British MEPs pass the value-for-money test

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DESPITE earning some of the lowest salaries in the European Parliament, British MEPs are more diligent than most of their Continental colleagues.

On average, the British attend 80 per cent of the assembly's sessions, according to a survey prepared by the Independent, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Liberation, El Pais and the Irish Independent. The survey used attendance records for sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg between July 1989 and March 1994.

Twenty-six of Britain's 81 MEPs have attended 90 per cent or more of sessions, and only 13 less than 70 per cent. The worst attender is Ian Paisley, the Northern Ireland MEP, at 39 per cent. Next worst are Lord O'Hagan, Conservative MEP for Devon, who has been ill and has resigned, and John Stevens, Conservative MEP for Thames Valley, who has attended 50 per cent of sessions and is standing again.

Britain's MEPs earn the same as their Westminster counterparts - 3,213 ecus a month in 1993 (pounds 2,413), compared to 7,900 in Italy and 5,900 in France. They are eighth in the EU pay league.

The survey reveals very low attendance in France and Italy. Robert Hersant, the French media tycoon, has appeared ten times in five years. Bettino Craxi, the disgraced Italian Socialist leader, beat him by one.

Overall French attendance is 66 per cent, and Italy's 60 per cent, despite their MEPs being the best-paid in the EU. MEPs gain extra allowances if they attend parliament in Strasbourg. Top are Ireland and the Netherlands, at 86 per cent, followed by Greece, Germany and the UK at 80 per cent, Luxembourg at 78, Portugal at 76, and Spain at 74 per cent.

European elections, pages 6,7