The European Parliament voted through a budget rise yesterday that will cost Britain an extra £900 million next year – on the day George Osborne announced deep cuts to public spending.
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Published: 7:38PM BST 20 Oct 2010
A £6.5 billion EU budget rise that would increase EU spending by six per cent to £114.5 billion – of which £9.2 billion would be the British contribution – was voted through by MEPs in Strasbourg.
The increase, which Britain has so far failed to block, will cost the British taxpayer an extra £884 million and is a sum equivalent to the costs of employing an additional 14,000 NHS doctors, 29,000 nurses, 34,000 police constables or 52,000 Army privates.
David Cameron was questioned over the “obscene” Strasbourg vote by back-bench Conservative MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions and pledged to oppose the increase during negotiations in Brussels next month.
“We need to make sure that Europe starts to live within its means,” he said. “We’ve called for a cash freeze in the size of the EU budget for 2011 and we’re working hard to make this case across Europe.”
Included in the EU assembly’s budget demands is a staffing increase of 388 posts to swell the ranks of the 6,166 civil servants who assist the work of 736 MEPs.
On top of that, cash is also set aside for an additional £32,000 a year towards new MEP assistants or pay rises for existing researchers who can earn up to £80,000 a year. More than 50 assistants or researchers are already paid between £68,000 and £80,000 a year – more than the salary paid to Westminster MPs.
Despite the creation of a new EU diplomatic service, at a cost of £399 million next year, the parliament is also planning to open new offices in New York, Beijing and Moscow, replicating existing European representations and missions.
As MEPs agreed to increase their staff and to open new offices around the world, Mr Osborne’s announcement is expected to lead to the cutting of 500,000 public sector jobs.
Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP for South-east England, attacked his colleagues for voting through budget increases that would undermine attempts by national governments to cut public spending.
“This vote shows how utterly divorced MEPs are from reality and how far the European parliament is from a representative body,” he said. “There is not a country in Europe that is not going through cuts but we have a situation where the EU is sucking up the savings.”
MEPs also voted to double the parliament’s budget for champagne receptions, increased spending on their courtesy limousines and maintained £8 million in funding for Europarl television, despite refusing to release the channel’s viewing figures, thought to be in the hundreds.
Marta Andreassen, a Ukip MEP and member of the parliament’s budget committee, said: “European taxpayers will rightly feel that they have been mugged by their own elected representatives.”
But Sidonia Jedrzejewska, a Polish centre-Right MEP, who drew up the parliament’s budget demand, insisted that she had shown restraint by not asking for even more.
“The European Parliament has demonstrated much self discipline,” she said. “The budget of the EU is not similar to a national budget. It is oriented towards investment and is a tool for fighting the crisis.”
Jerzy Buzek, the parliament’s president, said: “Cuts cannot be simply populist measures limiting many possibilities, for example for education, training or research.”