Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Eighth 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:



Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

SEM of 17 September 2002

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-xxxvii (2001-02), paragraph 3 (17 July 2002)

To be discussed in Council:

No date set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:





    1. Council Decision 96/411/EC[36] 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. The current document fulfils an obligation on the Commission to report on this to the Council and European Parliament.
    2. As we noted in our Report of 17 July 2002, the Commission has been looking at two possibilities. The first would adapt the current accounting and financial management system used for recording Member States' summarised monthly accounts data. However, as this would require a major increase in human and financial resources, the Commission has also been looking at an alternative database, under the "Clearance Audit Trail System" (CATS). This was set up to enable audits of agricultural expenditure and clearance of accounts to be carried out, and already provides details of individual payments made to beneficiaries. The only immediate complication identified by the Commission is that the information is confidential and its use in a raw state restricted to the audit purpose for which it is provided. It has therefore recently amended its own legislation to enable the data to be used for other purposes, and it has also been working on the guidelines needed to ensure the confidentiality of data concerning individuals.
    3. Although an Explanatory Memorandum of 5 July 2002 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) had said that the report raised no new policy implications, and that the UK supported the compilation of meaningful statistical information on Community expenditure, we said that there were three aspects on which we would welcome further clarification before we could clear the document.
    4. First, we sought a clearer idea of precisely what use the Commission intended to make of the information, and how that information would differ from what it already had. Secondly, although the Commission had attempted to regularise the legal position relating to the confidentiality of individual beneficiaries, we expressed some concern that this could be compromised, and we asked what safeguards were being taken to address this concern. We also commented that it was 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.
    5. Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 17 September 2002

    6. The Minister has now addressed each of these points in turn in his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 17 July 2002 He says:

    • that the Commission will use the database to meet the information needs identified by the Council and European Parliament arising from the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and in particular to monitor market developments and to make financial forecasts;

    • that the CATS database can in principle already provide the information, and the improvements proposed focus on further harmonisation in reporting, on plausibility checks, and on cross-checks to validate the data against other sources;

    • that the relevant Commission legislation lays down that, where it uses accounting information gathered in the database for monitoring developments and providing forecasts in the agricultural sector, it will make such data anonymous and process it in aggregated form only: it will also ensure that the accounting information is kept confidential and secure;

    • that the Commission does not envisage any further legislation being required.


    1. We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, and we are now clearing the document.


36   OJ No. L.162, 1.7.96, p.14. Back

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