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Friday, May 25, 2007

Strasbourg Shenanigans

It seems that some Conservative MEPs were pretty unhappy to be told by their whips that they had to support the 1960s-style price caps put on roaming charges in the vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

We were amused to read on Richard Corbett's blog that two of their number came up with a crafty way to avoid supporting the measure:

"Like many national parliaments, the European Parliament has rules that members may not vote on matters where they have a pecuniary personal interest. This is intended to stop, for instance, members who hold shares in a company that might be affected by a decision from benefitting from the way they vote.

In yesterday’s vote on capping mobile phone charges, two of the Eurosceptic Tory MEPs got up to say that they would not be voting because they stood to gain financially if phone charges went down, because they owned mobile phones."

As Dan Hannan argues in the First Post today, cutting roaming charges is likely to have the perverse effect of cutting costs for international travellers while raising costs for poorer domestic users. This could mean that teenagers using 'pay as you go' phones to call their mates will be charged more than MEPs phoning their constituency office from Brussels. Therefore they've got a pecuniary interest...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course, the other way to look at this issue is that until now, international users of mobile phones have been subsidising domestic users. The EC legislation simply in effect requires telecom companies to end this cross-subsidy. And if it's true that currently the wealthiest users make international calls, this is surely due to the high costs. Surely the basic rules of economics would suggest that if you lower the price of something, you broaden the market for it to include consumers with less money. I believe that wine was seen as a drink for wealthier people in the UK, and international air travel attracted mostly wealthier customers, before EU action drove the prices down. For example, why won't teenagers want to call their mates while on holiday in another country, once prices are lower?