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European Parliament

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 3 December 2013

1. What assessment he has made of the recent decision by the European Parliament to meet in a single location. (901368)

14. What assessment he has made of the recent decision by the European Parliament to meet in a single location. (901381)

We have been clear that there should be a single seat for the European Parliament. The current arrangements are indefensible, ludicrously expensive, impractical and one of the most striking illustrations of EU waste.

If there is one thing that unifies this House more than any other, it is that the European Parliament’s commute between Brussels and Strasbourg once a month, at a massive cost of over £10 million a time, is a waste of money. Is he not surprised, therefore, that one British political party abstained in the parliamentary vote and failed to protect the British interest and the taxpayer interest—the UK Independence party?

I am afraid that I am not surprised, because that party’s representatives are often absent in key votes in the European Parliament when significant British interests are at stake. I congratulate those Members of the European Parliament, from all political families, who supported the initiative that our colleague, Ashley Fox, led and co-ordinated.

The decision on a single seat was taken under a Conservative Government and in relation to an EU treaty, so presumably it will have to be amended by an EU treaty. Which other member states support us, and should we not wait until the Chamber is ready to host the European Parliament again in full session in Brussels before proceeding?

What was striking about the debate and the vote a few days ago was that the clearly expressed will of a decisive majority of Members of the European Parliament was that there should be a single seat, and it seems to me that their voice should be heard clearly. The Parliament has also said that it wishes to initiate proposals for treaty change at a future opportunity to try to give effect to the change it is now recommending.

Given that that travelling circus costs €180 million a year, or €1 billion over the course of the EU’s seven-year budget, which is a staggering figure, does the Minister agree that those involved in the single seat campaign in the European Parliament, including Members from my party, deserve to be commended for putting an end to that kind of waste?

I am happy to repeat those commendations. Of course, there is not only financial waste; an unnecessary amount of carbon is emitted as the Members, their staff and the accompanying luggage are transported from one place to another.