Documents considered by the Committee on 4 September 2019 Contents

7EU Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a) Cleared from scrutiny

(b) Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Education Committee, the Home Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee

Document details

(a) Commission report: Summary of the annual implementation reports for the operational programmes co-financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived in 2016

(b) Commission report: Summary of the annual implementation reports for the operational programmes co-financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived in 2017

Legal base

(a) and (b)—

Department

Home Office

Document Numbers

(a) (40204), 14699/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 742

(b) (40692), 10602/19 + ADD 1, COM(19) 259

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

7.1The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (“the Fund”)47 was established in 2014 to support Member States in meeting the poverty reduction target agreed by EU leaders in June 2010 which aims to “lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion” by the end of 2020.48 The Fund has a total budget of €3.4 billion for the period 2014–20, with each Member State receiving a minimum amount of €3.5 million to be distributed in annual instalments. It is intended to complement Member States’ national poverty eradication and social inclusion policies by targeting those experiencing “forms of extreme poverty with the greatest social exclusion impact, such as homelessness, child poverty and food distribution”.49

7.2In January 2019, we examined a European Commission report on Member States’ implementation of the Fund in 2016—document (a)—covering the second full year of the Fund’s operation. The report indicated that around 16 million people had benefited from the Fund in 2016, with most (96%) receiving food support, bringing the total beneficiaries between 2014 and 2016 to around 38 million. None of these beneficiaries were in the UK.

7.3The Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability (Victoria Atkins MP) explained why in her Explanatory Memorandum of 23 January 2019. In summary, the Government had abandoned its original (2014) plan to expand breakfast club provision in deprived areas in England as it did not meet the Fund’s eligibility requirements. The Government instead decided to use the Fund to support vulnerable 16–24-year olds who had entered the UK through a resettlement scheme, been granted refugee status through the in-country asylum process or identified as potential victims of modern slavery. The delay in setting up the necessary governance infrastructure and securing the agreement of the European Commission meant that the Government was unable to claim the initial tranche—£600,000—of the UK’s allocation by the end of 2018, as required under the EU’s “de-commitment rules”. This sum had therefore been deducted from the UK’s total share of £3.46 million, leaving £2.9 million to support the most deprived. The Minister anticipated that a new operational programme would be ready to submit to the European Commission “provisionally by the end of March 2019, with the programme of works scheduled to begin in July 2019 “ and the programme and Fund becoming operational in the UK “by the end of the year”.

7.4We expressed concern that the UK was the only one amongst 28 Member States that had failed to establish an operational programme to deliver the Fund, adding that the eligibility requirements and administrative burdens which the Government had cited as an obstacle to delivery did not appear to have presented an insurmountable obstacle elsewhere in the EU.50 We made clear that we were unwilling to clear the Commission’s implementation report for 2016 from scrutiny until the Minister confirmed that work on the UK’s operational programme for the remaining £2.9 million had been completed and approval obtained from the European Commission. We also asked the Minister to explain how the UK’s exit from the EU would affect the UK’s eligibility for the Fund which expires at the end of 2020.

7.5In April, the Minister indicated that the timetable for securing approval of the UK’s operational programme had slipped. She anticipated that it would be submitted to the European Commission “provisionally by the end of May 2019, with the programme of works scheduled to begin in the autumn”. EU de-commitment rules would continue to apply, meaning that the UK would again be at risk of losing funding if it failed to spend its allocation for 2017 by the end of 2019.51 The Minister added that UK eligibility for the Fund after leaving the EU would be contingent on wider developments in the UK’s exit negotiations.

7.6The European Commission has now published an implementation report for 2017. It says that most Member States have put in place “well-established and properly functioning programmes” targeting harder to reach groups, such as the homeless, who might not otherwise receive assistance. The Commission concludes that “many of the most deprived people in the EU are receiving effective assistance”, with around 12.9 million beneficiaries of the Fund in 2017.52 Once again, none are in the UK.

7.7In her Explanatory Memorandum of 9 July 2019, the Minister reiterates the reasons for the delay in implementing the Fund in the UK. She confirms that the Government submitted the UK’s operational programme to the European Commission on 2 July and is “finalising the governance structures to manage the programme and the arrangements to run grants under the programme, to enable us to begin seeking bids” once the European Commission has approved the programme. To this end, “the Home Office have signed a service level agreement with the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) who will undertake the audit arrangements for the programme”. The Minister anticipates obtaining the European Commission’s approval for the UK’s operational programme by October/November 2019.

Our Conclusions

7.8As we have made clear in our earlier Reports on document (a), we intend to keep a close eye on developments to ensure that the UK does not, once more, fall foul of the EU’s de-commitment rules, putting at risk a source of funding and material assistance for some of the most vulnerable in society. We note that the Minister expects to secure European Commission approval for the UK’s operational programme “by October/November”, right on the cusp of exit day. We ask her to notify us as soon as the approval has been given and to confirm when the programme will be up and running. If the approval is not obtained by 31 October 2019, we ask her to explain:

7.9We are content to clear from scrutiny the Commission’s implementation report for 2016—document (a). Pending further information from the Minister, the implementation report for 2017—document (b)—remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Education Committee, the Home Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) Commission Report: Summary of the annual implementation reports for the operational programmes co-financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived in 2016: (40204), 14699/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 742; (b) Commission Report: Summary of the annual implementation reports for the operational programmes co-financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived in 2017: (40692), 10602/19 + ADD 1, COM(19) 259.

Previous Committee Reports

On document (a): Sixty-fifth Report HC 301–lxiii (2017–19), chapter 1 (8 May 2019) and Fifty-third Report HC 301–lii (2017–19), chapter 9 (30 January 2019). See also our earlier Reports on the Regulation establishing the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived: Twenty-second Report HC 86–xxii (2012–13), chapter 3 (5 December 2012), Fourteenth Report HC 83–xiv (2013–14), chapter 10 (11 September 2013), Twentieth Report HC 83–xix (2013–14), chapter 3 (30 October 2013), Twenty-ninth Report HC 83–xxvi (2013–14), chapter 8 (8 January 2014), Ninth Report HC 219–ix (2014–15), chapter 12 (3 September 2014) and Thirty-fourth Report HC 219–xxxiii (2014–15), chapter 3 (25 February 2015).


47 See Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived.

48 See the Conclusions agreed by the European Council on 17 June 2010.

49 See recital (7) and Article 3 of Regulation (EU) No 223/2014.

50 See our Report agreed on 30 January 2019.

51 See the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 26 April 2019 on a Special Report published by the EU’s Court of Auditors which is intended to inform discussions on a successor funding instrument for the next EU budgetary period from 2021–27.

52 See p.11 of the Commission report.




Published: 9 September 2019