HC Deb 22 October 2002 vol 391 cc216-7W
Mrs. Lawrence

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held on 8 October; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [76605]

Mr. Gordon Brown

I attended the ECOFIN meeting on 8 October.

The Presidency and Commission gave an oral progress report on negotiations with third countries on the draft EU Directive on Savings. It was decided that the Commission should continue negotiations on the basis of its current mandate.

ECOFIN had an orientation discussion on the Presidency's proposed guidelines for an energy tax directive. The UK supported the Presidency's draft guidelines. ECOFIN will further consider the outstanding issues at its meeting on 5 November.

On streamlining of economic reform processes and the review of the Employment Strategy, it was agreed that ECOFIN would have a full discussion in November, on the basis of a joint report by the Economic and Financial Committee (EFC) and Economic Policy Committee (EPC).

Council held an orientation debate on the budgetary and financial aspects of enlargement ahead of the Brussels European Council on 24–25 October. Along with other Member States, the UK stressed the importance of enlargement taking place on a sustainable financial basis and the need for parallel progress on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, including degressivity of direct payments.

ECOFIN endorsed the Economic and Financial Committee's proposals on new arrangements for financial stability, supervision and integration. The proposals will now go for consultation with the European Parliament as well as industry and consumer organisations before adoption by ECOFIN in December.

Council adopted conclusions on Macro-Financial Assistance and approved an updated Common understanding on economic issues for Russia.

The Commission stated its intention to end the state aid exemption for aviation insurance from 31 October, and set out criteria for possible participation in a mutual insurance fund. The Presidency noted that any member state that wished to continue their state guarantee scheme beyond 31 October would have to apply for general state aid clearance in the normal way. The EFC will continue discussions on mutual insurance funds to inform future ECOFIN consideration.

At the UK's request, the Commission was asked to produce clarification for EU Ambassadors in COREPER on the scope for an EDF (European Development Fund) contribution to financing the shortfall in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative.

No votes were taken at the meeting.