My West Country colleague, Ashley Fox MEP, has just led an iconic victory through the European Parliament to cut visits to Strasbourg. MEPs are obliged to hold 12 plenary session in Strasbourg each year under the European Treaty. Changing this needs unanimous consent of all 27 national governments across the EU and is not in the hands of MEPS themselves. The monthly migration from Brussels to Strasbourg costs tax payers 15 million Euros each month.
Last year, Ashley proposed an amendment to the Parliament´s annual calendar which would allow for two of the Strasbourg sessions to be combined into the same week. MEPs voted down the suggestion. However Ashley believed that some MEPs from the larger S&D and EPP groups, who would have liked to support the amendment, were being leant on by colleagues from some of the countries closest to Strasbourg.
Last September Ashley tasked his Conservative colleagues to "find a friend", each UK conservative was asked to find 3 MEPs from those that had voted against the original ammendment and persuade them to change their minds. The campaign posters urging MEPs to "Save money, time and CO2" in 21 languages have been appearing in lifts and loos.
Today MEPs voted on the 2012 and 2013 calendar - this time Ashley´s amendment to roll two weeks into one was co-signed by 216 MEPs from across the parliament. He also asked for it to be a secret vote to stop bullying by larger delegations. The result was 356 to 255 in favour of reducing trips to Strasbourg.
This all matters because it is the first time MEPs from across Europe have come out so clearly in a vote against the two seat parliament. We hope that this will give national governments the change to re-consider their position regarding Strasbourg altogether. Its a beautiful City - but we we must stop this travelling circus which is such a waste of taxpayers money.