Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


The European Scrutiny Committee has made further progress in the matter referred to it and has agreed to the following Report:—

Special Report No. 19/2000 by the Court of Auditors on the management by the Commission of the programme of assistance to Palestinian society.
Legal base:
Department: International Development
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 14 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 4 (28 February 2001)
Discussed in Council: 13 March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: For debate in European Standing Committee B (with the Commission Communication on the Barcelona Process already recommended for debate) (decision reported on 28 February 2001)


  1.1  Following the Oslo Accords of September 1993, the European Community started a special programme to support the Middle East peace process and the development of Palestinian society, and substantially increased its financial assistance. The objective of the audit by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) was to assess the extent to which the Commission had taken the necessary action to ensure the best possible implementation of the programme.

  1.2  We considered the ECA report on 28 February and recommended it for debate in European Standing Committee B, together with the Commission Communication, Reinvigorating the Barcelona Process.[1]

The Minister's letter

  1.3  The Secretary of State for International Development (the Rt. Hon. Clare Short) reminds us that she strongly supported the points made by the Court of Auditors and writes to explain why the Government agreed to the Conclusions on it being adopted by the Council of Ministers on 13 March, in advance of the debate.

  1.4  The Minister says that the UK's views were widely shared in the Council. The Conclusions pick out some key points and call for reports from the Commission on implementation of the Court's recommendations. The Minister continues:

"Given their procedural nature, these Conclusions had no legislative or financial implications. The Presidency pressed very hard for Conclusions to be adopted this week. I regret that, due to a misunderstanding between my department and the UK Permanent Representation in Brussels, we had not warned the Presidency earlier of a possible scrutiny objection. Given this, I decided it would be wrong to block the agreement and that I would instead write to the Committee to apologise and explain our action.

"I understand that the House of Commons debate to which this document has been forwarded is to be on EU policy on the Euro-Med partnership and assistance to the Middle East. Obviously the debate goes much wider than this report, and is unlikely to affect the substance of the Council Conclusions on the Court of Auditors' Report. But any relevant points made in the debate could feed into the Council's discussion of future follow-up to the Court's report. I apologise once again for the mix-up and hope you find this explanation acceptable."


  1.5  We thank the Secretary of State for her apology. Since the Council Conclusions are a separate document distinct from the Court of Auditors' report, we regard the scrutiny reserve on the report as remaining intact. However, the Minister has rightly recognised that the Conclusions bear a direct political relationship to the report. We therefore wish to recommend that they should be tagged to the debate. A short Explanatory Memorandum on the Conclusions, summarising their content, will provide us with a document on which to make our recommendation.

  1.6  We ask the Government to provide the Explanatory Memorandum in time for the debate, unless this takes place before we next meet, in which case we ask the Government to include the Minister's letter in its briefing papers for Members.

  1.7  We confirm our earlier recommendation for a debate on this report.

1  (21492) 11381/00; see HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 1 (28 February 2001). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 6 April 2001