HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc100-1W
Mr. Connarty

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the outcome was of the ECOFIN Council held on 16 July; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [127303]

Ruth Kelly

At the ECOFIN Council on 15 July, the UK was represented by our Permanent Representative to the EU and by the Treasury's Managing Director of Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance.

The Italian Presidency presented its work programme. Following an exchange of views on the Presidency's Action Plan for Growth, Council Conclusions were agreed that invited the Commission and the EIB to conduct a needs assessment and make proposals for a programme to support growth and integration by improving and/or increasing overall investment and private sector involvement in TENs and R&D projects.

EFC will assess these interim reports and prepare the Council discussion of the issue at the 7 October ECOFIN Council. The UK said that the highest priority was the Lisbon structural reform agenda and that the new initiative should be complementary.

The Council agreed without debate a recommendation on the Netherlands' Stability programme.

The Council agreed, without discussion, to a recommendation that Jean-Claude Trichet be appointed the President of the European Central Bank for a term of office of eight years. Under the provisions of the EC Treaty, only the member states which have adopted the euro can be involved in the appointment of the president of the ECB. The UK Protocol makes it clear that the UK does not participate in such appointments.

The Council also agreed a mandate for the Financial Services Committee to prepare a report on the progress of financial integration and its economic benefits and to look further into areas where this integration might deliver significant increased economic benefits to the EU. This report will prepare a debate in the 2004 spring Council on key areas for further action.

ECOFIN agreed Conclusions on the adoption of International Accounting Standards (IAS), stressing the importance of their adoption from 2005, including the immediate adoption of all existing IAS except those on financial instruments and the adoption of standards on financial instruments as soon as possible. The UK supported the adoption of all the relevant existing IAS. Its concerns were fully covered by the Conclusions.

Under any other business, the Council exchanged views on the Commission's proposed VAT Reduced Rates Review. The UK welcomed the review, but noted that it would not accept any proposal which would remove its zero rates on children's clothes and shoes.

No votes were taken at the meeting.

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