300 EU officials earn more than the Prime Minister

Latest revelation about the EU gravy train shows that some of our officials earn £142,500+.

At least 300 of the UK's appointed staff to the EU earn more than the Prime Minister's salary of £142,500, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

In a response to a parliamentary question on the subject, Lord Howell of Guildford, the Foreign Office minister in the Lords, stated that while the FO did not hold details of individual salaries, 300 of the UK's officials are on salary scales for which the minimum pay is greater than €170,000 -- the equivalent of the Prime Minister's wage at current exchange rates.

All 27 members of the EU's College of Commissioners earn more than this, including the UK's member, Cathy Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is the world's highest-paid female politician, taking home £328,000 a year.

As well as providing the facts, Howell also expressed guarded regret at the wage bill for these appointed officials, saying it was "only right" that, at a time when EU governments were cutting spending, institutions should "think carefully" and "ensure that they get the most for their money".

He went on to say that the Foreign Office is pushing for a "freeze" in the 2011 Budget, and "expects salary levels to reflect the current economic conditions".

Lord Stoddart, the independent Labour peer who tabled the question, condemned the existence of "an unelected governing elite in Brussels" and said: "It would appear that, by comparison to this pampered and overpaid elite, our Prime Minister is a somewhat underpaid office junior!"

He also pointed out that the information from the Foreign Office concerns salaries only, and does not cover the expenses and other allowances available to these officials, which have long been the subject of controversy.

Back in 2007, it was revealed that MEPs were reimbursed for travel on the basis of first-class fares plus 20 per cent, with no obligation to provide receipts. Baroness Ashton, for instance, in addition to her salary, has a private staff of 20 and a chauffeured car. The MEP Nigel Farage last year infamously boasted that he had taken "pushing £2m" of taxpayers' money to promote Ukip's message of withdrawal from the EU in Europe.

The list goes on. The revelation about the salaries for the UK's unelected EU officials is only a small part of the picture. And as Howell has hinted, with vicious spending cuts at home, this vast expenditure of public funds on EU staffers is utterly outrageous.

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Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.