HC Deb 17 October 1994 vol 248 cc169-71W
Mr. Llew Smith

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what matters were discussed, what decisions taken, and which were decided by vote, at the EU Industry Council in Brussels on 28 September.

Mr. Eggar

I attended the Industry Council in the morning of 28 September. This Council was followed in the afternoon by a joint Industry and Telecommunications Council which was attended by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology.

The Industry Council heard a report from the Commission on progress towards restructuring the Community's steel industry. The Commission said that although the market for steel had improved, capacity reductions were still essential and hoped that the final total would be close to the target of 19 million tonnes of reductions. The Commission proposed that if the steel industry failed to make progress on capacity reductions then the flanking measures aimed at alleviating the effects of restructuring should be ended. The Council agreed that a decision would be reached at the November Industry Council on this issue. The Commission also gave an oral monitoring report on the article 95 state aid decisions agreed in December 1993. I stressed that strict control of state aids is the key to successful restructuring of the industry.

The Council adopted a resolution calling on the Commission to follow up its integrated programme for small and medium-sized enterprised —SMEs— and stressing the need to improve the administrative and legal environment for SMEs. The resolution calls on the Commission to establish fora in which member states can share experience of national measures in favour of SMEs and to set up a committee to identify administrative and legal provisions which hamper the competitiveness of small firms.

On biotechnology, most member states agreed on the need for a regulatory framework more favourable to industrial investment and competitiveness, while at the same time maintaining appropriate safeguards. The Council welcomed the Commission's proposal for amending directive 90/219 and its intention to review directive 90/220 and encouraged the Commission to bring forward for discussion proposals for action in other areas.

The Council took note of the Commission's communication on an industrial competitiveness policy for the EU. A draft resolution is currently under discussion with a view to adoption at the November Industry Council.

The afternoon's joint Industry and Telecommunications Council was convened specifically to discuss the report of the Bangemann group on development of the Information Society in Europe and the Commission Communications issued in response to that report.

The joint Council adopted conclusions on the Commission Communication and noted the Commission's intention to submit proposals for the development of the Information Society. In particular, the Council noted the Commission's undertaking to present, by 1 November 1994, the first part of the Green Paper on liberalisation of the EU telecommunications infrastructure and the second part by 1 January 1995. The Council also noted that the Commission was taking account of social and cultural activities and invited the Commission to assess the economic and social implications of its proposals.

The Commission reported briefly on preparations for the G7 conference on information super-highways, to be held in February 1995, and informed the Council of progress in following up the November 1991 Council resolution on electronics, information and communications technologies.

There were no votes taken at either Council.