Thursday, 10 April 2014

EU per diem rates external aid contracts. Attachment for previous post.

Current per diem rates

Last update / Dernière mise à jour: 01/07/2013

In the framework of EC-funded external aid contracts and in case of missions requiring an overnight stay away from the base of operations , the applicable rates to the per diems must not exceed the scales detailed hereunder. These rates are applicable from 5 July 2013
Per diems cover accommodation, meals, local travel within the place of mission and sundry expenses

Les per diems couvrent le logement, les repas, les frais de transport à l'intérieur du lieu de mission et les menues dépenses.

Dans le cadre des contrats d'aide extérieure financés par la Commission et lors de missions impliquant des nuitées en dehors du lieu d'affectation, les taux de per diems applicables ne doivent pas excéder les biremes détaillés ci-dessous.Ces taux sont d'application à partir du 5 juillet 2013

EU Member States
Austria 225
Belgium 232
Bulgaria 227
Croatia 180
Czech Republic 230
Cyprus 238
Denmark 270
Estonia 181
Finland 244
France 245
Germany 208
Greece 222
Hungary 222
Ireland 254
Italy 230
Latvia 211
Lithuania 183
Luxembourg 237
Malta 205
Netherlands 263
Poland 217
Portugal 204
Romania 222
Slovak Republic 205
Slovenia 180
Spain 212
Sweden 257
United Kingdom 276

Other countries
Afghanistan 215
Albania 233
Algeria 315
American Samoa 183
Angola 353
Anguilla 275
Antigua and Barbuda 247
Argentina 308
Armenia 138
Aruba 244
Australia 259
Azerbaijan 311
Bahamas 248
Bahrain 265
Bangladesh 165
Barbados 276
Belarus 171
Belize 215
Benin 170
Bermuda 391
Bhutan 224
Bolivia 137
Bosnia and Herzegovina 130
Botswana 209
Brazil 204
Brunei 170
Burkina Faso 192
Burundi 188
Cambodia 157
Cameroon 213
Canada 287
Cape Verde 194
Cayman Islands 236
Central African Republic 163
Chad 219
Chile 206
China 213
Colombia 197
Comoros 203
Congo 219
Congo, Dem. Rep. (RDC) 229
Cook Islands 212
Costa Rica 160
Cote d'Ivoire 233
Cuba 168
Djibouti 183
Dominica 187
Dominican Republic 195
Ecuador 153
Egypt 225
El Salvador 163
Equatorial Guinea 330
Eritrea 200
Ethiopia 251
Fiji 216
Gabon 252
Gambia 161
Georgia 209
Ghana 256
Grenada 292
Guam 242
Guatemala 192
Guinea 216
Guinea Bissau 170
Guyana 203
Haiti 212
Honduras 160
Hong Kong 302
Iceland 261
India 153
Indonesia 208
Iran 114
Iraq 275
Israel 309
Jamaica 203
Japan 256
Jordan 179
Kazakhstan 292
Kenya 269
Kiribati 124
Korea, Dem. Peo. Of 137
Korea, Republic of 305
Kuwait 274
Kyrgyzstan 157
Laos, People's Dem. Rep. 146
Lebanon 357
Lesotho 102
Liberia 180
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 183
Macao 186
Macedonia (Fyrom) 171
Madagascar 186
Malawi 193
Malaysia 179
Maldives 197
Mali 183
Marshall Islands 155
Mauritania 127
Mauritius 198
Mexico 237
Micronesia 147
Moldova 173
Monaco 268
Mongolia 157
Montenegro 143
Montserrat 196
Morocco 179
Mozambique 219
Myanmar 176
Namibia 103
Nauru 144
Nepal 167
Netherlands Antilles 236
New Zealand 268
Nicaragua 130
Niger 180
Nigeria 206
Niue 121
Norway 260
Oman 233
Pakistan 152
Palau, Republic of 223
Panama 184
Papua New Guinea 407
Paraguay 194
Peru 174
Philippines 180
Puerto Rico 233
Qatar 314
Russian Federation 364
Rwanda 248
Samoa 201
Sao Tome & Principe 133
Saudi Arabia 344
Senegal 224
Serbia 158
Seychelles 279
Sierra Leone 214
Singapore 364
Solomon Islands 227
Somalia 154
South Africa 176
Sri Lanka 180
St. Kitts and Nevis 196
St Lucia 225
St. Vincent and the Grena 205
Sudan 204
South Soudan - update 30 August 2013 242
Suriname 150
Swaziland 157
Switzerland 301
Syrian Arab Republic 259
Tajikistan 146
Tanzania, United Rep. of 218
Thailand 171
Timor Leste 141
Togo 213
Tokelau Islands 55
Tonga 265
Trinidad and Tobago 243
Tunisia 156
Turkey 142
Turkey Istanbul 230
Turkmenistan 150
Turks and Caicos Island 257
Tuvalu 125
Uganda 240
Ukraine 316
United Arab Emirates 295
United States of America 279
Uruguay 212
Uzbekistan 168
Vanuatu 180
Venezuela 322
Viet Nam 126
Virgin Islands (British) 272
Virgin Islands (USA) 272
West Bank and Gaza Strip 142
Yemen 166
Zambia 216
Zimbabwe 154

