Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report

Letter from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Alistair Darling) to the Chairman of the Committee


I am writing to inform the Committee of the outcome of the Employment and Social Policy Council (ESPC) held in Luxembourg on 11 June 2001. Peter Hain, then Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe, represented the UK. Political agreement was reached on three items.

Council reached political agreement on a common position for the proposed Directive amending the Equal Treatment Directive. This Directive, which is subject to the co-decision procedure, had been negotiated at length in working groups and was finally agreed in Council on terms acceptable to the UK.

Council secured political agreement on a common position on the Information and Consultation Directive, after protracted negotiations. The UK was able to secure added safeguards for some small and medium sized firms in terms of transition periods.

Council also reached political agreement on a common position on the physical agents (noise) Directive. This was the second of four measures on physical agents to be agreed in Council on a dossier dating back to 1992. The UK called for tripartite consultation and updated analysis before the two outstanding measures were tackled.

Amongst other items, the Presidency reported on its recent conference on gender mainstreaming and the Commission followed with proposals on how to carry this work forward. The Council also head a summary from the Commission on the strategy on sustainable development and were presented with the opinions of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee, from the respective Chairs.

The Chair of the Social Protection Committee also introduced a report on the sustainability of pensions. Council noted that the Commission's Communication on open co-ordination of pensions would be one of the subjects of the first formal meeting under the forthcoming Belgian Presidency. The Commission reported that it had received National Action Plans on social exclusion from 12 Member States, the remainder being due by the end of June. Submission of the UK plan was delayed by the General Election. The plan will be submitted as soon as practicable.

Council discussed two questions on the simplification of regulation 1408/71 (co-ordination of social security systems): whether the exportation of unemployment benefit should be extended from three to six months; and whether the state of last employment should pay the unemployment benefit. No consensus was reached; Belgium hoped that work on this dossier would continue under its own and subsequent Presidencies.

The Presidency gave a progress report on negotiations on the European Co-operative Statute. Under any other businesses the Commission reported on its participation in the preparation of the UN World Conference on Racism and presented its proposal for establishing 2003 as the year of the disabled.

I am copying this letter to Peter Hain, Minister for Europe and the Clerks of the Committees of both Houses.

25 June 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 July 2001