§ Mr. Neil Thorne
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the Budget Council on 21 December.
§ Mr. Ridley
The European Parliament considered the draft supplementary and amending budget No. 2 for 1981 and the draft budget for 1982 during its session from 14 to 18 December. I attended this session as President of the Budget Council.
The European Parliament adopted an amendment to the draft supplementary and emending budget No. 2 for 1981 to increase provision by 62 million ECU for social measures in connection with the restructuring of the steel industry. The Council has agreed to raise the maximum rate of non-compulsory expenditure to accommodate this increase, and the supplementary and amending budget has been declared adopted.
After the Budget Council on 24 November the draft budget for 1982 amounted to 23,006.5 million ECU for commitments and 21,758.6 million ECU for payments; the European Parliament adopted amendments, to increase provision by 251.9 million ECU for commitments and 224 million ECU for payments. Within these totals, the European Parliament adopted amendments to increase provision for the regional fund—2.5 million ECU for commitments and 30 million ECU for payments—the Social Fund—68.8 million ECU for commitments and 52.3 million ECU for payments—steel social measures—50 million ECU for commitments and 50 million ECU for payments—assistance to Northern Ireland—16 million ECU for commitments and 16 million ECU for payments—energy—23.5 million ECU for commitments and 7.8 million ECU for payments—and transport—10 million ECU for commitments.
The total provision proposed by the European Parliament exceeded the margin which the Council had agreed to make available, particularly for commitments. The Parliament also adopted amendments, totalling 31.4 million ECU, to the food aid chapter. The Council 439W considers that this is obligatory expenditure and therefore not open to change by the Parliament at this stage of the budget procedure.
I presided over a special meeting of the Budget Council. on 21 December; the United Kingdom was represented by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. The Council considered its response to the Parliament's actions, and agreed that the President of the European Parliament should be requested to delay adoption of the 1982 budget until agreement had been reached on new maximum rates for non-obligatory expenditure. It was subsequently learned that the President of the Parliament had declared the 1982 budget adopted. The Commission has indicated its intention to implement it.
Her Majesty's Government, and the Governments of other member States, are considering what position they should adopt in response to the Parliament's action, in particular what action is appropriate on 1 February when member States need to make first payments related specifically to the budget as adopted.
As President of the Budget Council, I regret that there is, once again, disagreement over the adoption of the Community budget. The United Kingdom Presidency made major efforts to achieve agreement, and this was I believe recognised by members of the council and by many members of the Parliament.