HC Deb 24 November 1994 vol 250 cc299-300W
Ms Quin

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EC Industry Council held on 8 November.

Mr. Eggar

I attended the Industry Council on 8 November.

The most important issue before the Council was steel. Commissioner Bangemann reported that minimum capacity cuts of 19 million tonnes identified in the Braun plan had not been achieved and that most of the measures introduced to support the restructuring process would therefore come to an end. I stressed Her Majesty's Government's view that further restructuring depends critically on stricter control of state aids.

The Council debated a Commission report on monitoring of the conditions attaching to the aids which were agreed for Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German companies last December under article 95 of the European Coal and Steel Community treaty. The Council supported me in asking the Commission to monitor the situation even more closely.

The Council was asked to agree a revised package of support for the former East German steel company EkoStahl, which was now being sold by the German privatisation agency to the Belgian company, Cockerill Sambre, following the collapse of the deal with the original purchaser, Riva. I argued that although I would honour the agreement made by the council last December, the revised proposal appeared to be more generous in several respects. I said that I could not support the revised proposal unless I could be convinced of its equivalence to the December 1993 agreement. Discussions are continuing.

Other issues on the agenda were industrial competitiveness, where the Council agreed a resolution in response to the Commission's recent communication on the subject; the Commission's annual report on competition policy; and the Commission briefly presented two communications on the pharmaceutical and mechanical engineering industries respectively.

No votes were taken at the Council.