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Cross border bodies above the law

28 February 2005

DUP MEP, Jim Allister has launched a campaign against the fact that the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and all other cross-border implementation bodies have immunity from the provisions of the Freedom Information Act, 2000.  “Thus”, said the MEP, “they continue to be able to shroud their activities in secrecy while other public bodies are now subject to scrutiny through the public’s right to know under the Freedom of Information Act.”


Mr Allister continued, “My particular concern at the moment centres on the SEUPB because we are embarking on the critical tendering stage for the funding bodies which will deliver the programmes under the extension of PEACE II.  The SEUPB has a very suspect history and with a gross imbalance in its staffing (only 5 of 31 staff are Protestants) it is crucial that all its workings can be subjected to adequate public scrutiny.  There is no justification for this special status for the cross border bodies.  They above all require the utmost scrutiny.  It was a lamentable failure of those who negotiated them that this was allowed to happen.


At that time a Code of Practice governing freedom of information issues was promised for these cross-border bodies, but 5 years on it has never been produced.  This is a scandal. These bodies must be opened up to full public scrutiny.  In order to highlight the issue and force some action I have tabled the following oral question to the Commission in the European Parliament:-


“Is the Commission aware that the Special EU Programmes Body, which oversees EU expenditure in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland under the PEACE II Programme, is exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (UK) and the Freedom of information Acts 1997 and 2003 (Republic of Ireland) and in consequence as a public body is above the law prevailing in both jurisdictions on freedom of information?  Is the Commission satisfied with this situation, particularly since a promised Code of Practice on access to information for Implementation Bodies acting under SEUPB, has never materialised.  Given the allocation of EU funds involved what steps will the Commission take to rectify this wholly unsatisfactory situation?”


Mr Allister added that he is also making arrangements for his DUP colleagues in Westminster to raise the issue there.

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Peace Funding