Please note that the United Nations has discontinued the regular publication of per diem rates
for the countries listed below:
French Guyana
French Polynesia
Marianna Islans
New Caledonia
Wallis & Futuna Islands
The per diem rates for Kosovo are not published by the United Nations

EU spending reform – a quick and simple place to start.

Cut the expenses paid to consultants on EU funded aid projects.

In February there were two major conferences in London on EU reform. One hosted by a centre right think tank and a Conservative Party group (which had speakers from parties across Europe and got lots of publicity), one by the European Commission itself to consult the public (which didn’t).

I tweeted to join in to both debates (a little late on) one simple way to start cutting wasted EU expenditure – cut the expenses paid to consultants on EU funded aid projects.

The conferences were a ‘Pan-European Conference for EU Reform’ 15 – 16 January. Its blurb stated “Open Europe and the Fresh Start Project joined forces to bring together key European reformers in an unprecedented pan-European conference calling for EU reform.”

The European Union’s own public events was a Citizens’ Dialogue event on 10 February, with Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President.

‘Debate on the future of Europe.’ They stated “We are looking for your practical ideas about what the EU should be doing.
What should the EU be doing to tackle the crisis?
What should your rights be as a citizen of the European Union?
What should the European Union of the future look like?”

In a recession when national governments are all making cuts, and the public feeling the pinch, the EU needs to make significant savings also. It’s only fair. A place to start saving money is cutting the very generous expenses payments that EU funded aid projects pay. Halve these per diems paid by EU to save taxpayers’ money – that would be a small but significant saving. And I believe more of the money would then go to local businesses rather than to international hotel chains.

These are rates for “EC-funded external aid contracts”.

(July 2013 figures pasted in separate post for reference – 5 pages – in case you can’t or don’t want to open the original .pdf).

Look at the per diem rates July 2013- currently the EU allowances cover nearly the cost of a night and expenses in the dearest cities in Europe (like London or Paris) for consultants in the poorest countries (just looking at Europe, like Albania or Macedonia or Moldova). The rates are €276 in the UK, €245 in France, €233 in Albania, €171 in Macedonia and €173 in Moldova. Obviously the allowances in London or Brussels or Paris are very generous and could be cut easily – it would just mean consultants having to stay in less plush accommodation and eat in less expensive restaurants. You can stay in London and Paris for a lot less and eat more cheaply. In the other countries these rates would certainly pay for nice accommodation and good bottles of the local Cobo or T’ga Za Jug, or Cricova. In less well off and countries I think this money spent in the local economy can do good for people, but at the moment it probably goes to international hotel chains and big city restaurants so only international or big businessmen benefit from the profits (plus a few local staff and suppliers). Pay half the allowances and I bet more money will actually go into the countries’ economy by being spent in smaller more local businesses and more directly benefiting local people employed there or working in the supply chain. It won’t just be EU workers and charity and other foreign consultants staying in top business hotels and (often, but of course not always) eating in the expensive international restaurants.

