Select Committee on European Communities Report


52.  COMMISSION REPORT ON THE RATE OF UTILIZATION OF THE NEW COMMUNITY INSTRUMENT (NCI) (11891/970)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Doug Henderson MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Thank you for your cover note dated 20 February 1998 covering the above Document. I notice that the text of this Document became available on 4 November 1997 but it has only just been deposited for scrutiny.

  This is yet another recent example of the late receipt of Documents by this Committee. I should therefore be grateful for a prompt explanation as to why your Department have taken so long in submitting this Document.

25 February 1998

Letter from Doug Henderson MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 25 February about the date of deposit of this document.

  We deposited the document on Monday 15 December, having received on Friday 12 December the Cabinet Office instruction to do so. However the cover note was deposited only on Monday 23 February, after we received the appropriate Cabinet Office instruction on Friday 20 February. I understand the delay arose from confusion over handling between Cabinet Office and Treasury officials, after discussion over whether a cover note or an explanatory memorandum (EM) was required. I understand Treasury officials will be writing to your Clerks to explain what happened. But I thought that you might find it helpful to have an initial reply before I see the Committee tomorrow.

2 March 1998

Letter from Helen Liddell MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 25 February to Doug Henderson on the above subject. I am replying on behalf of the Government, as Minister in the Department responsible for the document.

  I am grateful to you for continuing to highlight problems to me when they arise. This document was deposited late thanks to a misunderstanding between ourselves and the Cabinet Office about whether it should go to you under an FCO cover note or not. Unfortunately, our request that it should go in, was misunderstood as being subject to confirmation.

  I apologise on behalf of the Government for this slip: my officials will work with the Clerks to both Committees and officials in the Cabinet Office to produce a list of documents which should regularly be deposited under a cover note, removing the possibility of this type of error recurring.

  More generally, we are in the process of moving to an electronic processing system which should in itself reduce the risk of late delivery to the Committees. I have also asked officials to monitor documents both before they reach the Treasury and after they leave us so that we may more frequently spot delays and potential problems.

17 March 1998

53.  MEASURES TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS REPORT

Letter from Helen Liddell MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing with some regret to request that you consider the above document for scrutiny in advance of ECOFIN on 9 March.

  I apologise for the lateness of this submission. Administrative errors led to the document being overlooked, and this is the first such document of its kind; outside the usual annual cycle of EU Budget documentation to which the Treasury is geared. I have taken measures to ensure that the proper systems are in place to stop this happening again.

  The document has been submitted to the Council for information purposes and although the Council will not vote on it, I would wish your Committee to have considered it in advance. I attach the relevant explanatory memorandum.

27 February 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Helen Liddell MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury HM Treasury

  Thank you for your letter of 27 February 1998 enclosing the above document. Whilst I am grateful for your apologies for the lateness of its submission I cannot underestimate the great deal of difficulty the late submission of documents causes us. I am pleased to hear that you are looking into this problem, but I am very sorry to have to say that it is happening far too frequently. Any efforts made by you in this respect would be most welcome and appreciated as this situation is really becoming quite intolerable.

4 March 1998


 
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