HC Deb 06 June 1996 vol 278 cc514-5W
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. [32166]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I represented the United Kingdom at the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Luxembourg on 3 June.

At the start of the meeting we reminded the Council that the Prime Minister had made it clear that until there was agreement to lift the export ban on beef derivatives, and until a clear framework was in place leading to a lifting of the wider ban, the UK could not be expected to continue to co-operate normally on other Community business. As a result, the UK could not be expected to agree decisions requiring unanimity.

I later made clear that the UK would not be able to agree the common position on the regulation on the protection of the Community's financial interests although the UK supported the regulation. I also put down a general reserve on a proposal for a directive for a common system of VAT on agricultural outputs.

With the Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment, I attended a joint lunch with other EU Finance Ministers and Social Affairs Ministers at which we discussed the importance and priority of tackling unemployment.

As preparation for the forthcoming Florence European Council, the Council considered a report on progress to date in preparing for stage 3 of economic and monetary union, an interim report on follow-up to discussion of employment at previous European Councils—a substantive report is due for the Dublin European Council—and a draft of the broad economic policy guidelines for the Community and member states.

The Council decided to reinstate the excessive deficit decision relating to Germany and to abrogate the excessive deficit decision against Denmark. The Council did not reach agreement on a proposal to extend the European Investment bank mandate to lend to Asia and Latin America. The Council was consulted on the recommendation by the European Monetary Institute council for the appointment of a new president of the EMI and briefly considered a paper on pension reform in the EU and central and east European countries in preparation for the structured dialogue at the 8 July ECOFIN.