HC Deb 25 November 1983 vol 49 cc316-7W
Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the Budget Council held on 22 November.

Mr. Ian Stewart

I represented the United Kingdom at this Budget Council which considered the European Parliament's amendments and modifications to the draft 1984 Community budget.

The Council was preceded by a meeting with a delegation from the European Parliament. The delegation explained that its amendments were designed to produce a political budget. It has proposed that an additional 575 million ecus be transferred from the main budget lines for agricultural guarantee expenditure to chapter 100. It also proposed the transfer of United Kingdom and German refunds from the budget lines to chapter 100.

All of the United Kingdom refunds were reclassified as non-obligatory. It also made payment of refunds conditional on a satisfactory outcome from the Athens European Council in December. Apart from additions to payments and commitment appropriations to meet its main priorities the Parliament proposed to set aside 1.2 billion ecus in commitments for a Community industrial area. The President of the Parliament also made it clear that if the Council did not go along with the proposals, it would reject the whole budget.

The Council then met to consider the Parliament's amendments and modifications. There prolonged discussion, and the outcome was satisfactory for the United Kingdom. The Council did not accept the modification for agriculture in the amount of 575 million ecus, but agreed to transfer 100 million ecus from the main agricultural budget lines to chapter 100. The Council rejected the amendments and modifications in respect of United Kingdom and German refunds, restoring them to the budget lines and provisionally classifying the bulk of the United Kingdom refunds as obligatory, as in the draft budget. The linkage with the outcome of Athens was also rejected. The amendments to non-obligatory expenditure proposed by the Parliament amounted to 2,464 million ecus for commitments and 533 million ecus for payments. This compared with a margin—on the Council's interpretation—available to the Parliament within its maximum rate of 388 million ecus and 382 million ecus, respectively. The overall increase accepted by the Council amounted to 458 million ecus for commitments and 377 million ecus for payments.

Within these limits, 120 million ecus in payments and 110 million ecus in commitments was added to the social fund and 110 million ecus in payments and 100 million ecus in commitments to the regional fund. Sixty-seven million ecus in commitments was added to the provision for the ESPRIT programme. The minutes will record that the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany took the view that this was without prejudice to a substantive decision on the financing of ESPRIT.

An additional 25 million ecus in payments was provided for the restructuring of the coal industry and 20 million ecus in commitments and payments in chapter 100 for energy investment. The package also included an additional 42 million ecus for the special programme to combat hunger in the world.