Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 requires the Government to report to Parliament for its approval an assessment of the UK’s medium-term economic and budgetary position. This assessment is comprised of the Budget report and the Office of Budget Responsibility’s (OBR’s) “Economic and fiscal outlook”. This then forms the basis of the UK’s convergence programme, which is therefore based entirely on information already presented to Parliament. The UK is obliged to submit a convergence programme annually to the European Commission under article 126 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (the “Lisbon” treaty).
Article 126 is the legal basis for the stability and growth pact, which is the co-ordination mechanism for EU fiscal policies and requires member states to avoid excessive Government deficits, although the UK, by virtue of its protocol to the treaty opting out of the euro, is only required to “endeavour to avoid” excessive deficits.
The Budget report and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR’s) “Economic and fiscal outlook” were deposited in the Library of the House on 23 March 2011. A small proportion of the content of the convergence programme may be drawn from other material that has already been presented to Parliament, such as last year’s spending review. All of the information it contains has therefore already been published and made available to Members.
A debate in this House has been scheduled for 27 April in order for the House to approve this assessment.
The UK’s convergence programme has been published today. Copies have been deposited in the Library of the House and the document is available electronically via the HM Treasury website. It will be submitted to the EU by 30 April as required by the European Commission. While the convergence programme itself is not subject to parliamentary approval or amendment, a small supply of advance copies was made available to Members through the Vote Office on 21 April.