Letter from the Secretary of State for
Work and Pensions (Mr Alistair Darling) to the Chairman of the
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY COUNCIL: 11 JUNE
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
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
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