§ Mr. Hayward
asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the European Commission action programme for small and medium sized enterprises.
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) on 23 October 1986 at columns936–37, announced the adoption on 20 October by the EC Industry Council of a resolution approving the broad strategy of the European Commission's action programme for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The aims of the programme are the creation of a favourable environment for SMEs, including control and reduction of administrative burdens on business and specific assistance to improve their flexibility and access to capital. The programme should in due course be of significant benefit to the United Kingdom. Fuller details are in the explanatory memorandum in document 8992/86. Unfortunately the Commission's action programme did not become available until after the House went into recess, and the related resolution reached the Industry Council before the Select Committee on European Legislation had had an opportunity to consider it. The Select Committee has since done so and made no recommendation for further consideration by the House.
In the Government's view it would have been prejudicial to the interests of the United Kingdom to have withheld agreement, on account of the absence of parliamentary scrutiny, to the resolution in question at the Industry Council. In reaching this decision, the Government took into account both that the action programme was in part a response to a United Kingdom initiative and that our position as President of the Community requires us to do everything possible to facilitate the taking forward of Community business. It was also the case that the resolution sought agreement only to the broad strategy of the Commission's action programme. Individual measures arising therefore, other than those which the European Commission can implement administratively, will depend on specific proposals being put forward by the Commission and will, of course, be subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the normal way.
I regret that the normal parliamentary procedure was not followed on this occasion but in the circumstances I hope that the House will understand why it was felt necessary, in the overall United Kingdom interest, to act in this way.