HC Deb 29 November 1996 vol 286 c422W
Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EU Industry Council held in Brussels on 14 November. [7384]

Mr. Greg Knight

The Council agreed a new steel aid code which meets main UK objectives, subject to UK parliamentary scrutiny. The negotiations secured a tightening of aid for partial closures and confirmation of the legal status of annex applying environment aid. The Commission gave a presentation of the sixth report on the control of aid to the steel industry.

The Council agreed the budget for a new multiannual programme for SMEs of 127 mecu. It agreed the text of a resolution on small and micro enterprises.

On state aids more generally, Council conclusions were adopted which were based on one section of the draft resolution. The conclusions recognised that the application of state aid rules requires continuous endeavours to increase legal certainty, predictability and consistency, noted the Commission's orientations regarding possible future proposals under article 94 regarding procedural rules and block exemptions in specified fields, and supported the early commencement of detailed work.

The main issues of the EC merger regulation, threshold reduction and treatment of multiple notifications were discussed. The presidency noted that no qualified majority existed for reducing thresholds. Most member states agreed on the need to solve the problems for business caused by multiple notification. They agreed that further work would be done at working group level.

The Council adopted conclusions on benchmarking, the competitiveness of the European automotive industry, an industrial competitiveness policy for the European chemical industry, and on the competitiveness of sub-contracting in the European textile and clothing industry.

On shipbuilding, the Council agreed to conclusions noting three main action points, to report back to individual cases to the next Industry Council, to work up a policy for the strategic development of the industry and to issue new figures for the state aid level applicable to individual ships by the end of the year.

Finally, the Council discussed progress in the transAtlantic business dialogue. It also discussed standardisation and the global information society.

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