Throwing cash at elected representatives will not make them behave any better, the European experience suggests. The worst attendance record at the European Parliament has gone to the highest-paid MEPs – the Italians – research showed yesterday.
The 78 Italians each earn ¤134,291 (£120,000) a year but came bottom of the 27 EU nations for turning up in Brussels and Strasbourg, appearing at 72 per cent of sittings over the past five years.
This was more than 20 percentage points worse than the best attenders – the Austrian MEPs – who attended an average of 93 per cent of parliamentary sessions each, followed by 92 per cent for the Estonians, Finns, Slovaks and Poles. Austrian
MEPs are the second-best paid in the EU, on ¤110,670 a year. British MEPs had an 86 per cent appearance record, 17th out of 27 over the course of the 2004-09 European Parliament, according to an analysis by VoteWatch.eu, run by the London School of Economics and other European academics.
MEPs earned the same as their national MPs in the last parliament, a practice that will change after the European elections, when new members will earn ¤88,952, although existing members can continue on their old pay deal.
Attendance in the European Parliament is encouraged by a per diem allowance for MEPs who sign in for ¤287 a day. This is intended to cover meals and hotels, but over the 298 days in the last annual session could boost an MEP’s income by ¤85,526.
The worst attendance record of any British MEP was held by Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former television presenter who was elected for the UK Independence Party in 2004 but left to form his own party, Veritas, and then left that to become an Independent.
He went to 54 per cent of sittings, placing him 774th out of the 777 MEPs. He came top for the number of written questions with 1,921, including his memorable allegation that Marks & Spencer used mirrors to distort women’s body shapes to make them look slimmer. M& S rejected the allegation. Mr Kilroy- Silk will not be standing again.
The statistics also record voting trends, showing that Conservative MEPs voted against the line of the main centre-right grouping 25 per cent of the time, while Labour MEPs defied the Party of European Socialists in just 8 per cent of votes.