London, June 14 : With a seat in the European Union Parliament, British Euro MPs are certainly making hay while the sun shines-getting thousands of pounds in freebies despite having a huge pay and perks package of a whopping 360,000 pounds per year.
Last year, these MEPs have not only grabbed exotic expenses-paid trips, but also free cars to test-drive and tickets for top shows.
In fact, a large number of them get free parking at British airports, which alone costs 1,300 pounds per year, along with special passes enabling them to travel anywhere on the Belgian rail network without any charge.
There are those, who even got flights, hotels and tickets to the Champions League final or enjoyed five-star hospitality at Wimbledon, Twickenham or a Grand Prix.
All these perks revered by Britain's 78 MEPs are detailed in four files locked in the European Parliament in Brussels. And one might be surprised to hear accepting all these handouts is not out of la for these MEPs, according to their register of interests.
However, critics condemn this grasping behaviour by liking it to members stuffing their snouts in the trough.
A peep into the register has revealed that twenty five percent of British MEPs claim up to 35,000 pounds a year in allowances to pay wives or partners for secretarial work. In fact, one third of the MEPs use their 160,000 pounds per year staff allowance for employing their relatives.
The leading MEP on the motor industry, Tory Malcolm Harbour, fetched a free loan of five different cars, which he took in the name of "appraisal".
Also, the West Midlands member got tickets to take his wife to see the British and Belgian Grand Prix, who even took his better half on expenses-paid "fact-finding" trips to Italy and Japan.
However, Neil O'Brien, director of think tank Open Europe, said that there is a need to put a check on MEPs who take lavish freebies.
"MEPs should not take lavish gifts from companies they are supposed to be regulating. We are concerned that some gifts may be intended to influence decisions made in Parliament," The Sun quoted him, as saying.
Tory Jonathan Evans, who is standing down as Wales MEP next year, wants paying family members banned, saying: "We must reestablish public trust."