HC Deb 11 November 1999 vol 337 cc717-8W
Mrs. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Internal Market Council held in Luxembourg on 28 October. [98398]

Mrs. Liddell

I represented the UK at the Internal Market Council in Luxembourg on 28 October.

The Council held an open debate on the integration of sustainable development and the single market and approved a report to be presented to the Helsinki Council in December. It adopted a resolution on standardisation, laying down a set of principles for future work on standards, and on mutual recognition, setting out the direction of future work to make mutual recognition of rules, qualifications and standards more effective. The Council reached a Common Position by qualified majority on the chocolate directive, with Belgium and the Netherlands voting against and Luxembourg abstaining. There was no decision on the proposed Directive on Artists' Resale Rights, with a blocking minority of the UK, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark opposed to the proposal. The Presidency, in response to calls from other member states, will continue its efforts to find a compromise solution.

Over lunch, the Council discussed the Commission's consultative communication on a New Strategy for the Single Market which sets out four strategic objectives. There was general support for the draft strategy and agreement that it should be closely linked to the Cardiff economic reform process. There was also a brief discussion of Council rationalisation, with some member states expressing particular interest in combining the Internal Market and Industry Councils.

The Presidency reported that with regard to the Takeovers Directive the UK and Spain were continuing their discussions of the issue of communications between Gibraltar competent authorities and counterparts in other member states, and it hoped that agreement could be reached by the December IMC.

The Commission reported briefly on SLIM (Simpler Legislation in the Internal Market), the Business Test Panel and BEST (Business Environment Simplification Taskforce) and said that it would present its evaluation of SLIM at the 7 December IMC. The UK introduced a joint paper which we had agreed with the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria on resolving weaknesses in the SLIM system.

The Council took note of a Green Paper launching a review of the Product Liability Directive and a progress report on negotiations on the directives on preserved milk and sugar.