Hornchurch group’s “Christmas shopping trip” subsidised by taxpayer

The European Union may have be in disarray because of the financial crisis, but the body is still able to pay for trips to Brussels for political activists from across the continent, including from Havering.

The Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Association is one of many groups who have had their ‘educational’ trip to the European Parliament building subsidised by the taxpayer.

The EU has spent �25m on funding the trips to Brussels from people all over Europe this year.

Earlier this month, members of the local association of the Eurosceptic party were given the chance to go on the trip advertised online as a chance to: “Sight-see and to wander around the Brussels Christmas Market and pick up inspiration for those last minute seasonal gifts.”

For �30, members were able to obtain return Eurostar tickets and overnight accommodation in a city centre hotel.

Breakfast was included, but local expenses for other meals and local travel were not.

As well as a tour of the building, members attended talks about the EU and its functions, and attendees were warned they would have to pay the full cost of the trip if they didn’t attend the European Parliament visit.

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The chairman of the association Marcus Llewelyn-Rothschild said that although the educational part of the tour only lasted one afternoon, the group had to stay overnight because many of the members are elderly and wouldn’t be suited to a one day trip with so much travelling.

He added: “It wasn’t just an exclusive Tory bash, obviously you have some officers who went, some of whom are councillors, but it was open to members and non-members alike.

“So long as you’re a member of the European Union and your member of the European Parliament is happy to host your event you can go.

“If any readers want to go next year they can get in touch and give us a call and we’ll add them to the waiting list.”

He said he wouldn’t comment on whether the trips were a good use of tax payers’ money, but that they thought it was so worthwhile they would go again and pay for themselves – as citizens can only have one subsidised trip each.

Stephen Booth from reform group Open Europe said: “It is far from clear that this is the best use of taxpayers’ money and it is yet another example of why the EU budget needs to be cut down to size.”

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