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May 09, 2004

Does the EU Bribe Politicians ?

Christopher Booker in the Telegraph

£60,000 pa - not worth mentioning

One of the most fiercely-guarded rules of the House of Lords is that peers wishing to speak must declare any "interest" they may have in the subject under discussion, however peripheral. For instance, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who has a mentally handicapped daughter, was sternly instructed that he must declare this as an "interest" in any debate touching on the plight of the disabled.

Pearson was particularly struck, therefore, when he noted a glaring exception to this rule. Around a dozen peers regularly receive generous payments as former employees of the European Union, including six former Commissioners on EU pensions of £60,000 a year. They are bound by the rules to uphold the EU's interests at all times, on threat of losing their pensions. Yet whenever they speak in favour of the EU and all its works, which they tirelessly do, this does not count as an "interest" which must be declared.

After relentless prodding from Pearson, the House Committee for Privileges grudgingly agreed to look into the point. A sub-committee under Lord Browne-Wilkinson, a law lord, commissioned their chairman to produce a legal opinion. Lord Browne-Wilkinson opined there was no reason why receipt of money from Brussels should be considered a financial "interest". When his committee was divided over his opinion, two against two, he exercised his casting vote as chairman in favour of his own report.

Pearson has now put in for an hour-long debate on the matter. He will doubtless be opposed by a phalanx of ex-commissioners, bursting with indignation at the thought that receiving £60,000 a year on condition that one shows loyalty to the EU could conceivably be considered an "interest" to be declared. Certainly it cannot be compared in any way, for instance, with a duty to declare that one might be interested in speaking about the problems of the handicapped because one has a disabled child.

May 9, 2004 in European Union | Permalink

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