Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Tuesday, 5 April 2011 17:13 UK

Call to end business class flights for MEPs rejected

MEPs have been accused of "competing to be the most populist" during a debate on 5 April 2011 on the European Parliament's budget for 2012.

The proposal would give the European Parliament a budget of €1.7bn for 2012, an increase of 2.3% on the 2011 budget.

However Finnish liberal Carl Haglund rounded on those MEPs who criticised the increase without offering a clear alternative.

The Parliament's rapporteur on the 2012 budget, Portuguese centre-right MEP José Manuel Fernandes, has described it as an "austerity budget" as it would rise less than the rate of inflation.

Opening the debate he said €49m had been cut from the original budget from the Parliament's bureau - made up of the President and Vice-Presidents.

The majority of the budget is spent on staffing and administrative costs.

However MEPs rejected amendments that would have seen an end to business class flights for journeys of less than four hours, and would have frozen MEP allowances.

Hungarian conservative Lajos Bokros said the Parliament's internal authorities should look at more ways of saving money, such as "better service for less money" in the areas of IT and security.

He also criticised the "extraordinarily generous" health care system on offer to MEPs and staff.

Much of the debate focused on arguments over a proposed "House of European History" - funded by the Parliament and due to open in 2014.

It was criticised by UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen who said there was a lack of information over the true cost of the project and that it was a waste of money.

However German social democrat Jens Geier said critics of the projects - including British newspapers - should show the basis for their claims of excessive costs.

The budget proposals were formally approved by 479 votes to 176 at the voting session on 6 April 2011.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

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