HL Deb 13 January 1998 vol 584 cc190-1WA
Baroness Turner of Camden

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have plans for taking forward European Union public health issues during the forthcoming United Kingdom Presidency of the EU. [HL 68]

Baroness Jay of Paddington

The Government's main priority in the public health sphere during the United Kingdom Presidency of the European Union will be to demonstrate the practical relevance of the EU in promoting better health.

There is already a substantial agenda for the Health Council, which will meet on 30 April 1998 and which the Minister for Public Health will chair. The main topics for the Health Council during the UK Presidency will be:

Communicable diseases

The European Parliament is due to adopt in January its opinion on the Council's common position on the proposal to establish a Community network for the surveillance of communicable diseases. The UK Presidency will seek to reach agreement on a final version of the decision. We will also arrange for the Council to review progress by the European Union-United States task force which is considering how to establish a global network for communicable disease surveillance.


The UK Presidency will take forward as appropriate any new proposals for the Community action which the Commission may bring forward to follow up its communication on combating tobacco consumption. The European Parliament will be considering the Council's common position on the proposal for a directive banning tobacco advertising and the UK Presidency will stand ready to facilitate adoption of a final version of the directive.

Rare diseases, pollution-related diseases and injury prevention

The UK Presidency hopes that the European Parliament will deliver its opinion on these three proposals for new public health programmes in time for the Council to adopt common positions at the Health Council meeting on 30 April.

Screening of blood donors and donations

We will take forward consideration of the Commission's proposal for a Council recommendation on the screening of blood donors and donations. Although a recommendation is not binding on member states, its adoption will signal their commitment to co-ordinate measures across the EU to secure blood safety.

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs)

The UK Presidency will ensure the Council keeps under review developments in understanding of the causes and routes of transmission of the agent responsible for new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Discussion on the future of public health in the EU

The UK Presidency hopes to hold a discussion on Community action in the field of public health after 2001 taking into account the new European Treaty agreed in Amsterdam in June, should this he ratified, and the forthcoming enlargement of the Union.

The discussion could also focus on how Health Ministers of the 15 EU member states might establish effective working relationships with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus to ensure that public health policy matters are properly considered in their plans to join the European Union so that an enlarged Union is able to continue to provide a high level of health protection for its citizens. In this context, the Council would clearly need to take account of the work already being done in the field of public health by the World Health Organisation and in particular its European Region and by the Council of Europe.

The Government also intend using opportunities outside the formal EU institutional framework to raise the profile of the EU public health agenda and to consider how it can contribute in practical ways to better public health across the Union. The Department of Health is discussing with, among others, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing conferences planned for the UK Presidency to build on the discussions started in the Health Council about the future of public health in the EU in the next century. These events will provide further evidence of the Government's determination to demonstrate how the EU public health machinery can be made to work towards achieving a better quality of life for the people of Europe.