HC Deb 23 October 1986 vol 102 cc940-1W
Mr. Porter

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress made at the recent European Community Council of Industry Ministers.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The Industry Council met under my chairmanship on 20 October. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry represented the United Kingdom.

The Council adopted a resolution approving the broad strategy of the Commission's action programme for small and medium-sized enterprises, and also a statement on deregulation which welcomed the Commission's new procedure — involving its task force on SMEs — for assessing the compliance costs that Commission proposals will have on business.

I secured the unanimous support of the Council for a resolution welcoming the Commission's determination to apply strictly the code on state aids to the steel industry and to ensure that none of its provisions are undermined. The Council had initial discussion of the Commission's proposals to free certain steel products from the production quota system, during which there was general agreement that the process of liberalisation should continue. I noted that majorities appeared to exist for the liberalisation of category Ic (galvanised sheet) from quota, and for the removal of Commission powers in connection with divergences from traditional intra-Community trade flows in steel products on the understanding that Commission surveillance would continue. I postponed final decisions on these and the other detailed Commission proposals until the next Industry Council on 18 November, for which the Commission had agreed to prepare a preliminary analysis of Eurofer's important recent initiative on steel restructuring.

The Council discussed the Commission's proposal for a sixth Council directive on aid to shipbuilding to replace the existing directive, which expires on 31 December 1986. There was broad agreement on the Commission's approach that a common ceiling should be set on direct and indirect aids benefiting ship production and that there should be separate provision for aids for restructuring. I concluded that the necessary preparations should be made to enable the Council to have decisive negotiations on the directive at the next Industry Council.

The Council also noted the Commission's intentions to bring forward proposals to help restructure Portuguese industry.

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