Swedish MPs take Disneyland ‘study’ tour

Swedish MPs take Disneyland 'study' tour
Swedish parliament rules providing for expenses paid educational trips up to a value of 50,000 kronor ($7,000) per annum have prompted three Social Democrat MPs to use the system to 'study tourism' at California's Disneyland.

In general, regulations for how MPs can dispose of their allotted funds have been interpreted generously, a review by the Expressen tabloid has shown.

Other approved excursions have included a trip to the Faroe islands to experience “how it is to live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic”, ten days in Canada to “study the situation of youth in a broader perspective”, and a trip to the Caribbean to “study Cuban environmental policy”.

“Some of these travel itineraries would appear to be a little far-fetched,” said Gullan Gidlund, a professor of political science at Örebro University to the newspaper.

Social Democrat MPs Hans Stenberg and Claes-Göran Brandin are members of the parliamentary transport and communications committee. Their party colleague Krister Örnfjäder is a substitute on the same committee and is also a member of the industry and trade committee.

The trio spent a day together at Disney’s Los Angeles theme park as part of an expenses paid trip to California to study “communications, energy, the environment and the tourism industry.”

Party colleague Benny Gustafsson headed to the Faroe Islands to try out life on the Atlantic island, while Moderate Party MP Mats Gerdau, who is on the education committee, travelled to North America to check on Canadian youth. Green party MP Jan Lindholm, a member of the civil affairs committee, spent part of his study budget looking at Cuban environment policy.

According to the Expressen review, eight MPs have already exhausted their 50,000 kronor study budget for 2010, 20 have less than 10,000 kronor remaining and around 70 have submitted applications for trips planned during the year.

Study allowance applications are submitted by MP’s for approval to the three vice-speakers of the house. The MPs are not required to account in detail for their trips until they have returned to Sweden.

The regulations stipulate that MPs must spend at least six hours per day engaged in study.

“I can not recall any case where an MP has received a straight refusal,” vice-speaker and Social Democrat Jan Björkman told Expressen.

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