Plus cutting the allowances might show people in our poorer neighbours that the EU isn’t made of money and everyone from Western European projects or working on EU aid and development projects isn’t rich. The EU is not going to have pots of money to throw around to solve everyone’s problems if they join the EU – a bit to help people help themselves, but not the lavish tax free money (our money) that the European Union throws around at present.

And just a thought – if these are the rates for aid contracts (when some consultants and NGO and charity workers are presumably not in it for the money), how much do they pay for commercial work!

PS Of course I recommend the wine as a way of supporting the local economy, those (particularly the Moldovan and Albanian) and the Stonecastle from Kosovo if in those parts.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Maria Miller expenses - fraud on the electorate more than money?

Maria Miller - I have no doubt the press are hounding her to attack the Leveson charter. The headlines appear to overstate the case against her; but a political and a legal case to answer there certainly is. I still believe her adviser may have meant not to threaten the press, but to point out that hounding a Minister leading on press regulation would look oppressive. It seems Maria Miller has certainly given some genuine ammunition, which has been lost amid the headlines, pack circling and political opportunism of her press and political opponents alike. I finally thought I should get behind the soundbites and look at the report.

She may well have engaged in fraudulent behaviour and her conduct has further damaged belief in the integrity of politicians. That is as usual unfair on most honest and genuine politicians. She pretended her main home was in her Basingstoke constituency when it was in London (a fraud on the public), and she claimed for interest that she was not entitled to. The Committee may well be right that only £5,800 was clearly obtained in breach of the rules but Maria Miller's denial that she intended to claim interest on a £50,000 increase that she was not entitled to seems flimsy. The allowances may have been far too generous (so MPs could and can legitimately claim for very large amounts). However it still seems implausible that she didn't realise she was claiming this (much smaller than Commissioner ruled) sum of money that she was not entitled to. That would be actual fraud. The rules were certainly complex - the Commissioner highlighted that only original mortgage interest could be claimed, not on extensions to the mortgage even when that was before the claimant became an MP. This £50,000 was after so very obviously not entitled to be claimed (unless it fell under strict exemptions to the prohibition).

The full report of the Committee on Standards is here; with Appendix 1 the summary from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. You can click a link to each section and then back to contents etc.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Clegg picks the non-runner

It is one thing to back the wrong horse but quite another to back a non-existent one. 
That, though, is what Nick Clegg has done in the race for the presidency of the European Commission.

Along the way, he and his aides have stitched up a delegation and made the party look ridiculous among its European partners.

The saga began when former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and Finnish commissioner Olli Rehn put themselves forward to be the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) candidate for the presidency and in effect leader of its European election campaign.

A meeting to choose the candidate was fixed for Brussels on 1 February and nominations opened for Liberal Democrats who wished to attend. Since no expenses are paid, such delegations tend to consist of those willing to pay their way and, if there are more people than places, an opaque process decides who votes.

But then Verhofstadt and Rehn did a deal. The former would contest the presidency while the latter would be nominated for another senior post.

Few would have noticed this deal in the UK had Clegg not immediately blown a gasket. The party issued an extraordinary statement: “This isn’t a deal Nick Clegg or the Liberal Democrats have signed up to, and we won’t be supporting it.

“We will continue to back Olli Rehn, and we regard him as being at the top of the liberal ticket across Europe, certainly in the UK. Nick Clegg will not be campaigning with Guy Verhofstadt and does not support at all his views of a federal Europe.”

While Clegg wants the Liberal Democrats to be the ‘party of in’ for Europe, he clearly does not want to be too far in and considers Verhofstadt a dangerous federalist. His statement put the Liberal Democrats in the absurd position of supporting a candidate as ‘top of the liberal ticket’ who was no longer standing, and of refusing to campaign in the UK with the candidate who was.

At least one person who had been told he would be on the Brussels delegation was abruptly and without explanation told he was off it – he surmises because he could not be counted on as a 100% Clegg loyalist on the matter. Nor could the Liberal Democrat MEPs, most of whom thought Clegg had taken leave of his senses.

