Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have blown more than £17.4 of taxpayers’ money on paying supporters and voters to visit them in Brussels and Strasbourg.
In a review of the Parliament’s £1.3 billon-a-year spending, the budgetary review committee said it was “deeply worried” by the generous subsidies paid to MEPs.
If found that British MEPs alone spent hundreds of thousands of pounds arranging visits that were also advertised as short breaks to go shopping in the Christmas markets and sample Belgian beer.
The Daily Mail reports that 30 of the UK’s representatives in the European Parliament took advantage of the scheme, spending £143,324 on 863 visitors in the first seven months after they were elected in May 2014.
One of these subsidised trips was organised by the London branch of Conservative Future – the Conservative Party’s youth wing – who advertised it as “chance to have a tour of the European Parliament, enjoy the fine array of beers that Belgium is renowned for and have dinner with Syed Kamall MEP”.
“Given that we are also there at the same time as the Christmas markets, we’ll have the chance to buy gifts and enjoy some mulled wine! In addition to this, the whole thing is free,” they added.
The report also found that MEPs spent £1 million a year taking trips around the world, including to destinations such as Mauritius, New York, Mexico and Cambodia. This includes 12 MEPs who travelled to climate talks in Lima, Peru at a cost of around £5,900 each.
Meanwhile, translators at the Parliament are paid the equivalent of up to €500 an hour as they have so little work to do. In 2014, the Parliament spent £26 million on interpretation, yet full time interpreters spend on average just 10.7 hours a week in their booths, and sometimes just two hours.
Another 700,000 was spent on a lavish Oscars-style award ceremony for European cinema, and the Parliament spent a further £1 million promoting itself on Facebook.