HC Deb 30 July 1982 vol 28 cc830-1W
Mr. Dykes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the European Community Budget Council of 27 and 28 July.

Mr. Ridley

I represented the United Kingdom at this Budget Council. The main items of business were a meeting with a Delegation of the European Parliament; the preliminary draft supplementary and amending Budget No. 1 for 1982; and the preliminary draft Budget for 1983.

The meeting with the delegation was the first since the agreement about budgetary procedure reached with the European Parliament earlier this month. Its purpose was to enable the Parliament and the Council to exchange views about budgetary priorities and growth rates. There was agreement on both sides that expenditure on combatting employment, in particular by discriminating use of the regional development fund and the social fund, should have priority. It was recognised that this could only be achieved by tight control on agricultural expenditure. A number at the Council pointed to the need to take account of budgetary difficulties in member states.

The Council decided not to proceed with the 1982 amending Budget No. 1 and that the substance of the Commission proposals contained therein would be dealt with through the transfers procedure or by means of the further amending budget which the Commission will present later this year. The only specific transfer considered at this Council was a transfer to the social fund. Agreement was reached on the transfer of 65 million ecu of payments to the fund.

The Council agreed to establish a draft Budget for 1983. The main element of obligatory expenditure is the guarantee section of the European agricultural guidance and guarantee fund. There was no significant change compared with figures proposed by the Commission in the preliminary draft Budget, producing an overall increase in guarantee expenditure of 2.8 per cent.

There was prolonged discussion in the Council about the maximum rate of increase in non-obligatory expenditure and the figures for the regional development fund and the social fund. I pressed hard for a maximum rate which would allow substantial real growth in these funds. Eventually agreement was reached on an overall maximum rate of growth of non-obligatory expenditure, at this stage, of 6.7 per cent. for commitments and 8.2 per cent. for payments. This gave allocations and increases over 1982 as follows:

Million ecu
Commitments Payments
per cent. per cent.
Regional development fund 1,910 8.5 1,175 9.3
Social fund 1,442 16.0 1,090 19.6

The Figures may vary when finally published. It was in the course of discussion of these items that I was also able to secure an increase of 65 million ecu in payments for the social fund in 1982.

The 1983 draft Budget, which reflects compromises made by the member states, will now be forwarded to the European Parliament. It will have an opportunity to propose modifications to obligatory appropriations and make amendments to non-obligatory appropriations. The Council will deliberate on these in November.