Duncan Flynn: The Ashley Mote affair shames the whole European Union
Duncan Flynn, who has worked in the European Parliament for a Conservative MEP, believes that the Ashley Mote affair is yet another example of the EU's unwillingness to face up to fraud.
The recent jailing of the obscure South East of England MEP Ashley Mote barely registered a few column inches amid the daily speculation in the UK media concerning a potential imminent General Election. However, this should not conceal the fact that a democratically elected politician who represents Britain in Brussels and Strasbourg and collects a salary of over £60,000 plus generous expenses courtesy of the UK taxpayer is now languishing in prison for nine months and yet is still, incredibly, permitted to continue as an MEP. This means that Mote continues to receive a handsome benefits package and will be able to resume his political career once his custodial sentence is completed.
For the record, Mote, who was expelled from UKIP and now sits with the Far Right Identity, Sovereignty and Tradition grouping in the European Parliament (which includes such luminaries as Jean Marie Le Pen and Alessandra Mussolini), was found guilty at Portsmouth Crown Court of twenty one separate charges of falsely claiming benefits of more than £65,000 from his local council. Despite the fact that Mote will palpably not be able to represent his several million constituents from his prison cell, the European Union have decreed that only MEPs who receive a custodial sentence in excess of twelve months can be removed from office.
It is easy to dismiss the Mote affair as a personal tragedy for a political nonentity who will no doubt be defeated should he have the audacity to seek re-election in 2009, however his lenient treatment by the European Union authorities represents the latest example of the European Union’s failure to confront fraud and corruption.
After the resignation of the entire Santer Commission following allegations of rampant corruption in March 1999, we were promised a new era of financial accountability and transparency. Sadly, this proved to be an empty gesture as demonstrated by the hounding of Marta Andreasen, the erstwhile Chief Accountant to the European Commission, who was sacked following her exposure of the unreliability of the Commission’s accounts. The treatment of Marta Andreasen exemplified the reluctance of the European Union to face up to the lack of probity in their accounting practices. Thankfully, courageous whistleblowers such as Marta Andreasen have been supported by Conservative MEPs, most notably Chris Heaton Harris who tirelessly raised her story in the British media. However, despite this pressure exerted on the European Union hierarchy, the Court of Auditors has refused to sign off on the European Commission’s accounts for twelve consecutive years. Just imagine what the reaction would be if these were the accounts of a private corporate entity?
Therefore, it was no great surprise that the European Union has failed to remove from its midst a man who has been convicted of, amongst other offences, eight charges of false accounting. In the light of the Ashley Mote affair it is time the European Union faces up to its responsibilities in tackling fraud and ensures that any MEP convicted of similar offences in the future is automatically removed from office. Hopefully it will then seek to get its own accounting in order.