HC Deb 27 June 1988 vol 136 cc110-1W
Mr. Bowis

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Government have now agreed to the European Commission's proposal for a directive on the harmonisation of definitions of gross national products; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke

The Commission's proposal for a directive on the harmonisation of definitions of gross national product (GNP) (document 5647/88 (COM(88)176)) forms part of a package of measures to implement the conclusions of the European Council in February on the future financing of the Community. The proposal has been deposited in Parliament, and an explanatory memorandum was submitted on 20 May. The substance of the directive has now been agreed by member states in a way consistent with the United Kingdom's interests, ensuring that GNP data will be rigorously controlled with involvement by member states, and compiled in a way that does not put unreasonable burdens on them. In view of a recommendation by the Select Committee on European Legislation that the proposal should be debated, the United Kingdom placed a Parliamentary scrutiny reserve on it in Council discussions. It subsequently proved necessary however for the United Kingdom to lift this reserve to enable the Council to adopt a common position on the proposal, along with the rest of the future financing package, at the Agriculture Council on 16 June.

This was done in preparation for a conciliation meeting with the European Parliament on 20 June, and notwithstanding the fact that, for technical legal reasons, formal adoption of the GNP directive itself cannot take place until the proposed new decision on the Community's system of own resources has been approved by national Parliaments. I regret that it was not possible to arrange a debate on the draft directive before the common position was adopted: the Government took the view that it would not be in the United Kingdom's interest to hold up a common position on the future financing package as a whole, which we strongly support, not least in its effect on strengthening budget discipline; indeed, the Government made clear that the various future financing measures must be agreed as a package. The broader issues raised by the future financing package were of course debated by the House on 19 May. The Government will seek to ensure that the House has an early opportunity to debate the GNP directive itself.

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