HC Deb 08 December 1992 vol 215 cc588-9W
Mr. Conway

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on issues discussed and decisions taken at the meeting of the European Community's Council of Energy Ministers on 30 November.

Ms. Quin

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions on differing levels of coal subsidy in the EC took place at the EC Energy Council on 30 November; what other matters were discussed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heseltine

The meeting was held under the United Kingdom presidency with my hon. Friend, the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar) in the chair.

Progress was made on the technical details of the draft directive for the harmonisaion of hydrocarbon licensing regimes, which the United Kingdom also supports. The Council agreed that the draft directive should go forward for decision under Denmark's presidency.

Political agreement was reached on the proposed directive on oil crisis measures. The related issue of the negotiating mandate for Community accession to the International Atomic Energy Agency was also discussed and remitted for further discussion by officials.

The Council considered the progress which was being made in the negotiations for a European energy charter, reaffirmed the importance which it attached to that process, and invited the charter conference to set a deadline for concluding negotiations on the basic agreement intended to put the political commitments of the charter into legally obligatory form.

The Council reached political agreement on the Commission's proposed programme for the promotion of renewable energies—ALTENER. ALTENER is one of four measures in the Commission's proposed CO2 stabilization package. The Council discussed progress on the other three measures. In relation to the SAVE directive, it was agreed that officials should continue with their discussions.

The Council had a useful discussion on the European coal industry during which the Commission introduced its proposals for a new coal state aids regime to replace the existing one which expires at the end of 1993.

One of the main agenda items was the Commission's proposal for directives on the liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets. While the United Kingdom supports these measures, other member states continue to have concerns about them. The Council invited the Commission to consider modifying its proposals in the light of member states' comments and the opinion of the European Parliament.