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Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Council meeting of the Economic and Finance Ministers of the European Union held on 17 November. [17135]

I represented the UK at the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Brussels on 17 November. The Economic Secretary accompanied me.The Council focused on the issue of economic co-ordination in State 3 of the EMU, in response to the remit from the Amsterdam European Council in June this year. There was a good deal of support for the principle that ECOFIN should continue to be the centre of economic co-ordination. The possibility of informal discussions was also considered. The Council will look again at these issues at its next meeting on 1 December.The Council also discussed the date for the introduction of euro notes and coin, and the technical specifications for the coinage.

The Council was also presented with two documents by Commissioner Monti. These papers were a Communication on Financial Services: Enhancing Consumer Confidence, and a Green Paper on Supplementary Pensions in the Single Market.

The report of the SEM2000 (Sound and Efficient Management) group was presented to the Council. This group has been looking at ways to improve the management of Community budget expenditure. The Economic Secretary emphasised the importance we attach to this work.

Following the main ECOFIN meeting, a joint meeting with Social Affairs Ministers was held to discuss the preparations for the extraordinary European Council on Employment (the "Jobs Summit"), which took place in Luxembourg on 20–21 November. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I jointly represented the UK. The Council held further discussions about the proposals for Employment Guidelines.