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Peter Lilley, secretary of state for social security, and Stephen Dorrell, secretary of state for health, were deli...
Peter Lilley, secretary of state for social security, and Stephen Dorrell, secretary of state for health, were delighted to hear that the European court of justice has ruled that the European commission cannot spend money on projects that the UK has challenged in the court pending a final decision on the cases.

The government took the European commission to court over two separate instances of proposed spending without the necessary consent of national governments in the council of ministers.

The commission had invited applications for funds from organisations involved in social projects and separately from those working with elderly people. But the council of ministers had not agreed to this funding.

As the money had not been spent, the UK asked the court to grant an injunction preventing the commission from spending money on the contested projects before its legal right to do so had been established. This injunction was granted today.

Mr Lilley said: 'I am delighted that the European court has accepted the seriousness of our case. It cannot be right for the European commission to spend taxpayers' money - however good the case - if that spending has no legal basis. In the final analysis money spent by the commission is not available for member states to spend on alleviating needs they identify in their own countries.'

Mr Dorrell said: 'We await the final outcome with interest, although we are unlikely to hear this before 1997. I regret that we had to mount challenges in the first place, but the European commission must be in no doubt that it cannot spend money without the proper authority.'

The European commission sought a council decision under article 235 of the treaty on a multi-annual programme to combat social exclusion, Poverty 4. Poverty 4 would have been a five year programme costing £100m. The programme was due to begin on 1 July 1994, but has never been agreed in the council. Germany and the UK would not agree the proposal on value for money and subsidiarity grounds.

The European commission also sought a council decision under article 235 on actions in support of elderly people. In the social affairs council, Germany has blocked the proposal. This £19m programme by the commission would involve exchanges of information about the role of active retired people; the situation of older women; solidarity, between generations; the ageing workforce; retirement; and care issues.

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