HC Deb 01 July 1999 vol 334 cc233-4W
Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Internal Market Council held in Luxembourg on 21 June. [89805]

Mr. Byers

My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe represented the UK at the Internal Market Council in Luxembourg on 21 June.

The Commission introduced an open debate on the future direction of the single market. There was general agreement on the need to define strategic objectives against which the development of the single market could be monitored and on the priority areas for action (including public procurement, electronic commerce and mutual recognition). The Scoreboard was confirmed as a tool for monitoring progress; the latest version showed that the deficit in the transposition of directives was being reduced.

The Commission reported on the progress of SLIM IV (Simpler Legislation in the Internal Market), the review of the SLIM initiative and the prospects for SLIM V. The Netherlands introduced a joint paper from the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK and there was agreement from other member states that there was a need for improvements to help realise the potential of SLIM.

The Council reached political agreement on the Orphan Drugs Regulation (which provides incentives for the development of drugs for the treatment of rare diseases) and Customs 2000, and agreed Conclusions on Tourism and Employment. With the exception of a Spanish Gibraltar-related reservation on the designation of competent authorities, there was unanimous political agreement on the substance of the Takeovers Directive, which included the text that the Government had sought dealing with the issue of litigation. There was no agreement on the new chocolate directive, despite a qualified majority in favour of the Presidency's compromise, because of Commission objections to the proposed comitology provisions.

The Commission introduced Communications on the Environment and the Internal Market and on Mutual Recognition. There was a brief debate on international exhaustion of trademark rights following a Commission presentation. The Council took note of progress reports on Standardisation; the Copyright and related rights in the Information Society Directive; the Electronic Commerce Directive; and the Commission's oral report on Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Council took note of a progress report on the reform of Customs Transit Systems and adopted a Resolution. The Commission announced the imminent publication of an amended proposal on Community Design.

Ministers discussed the Artists' Resale Right Directive. The Council agreed to give more time to discussions in order to find a solution to the remaining difficulties some member states have with the proposed directive.

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