HC Deb 07 December 1994 vol 251 cc263-4W
Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arguments were advanced at the Council of Finance Ministers in favour of reducing the anti-fraud budget at its meeting in November; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The Commission's preliminary bid for anti-fraud lines in the 1995 budget was for 133.1 mecu, or £103.8 million which was a reduction of 6.1 mecu, or £4.8 million, over the budget for 1994. This is due to a reduction in one-off studies and start-up costs and capital expenditure in agriculture. But the Commission's bid ensured that the amounts for staff and running costs were maintained at their 1994 levels.

The European Parliament sought an increase of 7 mecu, or £5.5 million, over the Commission's bid, made up of: 3 mecu, or £2.3 million, for measures for inspection of animals in the agricultural section; and 3.95 mecu, or £3.1 million, transferred from various programmes to a number of small amounts in administrative expenditure in the operational section of the budget. The latter is contrary to Council policy.

The United Kingdom supported the European Parliament's proposals in this area, although it had considerable sympathy with the Council's view on not creating administrative expenditure lines within the operational expenditure section of the budget because this makes control of the Commission's administration budget more difficult. In the event, the majority's view prevailed and the European Parliament's bid was cut back at the 16 November Budget Council to the Commission's original bid, which both the Commission and the Council considered appropriate for what is required for the fight against fraud. But the majority of the European Parliament's proposals are for non-compulsory expenditure on which final decisions are taken by the European Parliament, and it is still able to reinstate part of this increase in the Budget if it so wishes.