Like all Labour MEPs, I believe it’s important to be transparent about what my work costs the taxpayer. This page describes in detail the pay I receive as an MEP, and which of the expenses I incur are covered by parliamentary allowances.
What is an MEP's personal salary?
MEPs don’t set their own salaries. Instead, all MEPs are paid a fixed monthly sum equal to 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge in the European Court of Justice. This system was agreed by European national governments in 2009.
At present, an MEP’s salary is set at €8020.53 per month before tax. This is first taxed by the European Union, reducing it to €6250.37. The remainder is then further taxed by HMRC in the UK to ensure that British MEPs pay the same level of tax and National Insurance as people employed in the UK. Deductions are also made for life insurance and medical insurance.
The final take-home pay for British MEPs varies from month to month based on the exchange rate. At the moment, it’s roughly £3900. This amount was slightly less than a British MP’s salary when it was agreed, but it fluctuates depending on the strength of the pound against the euro. When the pound is weak, MEPs end up earning slightly more than their Westminster counterparts. When it’s strong, they earn less.
As a full-time MEP, I have no other source of income, except some small royalties from my published books. You can see my full declaration of financial interests on the European Parliament website (pdf), along with every other MEP’s declaration.
What are MEPs' pension arrangements?
When they reach the age of 63, former MEPs receive an old-age pension equal to 3.5% of their salary for each full year they served as an MEP (capped at 20 years’ service).
How are MEPs' staff paid?
Most MEPs are assisted by a small number of staff who are paid by the European Parliament.
Staff based in Parliament are paid directly by Parliament. Staff based in the constituency are paid by Parliament via an independent accredited paying agent. In neither case is this money paid to an MEP, despite what the UK media sometimes like to pretend.
The total cost of all an MEP’s staff cannot come to more than €21,209 per month (about £16,830). This means most UK MEPs can afford two or three staff in Parliament and two or three staff in their constituency office.
What about travel expenses?
The cost of MEPs’ travel between their constituencies and Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg is paid by Parliament, or refunded at cost on production of tickets or receipts. There is no automatic allowance for this, so MEPs can only claim the actual costs incurred for journeys undertaken.
Obviously, the cost of travelling to Parliament depends on the distance between an MEP’s constituency and Parliament itself, and the price of each journey varies depending on time of day and how early the ticket is booked. I try to travel by train whenever possible, from Leeds to London and then Eurostar. A typical journey booked in advance costs about £110, but the ticket price varies depending on the time of the journey and how far in advance I can book it, and sometimes costs more.
Do MEPs maintain two places to live?
Yes — like British MPs whose constituencies are outside London, MEPs have extra costs when they work in Brussels or Strasbourg. To account for these extra living costs, MEPs can claim a subsistence allowance which is intended to cover accommodation (for instance, renting and furnishing a flat in Brussels, or staying in a hotel in Strasbourg), food, travel around the city, and any other expenses associated with maintaining two home cities.
The subsistence allowance is not paid automatically. Instead, it’s only paid for days when MEPs actually attend Parliament. To check this, each MEP must sign a register each day to indicate that they have been working in the building.
The subsistence allowance is currently €304 per day (about £240). It has been frozen at this level since 2012, when MEPs voted to cap it. If an MEP takes part in less than half of Parliament’s votes on any given day, his or her allowance for that day is automatically halved.
How are the operating costs of MEPs' local offices paid?
Most MEPs have an office in their constituency. Mine is in Leeds, which is centrally located in my constituency of Yorkshire & Humber.
Parliament contributes an allowance of €4299 per month (about £3420) towards the costs of running this office. This is intended to cover rent, business rates, computers and other equipment, stationery, postage, communications expenses, phone bills and so on. This amount is not paid to me, but into a separately managed and audited bank account used for office costs only. If there’s any surplus left over in this account at the end of my term in office, I’ll repay it to Parliament.
How are MEPs' accounts scrutinised?
The European Parliament collects and publishes information on the expenditure associated with each MEP, but many MEPs consider this level of scrutiny to be insufficient. So Labour, and indeed all UK parties except UKIP, go beyond what is required by Parliament by submitting their accounts for independent audit — though UKIP MEPs have so far refused to do this.
As a Labour MEP:
- I publish my accounts annually.
- I have all my accounts examined and certified by an independent auditor.
- I publish detailed information about my expenditure here on my website, and on the website of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.
While I’m an MEP, I’ll regularly publish a breakdown of allowances paid by Parliament on my behalf, and any expenses I incur in course of my work which have been refunded by Parliament.