What our politicians can learn from Europe


by Rumbold
22nd February, 2009 at 7:52 pm    

Despite the mammoth amounts of unjustified money which our MPs claim for expenses, they still appear to be rank amateurs compared to MEPs:

“There are no guidelines regulating how much an assistant should be paid, and many MEPs use this allowance to pay members of their own family. The amount is so generous that an MEP can slip his or her spouse or offspring £50,000 to £60,000 a year and still have enough loose change to employ more than one full-time secretary and a few researchers…

MEPs can also claim a subsistence allowance of £257 a day, tax free, for every one of the 40 or so weeks of European parliamentary sessions without having to provide receipts. There is no requirement to attend a debate or committee session. On Fridays at 7am there is usually a queue of MEPs with their luggage waiting to sign in to get their allowance before rushing off to the airport or station.”

Of course most of these expenses claims are perfectly legal. But then that is the problem. It is legalised theft. The same problem exists in our Parliament, where people such as Jacqui Smith and Ed Balls ensure the rules are on their side before appropriating to themselves funds which have been raised by taxing the low paid, or by cutting spending on domestic violence refuge centres. The link between the European and British Parliament is one of contempt; namely, for the people who elected them and pay their wages.

Imagine if a waiter took your order, then decided to give you what he thought was best, then ate part of your food before giving it to you, then charged you more than it said on the bill (while lecturing you on how to behave and threatened you with arrest if you act like him). That is how governments operate. There is very little we can do to stop this legitimised looting of our money, especially in Europe. MEPs and MPs will continue to behave like criminals because we allow them to do so.


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  1. Bert Rustle — on 22nd February, 2009 at 8:50 pm  

    rumbold wrote … Of course most of these expenses claims are perfectly legal. But then that is the problem. It is legalised theft. …

    Indeed, as is the Tanked Asset relocation Program. Expenses are a tiny component of the legalised theft currently in progress. See Karl Denninger’s posts at http://market-ticker.denninger.net/ . A Somewhat exuberant presentation, but on the face of it the logical analysis is not without merit.

  2. Ashik — on 22nd February, 2009 at 9:28 pm  

    Many MP’s argue that they forgo lucrative private sector positions to serve in the public sphere and so deserve their pay and other expenses. Otherwise ‘talented individuals’ would not enter parliament. There may be a kernel of truth there. Many MP’s do good constituency work and are quite approachable. I have found that my local MP is quite helpful in advocating on behalf of individuals in the process of obtaining immigration status, even though these people are not voters.

    A while back I heard MP’s at Westminister would no longer be permitted to hold down second jobs eg. ‘consulting’ for private businesses. What has become of this and similar initiatives?

  3. Amrit — on 22nd February, 2009 at 11:32 pm  

    The amount is so generous that an MEP can slip his or her spouse or offspring £50,000 to £60,000 a year and still have enough loose change to employ more than one full-time secretary and a few researchers…

    *eyes water* That is insane.

    Final paragraph, line 2 – that’s ‘giving it to YOU’.

    Definitely think that ordinary people need to have more of an idea of how decisions are made in the EU, it all seems rather opaque. I’m not anti-it (I don’t know enough to be inclined either way), but I am pro-transparency (and for the govt. too, of course).

    There is very little we can do to stop this legitimised looting of our money, especially in Europe. MEPs and MPs will continue to behave like criminals because we allow them to do so.

    Yet how would you propose we empower ourselves? I suppose further transparency would be a starting point, as I’ve already said…

  4. Shamit — on 23rd February, 2009 at 10:23 am  

    The entire European administrative machinery is corrupt and the auditors have refused to sign off on the European Commission accounts for years.

    To be fair to the UK MEPs, they have a far more transparent reporting procedures than any other country in the EU. But the whole thing still reeks of wastage of time and money and effort.

    What is the point of the European Parliament when decisions by it are not binding on anyone unless the Council approves them. The European Parliament cannot even reject a single Commissioner.

    As far as the UK goes, the foundation of our democracy is embedded in the concept of the Sovereign rights of the Parliament whereby one parliament has the right to overturn such acts by its predecessors that it deems not appropriate for the nation. Unfortunately, where Europe matters, our parliament has been often made redundant. And as there is no real democratic accountability of actions taken by the European Council or the Commission — this journey of European integration reeks of elitism and undemocratic behaviour. The icing on the cake is this blatant disregard for public money.

  5. Rumbold — on 23rd February, 2009 at 11:42 am  

    Bert Rustle:

    Don’t forget the EU’s attempts to steal £5 billion from member states:

    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2009/02/lesson-in-politics.html

    Ashik:

    I don’t think that all MPs are useless or lazy. But given the vast numbers who apply for each position, you could quite easily tighten the rules and get a good quality of applicant. I suspect that MPs are getting better at constituency work, but worse at being parliamentarians, which is their primary role. The best example of this is Labour and the Lib Dem’s betrayal of those who voted for them when they refused to for a referendum on the EU constitution, and then failed to scrutinise said constitution before passing it. No MP should ever vote for a piece of legislation without reading it all and understanding it. So what if there is a lot of legislation? If MPs automatically voted against anything they hadn’t read, then the government/EU/civil service would have to reduce the number of laws and regulations that they brought in.

    Amrit:

    Thank you for the corrections.

    “Yet how would you propose we empower ourselves? I suppose further transparency would be a starting point, as I’ve already said…”

    For Europe, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the system is unreformable, as there are too many vested interests involved. The only option is withdrawing. We will still be able to trade with the EU, as they won’t suddenly close a huge export market out of spite. Our food will be cheaper, we will have less laws, and we will regain control over our trade policies and other areas.

    Shamit:

    I don’t know what position you take on the EU, but if you aren’t in favour of withdrawal, I suspect that you will be one day, as you are one of the few people who seems to understand how the EU works.

  6. MaidMarian — on 23rd February, 2009 at 12:55 pm  

    Rumbold (5) – ‘If MPs automatically voted against anything they hadn’t read, then the government/EU/civil service would have to reduce the number of laws and regulations that they brought in.’

    So why not go to the logical end-point of that? There is a far easier way to save money on Parliament than to beat one’s chest about, ‘legalised theft,’ or whatever buzz word you can think up.

    The easy way to cut the cost is to reduce the numbers. I like the US system where the members of Congress are paid telephone numbers but they get very few expenses and they are low in number, certainly in relation to most European Parliaments. I do acknowledge that the comparison is not exact given that the US has state legislatures etc.

    I don’t know if any research has been done on this, but I would guess that a substantial reduction in the number of representatives could easily be achieved.

  7. Rumbold — on 23rd February, 2009 at 2:04 pm  

    MaidMarian:

    From what I understand, while members of Congress get few expenses, they get offices and staff provided for them. I don’t think that numbers are a problem in this country, as fewer MPs would lead to a worse standard of constituency work. WHt we need is a system which doesn’t allow MPs to claim so much, and legal sanctions if they break those rules (and not just a ticking off).

  8. MaidMarian — on 23rd February, 2009 at 8:39 pm  

    Rumbold (7) – Yes, I understood the same about the US, but no fuss about employing family members etc.

    I agree that there is a possibility that the standard of constituency work could be lowered, but I don’t see why at least some of that work could be undertaken by community figures not MPs. Less hot air in Parliament would be no bad thing.

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