Charlotte Leslie is the Member of Parliament for Bristol North West. Follow Charlotte on Twitter.
If I told you we could save over £1billion for taxpayers in the next seven years, and at the same time prevent some 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, you'd think people might just start to listen. How about if I then told you this would not be through some drastic measure that would hit businesses and public sector workers but had the support of countries around Europe and was actually included in our Coalition Agreement? Too good to be true? The fact is that if we adhered to our Coalition Agreement and removed the two seat operation of the European Parliament, all this would be achieved.
Amazingly, the anachronism that is the travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg still happens in the European Parliament. Why? So that the French feel included in Europe and, largely, to keep the Alsatian tourist industry in business.
Through the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is compelled to meet 12 times a year for voting sessions in Strasbourg, but the buildings in Brussels are more than capable of this task. Last year Ashley Fox, MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar, tabled an amendment that removed one of these sittings. Given the enormous cost financially and environmentally, you'd think that ending this shenanigans might be common sense. But this is Europe, so think again.
When Ashley Fox’s amendment was first proposed, the French and German whips got to work to ensure it failed; it took a secret ballot for MEPs to vote for something that most think is right. However, the French did not take this democratic decision very well and took the amendment to court. In what other setting would you see such a ludicrous set of events?
So I am supporting Ashley Fox’s campaign to end the Strasbourg circus (sign the petition here) and have tabled an Early Day Motion, which I am pressing my colleagues to sign, which calls on the Prime Minister to push for the scrapping of the dual seat situation, when he attends an emergency summit on the European Budget next month.
Yes, this may be a delicate business for the French, but with the economic situation in Europe as it is, it is surely no longer justifiable to subsidise the French sense of self-worth by continuing this "Strasbourg Circus".
There is much to do on resolving our position in Europe and November's meeting is going to be crucial. But here is one tangible cost-saving within our grasp. I hope in November that the Prime Minister will stick up for the taxpayer, not only by fighting for our rebate and our interests, but also (as agreed by the Coalition) by putting an end to this anachronistic and unforgivably costly European farce.