`I've done nothing wrong,' says MEP Wise

A EURO MP from the East of England who was “named and shamed” in a Sunday newspaper for allegedly “milking a fortune from our taxes” over expenses claims has denied he has done anything illegal.

Graham Dines

A EURO MP from the East of England who was “named and shamed” in a Sunday newspaper for allegedly “milking a fortune from our taxes” over expenses claims has denied he has done anything illegal.

Tom Wise, elected in 2004 as the second UK Independence Party Euro MP for the region, said: “I claim that which is available to me. I do not fiddle, embezzle or otherwise operate any scam.”

The News of the World accused Mr Wise of bragging how he had spent a day “shamelessly dodging work” and how he “milks the taxpayers for thousands every week in allowance and expenses claims.”

He told an undercover reporter that what he liked best about his job was “the opportunity to make shed loads of money” and how four easy loopholes in the expenses regime allowed Euro MPs to boost their salaries five-fold.

British Euro MPs are paid the same as Westminster MPs and they are given generous allowances to hire staff, run their private offices Brussels, Strasbourg and the UK, and for attending meetings.

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Of his pay, Mr Wise is quoted as saying: “It's cushy - £60,000 a year! Thank you very much indeed! What have we got to do for it? Not a lot! I don't know what an MEP's job is. No one's ever given me a job description. I've no idea what an MEP should or shouldn't do. So you make it up as you go along.”

He admitted travelling by budget airlines and claiming the business class fare for flying. “When I fly Ryanair I say 'Thank you very much!' I could actually put the Ryanair ticket in and just get that back- but that would be denying me a legally, well I say legally, a genuinely available funding.”

Mr Wise added: “I am milking the system, in as much as I'm overpaid for the amount of expenses I've had. But the system is-'ignore what it's cost you, this is what we pay you!' I clean up the profit."

A former policeman, Mr Wise is waiting the outcome of an investigation being conducted by the European Union over his expenses. He was suspended from holding office in UKIP but remains a paid up member of the party and attends its meetings in Brussels.

In answer to the allegations in the News of the World, Mr Wise told the EADT: “I have always said how stupid the EU is. I stand by all my quotes in the newspaper.”

In a statement on his website, he claims: “There is abuse across the EU with millions of euros squandered on pointless, minority serving interests, and the system of remunerating MEPs is part of it.

“A system exists for the payment of expenses and allowances to MEPs . . . however it is fundamentally flawed since it is not based upon the re-imbursement of actual expenses, but a series of tariffs universally applied.

“There is a culture of encouragement to claim that which is lawfully available to MEPs. Where I differ from the majority of MEPs is that I am completely open about it.

“I claim that which is available to me. I do not fiddle, embezzle or otherwise operate any scam for the purposes of unlawfully extracting more than this.

“I believe the system is disgraceful and should be changed,” says Mr Wise.

UKIP campaigns on British withdrawal from the EU, exposing what it sees as Brussels fraud and profligacy.

A spokesman for the London office of the European Parliament said: “We do not comment on the remarks of MEPs. The situation as regards salaries and expenses will change radically in 2009, following Council's agreement to Parliament's long-standing request to establish a common salary for MEPs of all nationalities.

“The introduction of the common salary will be accompanied by a revised system of reimbursement of travel expenses. Following a recent study by the Parliament's own internal auditor into the system of the recruitment and payment of MEPs' assistants, a high-level working group of MEPs is now looking into a revision of the system.

“The search for improved rigour and transparency does not imply that MEPs abuse the system, but that they are keen to improve it.”

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