“[Labour MEPs] in recent months have voted for a higher EU budget, new EU taxes and against an opt out on the working time directive. They even voted against scrapping first class air travel for MEPs.” David Cameron, Prime Minister’s Questions, 22 June 2011
With the fragile state of European bank balances high up the political agenda, David Cameron today accused Labour members of the European Parliament of failing to keep a tight enough hold of the public purse strings.
Challenged by Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister Luciana Berger at today’s PMQs about the reported intention of Conservative MEPs to vote against increases to the carbon emissions reduction target, the Prime Minister questioned the voting record of Labour’s own MEPs.
Bringing the loudest cheer from Conservative benches was the claim that the party had opposed an attempt to prevent MEP’s from claiming first class air fares on their expenses. But is this actually true?
The motion referred to by Mr Cameron was tabled by the Green group’s finance spokesperson Helga Trüpel back in April. It proposed to freeze members’ expenses allowances, effectively banning business class flights for trips under four hours.
The motion was defeated by 402 votes to 216, however the role of Labour MEPs in this is not quite as clear cut as Mr Cameron suggested. None of Labour’s 13 MEPs “voted against” the motion, although 12 did abstain with the other absent from the vote. In fact, the only UK MEPs to vote against the motion belonged to David Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
Derek Vaughan, Labour’s European spokesperson on budgetary affairs, claimed that his party were not opposed to the proposal to scrap business class flights for MEPs and that they had declined to back the motion as they felt it was ineffectual.
He said: “Labour MEPs abstained on these proposals because to support them would have been a misleading exercise in political posturing.
“The report in question could not change the level of MEPs’ salaries or allowances, so while Labour members had some sympathy for the intention behind these amendments, we felt it would be misleading to support them.”
Whether or not this is true, it is not strictly accurate to claim as the Prime Minister did that Labour MEPs voted against scrapping business class air travel.