Stewart Arnold, husband of Hull-based Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis, has informed officials he will not be taking over his wife’s post at the EU Parliament, despite being eligible to do so as the party’s second-choice candidate at the last Euro elections.
His announcement follows a week of mounting criticism at the possibility of a husband automatically taking over his wife’s seat. Fellow Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies quit as party whip in protest, accusing the pair of “nepotism”.
Mr Arnold’s decision came as figures seen by the Yorkshire Post suggested Ms Wallis is eligible to collect a lump sum of more than £62,000 when she steps down from her post next week, mid-way through her third five-year term.
The so-called “transitional” payments aim to ensure departing MEPs are compensated for their loss of earnings. Having been in her job 12 years, Ms Wallis is eligible for 12 payments of 6,200 euros – or nearly 75,000 euros altogether.
Had Mr Arnold decided to take over his wife’s seat – as is his right under EU voting rules – the couple would have between them been able to legitimately collect both the pay-off, as well as the on-going MEP’s monthly wage.
But a Lib Dem statement said last night: “After a full consideration, Stewart has made the decision not to take up the post.”
Ms Wallis resigned following a failed bid to become President of the EU Parliament. She cited health reasons as a “contributory” factor, but said she chiefly wanted “a break from politics”.
Mr Arnold referred to her illness yesterday, saying he wants “to give her the support she needs.”
The seat is now set to go to the Lib Dems’ third-choice candidate, Rebecca Taylor, from Todmorden, who said this week she would be “honoured” to take on the role.