Sunday, April 10, 2005

Vile bodies

We cannot pretend we are surprised but, even then, the sheer hypocrisy of it sticks in your craw.

According to The Sunday Times, MEPs will this week "come under renewed pressure" to allow auditing of payments into their private pension scheme after criticism that the system is open to abuse.

The "concern" – more like disgust - centres on a £2,653 monthly allowance paid to each of the 732 MEPs to cover constituency office costs such as rent, postage and telephone bills. At present they also pay their £652 monthly pension contributions out of the fund, and are then meant to pay back the money out of their own pockets.

However, there are no checks whatsoever on whether they do so and all previous attempts to bring transparency and accountability into the system have been defeated by MEPs, particularly in France and Germany. Therefore, it is a "racing certainty" that many MEPs simply use their allowances to pay their pensions.

The pension, introduced in 1990, is in addition to the retirement packages that MEPs in Britain and most other countries receive from their national governments.

The parliament pays £2 into the fund for every £1 contributed by each member and, with the supposedly "contributory" element also being paid out of public funds, MEPs are able to build up a very nice little nest-egg at our expense.

That "nest-egg" ranges from £10,000 a year after one five year term, to just over £42,000 a year after 20 years of membership, paid from the age of 60 years on – a package worth up to £1 million for the lucky beneficiary.

Yet these are the people who also make our laws and are so quick to moralise about how we should or should not behave. They really are vile bodies.

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