HC Deb 11 December 2003 vol 415 cc553-4W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the outcome of the Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was on 1 December; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [142006]

Mr. Andrew Smith

I represented the UK together with the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Brussels on 1 December 2003.

The Council reached partial political agreement on the Articles of a new Regulation to replace Regulation 1408/71 co-ordinating social security systems for people moving from one member state to another. In particular, member states reached a compromise on Unemployment Benefit for people who live in a member state other than the one where they last worked. This relates to a reimbursement system that member states have agreed to: the last state of work will reimburse part of the Unemployment Benefit paid by the state of residence. UK retains a Parliamentary Scrutiny on this Regulation.

The Council discussed the Commission Communication on Structural Indicators for next year's spring Council and took note of the opinions of the Economic Policy Committee, the Working Group on Environment, Employment Committee and Social Protection Committee. The Presidency invited the General Affairs and External Relations Council to adopt joint conclusions as close as possible to the existing draft.

The Council adopted Conclusions on disability, on immigration, integration and employment and on gender equality indicators. The Council also agreed a general approach on a Council Decision establishing a Social Protection Committee. Council noted the Other Business items without comment.

In the Consumer Affairs part of the Council, a Resolution on the Safety of Services was adopted without comment. There was a general policy discussion on the proposed EC Regulation on Consumer Protection Co-operation, and the UK supported the proposal.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Health (Mr. Hutton), represented the UK for consideration of the health items on the agenda of the Council on 2 of December.

The main health business related to the Proposal for a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Discussion focused on the scope of the Centre, which is due to be operational by 2005, with member states agreeing it should concentrate initially on communicable disease, with the possibility of broadening the remit following external evaluation of its operations at a later date. Issues still to be resolved include the legal base, where the UK retained its reserve, and data protection requirements.

A draft Council Decision was adopted authorising the Commission to negotiate the revision of the International Health Regulations under the framework of the World Health Organisation, within its area of competence.

The Council Conclusions emerging from a conference on Healthy Lifestyles: Education, Information and Communication were adopted. These cover action on lifestyles monitoring and evaluation and impact assessment, aimed to help develop a European action plan to promote healthy lifestyles.

The Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening advocating mass cancer screening through clearly established and scientifically proven methods in quality controlled screening programmes were also adopted, as was the Council Resolution on Pharmaceuticals and Public Health Challenges—Focusing on the Patients.

The Council adopted Council Conclusions on Medical Devices which acknowledge the importance of medical devices in health and social care, endorse the good work done so far and invite further work to strengthen co-ordination, interpretation and implementation of the sectoral Directives in the interests of protecting public health.

The Council received information from the Italian Presidency on the threat posed by malaria. The French delegation presented information on raising tobacco tax to help reduce tobacco consumption and the Irish delegation presented proposals for the forthcoming Irish Presidency where the emphasis will be placed on cardiovascular disease and e-health matters.

No votes were taken at this Council.

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