Things became heated. The combative North West MEP Chris Davies told colleagues: “So the leader of our party intends to back a Liberal candidate for President of the European Commission who is in fact not a candidate for the job. And this despite the fact that the majority of his MEPs will support the official candidate. This is madness.”

Eastern region MEP Andrew Duff then wrote to the hand-picked loyalists with which the Brussels delegation had been packed to say the deal had been attacked on the grounds that “Verhofstadt is a dangerous federalist who will undermine the party’s main thrust in this election that we are merely the ‘party of in’.”

Duff continued: “Verhofstadt is by far and away the superior campaigner and the more experienced politician. His liberalism is beyond doubt. He is certainly able to modify the federal message to suit the different national and media contexts with which we have to deal as EU politicians without sacrificing his fundamental belief that only a deeper unity and stronger democratic governance at the EU level is necessary.”

Baroness Falkner then waded in, saying the international affairs team had taken a decision on the deal. This is not the elected international relations committee but a semi-formal grouping of assorted parliamentarians and representatives from various bodies.

Her message contained the mysterious observation that Martin Horwood, chair of the European Elections Manifesto Group, was there and “he has access to significant polling leading up to May, and is cognisant of our voter’s views on the EU”.

She presumably meant “our voters’ views” – things can’t have got that bad, surely?

Falkner added: “On Mr Verhofstadt himself: He is not helped by his regular interviews on the Today Programme where he airs his views about the United Kingdom government in colourful terms – a government which has Liberal Democrat Ministers. He has a long tail of speaking against the UK, and now cannot expect to be embraced by people in the UK or considered in high regard as representing the EU institutions.”

A furious Duff responded: “As you know, because we have known each other for many years, I was not born yesterday. I object to the International Affairs Team of the Westminster parliamentary party seeking to bypass the statutory bodies of the party in the matter of mandating the party delegation to the ALDE Congress.”

He also asked what Verhofstadt had said to give offence and said he was unable to find the large number of European liberals who Falkner imagined would oppose the deal between the two candidates.

ALDE duly voted by 245 votes to 44 to accept the deal between Verhofstadt and Rehn, with 20 abstentions, leaving the former to stand for president, the latter for another role and Clegg looking isolated.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wake of the Flood

(This is the commentary from Liberator 364, out next week)

 As floodwater inundated some of the most true blue parts of the Thames Valley, David Cameron may have had cause to regret his comment about getting rid of ‘green crap’ from government policy.

‘Crap’, in some cases quite literally, was filling homes in areas that normally back his party, and the public perception in January and February of the government’s flood relief efforts was pretty poor.

Further west, things were if anything even worse, with parts of Somerset under water for months and the Severn Valley inundated yet again.

It is hardly surprising that, when a disaster on this scale hits a country as little used to natural calamities as the UK, the cry goes up “they should do something about it”.

Widescale flooding makes proponents of a ‘small state’ look pretty silly, since only a state could remotely be equipped to provide both immediate relief and long-term resources for flood protection. It also made the Conservatives look pretty silly, as their strictures about lack of resources and spending cuts dissolved as quickly as Somerset Levels with promises that money would be no object in preventing flooding, even if it was not clear what this promise included.

Climate change deniers joined the ranks of those made to look foolish by the bad weather this winter as they went through contortions to explain that two months of the heaviest rain for centuries was pure coincidence and nothing whatever to do with carbon emissions.

But those who say that “something must be done” and that everywhere should be protected from any conceivable flood risk may also have questions to answer as the waters retreat. If homes are built on floodplains, they will be prone to being flooded, and more so with climate change.

How much money should be spent on protecting them? Should this be limitless, as Cameron’s panicked response to the Thames Valley inundation suggested? Or do choices need to be made about where it is sensible and possible to defend, and whether attempting to prevent floods in some places serves no more useful purpose than would trying to resurrect Dunwich or other places lost to erosion on the east coast, where nature is being largely left to take its course.

Little can be done about settlements already built in flood-prone areas – or even below sea level – but something can be done about new building on floodplains. At the very least, it can be insisted that new homes built there are flood resilient – for example, with only garages at ground floor level.

Better still, building on floodplains could be avoided altogether, but that would mean the homes concerned must be built somewhere else.

