HC Deb 24 February 1999 vol 326 cc340-1W
Mr. Maclean

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list the issues for discussion before the Labour and Social Affairs Council on 9 March, indicating the position he proposes to take on each issue. [72739]

Mr. Blunkett

I am unable to attend this meeting of the Council because it clashes with the Budget Statement. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities will attend in my place.

The first part of the meeting will be discussions with representatives of applicant countries, outside the formal enlargement screening process. The UK Government strongly support the enlargement of the European Union.

The Presidency will give an oral report on the Informal Meeting of Social Affairs Ministers which my right hon. Friends the Minister of State for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities attended in Bonn on 4–6 February.

The Presidency will also report on their ideas for a European Employment Pact. The Conclusions of the Vienna Council call for the agreement of an Employment Pact in time for the Cologne European Council in June. We believe the Pact should be based in the existing process of European Employment Guidelines and National Employment Action Plans.

There will also be a presentation of the 1999 Employment and Labour Market Committee work programme.

The Council will discuss the proposed reform of the Standing Committee on Employment which aims to enable this tripartite body to make a more efficient and appropriate contribution to the employment strategy.

There will be discussion of a Resolution on a Code of Conduct which invites Member States to improve administrative co-operation between their authorities in three areas: transnational hiring-out of workers, combating benefit fraud and illegal employment.

The Presidency will report to the Council on the progress negotiations for measures on the organisation of working time for those sectors currently excluded from the Working Time Directive. No discussion is expected.

The Presidency will also give information on how it plans to proceed in the second half of its Presidency on the proposed European Company Statute. No substantive discussion is expected.