The European Scrutiny Committee has made further
progress in the matter referred to it and has agreed to the following
ASSISTANCE TO PALESTINIAN SOCIETY
|Special Report No. 19/2000 by
the Court of Auditors on the management by the Commission
of the programme of assistance to Palestinian society.
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 14 March 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 4 (28 February 2001)
|Discussed in Council:
||13 March 2001 |
||For debate in European Standing Committee B (with the Commission Communication on the Barcelona Process already recommended for debate) (decision reported on 28 February 2001)
1.1 Following the Oslo Accords of September
1993, the European Community started a special programme to support
the Middle East peace process and the development of Palestinian
society, and substantially increased its financial assistance.
The objective of the audit by the European Court of Auditors (ECA)
was to assess the extent to which the Commission had taken the
necessary action to ensure the best possible implementation of
1.2 We considered the ECA report on 28 February
and recommended it for debate in European Standing Committee B,
together with the Commission Communication, Reinvigorating
the Barcelona Process.
The Minister's letter
1.3 The Secretary of State for International
Development (the Rt. Hon. Clare Short) reminds us that she strongly
supported the points made by the Court of Auditors and writes
to explain why the Government agreed to the Conclusions on it
being adopted by the Council of Ministers on 13 March, in advance
of the debate.
1.4 The Minister says that the UK's views
were widely shared in the Council. The Conclusions pick out some
key points and call for reports from the Commission on implementation
of the Court's recommendations. The Minister continues:
"Given their procedural nature, these Conclusions
had no legislative or financial implications. The Presidency pressed
very hard for Conclusions to be adopted this week. I regret that,
due to a misunderstanding between my department and the UK Permanent
Representation in Brussels, we had not warned the Presidency earlier
of a possible scrutiny objection. Given this, I decided it would
be wrong to block the agreement and that I would instead write
to the Committee to apologise and explain our action.
"I understand that the House of Commons debate
to which this document has been forwarded is to be on EU policy
on the Euro-Med partnership and assistance to the Middle East.
Obviously the debate goes much wider than this report, and is
unlikely to affect the substance of the Council Conclusions on
the Court of Auditors' Report. But any relevant points made in
the debate could feed into the Council's discussion of future
follow-up to the Court's report. I apologise once again for the
mix-up and hope you find this explanation acceptable."
1.5 We thank the Secretary of State for
her apology. Since the Council Conclusions are a separate document
distinct from the Court of Auditors' report, we regard the scrutiny
reserve on the report as remaining intact. However, the Minister
has rightly recognised that the Conclusions bear a direct political
relationship to the report. We therefore wish to recommend that
they should be tagged to the debate. A short Explanatory Memorandum
on the Conclusions, summarising their content, will provide us
with a document on which to make our recommendation.
1.6 We ask the Government to provide
the Explanatory Memorandum in time for the debate, unless this
takes place before we next meet, in which case we ask the Government
to include the Minister's letter in its briefing papers for Members.
1.7 We confirm our earlier recommendation
for a debate on this report.
1 (21492) 11381/00; see HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph
1 (28 February 2001). Back