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16 Dec 1994 : Column WA145

Written Answers

Friday 16th December 1994

FRAUD AGAINST EC BUDGET

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): There is no reliable estimate of fraud against the European Community budget. However, the Commission produces an annual report on the fight against fraud which contains details of irregularities notified by member states. In this context, irregularities includes all overpayments either as a result of error, negligence or deliberate fraud. The report on 1993 shows that Member States reported 2,299 cases of irregularity affecting the EAGGF Guarantee Section, own resources and Structural Funds, involving a total of 394.8 million ecu (£315.2 million). The true level of fraud is certainly higher.

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Waste, in the sense of poor value for money where criminal fraud is not involved, is also much too high but cannot be reliably estimated. At the European Council in Essen on 9/10 December, the Prime Minister made a number of proposals for action against fraud, waste and mismanagement, which were endorsed by the European Council. He made clear that the fight against fraud will remain high on the Government's agenda.

FRAUD AGAINST EC BUDGET IN UK

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimate has been made by them of fraud on various funds applied to this country by the European Community, whether agricultural, structural, regional or training funds, during the past three financial years and how much of these funds lost to fraud has been recovered.

Lord Henley: There is no reliable estimate of fraud against the European Community budget. However, the Commission produces an annual report on the fight against fraud which contains details of irregularities notified by member states. In this context irregularities includes all overpayments whether as a result of error, negligence or deliberate fraud. The reports for the past three years show that the number of irregularities and amounts recovered reported by the UK were:

Year Own resources EAGGF guarantee section Structural funds Mutual assistance
Number of cases Amount Amount recoveredNumber of CasesAmount Amount recovered Number of CasesAmount Amount recovered Number of CasesOf which were own resources
mecu £ million mecu £ million mecu £ million mecu £ million mecu £ million mecu £ million
1993 137 110.50 8.17 Not available 180 4.30 3.35 1.30 1.01 0 0 0 Not available 12 10
1992 168 20.08 14.74 Not available 132 6.57 4.82 1.83 1.34 0 0 0 Not available 10 9
1991 207 13.05 9.14 Not available 131 5.11 3.58 1.47 1.03 5 5.22 3.65 Not available 11 10

The annual average rate for 1993 is £1 = 1.2845 ecu.
The annual average rate for 1992 is £1 = 1.3620 ecu.
The annual average rate for 1991 is £1 = 1.4284 ecu.
1Figure for first half of 1993 only.


DIEGO GARCIA

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What, now the Cold War is over, are their plans for the future of the military facilities on Diego Garcia, how frequently these facilities are visited by British officials, and what ground or other rent they have been receiving from the United States in respect of these facilities; whether there are any conditions attached to the uses the US authorities may make of the facilities, as regards observance of international law and UN Security Council Resolutions; and what is the purpose of the US "equipment afloat ships" currently anchored there (International Herald Tribune, 8 November 1994).

Baroness Trumpington: The use of military facilities on Diego Garcia is governed by the Exchanges of Notes between Britain and the United States dated 1966, 1972 and 1976. The agreement of 1966 made Diego Garcia available for the defence needs of both countries until at least 2016. Her Majesty's Government receive no ground or any other rent from the US authorities.

Diego Garcia continues to play an important role. The facility has been used in support of allied operations in the Gulf and the United Nations intervention in Somalia. There is a resident detachment of British Forces personnel, and British officials visit the island at regular intervals.

Conditions for the use by the US authorities of Diego Garcia are governed by the above-mentioned Exchanges of Notes. Both Britain and the United States are bound to observe international law and mandatory resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

The US "afloat pre-positioned" ships anchored at Diego Garcia contain military equipment and supplies available for use in case of regional emergencies.

ASCENSION ISLAND

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What, now the Cold War is over, are their plans for the future of military facilities on Ascension Island, how frequently these facilities are visited by British officials, and what ground or other rent they are receiving from the United States in respect of those facilities; and whether there are any conditions, attached to the uses the US authorities may make of

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    the facilities, as regards observance of international law and UN Security Council Resolutions.

Baroness Trumpington: There are no current plans to change the role of RAF Ascension Island, which is primarily to provide a staging post for the airbridge from the United Kingdom to the Falkland Islands. Apart from Ministry of Defence personnel undertaking duty visits, and various officials in transit to the Falkland Islands and St. Helena, no British officials have visited these military facilities in the past 12 months.

United States forces use the facilities on Ascension Island free from ground or other rent under the Extension of the Bahamas Long Range Proving Ground by the Establishment of Additional Sites in Ascension Island Agreement of 1956, and the provisions of the Leased Basing Arrangement of 1941.

Conditions for the use by the US authorities of Ascension Island are governed by the aforementioned agreements. Both Britain and the United States are bound to observe international law and mandatory resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

DIEGO GARCIA AND ASCENSION ISLAND: US FORCES PRESENCE

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What British overseas possessions, other than Diego Garcia and Ascension Island, are currently in military occupation by the United States and under what conditions and terms.

Baroness Trumpington: There are no British overseas possessions under military occupation by the United States. US forces use facilities on Diego Garcia and Ascension Island with the full agreement of Her Majesty's Government.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR DEMOCRACY THROUGH LAW

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make the United Kingdom a member of the Partial Agreement establishing the Commission for Democracy through Law, so that (a) a British independent expert may be appointed as a member of the Commission; (b) the publication of information about the British parliamentary and legal systems may be included in the Commission's activities; and (c) the United Kingdom may participate in the Commission's work in the development of democracy in Europe; and, if not, why not.

Baroness Trumpington: We follow closely the work of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (ECDL) with a view to keeping open the possibility of future United Kingdom membership.

However, we remain unconvinced that the ECDL's functions have been clearly defined and that it does not duplicate work carried out already within the Council of Europe and by other organisations. Additionally, our

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contribution would have to be drawn from aid funds elsewhere and there is insufficient justification for such a move.

We aim to support the transition of central and eastern European countries to pluralist democracy and the market economy through the Know How Fund.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will identify (a) which 30 member states of the Council of Europe are full members of the Partial Agreement Establishing the (Venice) Commission for Democracy through Law; (b) which states are associate members; and (c) which states have observer status with the Commission, set up on 10 May 1990 with the goal of helping the countries of central and eastern Europe in the development of plural democracy.

Baroness Trumpington: A list of the 30 Member States of the Council of Europe which are full members of the Partial Agreement of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (often referred to as the Venice Commission), and the countries which have associate membership or observer status with the Commission, has been placed in the Library of the House.


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