HC Deb 06 December 1999 vol 340 cc417-8W
Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the outcome of the Labour and Social Affairs Council held in Brussels on 29 November; and if he will make a statement. [100994]

Ms Jowell

I represented the UK at this meeting of the Council.

The Council approved the draft Joint Employment Report for 1999, the latest draft Employment Guidelines for 2000 and the latest draft of the Council Recommendation on the implementation of member states' employment policies. These elements were also agreed by the Joint ECOFIN/Social Affairs Council, held on the same day, at which the Secretary of State and I represented the UK. They will now be submitted to the Helsinki European Council on 10–11 December for agreement.

The Council reached political agreement on the Council Decision establishing the Employment Committee.

A Resolution on the employment and social aspects of the Information Society was adopted by the Council. This calls on member states to maximise the job potential of the Information Society through measures related to: learning and research; the world of work and public services.

In the absence of consensus on the provisions for employees involvement in the proposed European Company, Presidency efforts to find a compromise solution will continue in December.

The UK confirmed that it could only accept Article 63(4) as a legal base for extending Regulation 1408/71 (Co-ordination of Social Security Systems to Third Country Nationals). Some other member states supported Articles 42 and 308. The issue will be taken forward under the Portuguese Presidency.

Most member states called for varying degrees of extension of Regulation 1408/71 to cover Third Country Nationals and non-active persons. The UK argued in favour of simplifying the Regulation first and then extending it later as a separate exercise. Discussions will continue under the Portuguese Presidency.

The Council adopted Conclusions on a concerted strategy for modernising and improving social protection and agreed to the establishment of a Group of High Level Officials to exchange information and best practice and to write reports for the Council.

The Council noted a Presidency progress report on the Proposal for a Directive on Physical Agents (Vibration).

The Commissioner presented a package of measures to prohibit discrimination under the new powers of the Amsterdam Treaty (Article 13). There will be a discussion of the package in the appropriate working group in December in order to prepare the work of the Portuguese Presidency.