Conservative legal challenge over Strasbourg ruling

15-Jan-2014 @ 14:0

Ashley Fox Ashley Fox

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs today mounted a protest after their bid to cut just a small part of the waste of the European Parliament's so-called traveling circus was ruled out of order.

A Conservative amendment to cut all 12 sessions of the Parliament in Strasbourg next year from four days to three was declared inadmissible by the EP's President, German Socialist Martin Schulz.

If approved the amendment to proposals for the Parliament's 2015 would save Europe's taxpayers several millions pounds in hotel and restaurant bills and other expenses for MEPs and staff.

Campaigning MEP Ashley Fox, who tabled the amendment, objected to the Schulz ruling on a point of order and succeeded in persuading a majority of fellow MEPs to defer any decision until further legal opinion could be sought.

He said Mr Shulz was mistaken in claiming that a European Court of Justice ruling last year (ruling here: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/celex.jsf?celex=62011CJ0237&lang1=en&type=NOT&ancre=) had stipulated that Strasbourg sessions must last four days. The ruling noted parliament's practice of sitting for four days at a time in Strasbourg, but did not stipulate that this must continue, he said.

In response to his intervention he was told "The President's decision is final", but MEPs backed him in deferring their vote on the calendar and sending the decision back for reconsideration.

Later he said: "There seems to be more concern in some quarters for the authority of the Presidency, and a decision based on a mistaken reading of the law, than for Europe's taxpayers or for the principle of avoiding waste."

Mr Fox, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, is leading a Conservative campaign to scrap the Parliament's wasteful two-seat system.

Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 766 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France to sit there for from Monday afternoon to Thursday.

A report by the Parliament Secretary General has put the annual cost at €102 million, but Conservative MEPs say "invisibles" such as the ongoing costs of the buildings and money wasted on unused floor space make the true cost much higher. The shuttling back and forth needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Mr Fox said: "Over the parliament's seven-year long-term budget this will in fact cost taxpayers a staggering £928 million. In hard economic times, there are so many better things that could be spent on rather than empty buildings and needless journeys.

"Our amendment today would save millions, but that is still a drop in the ocean of total waste. For some even this modest piece of common sense is out of order."

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