HC Deb 26 November 2002 vol 395 cc152-3W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome of the ECOFIN Council held on 5 November was, what the Government's position was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [82936]

Mr. Gordon Brown

I attended ECOFIN on 5 November.

Council reached political agreement on the prospectus directive. I argued for greater freedom of choice of home state for issuers of non-equities, and secured an amendment to the text ensuring choice for all bonds denominated in units of €5,000 or more. A vote on the amended text was taken and a qualified majority obtained, with the UK voting in favour. In accordance with the revised Council rules of procedure following the Seville European Council, the initial debate and vote on the directive were held in public session.

The Council noted the Commission's annual oral update on progress against the Risk Capital Action Plan.

Professor Jaap Winter, Chair of the high level group of Company Law Experts outlined the key recommendations in his group's report on creating a modern regulatory framework for company law and corporate governance in the EU. This report was published on 4 November. Members of the Council noted the report and will discuss it in more detail at a later date.

ECOFIN discussed, in restricted session, progress on the draft directive on the taxation of savings. The Presidency and the Commission reported on negotiations with third countries, which are to be concluded by end 2002 according to the timetable agreed at the Feira European Council.

There was also a discussion on energy taxation. It was concluded that further preparatory work was needed on the outstanding issues ahead of further discussion at the December ECOFIN.

Ministers decided that agreement on VAT Administrative Co-operation should be postponed until the December ECOFIN.

ECOFIN noted a draft interim report from the Economic and Financial Committee and the Economic Policy Committee on ongoing work on streamlining economic and employment policy processes. It was agreed that further work on this should be undertaken jointly with the preparatory committee for the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council before the report is submitted to the Copenhagen European Council.

In accordance with Article 104 of the Treaty, the Council agreed that Portugal had an excessive budget deficit, above the 3 per cent, limit, in 2001, and adopted a Recommendation for Portugal to bring the excessive deficit to an end by 31 December 2002.

ECOFIN also agreed conclusions on the reform of governance of the European Investment Bank and the capital and reserves of the European Central Bank in light of enlargement.

Under AOB, the economic and financial situation in the Lebanon was raised by the French Finance Minister.

After the Council meeting, ECOFIN Ministers held a dialogue with their counterparts from the EU candidate countries.