§ Mr. French
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the Internal Market Council held in Brussels on 14 May.
§ Mr. Redwood
I attended the Internal Market Council in Brussels on 14 May. The Council held preliminary discussions on the legal protection of computer programmes, and on a proposal for extending the patent life for pharmaceuticals. Further discussions were also held on the European company statute.
The Commission made a presentation on barriers to takeover. The United Kingdom gave a strong welcome to the proposals to amend three directives in company law, which were the Commission's response to a United Kingdom request for action. The proposals represent a step towards a fair and transparent market, in which shareholders' interests are properly respected.
There was also substantive discussion of the motor insurance services directive. The Irish Presidency had worked hard to produce a compromise, which the United Kingdom was prepared to accept, although it did not go as far in liberalising motor insurance as we would have liked. It was disappointing that some member states could not accept even this compromise, and seemed intent on blocking moves towards a common market in motor insurance. The proposal will be discussed again in June following further work in the Committee of Permanent Representatives.