That EU ‘keep it secret’ budget vote: an update

by Stephen Tall on March 23, 2013

Two weeks ago I wrote a self-explanatorily-titled post: The EU budget vote should be open, not secret (it’s a bit worrying this even needs saying). Time to complete (ish) the story…

I wrote via the Unlock Democracy website to the 10 MEPs for my South-East constituency. Two replied: Catherine Bearder (Lib Dem) and Keith Taylor (Green). None of the 5 Tory, 5 Labour or 1 Ukip MEPs responded.

Catherine’s reply directed me to this LibDemVoice post by her colleague George Lyon, Lib Dem MEPs will resist secret EU vote. Keith’s reply stated simply but clearly: “I am pleased to inform you that I will not support a secret vote on the Council budget proposals as I believe that the European Parliament should be transparent and accountable, not least on budgetary issues.”

Here’s how Unlock Democracy’s Peter Facey updated us on Wednesday:

I’ve got some great news: the European Parliament had a vote on whether or not to hold a secret ballot on whether or not to approve the 2014-2018 EU budget last week and the supporters of an open process won: by 553 MEPs with just 8 MEPs voting against.

As only 20% of MEPs can call for the final vote to be held in secret, it could still in theory be conducted that way. But with so few MEPs supporting the idea in principle, it looks exceedingly unlikely that they will now do so.

Over 1,300 of you took part in our letter writing campaign at the start of this month to raise concerns with their MEPs about the threat of a secret ballot. While most MEPs were already opposed to the idea, your letters let them know that there was genuine public concern about this issue. Thank you.

I said it was time to complete (ish) the story… Here’s why (Peter Facey again):

Having won this round, the question now is: where do we go from here? While most votes in the European Parliament are held in public, very few are recorded – so we often don’t know which MEPs supported controversial proposals (unlike in the House of Commons where the names of MPs are recorded in all but the least controversial of votes). We don’t even know the names of the 8 MEPs who voted in support of holding a secret ballot on the budget, for example.

What do you think? Should Unlock Democracy campaign on this? We’d like to know your opinion.

CLICK HERE TO TELL US

I’ve said yes, Unlock Democracy should campaign for the European Parliament to record the voting records of MEPs on legislation and policy. If you agree, here’s the link to tell them.