Robert Atkins MEP

15 Oct 2007 00:01:00

Robert Atkins MEP: Undervalue your Tory MEPs at the party's peril

Atkinsrobert As part of this new Parliament page ConservativeHome is close to arranging weekly reports from every Assembly and Parliament to which we elect representatives.  Richard Barnes AM from the Greater London Assembly was, last Friday, our first correspondent.  Today Sir Robert Atkins MEP files the first report from the Tory MEPs.  His report sets the scene.  Future reports will be more focused accounts of the latest business.

There is a view amongst some Conservatives that MEPs are an expensive waste of space and should at best, be got rid of or, at worst, ignored.   Even those who are impartial on the “Europe” issue are often unaware of the role of an MEP and haven’t a clue as to the name of their own elected members.   Here, then, are some facts which may surprise you.

The 27 (+ 1 Ulster Unionist) Tory MEPs punch well above their weight in Parliamentary activities.   There are 750+ MEPs spread over some 22 Committees, the work of which often has a profound effect on UK interests, either positively or negatively.   The EPP-ED, being the largest group in Parliament, provides the Leader (known as Co-ordinator) of each Committee and Tory MEPs were elected to six of these Co-ordinatorships, with an additional two Deputies.   Also we control the Chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee and two of the most important EP Delegations – to the USA and ANZ – as well as providing a Vice-Presidency of the Parliament.   These are not just sinecures but real opportunities to influence agendas, priorities and votes.   That is why national and pan-European lobbyists and opinion-formers beat a regular path to our doors – more so, they say, than to Westminster.   In other words, we influence policy and we get things done.

Now add to that the considerable amount of support – both political and financial – that Tory MEPs put into their respective regions.   I visit all the 76 constituencies in the North West every year and deal regularly and – I hope – productively with Council Tory Group Leaders.   My colleagues do the same and we provide particular help in those many constituencies where there isn’t even a Tory councillor let alone an MP!

And, incidentally, the so-called gravy train has long since left the station.   British MEPs are paid exactly the same salary as MPs and pay the same tax.   Our expenses all have to be justified to and audited by the Parliament’s Finance Department and, at the insistence of Tory MEPs, travel costs will shortly be reimbursed only on a cost-incurred basis.

The best judge of our usefulness to the Party must be Conservative activists in the country.   Judging by the regular and copious testimonials that I receive – and I am sure that is equally true of my colleagues – we must be doing something right.   We are there to support the party and our country and we give excellent value for money.