HL Deb 20 December 1989 vol 514 cc326-7WA
Lord Newall

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the latest meeting of the European Communities Economic and Finance Council.

The Paymaster General (The Earl of Caithness)

The ECOFIN Council met in Brussels on 18th December. The Chancellor of the Exchequer represented the United Kingdom.

The abolition of fiscal frontiers were discussed. The Presidency concluded that the Community should aim to reach a decision on VAT standard rates by the end of 1991 on the basis of a rate band or a minimum rate within a 14–20 per cent. band. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recorded the UK's view that Community decisions on tax rates are neither necessary nor desirable, but the Chancellor of the Exchquer stated that there is no present intention of diverging from the 14–20 per cent. bracket of the standard rate of VAT. The Chancellor of the Exchequer reiterated also the importance to the UK of retaining zero rates. We now expect work to move forward on the technical systems of collecting VAT and excise duties after 1992 on a basis which is fully acceptable to the UK.

Eleven Member States, including the UK, were prepared to accept the Commission's proposals for improving mutual assistance between tax authorities to counter tax evasion, but Luxembourg is still unable to do so.