HL Deb 01 March 2002 vol 631 cc262-3WA
Baroness Gale

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What the outcome was of the Health Council held in Brussels on 15 November; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including their voting record. [HL2964]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Health (Mr Hutton) represented the United Kingdom.

The Council reached political agreement to adopt a common position on the directive setting standards of quality and safety for blood and blood components. Although a few member states were disappointed that there were no strict requirements for donations to be voluntary and unpaid agreement was reached on an acceptable compromise form of words.

In the orientation debate on the directive on tobacco advertising and sponsoring, all the delegations which spoke stressed the need to ensure that its basis be legally sound so that it is not struck down by the European Court Judgment as the previous directive had been. The UK, along with other member states expressed support for the directive. The UK raised concerns that global sponsorship should benefit from derogation until 1 October 2006. The UK also mentioned the need to ensure that the directive was compatible with other legislation pertaining to e-commerce. There was some discussion of the scope of the directive, and Commissioner Byrne explained that it did not cover indirect advertising. Some states felt the advertising ban should not apply to local press and publications. The was no opposition to the inclusion of advertising for cigarette papers within the scope of the ban.

Member States discussed the health aspects of bioterrorism agreed presidency conclusions on the need for a comprehensive programme of co-operation in this area; strengthening existing networks and exploring other opportunities to ensure a coherent approach in support of national plans.

Commissioner Byrne made a statement on recent developments in cross-border healthcare. Member states expressed concern over recent ECJ rulings that treaty provisions on freedom to provide services applied to health services, which had previously been thought to lie outside treaty competence. The Commission called for further discussions on the detail and will produce a discussion document for the Spanish Presidency conference in February. The UK explained that the rulings had implications for domestic legislation, to which we were responding, and that there was a need to look further at competence boundaries. Other member states were of the same opinion.

Commissioner Byrne gave an update on preparations for the next round of negotiations on the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. He indicated that the Community position on agriculture subsidies would need to be updated to take account of references to phasing out of tobacco subsidies in the communication to Gothenburg on sustainable development. The planned Commission communication on "Health and Poverty policy" will help to pave the way for financial support for implementation of the convention in developing countries.

Council adopted unanimously a recommendation on the prudent use of anti-microbial agents; and conclusions on stress and depression related problems.

The Council noted the Commission's updates on the revision of the medical devices directive 93/42/EEC and the current state of play in the process of setting up the European Food Authority.

Commissioner Byrne explained that the Scientific Committee investigating the impact of electromagnetic fields thought there may be a link with DNA damage and multiple exposure, but there was insufficient evidence as yet. The Commission will recommend further studies to fill the knowledge gaps.

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