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European Community Fraud

Volume 204: debated on Friday 21 February 1992

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made towards implementing recommendations contained in the European Court of Auditors' report in regard to fraud.

The Community took an important step to combat fraud against the Community budget by the adoption, in 1989, of a 45-point action programme, which covers areas of irregularity, particularly in agriculture, identified in the reports of the court. The Commission produces, for consideration by the Council and European Parliament, an annual report on the fight against fraud which details the progress made. The action taken includes steps by the Commission to revise its operating systems, to simplify existing legislation, and to consider new measures to prevent irregularities in the implementation of the budget. The Commission is currently considering the measures needed to bring the 45-point action programme up to date, on the basis of proposals from member states including the United Kingdom.The further important recent development was the agreement at Maastricht that the treaty should clearly place responsibility on member states to counter fraud affecting the Community's finances. The Maastricht treaty also seeks to strengthen procedures to counter fraud and irregularities by requiring the Court of Auditors to provide a statement of assurance on the reliability of the Community's accounts; by making explicit the Commission's responsibility for sound financial management; and by giving enhanced powers to the European Parliament to examine the Commission on the basis of the court's observations including action it has taken in response. The Government will also continue their active role in the Council, pressing to ensure that the scope for fraud and irregularities continues to be narrowed.