Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirteenth Report


COM(00) 558

Commission follow-up report on the 1998 financial year.
Legal base:
Department: HM Treasury
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 6 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-i (2000-01), paragraph 5 (13 December 2000)
Discussed in Council: March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  11.1  When the Council made its recommendation on the discharge of the 1998 Community Budget, it addressed a number of comments to the Commission, taking account of the annual report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) for 1998. In accordance with its now established practice, the Commission made a report (published in October 2000) to the Council giving an account of its actions taken in response to the Council's comments. The Commission's report included an analysis of Member States' responses to the ECA's 1998 report and also made extensive reference to its Action Plan for improving financial management.

  11.2  On 13 December 2000, we left that report uncleared, pending publication of the ECA's 1999 report and receipt of further information from the Minister. We noted that the Commission intended to produce an annual Action Plan, regularly updated, as a way of assessing progress in improving financial management and asked the Minister when an update of the Action Plan would be published.

The Minister's letter

  11.3  In her letter of 6 March 2001, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Miss Melanie Johnson) apologises for the delay in responding to our Report. The Minister regrets that the delay has meant that we did not have time to consider the document before the ECOFIN meeting of 12 March. She states that the document was scheduled to be considered without discussion and that a UK scrutiny reserve would have been "unhelpful."

  11.4  The Minister informs us that the Commission's update to the Action Plan for 2000 is published in its document on the discharge of the 1999 Budget.

  11.5  We also asked about the relationship between the Action Plan to accompany the White Paper on Commission Reform and the annual Action Plans proposed in the follow­up report. The Minister's response, provided in her Explanatory Memorandum on the discharge of the 1999 Budget, says that the annual Actions Plans are separate from those that accompany the White Paper on Commission Reform.


  11.6  The document was considered at ECOFIN before we had an opportunity to examine it. We do not accept the fact that a document is to be considered without discussion as sufficient reason on its own to lift the scrutiny reserve, and will expect more justification in future than a vague statement that a UK scrutiny reserve would have been "unhelpful".

  11.7  We have no further questions on the document and clear it accordingly.

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