HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc297-8W
28. Mr. Boswell

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent consultations he has had with his European Union counterparts on the co-ordination of taxation policies. [61774]

30. Mr. Loughton

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with EU finance ministers on the subject of EU tax harmonisation. [61776]

Mr. Hood

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the outcome of the ECOFIN Council held in Brussels on 1 December; and if he will make a statement. [62329]

Dawn Primarolo

The Chancellor attended the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Brussels on 1 December. I accompanied him. ECOFIN was followed by a joint meeting of ECOFIN and the Social Affairs Council.

I, as Chair of the Code of Conduct Group, presented the Group's first interim report to ECOFIN. The Council took note of the report, endorsed the further work and asked the Group to endeavour to complete its work as rapidly as possible. Commissioner Monti gave a brief presentation of the Commission's combined first annual report on the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Business Taxation and fiscal state aid and a progress report on the work concerning the taxation of income from savings and a common system of taxation from interest and royalty payments between associated companies.

The Council noted a presentation by Commissioner Van Miert on the Commission's Communication on the application of state aid rules to direct tax measures.

The Commission put forward a draft mandate for a study on company taxation which was not agreed.

Commissioner Monti requested that ECOFIN consent to the Commission and the Presidency Troika initiating exploratory talks with third countries on the external dimension of the taxation of savings. ECOFIN agreed the mandate.

The Presidency proposed that the Financial Questions Group continue its discussions on a framework for energy taxation based on the Commission's draft Energy Products Directive. This was agreed by the Council, with a view to the Council being able to assess the prospects for such a framework by May 1999.

The Presidency put forward a draft progress report entitled "Reinforced tax policy co-operation". The agreed report will be submitted to the Vienna European Council.

The Council agreed a report to the Vienna European Council on Agenda 2000.

ECOFIN discussed the Stability Programme of the Netherlands and the Convergence Programme of Denmark. The Council adopted opinions on these programmes.

ECOFIN agreed that the Commission would adopt on 9 December a proposal that allowed for only very limited access for credit institutions in Monaco to the French payments system. France is to discuss this measure further with the European Central Bank and the Commission.

The Council agreed a report to the European Council on the external representation of the euro area. The Council also agreed a report taking forward initiatives to reform the international financial institutions.

The composition and statutes of the Economic and Financial Committee were agreed.

ECOFIN agreed a statement on facilitating the reconstruction efforts in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.

The abolition of intra-EU duty free shopping on 30 June 1999 was raised. Several Member States asked that this decision be looked at again. The request did not achieve the necessary unanimous support of Member States. The Presidency concluded that no further action would be taken.

At the joint meeting of ECOFIN and the Social Affairs Council, agreement was reached on the Joint Employment Report and on amendments to the 1999 Employment Guidelines. Both texts will be sent to the Vienna European Council. The Chairman of the European Investment Bank gave a report on the progress made in implementing the programme agreed at the Luxembourg jobs summit.

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