European Parliament Election 2014: MEPs who offer best value for money face defeat

Analysis of pay and expenses shows that those who cost the least are most likely to lose their seats

It is one of the ironies of the democratic system: working hard and being “value for money” is not necessarily enough to save you at the ballot box.

An analysis by The Independent of how hard the UK’s MEPs work in the European Parliament – compared to what they claim in expenses – reveals that the parties which are best value for money, on this measure at least, are most likely to face the chop.

The Liberal Democrats, for example, have a value-for-money rating of eight out of 10 but are almost certain to face heavy losses among their current 10 MEPs. By contrast Ukip, which has a value for money rating of just 4.4 out of 10, could see its representation double.

The Independent analysed the attendance record of 55 MEPs from the four main parties and combined it with figures for the number of parliamentary questions they asked, committee reports they were involved in, motions and opinions drafted, and signed written declarations.

The statistics do not include other committee work, or constituency work. These figures were then divided by their estimated  total cost to the taxpayer – a figure made up of parliamentary allowances, expenses and salary. 

Nigel Farage and his deputy, Paul Nuttall, had the worst attendance ratings of any UK politician in Brussels but still managed to cost the taxpayer over £600,000 each in salary and allowances.

Over the last parliament Mr Farage has not drafted or amended a single report and voted just 42 per cent of the time. Mr Nuttall spoke in parliament on average just 10 times a year and asked 24 parliamentary questions.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage, right, cost the taxpayer £600,000 in salary and allowances (Getty) Ukip leader Nigel Farage, right, cost the taxpayer £600,000 in salary and allowances (Getty)
But the Earl of Dartmouth, Ukip’s representative for the South-west, had one of the best participation records in the parliament.

He has asked over 550 questions and made over 260 speeches yet only cost the taxpayer £50,000 more than Mr Farage.

In contrast the Liberal Democrats cost a little more – but tended to work a lot harder. Their most assiduous MEP was Sarah Ludford who voted 93 per cent of the time while another of their MEPs Sir Graham Watson asked 394 questions and was involved in 55 reports. Both will struggle to hold on to their seats. Of the Conservatives, Sir Robert Atkins, who will retire at this election, appeared to have one of the lowest work rates but he had a serious back operation that curtailed his activities.

Jacqueline Foster, who has a very high attendance rate, appears to be less involved in parliamentary activities, but Ms Foster said this was because they are not included in the statistics collected by the transparency website VoteWatch.eu

Overall the Tories had a value-for-money rating of 6.3 out of 10, broadly the same as Labour which was 6.5  out of 10.

A Ukip spokesman pointed out that party leaders tended to have poor voting records. “It is not all about how often you turn up; it’s about how well you represent your party and you constituents,” he said. “Paul is very visible in the North East and works very hard – but that doesn’t mean just signing in on the register.”

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said he hoped voters would recognise the value of MEPs who got “stuck in” and defended Britain’s interest in the Parliament.

“We are proud of how hard our MEPs work,” he said.

Work rate was calculated using European Parliament data collated by VoteWatch.eu.

Other aspects of an MEP's workload, such as participation in committees and delegations, and meetings with constituents, were not taken into account because they are difficult or impossible to quantify.

 

Top five: The hardest workers

Charles Tannock: Conservative

Elected as an MEP for London in 1999, Mr Tannock is the UK spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Human Rights in the European Parliament.

William Legge: Earl of Dartmouth, Ukip

The Ukip peer was elected in 2009 as an MEP for the South West of England.

Sir Graham Watson: Liberal Democrat

Sir Graham has served as an MEP for the South West of England since 1994.

Marina Yannakoudakis: Conservative

Elected first in 2009, the MEP represents London and campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation.

Baroness Sarah Ludford: Liberal Democrat

Baroness Ludford was elected as an MEP for London in 1999, 2004 and 2009.

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