§ Mr. Michael Brown
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the outcome of the meeting of the Labour and Social Affairs Council held in Brussels on 3 December; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Howard
The Council held its first discussion of the draft working time directive. The United Kingdom recorded its concern at the damage which the Commission proposal would cause, not only to British industry and workers, but to the competitiveness of Community business in the world market. Most other member states registered difficulties with the proposal. After considering a number of detailed aspects of the draft directive, the Council concluded that a decision could not be taken on the current text. The proposal has been remitted for further consideration at official level.
A number of other proposals were agreed. The Council reached political agreement on a directive on safety signs in the workplace. Amending regulations on social security for migrant workers were approved, as was a 226W recommendation on child care. A declaration on sexual harassment was endorsed subject to United Kingdom parliamentary reserve. A Commission report on poverty was noted.
The draft directive on European works councils and a recommendation on minimum resources for social protection schemes were both discussed, and they were referred back for further work by officials after several member states expressed disagreement with a number of the provisions.
This meeting again demonstrated that the existing treaty enables sensible progress to be made. Out of the 32 proposals put forward by the Commission under the social action programme, 18 have already been agreed by the Council or, where appropriate, the Commission.