Strasbourg again? No thanks.

STRAS EP BLDG1One of the greatest misunderstandings about the European Parliament is that MEPs actually like going to Strasbourg once a month.  There is somehow a belief that because it’s a beautiful city and the restaurants are meant to be particularly salubrious, that we look forward to going there a dozen times a year.

The truth is that the vast majority of Parliamentarians want to see the back of it.    After all, we’re there to work, to make effective laws to benefit our constituents.   To spend up to ten hours going out on a Monday and back again on a Thursday on some combination of trains, planes and automobiles is not my idea of efficient working practice.  And because so much time is spent on travel to and from Strasbourg, the working day when we’ve actually got there means starting at 7.30 in the morning and ending at any time up to 10.00 pm.

Don’t get me wrong, to have a place of work like the European Parliament with representatives from 28 countries is a huge privilege and I’m honoured to be there.

But you – the British tax-payer – deserve better.   To have two seats for the Parliament makes no sense whatsoever.  It costs more than £150 million a year to have the monthly plenary session in Strasbourg.   So I was delighted last week to lead Labour MEPs in voting for the Parliament to be allowed to decide where it sits – saving Europe’s taxpayers millions.

Currently, the Parliament is unable to act without the unanimous approval of national governments, and too often the location of where the Parliament meets is used as a bargaining tool in their negotiations on other matters.  The agreement to go to Strasbourg 12 times a year was signed up to by John Major’s Conservative government in the early 1990s.

MEPs have voted overwhelmingly on a number of occasions for a single seat for the European Parliament, so it’s time for European Governments to wake up and allow MEPs to decide for themselves where they work, which will be what voters want – one permanent place of work for the whole year.

 

 

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