HC Deb 13 July 1995 vol 263 cc782-3W
Mr. Matthew Banks

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the recent Council meeting of the Economic and Finance Ministers of the European Union. [34723]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I represented the UK at the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Brussels on 10 July.

There was a public debate on the incoming Spanish presidency's work programme for ECOFIN. The Spanish programme concentrates on fighting unemployment and on preparation for economic and monetary union. I emphasised the need for the European economies to create the conditions for rising employment, for a through and wide-ranging discussion on preparation for European monetary union, for the Council to take full account of EC budgetary restraints and to recognise that value for money and fighting fraud and waste should be a top priority.

The Council agreed a number of procedural plans to ensure that the work commissioned by the Essen and Cannes European Councils on employment, EMU and the fight against fraud would be completed in time for ministerial discussion at the 27 November ECOFIN.

The Council adopted the 1995–96 broad economic guidelines which had been endorsed by the Cannes European Council.

The Council agreed, voting by a modified form of qualified majority voting, confidential recommendations to each of the member states with an excessive deficit, with a view to those member states bringing their excessive deficits to an end within a given period.

The Council reached political agreement on a regulation to introduce harmonised consumer price indices. Formal adoption will take place at a future Council once the European Parliament's opinion has been received.

The Council discussed a draft directive on cross border credit transfers. No conclusions were drawn and the dossier was remitted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives for further consideration.

The Council discussed a proposal for a reduced rate of VAT on cut flowers. There was no agreement in the Council and the presidency will undertake bilateral contacts to seek a solution.

The Council heard a progress report from the Vice-President of the European Commission, Sir Leon Britian, on the World Trade Organisation and financial services negotiations.