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Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 12 November 2008

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

The ECOFIN Council met on Tuesday 4 November 2008. The following items were discussed:

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

ECOFIN Ministers held a discussion on the outcomes of the October European Council in preparation for the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government in European Council formation on 7 November. The discussion at ECOFIN focused on the next steps for reform. On the basis of the discussion, the French presidency released on its own initiative a paper relating to international financial architecture.

Taxation: reduced rates of VAT

Ministers held a discussion of a presidency compromise text based on a Commission proposal to allow reduced rates for a specified set of goods and services. 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. The issue will come back to the December ECOFIN following further work at technical level.

Combating VAT fraud

Ministers discussed the presidency's compromise proposal on measures to speed up the collection and exchange of data on intra-Community supplies between member states. The proposal will also be subject to further work at technical level.

General arrangements for excise duty

Ministers agreed in principle to a general approach to the directive on holding and movement of excise goods (92/12), subject to Slovenia lifting its scrutiny reserve. The proposal aims 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 discussed the Commission's draft EU-Liechtenstein anti-fraud agreement. The Commission updated Ministers on the progress of the negotiation, which it has been conducting under a mandate from the council. Ministers agreed that the Commission should continue its discussions with the Liechtenstein Government.

Climate change and stabilisation of allowance prices under the Emissions Trading Scheme

Poland gave a presentation to ECOFIN on the issue of potential price volatility in the Emissions Trading Scheme. The presidency agreed to further discussion of the issue at the December ECOFIN.

Lisbon strategy

The presidency updated 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.