HC Deb 11 February 2004 vol 417 cc1479-80W
Mr. Nicholas Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the(a) Government and (b) European Commission are taking to prevent improper support payments to contractors and subcontractors by (a) governments and (b) government agencies competing for construction work in Britain's offshore gas and oil industries. [154272]

Mr. Timms

The EU state aid rules are intended to prevent improper payments that can distort competition in the Single Market. The rules apply impartially to funding from all member states and to all levels of government and government agencies. The European Commission is the guardian of the state aid rules and they must examine aid to ensure that it does not distort the Single Market. All aid must be notified to and approved by the European Commission before it can be granted. The Commission is also obliged to investigate any allegations of illegal aid and if necessary take action. This may include recovery action in some cases.

The Government strongly support the state aid regime and all Government funding must be given in accordance with the rules. The Government will also bring to the Commission's attention allegations of illegal aid in other member states.