Point of Europe still unclear

I MET up with five of the region's MEPs the other day.They're all very nice people and I'm sure they work hard - but at the end of the day I'm afraid I really didn't feel that their work was relevant to my life, and that of anyone else.

I MET up with five of the region's MEPs the other day.

They're all very nice people and I'm sure they work hard - but at the end of the day I'm afraid I really didn't feel that their work was relevant to my life, and that of anyone else.

I was at a European Parliament seminar aimed at telling the local press about the importance of the parliament and at the work of MEPs.

But what it all boiled down to was that the parliament had got travellers compensation for flight delays and had delayed the appointment of the new European commission.

As someone who doesn't like flying, and hasn't been dragged kicking and screaming on to a plane for 18 years, I'm afraid I found it very difficult to see what difference the Parliament could possibly make to my life.

And that's the problem I face when dealing with the European Parliament, and EU in general.

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However much you like the idea - and I can see the advantages of travelling around Europe without having to change money or wave your passport at every border - I still cannot see that this great body in Brussels or Strasbourg (or wherever it is meeting this week) really has any relevance to ordinary life.

The real problem is, of course, that when the European Parliament first had its members directly-elected, national parliaments were so reluctant to give it any real powers that it developed a reputation as a talking shop.

And that is, essentially what it remains today.

If the European Parliament is to become anything other than a remote bunch of well-paid gasbags, elected every five years in the continent's biggest opinion poll of national governments, it's going to have to show it has real power.

Flight compensation might be a start - but I came away thinking it's got a long way to go to convince ordinary citizens that there's a point to it.

I MUST be losing my touch! Apparently my column last week revealed that I'm a Nazi seeking compulsory euthanasia for everyone on their 65th birthday!

I don't actually recall making that argument - but that's what my call for rethink of benefits and pensions amounted to, for one 87-year-old ex Desert Rat who fought in the Battle of Britain.

So let me try to make my argument clear.

Why should a pensioner couple getting £35,000 a year (and they do exist) get half-price fares, cheap television licences, money off their heating bills, and possibly council tax reductions when a working family earning £25,000 a year and with a mortgage doesn't get those benefits?

Why should benefits be dependent on age rather than need?

Isn't it better to channel the money towards the millions of poor pensioners - and others in poverty - rather than to scatter it around all the over 65s, even if they're very well off?

If that makes me a Nazi, then I clearly misunderstood the concept of Nazism when I studied 20th century history at university!

IPSWICH eventually settled its council tax level after a long debate last week - a debate which involved a succession of opposition Labour amendments to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration's budget.

But the funniest thing that happened came after Labour spotted that a number of their Tory opponents had gone to the loo together.

They realised the administration hadn't got a majority in the chamber any longer and moved immediately to go to the vote.

Former councillor David Brown, who was watching proceedings from the public gallery, had to rush to the loo and send his troops back in.

“I told them they hadn't time to wash their hands!” he said.

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