§ Mr. Waller
To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EU Consumers Council held on 23 April. 
Mr. John M. Taylor
The Council agreed on priorities for EU consumer policy. The agreement underlined the need for proper enforcement of existing legislation and, where possible, its review and simplification. Some member states also attached importance to work on consumer concerns in relation to public utilities, financial services and informative labelling of products.
The Council reached political agreement on a proposal for a directive on the indication of prices of products offered to consumers. This follows the Commission's commitment to review existing directives on subsidiarity grounds. The agreed proposal represents an important deregulatory measure which will permit member states to exempt small shops from the burden of unit pricing. It fully meets the UK objective of providing necessary protection for consumers while minimising the burden on small businesses.
There was an orientation debate on two proposals related to consumer access to justice. The first was the proposed action plan for non-legislative initiatives to enable cheaper and quicker redress for consumers involved in cross-border disputes. There was general support for the principle of this initiative, though more work would be needed on the details. Secondly, a directive was proposed to improve protection of consumers in cross-border transactions by co-ordinating national provisions relating to injunctions against unlawful practices under a list of existing directives. The proposal would secure mutual recognition of the entities qualified to bring such actions in other member states. Again, there was considerable support for the principle, though I and a number of other representatives made clear that it was based on the proviso that a method of implementation could be found which would respect national legal procedures and modalities of law enforcement.
There was an informal discussion of consumer confidence in relation to foodstuffs, particularly with regard to bovine spongiform encephalopathy—BSE. I set out the steps the United Kingdom Government had taken to protect consumers and explained why we regarded an export ban as unjustified and disproportionate.