In areas where scarcity of building land has led to floodplain construction, that might mean building on greenfield sites elsewhere, and accepting that this might be the price of avoiding flooded homes in the future.

How prepared are politicians to say both ‘no’ to spending on flood measures in places that cannot be defended and ‘yes’ to building on nearby areas instead of floodplains?

After all, there’s nothing quite like a threat to build on greenfield sites to get a Focus team swinging into action.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The press misses a big story in Nick Clegg: The Liberal Who Came to Power

I have just listened to the second part of Steve Richards' Radio 4 documentary Nick Clegg: The Liberal Who Came to Power.

The press coverage beforehand concentrated on Jeremy Browne's opposition to the idea of selling ourselves as the party of the centre and on Shirley Williams observation that Nick likes to surround himself with young people, not all of whom are particularly competent - Simon Titley's belligerent youths.

I agree with both, but Shirley Williams said something else important that the pre-broadcast coverage missed.

She said that Nick Clegg has a low opinion of the House of Lords.

I was talking to a peer in London the other week - as one does - and was told that relations between Nick and the Lib Dem group in the Lords are not good. The peers feel they are required to do a lot of hard work to improve the poor (and often illiberal) legislation the Commons sends to them and do not get the recognition from Nick that they deserve.

This poor feeling between Nick and the Lords, I was told, in part explains the poisonous progress of the Rennard affair. Many Lib Dem peers are inclined to stand by one of their own because of it.

This story first appeared on Liberal England - since then I have heard the same story from another source.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Smoke free cars for children

[Guest post by Baroness Tyler]

Debates over banning smoking in cars with children have shown a quite legitimate difference of opinion about how to apply liberal principles in an such an area, as illustrated when Nick Clegg shared his views on Thursday’s Call Clegg.

Much of the ensuing media and blog debate -including on Lib Dem Voice -has focussed on whether it’s right to legislate about what people do in private cars and whether this isn’t too great an intrusion by the  “nanny state” into the private realm. 

Whilst some of the debate in the Lords this week addressed that point, much of it was to do with whether such a ban would be enforceable.  Indeed the Government argued against it – and then lost the vote – not so much on the grounds of the desirability of such a ban but on its workability.

For some months I have been working with a group of cross party backbench peers in the Lords and a coalition of charities on all this. We tabled amendments in the Children and Families Bill to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products and to ban smoking in cars when children are present. We were absolutely delighted when – in response to our cross party amendment which received widespread support across the House at Committee Stage – the Government changed its position and at Report Stage tabled its own amendment introducing enabling legislation for standardised packaging, following an independent review of the evidence base by Sir Cyril Chantler.
I recently had the privilege of meeting with Nicola Roxon, the former Australian Minister for Health who was instrumental in the implementation of standardised packaging in Australia. She explained the beneficial impact that standardised packaging was having in no longer portraying smoking to young people as cool, glamorous and a “must have” accessory, but a much less desirable- and truthful – image. This is already starting to reduce take up, critically as part of a wider tobacco control strategy.   
That’s why I’m pleased that the Government is now introducing at Third Reading this Wednesday new amendments on proxy purchasing and requiring an age of sale of 18 for e-cigarettes. We’ve got the makings of a really good tobacco control package here, but a ban on smoking in cars with children would strengthen that strategy.

Banning smoking in cars with children is above all a child protection measure – a noble liberal ideal - and the very reason we were debating it as part of the Children and Families Bill.

As a nation we have come to recognise the harm that passive smoking can do, and we have made laudable strides in tackling its effects, banning smoking in public spaces, on public transport and in work vehicles.

There is one glaring omission though – every day, children across England are exposed to dangerously high levels of smoke when travelling in the family car – more than 430,000 children every week according to the British Lung Foundation. 

It seems an unjust anomaly, especially as those we are excluding from protection are among the most vulnerable in society, those who may be too young to understand the risks of passive smoking, or feel unable to ask the adult they’re travelling with to stop.

In the debates so far we often hear people talking about the so-called “rights of smokers” – but who is speaking up for the rights of the child?  Yes every parent can smoke if they want to, but surely every child should have the right to be in a safe environment.

