European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:48 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Bruce of Donington Lord Bruce of Donington Labour 5:48 pm, 20th November 2001

I have a short query to put to the Government. I understand from the Official Report of a week ago that the latest report by the Court of Auditors was published last Tuesday. My application to the Printed Paper Office for a copy of that report has so far proved fruitless. I do not blame its personnel, but no one knew where the report was. My latest information is that the report, which was referred to in the other place a week ago and which was reviewed in The Times last Tuesday, will not be available to noble Lords for another couple of months. I should appreciate it if it were possible to obtain a copy; the matter is of more than considerable interest to me—I have been following it for some time.

The excellent report on the Court of Auditors by the European Union Committee, which has been published for some considerable time, has not yet been debated in your Lordships' House although it was recommended for debate in the House. I advise Members of the Committee that it would be premature to place any particular valuation on the Court of Auditors or on the procedures that it adopts in accordance with certifying whether a true and fair view is presented before having that debate. I do not doubt that those who arrange the business of the House can adequately explain why this excellent report has not been brought before the House before now. A debate on the report would enable the House to arrive at a more objective judgment on the value of the provisions and of the amendment.

I hope that the Government can enlighten us a little further on what is happening in the whole audit field. Fraud there undoubtedly is. The Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House put the view adequately. I do not know what Senor Prodi has done about the matter, but such cases come before the Commission.

The European Union Committee report would reveal the precise extent to which the Commission is involved with the Court of Auditors. I do not know how far the matter will ultimately prove to be relevant. I hope that the situation will be clarified; otherwise, I venture to suggest that my observation about debating the unintelligible—that is roughly what the treaty and the amendments are—is perhaps a little more apposite than many may have thought.