To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Internal Market Council held in Brussels on 25 February.
I attended the Internal Market Council on 25 February.The Council quickly reached agreement on a decision to set up a programme of research in the important area of security of information held in electronic form, ie on computers.Following delivery of the European Parliament's opinion, the Council also agreed a common position on the third non-life insurance directive. This directive allows insurers access to European Community markets on the basis of a home state authorisation, and opens up opportunities for the United Kingdom insurance industry.There was a lengthy discussion of the Commission proposals to control trade in cultural goods. Greece, Spain and Italy argued that the proposals should be widened in scope, and are clearly concerned that the removal of border controls will make it easier to transfer nationally important works of art out of their countries of origin. Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark all argued to the contrary, that the scope of the proposals should be more narrowly focused to avoid undue interference in the healthy and legitimate international art market.The Commission introduced a discussion on border controls within the Community. In discussion, all member states agreed on the need for further work to enable controls on goods to be removed. The Council also discussed the effect that the removal of border controls will have on firms of independent customs agents, but reached no conclusion.Finally, the Commission gave a short presentation on trans-European networks, which cover energy, transport and communications. There was no discussion of this item.