Being exposed to smoking in the car is different to being exposed in the home; the space is more confined and children cannot move away from the smoke, which is far more concentrated and therefore toxic than in the home. 

Children often have little or no control over the smoking behaviour or adults around them. The health statistics also speak for themselves – 165,000 new cases of disease among children each year (such as asthma, bronchitis and reduced lung function) as a direct result of being exposed to second-hand smoke.

What parent would want to expose their child to such a toxic atmosphere with long-term adverse effects on their health? The answer is of course very few. There is huge public support for this ban. A recent survey found that 80% of the public support this ban and 86% of children.

On enforcement the police already have a number of duties relating to private vehicles, including the need to monitor the wearing of seatbelts, the intoxication levels of the driver, the use of mobile phones and the use of child safety seats and restraints. It’s worth noting that the latter - another child protection measure, is being enforced relatively successfully.

In Australia, seven out of eight states have adopted legislation banning smoking in cars when children are present. Queensland, Southern Australia and Western Australia use a combination of police and tobacco control officers to enforce the law, which is carried out alongside existing vehicle monitoring duties and hence doesn’t create an additional drain on police resources. This could well provide the basis for a feasible model in the UK. In short where there’s a political will, there’s a way.

Others have argued that we should rely on public education campaigns rather than legislation. But as was demonstrated with seatbelt-wearing, efforts to inform and change behaviour are far more effective when backed by legislation. Indeed seat belt wearing rages increased in the UK from 25% to an amazing 91% after legislation was introduced alongside public awareness campaigns.

I’m glad that MPs will be given a free vote when this comes back to the Commons and hope that they send a message, loud and clear, that it is not acceptable to expose your children to second-hand smoke in the car. And I hope Nick changes his mind too.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

(Deputy) Leadership Coup?

News this evening of the surprise elevation of Malcolm Bruce to the Deputy Leadership of the Liberal Democrats in the Commons may prove more interesting than meets the eye.

It is being variously rumoured that:-
a) a margin of only 2 votes separated Malcolm from the widely-championed establishment candidate, Danny Alexander's PPS Lorely Burt;
b) factors at play included the championing of Burt by the party leadership, a reaction among certain MPs to this and additional backing from Scottish MPs (a significant constituency) for Malcolm's traditionally strident opposition to the SNP;
c) although 24 MPs reportedly nominated Lorely, not all of them voted for her;
d) it may also be the case that an MP known to be retiring in 2015 may be a better bet than one defending a wafer-thin majority.

Given that a bare majority of Liberal Democrat MPs enjoy the patronage of the Party leadership, though (whether through Ministerial salaries or honorary unpaid titles such as PPS or Whip), is rebellion afoot?

And is this a kick in the teeth for Nick Clegg and his advisors who in September were reportedly [] to blame for inventing a Parliamentary Party meeting at which Vince Cable was fictitiously outvoted on the subject of the economy? Or has the Parliamentary Party had sight of the result of the much-anticipated investigation []?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Another casualty from the Rennard controversy?

Quite apart from the impact on both his accusers and Lord Rennard himself, there could be wider casualty from the last week's events.

Just consider both Nick Clegg's bemoaning that party rules constrain him from acting as he would wish to, and media commentators condemning him as weak for being unable to simply throw Rennard out of the party by personal diktat.

The potential casualty is party democracy itself. There will be those who will point to the embarrassments caused and say that they would not have happened if the leader had been able to act 'decisively' unconstrained by the tiresome requirements of a democratic party.

Those ever ready with bleating demands for 'strong leadership', under which the Lib Dem membership would be reduced to a fan club - as are members of the other main parties - will be only too happy to point to these events and argue that they show a 'serious' party in power ought to dispense with its internal democracy.

No-one suggests that this was an outcome sought by the women who have made complaints, or indeed by Lord Rennard, but there is the danger of it being an unintended consequence.

Clegg has pointed out that he led a political party and "not a sect". He would though probably be less than human if he didn't fancy being able to solve party problems by simply issuing instructions.

This crisis may have presented those who would like that outcome with a golden opportunity. Be on guard.