Today, Feb 13th, the Daily Telegraph publishes a heavily edited version of my letter rebutting their false and defamatory article of Feb 10th regarding MEPs’ pensions. For the original (and much angrier) version of my letter, see below. The Feb 10th piece, under Bruno Waterfield’s by-line, makes three damaging and defamatory assertions, which they knew to be false. They knew because I explained the position in detail on the phone to Bruno on Feb 9th. The article dealt with a current action by many MEPs challenging a decision of the European parliament with regard to the MEPs’ pension scheme.
The assertions they made were:
1 That I (and the three other Conservative MEPs cited) were acting “to protect our pensions”. False. The main contested provisions are age-related, and would affect MEPs aged 63 or less. The four of us are too old to be affected. There is one further non-age-related provision which could be argued to affect us: the withdrawal of a facility to commute 25% of the pension to a lump sum. But I was not aware, until the court case was mooted, that this facility existed, and I can say here and now that I have no intention of invoking it.
2 That we were demanding an additional £100 million of public money to back our pension scheme. False. The parliament can and should meet its obligations within its existing budget. We did not and would not call for more public expenditure. In any case, the pension fund deficit which existed last year as a result of the stock market crash has been largely eliminated by the subsequent recovery in share prices.
3 That we had “tried and failed to protect our anonymity”. False. I was simply unaware that any anonymity issue existed until I read about it in the Telegraph.
We took our action without any objective of personal or financial benefit, but purely to assert the obligation of the European parliament to respect the rules, and not to act arbitrarily, retrospectively and, arguably, ultra vires.
I am very disappointed in Bruno, whom I know reasonably well, and whom I have always regarded as “a pretty straight kinda guy” (to borrow TB’s phrase). I can only assume that he was “got at” by the Telegraph management, obsessed with squeezing more mileage from their “MPs’ Expenses” theme.