§ Mrs. Liddell
I am very pleased to announce that agreement has been reached between the European Commission and the Government on the signature of Protocols between the Financial Controller of the European Commission and the Accounting Officer and Heads of Internal Audit of UK Departments with responsibilities for Structural Fund expenditure. These Protocols provide for an enhanced level of co-operation between the Commission's Financial Control and the Internal Audit Units of UK Departments in the control and auditing of Structural Fund expenditure. This will lead to a better use of the resources available for this purpose, agreement on common standards, and the exchange of relevant reports, without prejudicing the independence or statutory responsibilities of either party.
This is an important contribution to the improvement of the Community's financial management systems within the context of the Commission's strategy for improving and modernising financial management, Sound and Efficiency Management (SEM) 2000, which the Government strongly supports. Similar Protocols have already been agreed between the Commission and a number of other Member States, and I understand that discussions are under way between the Commission and further Member States.