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Internal Market, Consumers and

Tourism Council

Mr. Ivan Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Internal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council on 30 and 31 May. [1705]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The Deputy Permanent Representative Bill Stow represented the UK at the Internal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council ("IMCT") in Brussels on 30 and 31 May.

The Council reached agreement on Directives on Fair Value Accounting, Life Assurance and Short-Chain Chlorinated Paraffins.

The proposed amendment to the Cosmetics Directive was referred back for further negotiation in the light of numerous remaining reserves. On the Distance Marketing of Financial Services Directive, which sets out minimum standards for information to be provided by financial services providers, it was not possible to reach a qualified majority. On the proposed Directive on Food Supplements (vitamins and minerals) which aims to harmonise rules on their authorisation, marketing and labelling, there was also no agreement as there was no qualified majority.

Agreement was reached on a Common Approach to the key issues on the Community Patent. This defines the principles under which work can be taken forward. The

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Presidency is now able to ask the European Patent Organisation to prepare for a diplomatic conference to revise the European Patent Convention.

There was general support for a common approach on Food Law and the establishment of the European Food Authority, which would guide future work with a view to possible political agreement in June.

The Commission gave an update on its plans to review the Consumer Credit Directive and agreement was reached on a progress report on two draft Directives covering solvency margins for life assurance and non-life assurance undertakings. These aim to enhance the protection of policyholders by strengthening solvency margin requirements. The Council took note of a progress report on negotiation of the draft public procurement directives. The Presidency concluded that the Council remained committed to reaching agreement by the end of the year.

The draft report on the Integration of Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development into Internal Market Policy for the European Council was adopted without discussion and the Draft Council Conclusions on the Commission's 2001 review of the Internal Market Strategy were approved. The draft Council Resolution on a strategy for the Customs Union, which is intended to improve standards of customs services throughout the EU, taking account of changes such as enlargement, e-commerce and customs related fraud, was adopted without discussion. The draft Council Resolution on eEurope: Information and Network Security was agreed with minimal discussion.

There was a Presidency report of the discussions held at the informal Ministerial in Lund which dealt with key items of consumer interest in the Internal Market and the Commission commented on the debate on the General Regulatory Framework on Good Market Behaviour or "Duty to Trade Fairly".

There was an exchange of information on the state of play of preparations for preparing consumers for the introduction of euro notes and coins. Belgium and Spain outlined priorities for their Presidencies (the Joint Work Programme) and the Commission presented its latest

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version of the Single Market Scoreboard, which records member states' performance in transposing Single Market Directives.

Over lunch on 31 May, the Council discussed joint action on the single market between EU and Russia, the Community Design Regulation and International Exhaustion of Trademarks (Parallel Trade).

Flexible Working Hours

Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the terms of reference are for the taskforce that is to consider how to give parents of young children a right to make a request to work flexible hours. [1707]

Ms Hewitt: The Work and Parents Taskforce will look at how to meet parents' desire for more flexible work patterns in a way which is compatible with business efficiency. It will look at how best to encourage and enable employers to create additional opportunities for parents of young children to work flexibly, for the benefit of employers, employees and their children.

The Taskforce will:

The Taskforce will report in November 2001. It will be chaired by Professor Sir George Bain. Other members of the Work and Parents Taskforce will be:

Fiona CannonEqual Opportunities Commission
Kay CarberryTrades Union Congress
John CridlandConfederation of British Industry
Martin GayleMartin Gayle at Aveda
Mike GriffinKing's College Hospital Trust
Anne Minto OBESmiths Industries
Sue MonkParents at Work, Chief Executive
Maureen RooneyTrades Union Congress
Simon TopmanJ. E. Hudson & Co. (ACME Whistles)

British Trade International

Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes will be made to the resource departmental expenditure limit of British Trade International. [1704]

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Ms Hewitt: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the voted element of the Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit for British Trade International will be increased by £2,000,000, from £84,634,000 to £86,643,000.

This increase, which will be made to the net provision of British Trade International, will be offset by a transfer of £2,000,000 in resources from the Department of Trade and Industry to fund the Enterprise Scholarships and Entrepreneurs Pilot programmes.

Gas Processing Industry

Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to provide advice to owners of onshore gas processing infrastructure in relation to their statutory obligations to publish their main commercial conditions for access to infrastructure. [1708]

Mr. Wilson: The Department has today issued guidance to owners of onshore gas processing facilities and relevant pipelines to assist them in meeting their obligations under the Gas Act 1995 and the Pipelines Act 1962 to publish their main commercial conditions for access.

We have also published today the first element of the departmental response to its consultation on "Oil and Gas Infrastructure: Access Provisions and Voluntary Arrangements"; this response relates to the content of the guidance on main commercial conditions.

Copies of both documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Departmental Expenditure Limits

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what changes will be made to the departmental expenditure limit and administration costs limit for her Department. [1703]

Ms Hewitt: Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimates, the Departmental Expenditure Limit for the Department of Trade and Industry will be increased by £62,805,000, to £4,549,049,000 from £4,486,244,000. In addition the gross running costs limit will be reduced by £69,000, from £412,007,000 to £411,938,000.

These changes result from:

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All of the above increases will either be offset by transfers or charged to the Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

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