Thursday, 11 June 2009

Expenses and allowances package worth up to £350,000

UKIP's David Campbell Bannerman and Stuart Agnew were elected on Sunday to represent the six counties of the East of England for a five-year term in the European Parliament.

They will be signing up to an expenses and allowances package worth up to £350,000 in Brussels, a big increase on the amount their four re-elected colleagues have previously been entitled to. Because the Freedom of Information legislation does not apply to European institutions, there is no obligation for them to publish the details, but the EADT, on behalf of their constituents, believes MEPs have a moral obligation to account for every euro they spend and claim back from the taxpayers.

The benefits package to which Euro MPs are entitled makes the Westminster expenses system seem small beer. From next month the salary of British MEPs rises from about £63,000 - currently in line with their Westminster counterparts - to £79,500. That is the new standard pay rate for all MEPs of 91,980 euros, converted at the current very favourable rate against a weak sterling.

In addition, there is:

£43,500 a year office allowance, to cover rent, telephones, computers and office equipment. There is no requirement to provide receipts to justify how it is spent.

£180,000 to cover staff costs of researchers and assistants - although from July newly-elected MEPs will no longer be allowed to employ their relatives. Returning MEPs will be able to carry on doing so until 2014.

£257 daily subsistence allowance to cover hotels and meals.

First class travel costs.

MEPs have also been able to claim a distance allowance on top of their travel fares if their journey to Brussels or Strasbourg was more than 310 miles (500 kilometres), starting at £102.50 per single journey.

However, one expenses loophole has been closed off. Travel costs will only be reimbursed against receipts, thus preventing MEPs from charging first class or business rates rail and air fares but travelling steerage and pocketing the difference - something that, until now, was acknowledged and permitted and added up to an annual bonus of tens of thousands of pounds.

Susie Squire, campaigns manager of the Taxpayers' Alliance, praised the EADT's stance. “The European gravy train has to end. MEPs must be made to publish how much they claim from the public purse - it is money which everyone is paying for through their taxes.

“We need a rule - no pay without receipts. Until now, MEPs could claim what they liked for travel just by handing over their boarding cards to the European Parliament.

“It is no wonder that voters are disengaged with Europe - they don't know who their MEPs are and are shocked at the expenses gravy train.”

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