Parliament retreat on MPs’ checks

Senior parliamentary officials yesterday agreed to scrap a controversial earlier decision to provide generous monthly payments to deputies who did not re-enter Parliament after last year’s elections. Announced last week by Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki, the measure allowed for 24 monthly payments of 3,000 euros to all MPs who had either failed to be re-elected or decided not to defend their seats in the March 7, 2004 vote. The scheme, which would have cost the taxpayer some 4.68 million euros, had been approved by representatives of all four parties in the 300-seat house. However, once it became public – drawing strong condemnation from the media and several politicians – the four party leaders voiced strong reservations. The payments had been meant to offset extant legislation that forbids MPs to maintain their previous professional activities while in office, which had prompted a handful of deputies to stand down before the 2004 election. Yesterday, Psarouda-Benaki said all the relevant issues «will be discussed from the beginning.» Last week, she had spoken of a need to revise the ban on MP’s professional activity after several deputies complained they could not make ends meet on their salary alone. Several MPs called yesterday for the ban to be partially scrapped. The payment scheme caused considerable embarrassment to Parliament, having been announced soon after the house awarded itself a paid day off work on May 11, when the postponed May Day celebrations were held, although all other workers were denied a holiday. The problem arose because May 1 coincided with Easter Sunday.

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