An official at the European Commission in Brussels has confirmed that packaging materials used for foods attracting VAT - such as confectionery or drinks - "would be among the likely beneficiaries" if the European Union (EU) agreed to cut the VAT rates on energy-saving products and materials.

This would depend on such materials meeting energy-saving criteria, said the official, and as far as packaging materials were concerned, they could include paper, plastics and metal, although the actual amount of any VAT reduction would be left to national governments to set.

The comment followed delivery of a joint letter to Brussels from the UK and French governments calling for lower VAT rates for "energy-efficient products and energy-saving materials."

The initiative was launched in October by UK prime minister Gordon Brown with France's new president Nicolas Sarkozy.