Step forward in campaign to scrap the Strasbourg circus

17-Sep-2013 @ 17:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Pressure mounted today for an end to the European Parliament's notorious "travelling circus" between Brussels and Strasbourg, with a telling vote in the legislature's Petitions Committee.

Conservative MEPs who are campaigning to end the parliament's wasteful two-seat set-up scored a victory by overcoming the attempts of French MEPs to close down all debate on the issue.

They successfully steered through the Petitions Committee a report by Conservative spokesman Giles Chichester which insisted the question of scrapping the costly monthly trips to Strasbourg must be debated so that MEPs can vote on their preference.

Mr Chichester, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, drew up the report to reflect the views of 1.27 million EU citizens who signed a petition demanding a single seat for the Parliament in Brussels.

He noted that earlier attempts by the committee to consider the issue had been blocked, but said the two-seat arrangement could not go on forever and had become a "symbolic negative issue" to most citizens.

He welcomed the fact that fellow South West Tory Ashley Fox had secured the agreement of the Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee to draw up a report on the issue and to explore the powers of the Parliament to request the necessary treaty change under Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty.

French MEPs from the Parliament's two biggest groups the Socialists and Democrats and the European People's Party tabled more than 100 amendments to try to block the report's progress and to shut down debate. However, despite the support of some German MEPs, enough of their political colleagues voted against them for Mr Chichester to succeed.

Mr Chichester said: "This vote is by no means the end of the story, but it shows how the tide is turning on this very important issue. There was support from right across the political spectrum.

"Any good reason for the monthly trek to Strasbourg, along with its preposterous cost to taxpayers, disappeared decades ago. The world has moved on from the days when Franco-German reconciliation was all-important. On the contrary, too often they spend their time cosying up trying to carve up the decision-making, as we see here.

"The public at large lost patience with Strasbourg's special pleading on this issue years ago. Now it is clear that MEPs are losing their patience too.

"We cannot keep forking out taxpayers' millions to fund obsolete symbolism or pander to French pride."

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