§ Lord Hooson
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether, and if so to what extent, the new operational role ascribed to the European Commission's Anti-Fraud Co-ordination Unit (UCLAF) and the appointment of a new Commissioner for the Budget, Mr. Erkki Liikanen, have improved financial control over the European Community's budget.
§ Lord Henley
The Government continue to attach the highest priority to improving financial management in the Community and ensuring that effective action is taken to tackle fraud.
The Government therefore welcome the importance that Mr. Erkki Liikanen, the new Commissioner responsible for Budget, Personnel and Administration, has attached to strengthening the management of the Community's financial resources. In particular, the Government look forward to the outcome of the Commission's three-stage review of its internal financial management arrangements which was announced by Mr. Liikanen at the Economic and Finance Council of the European Union (ECOFIN) in March. This will look at ways of tightening existing financial procedures, review the regulatory framework and propose appropriate modifications, and seek a reinforced partnership with member states. It will be carried out in agreement with Mrs. Gradin, the new Commissioner for Immigration, Judicial Affairs and Fraud.
The Government also welcome the Commission's decision in February to strengthen its anti-fraud work by centralising the investigations units in the customs, indirect tax, agriculture areas within UCLAF.
The Government believe that these actions are evidence of the Commission's intention to improve financial management and achieve better value for money, and to step up the fight against fraud.