HC Deb 29 November 1996 vol 286 cc409-10W
Sir Roger Sims

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what decisions were taken at the EU ministerial Council on the internal market on 26 November; and what matters were voted upon. [7356]

Mr. Freeman

I attended the Council on behalf of the UK Government. An open debate was held on the Commission's report on the impact and effectiveness of the single market. I welcomed the report's message that the single market had benefited international competitiveness and jobs. I also supported the emphasis on effective application and enforcement and improved infractions systems. More work was needed on energy and services, including financial services.

The single market would also work better with simpler legislation, which would especially benefit small firms. I welcomed the Commission's report on its simpler legislation for the internal market—SLIM—initiative and the results of the pilot project. These would deliver concrete benefits to business. The UK's calculations showed that the Intrastat proposals alone would result in savings of over £5 million for the UK's small firms.

The Council asked the Commission to bring forward legislative proposals to implement the SLIM teams' proposals quickly. The Council also expressed a desire to see the SLIM approach extended to further areas of single market legislation and invited suggestions from all member states. I suggested that the electromagnetic compatibility, personal protective equipment, package travel directives and the VAT information exchange system would benefit from inclusion in a second round of SLIM. I also mentioned the importance of work to simplify legislation on machine standards and food hygiene.

The Council reached political agreement on a common position: on an amendment to the directive on extraction solvents used in the manufacture of foodstuffs; and subject to a UK parliamentary scrutiny reserve, to amend two public procurement directives to align them more closely with the World Trade Organisation Government procurement agreement.

No agreement was reached on a common position on a directive on the legal protection of designs where neither the Commission proposal nor a presidency compromise gained sufficient support.

The European company statute, free movement of persons, problems facing ski instructors and tour guides and the "Action Robert Schumann" proposal to improve legal professionals' understanding of single market law were also raised and Council Members attended the launch of citizens first, the Commission's information initiative designed to bring the EU closer to the citizen.

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