Tories tell EU: Curb spending – or submit to independent scrutiny

Europe must slash spending on wasteful pet projects and focus investment on jobs, growth and competitiveness.

That was the message from Conservative MEPs today as they opposed moves in the European Parliament to get a multi-billion pound increase to the EU’s 2015 budget re-introduced by the back door.

Budget spokesman Richard Ashworth said: “We don’t need a bigger budget…we need a better budget. By all means let’s improve our investment in research, development, new technology and communications – but we must create the scope for that by cutting inefficient spending programmes and applying simple strategic priorities. You can’t spend money twice – so let’s spend it where it does most good.”

In early negotiations, the European Council – representing the EU’s 28 national governments – insisted on a substantial cut to the budget demands of the EU Commission for next year: from €146.3 billion to €145.6bn in commitments and from €146.4bn to €142.1bn in actual payments. But the parliament’s Budget Committee voted to restore the Council’s cuts and today put a proposed budget including the extra spending before a plenary session of the parliament in Strasbourg.

In response the European Conservatives and Reformists Group tabled a raft of amendments demanding added value as the cornerstone of all EU budgets and insisting that EU public spending cannot be exempt from the considerable efforts made by Member States to bring their spending under control. In the event the amendments fell and the committee position was adopted, but Conservative MEPs and the UK Government will continue to resist the proposal.

Mr Ashworth, MEP for South east England, said: “Conservative MEPs will stand firm against this attempt to re-inflate the EU’s spending. As well as strategic prioritisation of growth and jobs balanced by cuts elsewhere, we need firm action to stop payments spiralling out of control.

“There has to be a clear responsibility on EU institutions and members states to live within their means. If that responsibility is not met, new solutions including independent budgetary scrutiny must be considered.”