The real MEP scams are yet to be unearthed
Only MEPs who have owned up to expense scams have so far been clobbered, says Daniel Hannan MEP
For years, MEPs were left unscrutinised, and were able to concentrate on making themselves comfortable. They built a unique network of perks and allowances that enabled them to make four times their notional salaries. Prime ministers from small countries yearned to trade their jobs for a lucrative seat in Strasbourg.
As time passed, MEPs became habituated to the system. Scams that would have scandalised them before they were elected stopped seeming like scams. They began to talk about 'their' expenses. They could no longer see how the system looked to the rest of the world.
Suddenly, though, the rest of the world has noticed. And the excuses being trotted out - 'I am acting within the letter of the rules', 'I have followed the advice of Parliament officials throughout', 'You should see what the Germans get up to' - won't wash.
The trouble with 99 per cent of politicians, said Henry Kissinger, is that they give the others a bad name. In the current climate, no one is disposed to distinguish between MEPs who are open about whom they employ, and those who refuse to say.
Conservative MEPs have so far come off worse solely because, under a new code of conduct, they volunteered information on who was receiving their secretarial allowances. I am not trying to justify wrong-doing. I simply observe that it seems one-sided to clobber people who have chosen to put information in the public domain while ignoring those who refuse even to discuss where the money goes.
The pressure group Open Europe (open-europe.org.uk) asked all British MEPs who handled their staff allowances, and whether they employed family members. Most Conservatives replied, as did almost all UKIP members and both Greens. But 15 out of 19 Labour MEPs and eight out of 11 Lib Dems have kept quiet. And they seem to have got away with it. Odd that. ·
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