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Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 4 November 2008

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The ECOFIN meets on Tuesday 4 November 2008. The following items are on the agenda.

Follow-up to the European Council on 15 and 16 October: preparation of international initiatives in response to the financial crisis

Following on from the European Council, ECOFIN Ministers will prepare the discussion for heads of government when they meet again in European Council formation on 7 November. The discussion is likely to focus on reform of the international financial architecture, and will be on the basis of a paper prepared by the French presidency.

Taxation: Reduced rates of VAT

At both the informal ECOFIN meeting in September and the formal meeting in October, Ministers held discussions on the principles underlying the application of reduced rates of VAT across the EU. Following the publication in July of a Commission proposal to allow reduced rates for a specified set of goods and services, the presidency has proposed a compromise text which Ministers will discuss. The UK believes that member states should be allowed the flexibility to apply reduced rates of VAT where they do not materially affect the functioning of the single market.

Combating VAT fraud

At the November ECOFIN, Ministers will discuss measures to speed up the collection and exchange of data on intra-Community supplies between member states.

General arrangements for excise duty

Ministers will be asked to agree a general approach to the directive on holding and movement of excise goods (92/12). The aim of the Commission's proposal is to simplify and liberalise the rules on intra-Community movements of goods (mainly alcohol) on which excise duty has already been paid in a member state.

Anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein

Ministers will discuss a draft EU-Liechtenstein anti-fraud agreement. The Commission will update Ministers on the progress of the negotiation, which it has been conducting under a mandate from the council.

Climate change and stabilisation of allowance prices under the emissions trading scheme

At the request of Poland, which has prepared a contribution to the ECOFIN debate, Ministers will hold an exchange of views on potential price volatility in the emissions trading scheme. The president of the Economic Policy Committee will also outline the committee's discussions on the economic aspects of the proposals on climate change.

Lisbon Strategy

The presidency will inform ECOFIN Ministers about the multilateral surveillance work undertaken by the Economic Policy Committee on policies related to flexicurity that have been implemented in various member states. It will also touch on work in progress on the future of the Lisbon strategy post 2010.