European Parliament (Members' Foreign Travel)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon 12:00 am, 5th February 1981

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the extravagant use of taxpayers' money by the European Assembly on foreign travel. I believe that the matter is specific. Several newspapers and broadcasting authorities have today and yesterday drawn attention to the scale of overseas travel of Euro Assembly members, which is costing taxpayers dear. According to The New Standard yesterday and many other newspapers today, following a trip to Bogota by 38 members of the European Assembly, accompanied by 60 staff, at a cost of £250,000, 60 European Assembly persons and more than 100 staff are now to travel to Sierra Leone at a cost of several hundred thousand pounds more. Further trips are planned to countries such as Australia and Japan, and total costs could be as high as £5 million. There is much puzzlement about travel. No responsibility rests with the European Assembly for trade, defence or foreign affairs.

The matter is important, because British taxpayers' money, which is paid through levies, VAT and high food prices, is involved. In many areas, public expenditure in the United Kingdom is being reduced due to constraints on our finances. It is relevant that even after the rebate, when it is received, Britain will be the second largest net contributor to Community funds.

It is also important because when the public are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the EEC, the House has a duty to try to check extravagant, outrageous and insensitive expenditure by any of the institutions in the Common Market, including the Assembly.

The matter is urgent, because it is necessary for the House, which is not against overseas visits but which is sensible and circumspect about the scale of those visits, to make its views known to the European Assembly. It is necessary that it should also make its views known to British members, because their membership of the Assembly depends upon the continuing consent of the House, and their salaries are paid through the Consolidated Fund.

The matter is urgent also because the House should be given the opportunity to express its views to Ministers, who, I feel sure, will be as concerned as I am about this gross extravagance, so that those Ministers, backed, I hope, by the Prime Minister, can take action, when they meet their European counterparts next week, to curb such excessive expenditure by the European Assembly.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the extravagant use of taxpayers' money by the European Assembly on foreign travel. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 91 am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the order but to give no reason for my decision.

I listened carefully to what the hon. Member had to say, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.