CHAPTER 3: Summary of Conclusions |
57. We recognise that the Government has been
very active in convincing the Commission and other Member States
that all future budgets must be presented in the Activity-Based
Budgeting format. The Committee welcomes this new approach to
monitoring spending which should lead to greater transparency.
We look forward to seeing the efficiency savings Activity-Based
Budgeting will lead to over time, and we ask the Government to
keep the Committee informed of the progress made.
The 2005 EC Budget
58. We note with approval that the proposed total
expenditure levels in the 2005 Preliminary Draft Budget are significantly
lower than the agreed ceiling of 1.24% of EU Gross National Income.
The Government's priorities for the 2005 EC Budget
REPRIORITISE SPENDING ON EXTERNAL ACTION (HEADING
59. In our report on the 2004 EC Budget,
we supported the UK Government in its argument for a greater margin
in the external actions category precisely to avoid such overspends.
It is disappointing that the Government does not appear to have
succeeded in persuading the budgetary authority
to develop such an increased margin.
60. As in our 2004 EC Budget report, we continue
to support the Government in its efforts to improve the 'poverty
focus' of EC spending on external actions. However, we continue
to believe that this focus should not deflect from the EU's other
objectives of working towards stability in regions such as the
Middle East and the Balkans.
EFFICIENCY OF ADMINISTRATION COSTS (HEADING 5)
61. Whilst accepting that enlargement necessitates
some increase in administrative resources, the Committee strongly
supports the Government's efforts to ensure that the principles
of efficiency and value for money underpin any substantial increase.
The Committee agrees with the Minister that before any increase
in EC budget lines is agreed, consideration should be given to
whether costs could be reduced through greater efficiency savings
and the reprioritisation of existing resources (Q 9).
Other spending categories
AGRICULTURE (HEADING 1)
62. We strongly support the Government in its
continued efforts to achieve real CAP reform and hope that the
negotiations of the next Financial Perspective (2007-2013) which
will take place over the next eighteen months may provide an opportunity
to do so. We will return to the issue of CAP funding in our forthcoming
inquiry into the future financing of the EU.
STRUCTURAL OPERATIONS (HEADING 2)
63. We note the Government's proposals for reform
of the European Structural and Cohesion Funds. We shall return
more fully, as part of our forthcoming inquiry into the future
financing of the EU, to the proposals put to us by the Minister
that European Structural Funds should be targeted only at poorer
nations to assist them in achieving the Lisbon Agenda goals (Q
11 & Q 20).
INTERNAL POLICIES (HEADING 3)
64. The Committee agrees with the Minister that
spending at EU level should be evaluated against evidence that
it adds value beyond what a Member State can achieve on its own
(Q 12 & Q 21), and believes that the Commission should be
committed to analysing the need for expenditure on this basis.
Changes to the Financial Provisions introduced
in the Constitutional Treaty
65. The European Council agreed the final text
for a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe on 18 June
2004. The Committee is satisfied that the status quo for decision-making
in the area of 'Own Resources' has been maintained in this Treaty.
The Committee will consider in more detail further changes to
the EU's Financial Provisions in its forthcoming inquiry into
the future financing of the EU.
16 The 2004 EC Budget (Session 2002-03, 33rd report)
HL Paper 141. Back
See paragraph 4. Back