The wasteful two-seat system in the European Parliament is a step closer to seeing its last days.
UK Conservatives won a key vote to end the “travelling circus” of 766 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment decamping to Strasbourg in France, to meet there for three days each month.
The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee voted to adopt a report, which is being hailed as a potentially-historic step towards stopping the wasteful two-seat system. It is the first time that the Parliament has formally set out its intention to pursue a policy of treaty change to end this crazy state of affairs.
Unless something changes, the two-seat system is set to cost taxpayers something approaching a billion pounds over the course of the EU’s next seven-year budget programme. I could suggest better ways to spend that money that can help make Europe more competitive and more prosperous.
Strasbourg, 24 October 2013
Conservative MEPs today sent a warning message to the EU Commission over poor management and brinksmanship in its handling of budget negotiations.
British Conservatives registered abstentions in a vote over the so-called Draft Amending Budget 6, which shifts €2.7 billion Euros from customs revenue as source of funding for the EU budget, to national contributions, in order to cover bills which the Commission faces due to a shortfall of customs duties as a result of the financial crisis.
Ultimately the measure will result in what is effectively a mini-rebate for Britain £352 million by switching revenue-sourcing to a pot to which UK contributions are proportionally smaller, but MEPs across party groups have been exasperated by the EU Commission’s approach to negotiations.
Richard Ashworth, the leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs and group negotiator on budget, said: “At a budget committee meeting on Monday night, out of the blue, the Commission announced that they were suffering a €2.7 billion loss of revenue because the economic downturn meant reduced income from import duties. Then we were threatened with the suggestion that if the DAB6 money wasn’t handed over within days the EU would be unable to meet its legal obligations.
“Today’s vote came against this background of considerable disquiet in the Parliament over the Commission’s approach. You shouldn’t suddenly now be flagging up the supposed consequences of a downturn we have had for three years. To do so is either incompetent or disingenuous.
“This was really to send a message that we are far from happy with the Commission’s approach. It demonstrates more than ever the fundamental need to reform the budget.”
Wednesday 23 October 2013, Strasbourg
Conservative MEPs dug in today to resist a move in the European Parliament to hike up next year’s EU budget by more than a billion pounds.
They voted solidly against a proposal from the parliament’s Budget Committee to spend a massive €136 billion next year. The figure is €1.2 billion more than agreed by national government’s through the EU Council, and even €211 million more than the sum demanded by the EU Commission.
Despite this proposal to increase the total budget significantly, the committee also proposes to create extra spending power by eating into so-called “flexibility instruments” – the money set aside to cover emergencies and unforeseen expenditure.
Richard Ashworth, leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs and budget negotiator for the group, is spearheading resistance to the costly bid. He said: “The EU Council was absolutely right to propose a reduced budget. In this difficult economic climate the people of Europe will expect no less.
“We must respond to tough times with resolve, not with indiscipline.”
He welcomed proposals to boost spending where it was really needed and said: “Top of the list must be jobs – particularly youth employment – and growth. Research and development, and the digital economy are surely the most urgent priorities. Tragic events in the Mediterranean have highlighted the pressing need for the EU to reinforce efforts to protect its borders, particularly through the Frontex agency.”
But he said those priorities must be met by redirecting spending, not by adding to the overall budget.
And he added: “Relying on the flexibility instrument to overcome shortfalls is equally unwise. They should be kept in reserve for genuinely unforeseen circumstances. To use them in this manner exposes the budget to risk.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, on the growing problem of Syrian refugees attempting to cross the English Channel to enter the UK, Richard Ashworth the leader of the UK Conservatives in the European Parliament has warned the French authorities to “not seek to pass the problem on to the UK by seeking financial help just because some immigrants in Calais happen to say their intention was to head for Britain.”
Richard Ashworth the leader of Conservative MEPs, told 5 live: “If the mayor of Calais has evidence of such criminal gangs operating in his jurisdiction he should ensure they are investigated, rooted out and prosecuted will the full force of the law.”
“Criminality is criminality wherever it happens.”
“What he (deputy mayor of Calais, Philippe Mignonet) should not seek to do is pass his problem on to the UK by seeking financial help just because some immigrants in Calais happen to say their intention was to head for Britain.”
The British government has promised to pay £500m to the international relief effort for the victims of the civil war, with that money is targeted at providing help to Syria’s neighbours.
South-East MEP welcomes new employment figures
Richard Ashworth the leader of the UK Conservatives in the European Parliament, and MEP for the South-East, has welcomed new employment figures for the South-East; “the painful decisions the government has made are now showing they were the correct decisions, with more people in work across the country. I am pleased in the South-East there has seen 69,000 more people in work this quarter.”
Across the South-East region the number of people in employment is up by 69,000 this quarter, and up by 163,000 since the general election in 2010, meaning that across the UK more people are in work now than ever before.
Recent unemployment figures show that in the South-East unemployment is down by 12,000 this quarter, and down by 6,000 since the election. The economy is showing positive signs of recovery after several years of painful decisions.
In the European Parliament Conservative MEPs are working to deliver a more competitive economy that will create even more jobs for the UK. In particular we have ensured the EU cuts its budget whilst focusing more money on job creating measures like cross-border research programmes; we have secured exemption from regulations for small businesses; we have seen off attempts to limit the number of hours we can work; and we’ve shelved EU plans on maternity leave that would have cost £2.5 billion to British business.
There is more to be done if we are to make the EU help British businesses, instead of standing in their way. That’s why, working with David Cameron, we are leading a campaign to radically cut EU red tape and meddling, and eliminating the barriers that impede businesses from starting up, growing, employing and trading. We are the only Party that can deliver a radically reformed EU that helps the continued recovery we want to see in the South-East’s economy.
Conservative MEPs are working tirelessly to remove the red tape, to grow both the British and European economies.
With lessened red tape, studies suggest that the economy could grow by up to 4% in some sectors. I support the findings of the business-led task-force report presented to the UK Cabinet which has thirty recommendations to address barriers to competitiveness, starting companies, expanding business, cross-border trading and innovation.
The European Commission needs to take these sensible recommendations on board, reducing the burden for British businesses who currently are forced to comply with unnecessary red tape.
The task-force suggested a ‘common sense filter’, and that is precisely what is needed both in the legislation and the subsequent coverage. Headlines this week reported a study listing the number of words in EU legislation as evidence of EU restrictions on trade. Easily flawed studies such as this are unhelpful, we should instead be focusing on the quality, not quantity of legislation. That is the real issue.
Less red tape will stimulate the economy: prospective employers in the South East would have fewer barriers to starting new SMEs. Youth unemployment could be tackled with more flexibility in the labour market. The UK could maximise its benefits from the Single Market.
Conservative MEPs are taking a common sense approach to reducing red tape in European Union legislation.
The leader of UK Conservatives in the European Parliament, has welcomed the decision by the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize for free speech to Pakistani schoolgirl and campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban.
Richard Ashworth MEP, leader of the UK Conservatives in the European Parliament said:
“I fully endorse the decision of the European Parliament to recognize the bravery of Malala Yousafzai; she is a worthy winner of the Sakharov Prize.”
“This decision to award this prize to Malala, sends out a powerful message that women from all over the world, must have the right to education. The bravery of this young woman, and the efforts of all those who saved her life must be recognized. Education must always triumph over medieval brutality”.
The Sakharov Prize is awarded by the European Parliament annually in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.