Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report





COM(02) 339

Commission Report on the establishment of a database on payments under the Guarantee Section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.

Legal base:


Document originated:

25 June 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

2 July 2002


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

EM of 5 July 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

No date set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Not cleared; further information requested



    1. Council Decision 96/411/EC[2] on improving Community agricultural statistics specifies that the Commission should pursue feasibility studies into the setting up of a database for payments made from the Guarantee Section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) so as to provide for each beneficiary data on the level of aid received, and the areas of land and/or number of animals involved. This document fulfils, a little belatedly, an obligation on the Commission to report on this to the Council and European Parliament by the end of 2001.
    2. The Commission says that it has been looking at two possibilities for achieving this aim. The first, which it has been examining since 1999, would adapt the current accounting and financial management system used for recording Member States' summarised monthly accounts data, but it concludes that this would require a major increase in human and financial resources. It has therefore been looking also at adapting an alternative database, under the "Clearance Audit Trail System" (CATS), set up to enable audits of agricultural expenditure and clearance of accounts to be carried out. Since this system already provides details of individual payments made to beneficiaries under the EAGGF, the Commission has concluded that, although some data quality issues need to be resolved, this should not present any major technical problems. The only immediate complication is that the information in question is confidential and its use in a raw state restricted to the (audit) purpose for which it is provided. This difficulty has therefore been addressed recently by amending the relevant Commission legislation so as to enable the data to be used for other purposes. In the meantime, the Commission says it has also been working on the guidelines needed to ensure the confidentiality of data concerning individuals.
    3. The Government's view

    4. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 5 July 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) says that the report raises no new policy implications, and that the UK supports the compilation of meaningful statistical information on Community expenditure.
    5. Conclusion

    6. Whilst we recognise the need for adequate statistical information relating to payments under the EAGGF, there are three aspects of this document on which we would welcome further clarification. First, we would find it helpful to have a clearer idea of precisely what use the Commission intends to make of the information it will be receiving in this way, and how that information differs from that it already has for that purpose. Secondly, although we understand that the Commission has attempted to regularise the legal position relating to the confidentiality of individual beneficiaries, we do nevertheless have some concerns that this could be compromised. We would therefore be glad to know what safeguards are being put in place to address this concern. Finally, it is not apparent whether any further Community legislation would be needed in order to proceed in the way proposed, or whether, in the light of the steps already taken, it would be possible to do so by administrative means. Meanwhile, we do not clear the document.


2   OJ No. L.162, 1.7.96, p.14. Back

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