Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 requires the Government to report to Parliament for their approval an assessment of the UK’s medium-term economic and budgetary position. This assessment comprises the Budget report and the Office for 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 121 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (the “Lisbon” treaty).
Article 121, along with 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 is bound by the stability and growth pact, by virtue of its protocol to the treaty opting out of the euro, it is only required to “endeavour to avoid” excessive deficits.
Subject to the progress of parliamentary business, debates are expected to be scheduled in both houses before the end of April in order for both Houses to approve this assessment before the convergence programme is submitted to the Commission. While the convergence programme itself is not subject to parliamentary approval or amendment, copies will be made available to Members through the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.
The Budget report and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR’s) economic and fiscal outlook were laid on 21 March 2011. All of the information the convergence programme will contain has therefore already been published and made available to Members.
The UK’s convergence programme will be published in late April. Copies will be deposited in the Library of the House and the document will be available electronically via the HM Treasury website. It will be submitted to the EU by 30 April as required by the European Commission.