Wednesday, 16 April 2014

North West MEP Chris Davies leads vote to end Farage expenses loophole

Chris Davies MEP
The European Parliament has backed a call by Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West Chris Davies to close an expenses regime that has allowed some MEPs to divert money intended to pay for office costs into their private income.

Newspapers claimed this month that UKIP leader Nigel Farage cannot account for the use of the money from the 'general expenditure account' that he has been paid over the past 15 years.

Davies says that it is "sickening" that a man who pretends that he is more honest than other politicians cannot account for the use of hundreds of thousands of pounds paid to him in expenses.

And he is calling on Farage to explain whether he made reimbursement for more than £90,000 that between 1999 and 2009 was paid by the Parliament from the account into a private pension scheme.

He said. "I was elected on the same day as Nigel Farage in 1999.  I have always ensured that money paid to me for office costs has been used for that purpose.  Farage should be able to produce the same evidence if he wants to claim to be different."

MEPs receive an annual allowance of £44,000 which is intended to cover the cost of rents, telephone bills and all expenditure associated with the running of an office.  The money is paid into a MEPs private bank account and the Parliament trusts individuals to use it in accordance with the rules.  There is no requirement for receipts to be kept, although many British MEPs do so and publish details of their expenditure.  Davies publishes his accounts on his website at www.chrisdaviesmep.org.uk

The lack of official scrutiny has long been condemned by Chris Davies, who in 2008 became an expenses whistleblower when he made public the contents of a secret auditor's report into the use by some MEPs of money intended for staff employment.  His actions helped bring about a change in the Parliament's rules.

An amendment he tabled calling for the office allowance to be properly supervised was approved by 288 to 271 votes two weeks ago, and should formally be ratified by MEPs meeting in Strasbourg today (Wednesday).

Davies commented: "I have tabled this proposal many times over the years but this is the first time it has gained majority support.  I was surprised that the Conservative leader in the Parliament, Martin Callanan, voted against.

"The rules governing MEPs' expenditure have been tightened over the years but they still do not meet the standards we would expect of other public bodies.

"In the absence of regulatory procedures it has been up to individual MEPs to set their own standards and do what is right.  We get generous expenses and we should account for them properly.  I made sure 15 years ago that I would never have control of the bank account into which this money is paid.

"Nigel Farage should explain now whether he made reimbursement for the £90,000 or more that will have been paid from this account into his parliamentary pension fund from 1999 to 2009, and what has happened to the rest of the money."

Rt Hon Sir Robert Atkins
 MEP
The News of the World on Sunday (11 May 2008) revealed that the then Conservative MEP for the North West David Sumberg had paid his wife more than £95,000 in some years for "secretarial assistance", despite the fact that he has made only two speeches in the European Parliament since 2004.  

Right Hon or Write-Off?
Another Conservative MEP for the North West, the Rt Hon Sir Robert Atkins, was revealed as having both his pensioner wife and his son salaried at more than £2,500 a month each.

Chris Davies has a history of whistleblowing on attempts in the European Parliament to cover up reports into the abuse of expenses. He has led the campaign for wholesale reform and complete openness by all MEPs.

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