13th December 2013
I am bitterly disappointed that the Fox Amendment, which reduced the number of times that the European Parliament had to decamp to Strasbourg, has been ruled unconstitutional by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ issued its verdict based on an appeal by France and Luxembourg against the Fox amendment this morning.
As a Campaign-leader on this issue I believe that the ruling is undemocratic and will prove counterproductive. Our long-term battle will continue to end the wasteful treks to Strasbourg altogether - and will eventually prevail.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The wasteful trek costs €200 million a year and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Earlier this year the European Parliament voted by 429 MEPs to 184 to call for a single seat. There is vocal and growing majority in the Parliament to stop the yoyo travel schedule - but that will need a treaty change. My e-petition - at www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com - aims to persuade the UK Government to intervene on this key issue by pressing the EU Council to amend treaties to ditch the dual-seat farce.
This decision is not unexpected because the court received legal advice along these lines from the Advocate General earlier this year, but it is still bitterly disappointing. Still, this case is no more than a skirmish in our longer-term war to stop the ridiculous two-seat travelling circus altogether. The fight continues and I am sure before long we will succeed.
In the mean time, we will continue to minimise the cost of all this to the taxpayer wherever we can. The court has reached this decision because of legal advice that my approach to reducing the number of Strasbourg trips was allegedly inconsistent. With that in mind, we'll be coming back with other proposals to save the taxpayer money. One idea that has been suggested is to reduce the length of some sessions in Strasbourg from four to three days. That should still save the taxpayer substantial amounts of money in hotel bills and subsistence payments to staff. Our main goal remains the single seat; but we will continue to press for smaller, strategic improvements - not least to highlight the monstrous waste of money involved.