Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(99) 408

Commission report on the evaluation of the Second Action Plan of the "Europe against Cancer" Programme, 1990-1994, plus 1995.

Legal base:
Department: Health
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 29 April 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 34-xxix (1998-99), paragraph 4 (27 October 1999)
To be discussed in Council: None planned
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


29.1  In July 1986, the Council adopted a Resolution[50] on a Community programme of action against cancer, concerned principally with prevention. This has since been followed by three Action Plans, and this document, produced by the Commission in September 1999, seeks to evaluate the second such plan, set out in Council Decision 90/238/Euratom, ECSC, EEC,[51] initially covering the period 1990-94, but since extended to 1995 as well.

29.2  In their Report of 27 October 1999, our predecessors noted that the current document was itself a summary of a much longer evaluation carried out by the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Union, and dealt with four main areas of activity:

  • Cancer Prevention (tobacco consumption, diet, carcinogenic agents, systematic screening and early diagnosis, cancer registers, and other aspects);

  • Health Information and Education (Information for the public, and health education and cancer);

  • Training of the Health Professions; and

  • Research.

29.3  The Commission had said that the evaluation "appears very positive overall", in that it suggested that the Plan clearly contributed to a breakdown of the taboos associated with cancer, that its campaigns on such areas as tobacco consumption had contributed to raising the profile of cancer and prevention activities, and that systematic screening and early detection measures, as well as cancer registries, had been successful. It also noted that the "few areas criticised" — such as fragmentation and lack of coherence of training; poor reporting, monitoring and record keeping by project leaders; and a failure to build appropriate performance measures into the funding process — had been identified during the running of the programme, with improvements having been undertaken to remedy them.

29.4  Our predecessors commented that, although the document was simply a report requiring no immediate action, they found it strange, given the importance of the subject, that the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Stuart) had simply said in her Explanatory Memorandum of 18 October 1999 that the UK Government welcomed action and co-operation at Community level, but had otherwise expressed no views about its findings. They therefore said that they would like to know whether the Government believed the evaluation provided an accurate impression of the successes and failures of the Programme so far; whether it agreed with the Commission's view that the overall verdict was "very positive", and that the shortcomings were "few" and had been addressed; and whether it considered that the programme was producing worthwhile results when set against expenditure on it.

Minister's letter of 29 April 2001

29.5  After a delay of some 18 months, the Minister finally wrote to the Chairman of the previous Committee on 29 April 2001, seeking to address the points which had been raised. She says that the Report is, in her opinion, an accurate reflection of the Programme's successes and failures, and that she is content with the overall verdict. She adds that she considers many of the shortcomings have been rectified, and that, whilst there is scope for further refinement and improvement, the UK believes that the Programme is producing worthwhile results — as, for example, in the annual "Europe Against Cancer Week" — when set against the expenditure on it. She also points out that cancer is one of the priority areas identified in the "Saving Lives-Our Healthier Nation" White Paper published in July 1999, and that, to the extent that prevention will play an important part in meeting the targets in that White Paper, the aims of the Community Programme are therefore consistent with the UK's own national aims.


29.6  Whilst we find it difficult to understand why it should have taken 18 months to produce a reply to the relatively straightforward questions posed by our predecessors, we are nevertheless, on the strength of the Minister's response, now clearing this document.

50   OJ No. C 184, 23.7.86, p.19. Back

51   OJ No. L 137, 30.5.90, p.31. Back

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