The Cesspit of Parliaments

by Andrew Stuttaford

Westminster, so the saying goes, is the mother of parliaments, but the EU’s parliament is the cesspit.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Willard Foxton explains:

The levels of expenses [at the EU parliament] are completely outrageous, and almost totally unmonitored. On top of their €7,957 monthly salary, MEPs get €4299 paid directly into their personal bank account for “general expenditure”, no questions asked, no receipts required. The system is so broken the EU actually refuses to pay it to anywhere but a personal account in the MEP’s name.

On top of that, they get €152 for every day they turn up in parliament – and €152 more if they vote more than 50 per cent of the time. This has led to bonkers situations like the Romanian MEP who has never spoken and votes “yes” to literally everything…

They pay tax at about a 13.5 per cent (lower than almost any rate in the EU) [To be fair, in some countries’ they pay a national ‘top up’], but on top of that, can claim back practically any VAT they pay. A common dodge is if any family member is about to buy any hefty purchase – a car, for example – then the MEP’s staffer will buy it, saving their family a fortune. One EU staffer told me she’d heard of people claiming back VAT on laser eye surgery for their relatives.

Of course, in the modern age there’s absolutely no practical reason we couldn’t have absolute transparency on all of this. It would be easy to monitor the spending of EU politicians (indeed, of any politician) in any number of ways, and thus slash spending on these boondoggles.

The problem is, the EU’s expenses system is disastrously, titanically corrupt, and MEPs (especially from countries where political graft is a given) will never accept the most basic levels of scrutiny and transparency….

An even bigger problem is the corrupt incentive that this system gives MEPs to preserve the EU that allows them to live so well. 

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