§ Lady Olga Maitland
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EC Social Affairs Council held on 29 June. 
§ Mr. Portillo
I attended the Social Affairs Council on 29 June in Luxembourg. I was accompanied by my hon. Friend the Minister of State. Two proposed directives were discussed: the draft posted workers directive and a draft directive amending an existing health and safety directive on the use of work equipment. In addition, the agenda included items on the Commission's new social action programme, the follow-up to the employment conclusions of the Essen European Council, proposed programmes on poverty and on Community support for older people, a resolution on older workers and council conclusions on the quality of vocational training.
There was a brief discussion of the posted workers directive. As at previous Councils, however, no agreement was reached and the dossier was passed to the Spanish presidency.
Political agreement was reached on the draft amending directive on the use of work equipment. The presidency text on which agreement was reached represents a considerable improvement over the more prescriptive proposal originally put forward. Agreement was reached unanimously, with the UK and Italy abstaining.
There was an informal exchange of views on the Commission's new social action programme. My hon. Friend the Minister of State welcomed the programme's recognition that tackling structural unemployment and creating new jobs should be the first priority for the Community's social policy but regretted that the programme none the less proposed more unnecessary and burdensome employment legislation. No formal conclusions were reached.
There was a discussion but no agreement on the proposed new poverty programme and on the programme for older people. A resolution on older workers was agreed and Council conclusions on the quality of vocational training were agreed in principle.
The Spanish Minister and Commissioner Flynn outlined the work they proposed during the Spanish presidency to follow up the Essen conclusions. The presidency reported on progress with the draft directive amending the acquired rights directive.