§ Mr. Tim Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Consumer Affairs Council of Ministers on 12 December.
§ Mr. Alexander Fletcher
I attended the first specialist Council on consumer affairs in Brussels on 12 December. It was a useful meeting. There was some general discussion on the respective roles of member states and the Community in protecting the consumer. In addition the Council considered four specific topics; draft directives on misleading advertising, product liability and doorstep selling and a draft decision setting out the arrangements for an early warning system in relation to dangerous consumer products.
On misleading advertising there was a useful exchange of views and some progress was made. During the discussions I reaffirmed the Government's position that the proposed directive should not prejudice our existing arrangements for the control of misleading advertising, and in particular our successful system of self-regulation.
As regards the draft directive on doorstep selling, some of the difficulties in the way of reaching agreement were resolved and it was agreed that work should continue towards removing the remaining obstacles to the adoption of the directive.
The discussion of the draft directive on product liability centred on the important question of the extent to which the proposed directive should provide for financial limits to liability. Limited progress was made on this point and the discussions will continue later.
I am glad to report that the Council was able to resolve the outstanding points of difficulty on the proposed Council decision concerning the introduction of a Community arrangement to exchange information on dangerous consumer products. It should prove possible to implement these arrangements during the first half of next year and this will, I am sure, prove to be a valuable measure in protecting consumers.
There is likely to be another consumer affairs Council during the first half of 1984.