20th November 2013
In a landmark vote, the European Parliament today took a major step towards scrapping the notorious Strasbourg Travelling Circus.
A plenary session of the parliament approved by 483 votes to 141 a report setting out a roadmap for reform, jointly authored by South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox.
After the vote, Mr Fox said: "This vote is an overwhelming endorsement of our campaign to scrap the parliament's dual seat system. So long as such outrageous wastefulness continues, I do not think MEPs can look voters in the eye. Today's vote is not the end of the travelling circus, but it may be the beginning of the end."
His report, drafted jointly with German Green MEP Gerald Hafner, focuses on the economic and environmental costs of the dual-seat system, as well as the weight of public sentiment which is deeply opposed. The present arrangement is simply unsustainable, it argues, and MEPs should be allowed to decide for themselves where the parliament sits.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 766 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France to sit there for three days.
A report by the Parliament Secretary General recently put the annual cost at €102 million, but Conservative MEPs say "invisible" costs such as the ongoing costs of the buildings, and money wasted on unused floor space make the true cost much higher. It also needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Mr Fox said: "Over the parliament's seven-year long-term budget this will in fact cost taxpayers a staggering £928 million. In hard economic times, there are so many better things that could be spent on rather than empty buildings and needless journeys."