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

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.

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