receipts to look at - in the murky world of EU politics, Members of the European Parliament don't even have to keep receipts for any of their expenses. So we will never find out exactly how they've been wasting spending taxpayers' money.

The European Parliament rules are not going to be changed anytime soon, so it's up to the individual parties to force their MEPs to adopt better standards for themselves, and to commit to doing their best to change the system from within.

To give credit where it's due, so far the Conservatives are the only party that have made any detailed effort to persuade people that they intend to shake things up in the EP. Following a pledge last year to publish the details of all Conservative MEPs' expenses online, which they first did in December (with the exception of Christopher Beazley - there's always one), their manifesto, published yesterday, states:

We will also make sure that our MEPs are committed to the highest standards in public life. We were the first party to require all its MEPs to publish a breakdown of their expenses. Our MEPs undertake to continue to publish their expenses online at regular intervals. We will urge other parties to follow suit.

Their "Commitment to the British people" has further details about what this actually means.

Meanwhile, the best the Lib Dems could do in their manifesto, unveiled last week, was:

We will continue to work to reform MEPs expenses, ensure transparency and end the abuses that have undermined public confidence.

Great. Thanks for the detailed commitments.

The Green Party says:

Strong action is also needed to clean up Brussels bureaucracy, and enforce a transparent and fair system for MEP expenses.

UKIP doesn't mention it and makes zero committments to actually do anything as the idea is just to sack the whole thing off and pull out the EU altogether.

Labour, meanwhile, (whose manifesto we come to last, because it was impossible to find on the Party website, and when we called up we found they had closed the offfice for a well-deserved two-hour lunch - oh, and then the office of Labour leader in the EP Glenis Willmott told us they would try to email us a copy of the manifesto, but "couldn't promise anything"), says:

Labour in Europe is working hard to deliver for the people of Britain and we have led the way in ensuring transparency. British Labour MEPs have all their office and staff expenditure reviewed by an independent auditor. British Labour MEPs have all their office and staff expenditure reviewed by an independent auditor.

So absolutely no intention to change anything then. In fact, the inferrence is that we should be happy with the status quo.

No comments: