HC Deb 23 July 1998 vol 316 c1243
3. Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

What recent discussions he has had regarding the European Court's decision that certain EU budget lines had no legal basis. [50489]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

I had very fruitful discussions with other European Budget Ministers, and with representatives of the European Commission and European Parliament, at the Budget Council on 17 July. I am pleased to say that, in line with the assurances given by the Prime Minister on 18 June to Members of the European Parliament, we have reached an agreement that will enable funding to be released while ensuring that the European Court of Justice's ruling is respected.

Barbara Follett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, and for the work that she has been doing to resolve that very difficult situation. When does she estimate that the funding will be released?

Mrs. Liddell

The block that was put on budget lines because of the European Court of Justice's decision has now been lifted, and we anticipate that those budget lines will now be fully operational.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton)

Much as the European Court and the European Commission play a beneficial role in extending the single market in the European Union, will the Minister have a close look at the decision on the Air France subsidy, whereby the Commission appears to have overturned the European Court's judgment? That could affect £2 billion of subsidy to Air France. The Commission's decision seems an outrageous one, and may well have budgetary implications for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider.

Mrs. Liddell

The Council of Ministers keeps a very close watch on all the Commission's activities in budgetary matters. We are very committed to tight budget discipline, and that commitment is shared by a number of our European partners. I very much take on board the hon. Gentleman's point.