HC Deb 19 May 1992 vol 208 cc104-5W
Dr. Michael Clark

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Internal Market Council on 14 May.

Mr. Needham

I attended the Internal Market Council on 14 May.

Progress was made on a number of items which should benefit UK business. Political agreement, which meets all the main UK objectives, was reached on the third life insurance directive. This opens the way to completion of the single market for life insurance. There was also broad political agreement to an amendment to the second company law directive which limits the potential use as barriers to takeover of subsidiaries' shareholdings in parents.

There were two intellectual property items on the agenda. A Council resolution on increased protection for copyright and neighbouring rights, and in particular the importance of the Berne and Rome conventions, was agreed. Further work was commissioned on the proposed directive covering protection of rental and lending rights, with the objective of the Council reaching agreement in June. Separately, the UK emphasised the importance of trying to resolve technical issues relating to the proposed Community trademarks regulation.

A report on the procurement of services by utilities indicated that there should be no significant difficulties in reaching agreement at a future Council. There was a discussion about the possibility of harmonising hallmarking systems at Community level, something which most member states favour.

There was extensive discussion of the Commission communication on Article 8A of the treaty of Rome on the abolition of routine frontier controls between member states from 1 January 1993. The United Kingdom underlined the need to retain the possibility of selective controls on goods, and that practical solutions were needed to meet problems raised by changes in controls. We emphasised that the issue of frontier controls on people was a matter for the Foreign Affairs Council. Other member states expressed a range of views. But while some showed greater support for the Commission communication, many recognised that pragmatic solutions were needed to the practical issues raised. The Council conclusions agreed the priority of continuing work on border controls as part of the completion of the single market.

Other items on the Council agenda included progress reports by the Commission on work relating to customs agents, drug precursors, and export controls on dual-use goods. A common position was reached on the Community customs code which consolidates existing Community customs legislation.