Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


COM(00) 788

Commission Communication on externalisation of the management of Community programmes, including presentation of a Framework Regulation for a new type of executive agency;

Draft Council Regulation laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes.

Legal base:Article 308 EC; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: 24 January 2001
Department:HM Treasury
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 19 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 5 (18 July 2001), HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 4 (21 November 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  5.1  As part of its process of reform, the Commission set out in December 1999 to develop a coherent and manageable policy of 'externalisation', i.e. the carrying out of executive tasks implementing Community policies by bodies other than the Commission. The objective is to allow the Commission's permanent staff to be assigned to its essential tasks, to regain control of executive and support activities and, overall, to improve efficiency.


  5.2  We considered the document, which consisted of a Communication from the Commission together with a proposed Council Regulation, on 18 July and 21 November 2001. We noted that Article 4 of the draft Regulation provided for an executive agency to be a Community body with a legal personality separate from the Commission, and that Article 6 provided that the Commission may entrust an executive agency with any tasks required to implement a Community programme, "except for those demanding discretionary powers in translating political choices into action".

  5.3  We were concerned that the creation of bodies with legal personalities separate from the Commission would be inconsistent with the principle, set out in the preamble to the draft Regulation, that recourse to an agency did not relieve the Commission of its responsibilities under the Treaty, particularly Article 274 EC.[17]

  5.4  We also expressed concern that the draft Regulation was far from clear on the question of which tasks may be delegated by the Commission to an agency. The exception of tasks "demanding discretionary powers in translating political choices into action" seemed to us to be vague and difficult to apply in practice.

  5.5  We asked the Minister for her comments on these two points. In her letter of 16 October 2001, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly) commented that, despite their separate legal personality, agencies would still be carrying out functions on behalf of the Commission. The Minister also commented that the Council's Budget Committee had suggested to the Commission that the reference to the Commission's continuing responsibility should be made more explicit, and that the proposal should contain a clearer statement of the responsibilities delegated to agencies and the nature of the delegation. We asked the Minister to keep us informed of progress in defining more clearly the scope of the delegating power contained in the draft Regulation.

The Minister's letter

  5.6  In her letter of 19 March 2002, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly) informs us that there has been little progress on this matter since her letter to us of 16 October 2001. However, she reports that the European Court of Auditors delivered its Opinion on 8 November 2001.

  5.7  The Minister adds that she was pleased to note that the Court of Auditors considered it advisable for the draft Regulation to lay down general rules which the Commission will operate in regulating the activities of the agencies, so that it may intervene if the agency acts contrary to the object of the Community programme in question, or more generally, acts unlawfully. The Court of Auditors further considers that these procedures could be specified in the instrument of delegation, but that the general framework should be established by the draft Regulation.


  5.8  We thank the Minister for her letter. As the Minister observes, there has been little progress on the draft Council Regulation, but we shall look forward to receiving a revised text of the proposal in due course. We hope that the revised version will take account of the comments which have been made on the continuing responsibility of the Commission for tasks carried out on its behalf by agencies, and on making clearer the scope of the power to delegate to such agencies.

  5.9  We shall hold the present document under scrutiny pending deposit of a revised version.

17  "The Commission shall implement the budget...on its own responsibility and within the limits of the appropriations, having regard to the principles of sound financial management". Back

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