Letter from Baroness Hilton of Eggardon, QPM, Chairman
of Sub-Committee C, to James Clappison, MP, Parliamentary Under
Secretary of State, Department of the Environment
Sub-Committee C has considered an advance copy of your Explanatory
Memorandum covering a revised version of document 4163/96, as
sent to the Council for agreement on a common position.
As you know, the original document, along with the Commission's
Communication Implementing Community Environmental Law
(11418/96), was due to be reported on following completion of
our current enquiry on Environmental Policy: Monitoring, Enforcement
and Transparency. The Report on the enquiry will not now be ready
in time for Prorogation, but we expect that work will resume on
it once the Select Committee and its sub-committees have been
reappointed in the new Parliament. In the circumstances we have
considered your request for early lifting of the scrutiny reserve
on the NGO proposal, although we would have appreciated rather
more notice (preferably in advance of the 3-4 March Environment
Although we were planning to refer to various aspects of
the proposal in the Report, it is not so central to our enquiry
that we feel that maintaining the scrutiny reserve is essential.
We would, however, like to have an assurance that the draft Decision
in its amended form would, in the Government's view, meet the
concerns expressed in your original EM of 25 March 1996. In particular,
we note that the idea of a Management Committee of Member States'
representatives, for which the Government said it would be pressing,
does not appear to have emerged from negotiations so far.
Subject to receiving clarification on these points, we are
now prepared to clear the documents.
19 March 1997
Letter from James Clappison, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State, Department of the Environment, to Baroness Hilton of
Eggardon, QPM, Chairman of Sub-Committee C
Thank you for your letter of 19 March regarding the proposal
for a Community action programme for funding environmental non-governmental
organisations. The Committee of course would have wished to study
the revised proposal before the 3-4 March Environment Council,
where a common position was reached on the programme, but I am
afraid that my Department only received an advance copy of the
unofficial revised text a few days before the Council meeting.
I am grateful for your willingness to clear the documents if,
in the Government's view, the UK's concerns have been adequately
The revised proposal for an action programme now meets most
of the concerns expressed in our Explanatory Memorandum 4163/96
of 25 March 1996. The Government explained in the Explanatory
Memorandum that the UK would wish to ensure that a cost benefit
analysis of financial support provided under this programme would
be carried out. Article 3.2 of the programme has been amended
to include a requirement that all activities will be selected
on the basis of "a sound cost-benefit ratio", ensuring
a value for money return for funds provided.
The Government also expressed concern in the Explanatory
Memorandum, that the programme should not provide support for
activities such as the dissemination of information on national
policies or the examination of national performance in the implementation
of Community policy. During negotiations on the proposal, the
UK was keen to ensure that the text was not amended in any way
that would facilitate the funding of such activities. The programme
has instead been amended in Articles 3 and 4, to emphasise the
importance of a Community wide approach. Funding will only be
awarded to NGOs "working at a European level" and to
activities which contribute to "a multinational approach".
You raise in your letter the question of a Management Committee,
which the Government wanted to see created in order to monitor
the progress of the programme. The UK pressed for the establishment
of a Committee during negotiations on the programme, receiving
support only from France, and that only partially. All other
Member States and the Commission felt that the amount of money
involved in the programme (ECU 10.6 million), was not sufficient
to justify the establishment of a Committee. As the programme
was adopted by Qualified Majority Voting, the UK was unable to
insist upon this point.
However, the text has been amended to ensure greater transparency
in the administration of the programme: the Commission will be
obliged to publish the details of all beneficiaries and amount
of aid received in the Official Journal of the Community, and
to present a yearly report to the Council and the European Parliament
on the implementation of the programme.
In the light of the amendments secured in the revised text,
and the consent already given by all other Member States, I hope
that the Committee will now be able to clear the document.
8 April 1997