Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


INTERNAL MARKET STRATEGY (8006/02)

Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to Melanie Johnson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition, Consumers and Markets, Department of Trade and Industry

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated May 2002 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 20 May.

  We share the Government's desire to see the internal market succeed and do better. We should be interested to learn how your Department thinks the UK can help bring this about.

  The Scrutiny reserve on this document is lifted.

Letter from Melanie Johnson MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter dated 22 May, which responded to Explanatory Memorandum 8006/02 concerning a Commission communication on the review of the Internal Market Strategy "Delivering the promise".

  You specifically asked how the DTI thinks the UK can help bring about a successful internal market.

  As our EM noted, the UK supports the Commission's desire to improve the functioning of the Internal Market and it is a key priority to continue to focus our efforts on ensuring it operates successfully through both our input into the Internal Market, Consumer and Tourism Council and our contribution to the economic reform agenda as laid out at the Lisbon, Stockholm and Barcelona European Councils.

  Much progress has been made since the Lisbon Summit in 2000, but there remains a full agenda of commitments to achieve between now and the next Summit at Thessalonica in March 2003 and beyond. We particularly need to work to ensure that individual Councils make a practical reality of the Barcelona conclusions in key areas such as the liberalisation of energy markets, final agreement on a Community Patent, the EU R&D Framework and the follow up to the eEurope, Better Regulation and Financial Services Action Plans. In addition, we are already working closely with the European Commission in its work on an Entrepreneurship Green Paper, reform of state aids policy, exploitation of biotechnology and follow-up to the Consumer Green Paper.

  In taking this work forward, both Ministers and officials will continue to be constructively engaged with the Commission, our opposite numbers in other Member States and the European Parliament, as well as ensuring that the voice of key stakeholders is listened to by all EU players.

  On a practical level we are continuing work to ensure that single market legislation is implemented promptly and enforced effectively. The DTI's Internal Market and Industry Policy Unit continually monitors the UK's implementation of Single Market directives throughout Whitehall and this has ensured that we were able to meet the Barcelona target of 98.5 per cent implementation by the time of that summit in March. At the same time we are working to make sure that the Single Market works effectively for businesses and that there is a level playing field for UK firms wishing to take advantage of single market opportunities. As part of the 1997 Internal Market Action Plan, Member States set up a network of Internal Market co-ordination centres and contact points within their administrations. The UK's co-ordination point is the "Action Single Market" Unit of DTI, which has as its remit the assistance of businesses and citizens that encounter trade barriers or problems in exercising their Internal Market rights as a result of incorrect application of Community Legislation. This is done through informal bilateral discussions with other Member States, but where this is unsuccessful it is possible to refer the problem to the European Commission for more formal proceedings.

  Recognising the importance of standards to removing barriers to trade, we are working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to help to create a more dynamic, efficient and market driven European and international standardisation system. We are also working with the Commission and other Member States to take forward the action points following up the report from the Commission on actions taken following the Council and European Parliament Resolutions in 1999 on European standardisation (Explanatory Memorandum 12172/01 refers).

  In addition, consumers have an important role to play in driving competition and change in the internal market. My Department has produced a paper "Making Europe Work for Consumers", which sets out the UK's priorities for reform of the consumer protection regime so that it empowers consumers to take part in the internal market. I am attaching a copy to this letter. Our objectives are simpler and clearer regulation, strengthening the consumer voice in EU policy making, improving the evidence base for policy making, and better enforcement and consumer redress.

27 June 2002

Letter from the Chairman to Melanie Johnson MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 27 June which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 8 July.

  We are grateful for the comprehensive way in which you have set out your Department's thinking about how it might help "deliver the promise" of a fully functioning internal market.

  We note, with interest, the setting up of internal market co-ordination centres, and look forward, perhaps by the time of the next annual review, to learning what impact the Action Single Market unit of your Department will have made.

  We also note your Department's association with the Commission in work on the Commission's Entrepreneurship Green Paper. Can you tell us what stage this has reached and when it will be ready for submission to Member States?

9 July 2002

Letter from Melanie Johnson MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter dated 9 July, which responded to Explanatory Memorandum 8006/02 concerning a Commission communication on the review of the Internal Market Strategy "Delivering the promise".

  You specifically asked for further information on the progress of the Green Paper on Entrepreneurship and the Department of Trade and Industry's association with the Commission in its work.

  The Conclusions of the Spring Summit in Barcelona noted the intention of the European Commission to prepare an Entrepreneurship Green Paper in time for the 2003 Spring European Council.

  It is our understanding that Commission officials are intending to complete the research phase by the end of July, write the draft Green Paper over the summer and seek views from Member States in September.

  The European section of the Small Business Service within the Department of Trade and Industry has already produced a draft document, which outlines the views of the UK on what should go into the Green Paper. This contribution, which has been written in consultation with other government departments and SME representative organisations, is currently being finalised so that it can be presented formally to the Commission in September 2002.

  UK Ministers and officials will continue to be constructively engaged with the Commission, other Member States and the European Parliament in order to ensure that the Entrepreneurship Green Paper has maximum impact on improving the environment in which European SMEs operate.

9 September 2002

Letter from the Chairman to Ms Melanie Johnson MP

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 19 November which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 2 December.

  We note that this amended proposal effectively supersedes the original draft Regulation covered by Explanatory Memorandum 12614/01. We therefore lift the Scrutiny reserve on the former document.

  So far as the current document is concerned, while we welcome the completion of the internal market in this area, we share the Government's concerns about the need for exemptions on matters which affect public health. We note that the Government will press for an exemption for tobacco products from the application of mutual recognition. We should be grateful to know what the Government's position is on alcohol.

  We were disturbed to see the proposed prohibition on discounting books (paragraph 6(a) Article 3 of your Regulatory Impact Assessment). The UK industry would be denied the opportunity to enter and compete in other markets. What position does the Government take on this?

  In paragraph 14 of your Explanatory Memorandum you promise a report on your consultation exercise. We should very much like to see this. In the meantime, the Scrutiny reserve on this document (EM 13637/02) is maintained.

4 December 2002

Letter from the Chairman to Ms Melanie Johnson MP

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 6 February which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 17 February.

  This is an important account of the development of the internal market. The Commission has rightly pointed up the benefits that have accrued during the first decade of the single market.

  Like you, however, we are concerned about the lack of progress in the services sector. Services constitute some 70 per cent of the EU economy, and are particularly important to the United Kingdom. We therefore look forward to the Commission's proposed document Internal Market Strategy for the medium term (2003-06) which we understand will focus on this area.

  We lift the Scrutiny reserve on this document.

20 February 2003


 
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