HC Deb 24 November 1989 vol 162 cc39-40W
Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on the negotiations on European Community merger control regulation.

Mr. Redwood

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I attended the internal market Council on 23 November 1989. Major progress was made on a number of important issues. It appears that member states are now happy with the question of criteria for reference. There has been general agreement about the threshold levels of 5 billion ECU world-wide turnover, 250 million ECU and 66 per cent. Community-wide turnover. The UK also received assurance that there would be no Council statement concerning any downward presumption about the nature of the review of thresholds in four years' time. It is the United Kingdom Government's view that this review should be conducted in four years' time in the light of the experience of EC merger jurisdiction and in the light of evidence about whether there are a larger number of mergers below the current threshold for EC jurisdiction which entail a significant EC-wide merger problem.

There was active discussion about when and if there should ever be parallel jurisdiction for both the EC and the member states. There was general agreement that there should be exits from EC jurisdiction to cover prudential controls in the financial sector, public security interests and media issues. In response to a request from Germany there was a long discussion about whether there should also be a parallel authority for a member state to pursue competition issues within its own territory at the same time that the EC was considering the merger for European competition questions.

The United Kingdom put forward a compromise proposal which may form the basis for a conclusion on the whole subject, but this awaits a considered response from Germany. If a satisfactory conclusion is reached on this vital question of the single-stop shop, the United Kingdom and the other countries are likely to remove all their remaining reserves on other items of the package and agreement should then follow swiftly.

The United Kingdom managed to persuade the Council that the reciprocity clause should include unanimous voting in the event of any action or measure being contemplated under it, as the United Kingdom was naturally worried about any signals that might point in the direction of a fortress Europe.

There will be a discussion at the internal market Council on 21 December 1989 which may produce a result following the long-running debate on this very important measure.

Back to
Forward to