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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 23rd November 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 23rd November 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Court of Auditors

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Prime Minister what response he proposes to make to the latest report of the EC Court of Auditors; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister: The United Kingdom welcomes the Court of Auditors' report for 1993; its findings and recommendations will assist in the fight against fraud and financial mismanagement and in favour of better value-for-money. The United Kingdom has been in the lead in pressing the Commission and the European Parliament to attack fraud and improve financial management. We secured important improvements in the treaty on European union, including giving the European Court of Auditors enhanced status as a full Institution of the European Union. The United Kingdom has also pushed for better value for money in Community expenditure.

Following on from the Edinburgh European Council conclusions, the 1993 structural funds regulations required, for the first time, prior appraisal of expenditure, effective monitoring and evaluation of results. In March of this year, the United Kingdom proposed a joint action to ensure that member states make legally binding commitments to take tougher action against criminal fraud. The United Kingdom also supports the principles of a proposal from the Commission for a complementary framework of financial penalty rules and wants to see these principles carried through effectively. Both proposals are currently under discussion.

The European Court of Auditors' report will be considered by the Council of the Ministers early next year. The United Kingdom will urge that its findings are followed up vigorously by the Commission and member states; that appropriate action is taken; and that the Commission reports back fully on the results.

As I said last week, following the Anglo-French summit at Chartres, we shall press for the Council of Ministers to act on the court's special reports on particular areas of the Community budget and we wish to see member states co-operate in taking tougher action against criminal fraud. We also wish to see the Commission step up its spot checks for fraud and fraudsters; the European parliament as a whole, rather than just its budgetary control committee, act on fraud; and we are in touch with the German presidency to see how we can use the Essen European Council to add further momentum to the fight against fraud.


European Union (Finance)

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Prime Minister what provisions exist to ensure that the obligations entered into between European Union member states in matters related to the European Communities (Finance) Bill are honoured.

The Prime Minister: The purpose of the European Communities (Finance) Bill is to enable the United Kingdom to give effect to a new own resources decision. The British Government, and the Governments of all other member states, committed themselves politically to the financial arrangements which are the basis of the own resources decision by a settlement at the Edinburgh Council, during the British presidency in 1992.

The relevant arrangements for giving legal effect to this international agreement are set out in article 201 of the treaty establishing the European Community which states that:

"The Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, shall lay down provisions relating to the system of Own Resources of the Community, which it shall recommend to the Member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements." National procedures for adoption are a matter for each member state. In the United kingdom, the practice is to ask for Parliament's approval by means of a Bill adding the new own resources decision to the list of relevant "Treaties" in section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.

When all member states have notified adoption of the new own resources decision, it will enter force, retrospectively if necessary, with effect from 1 January 1995. Once in force, member states will be under a legally binding obligation to make contributions to the Community budget in accordance with the new own resources decision.