Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Second Report


Letter from the Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and

Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett) to the Chairman of the Committee


I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels on 27 May.

The Council agreed by qualified majority an extension for three years of the existing quota system governing the production of potato starch.

The Council discussed a Presidency memorandum on equal opportunities for women in rural areas. The debate was televised. I strongly supported the conclusions that were agreed on incorporating the gender perspective into the work of the Council.

The Presidency reported progress in discussion of two Commission proposals, one on monitoring the market in ethyl alcohol and the other amending existing rules on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and food.

Under other business, Germany and Sweden reported on EU preparation for the "World Food Summit: Five Years Later" conference; Greece submitted a memorandum on the forthcoming Mid-Term Review of the CAP; and France raised questions about the newly-adopted US Farm Act.

6 June 2002

Letter from the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education

at the Department for Education and Skills (Margaret Hodge MP) to the

Chairman of the Committee


I am writing to inform the Committee of the outcome of the Education and Youth Council held in Brussels on 30 May. I attended the Education session of this Council. Jane Davidson, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning in the National Assembly for Wales, attended the Youth session.

The Council discussed the follow-up to the Barcelona European Council which took place in March 2002, focusing in particular on the areas of: vocational training; foreign languages and European citizenship; organisational measures; and quality assurance.

A draft Council Resolution on lifelong learning was agreed without debate and political agreement was reached on a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Year of Education through Sport 2004. Ministers also gave political agreement to a proposal for a Council Decision amending Decision 1999/211/EC adopting the third phase of the trans-European co-operation scheme for higher education (Tempus III) (2000-2006).

The Council received information from the Commission on a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Decision No. 253/2000/EC establishing the second phase of the Community action programme in the field of education

"Socrates". A report on the outcome of the Summit of Heads of State or Government of the European Union and Latin America, held in Madrid on 17 and 18 May, was presented by the Presidency.

In the Youth session, the Council agreed a draft Resolution on the framework of European co-operation in the youth field. This Resolution will take forward action to implement the proposals within the European Commission's White Paper "A New Impetus for European Youth". Discussion followed on youth participation in society, which is the priority theme of the White Paper. Ministers confirmed the importance of this theme.

The Council received information from the Commission on the need to submit proposals in the next year for a new European Youth Programme to succeed the existing programme which is due to finish in 2006. The Presidency also presented a report on the actions it had taken since January 2002 to progress the youth agenda.

I am copying this letter to the Clerks of Committees of both Houses.

20 June 2002

Letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at

the Department for Work and Pensions (Malcolm Wicks MP) 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 3 June. This was a quiet Council with a relatively thin agenda. Bill Stow, the Deputy Permanent Representative to Brussels represented the UK.

The Council agreed a general orientation on a proposal to extend the provisions of Regulation 1408/71 to nationals of third countries legally resident in a Member State. The European Parliament will now give an opinion. Council also discussed Chapters I and II of a Regulation to simplify Regulation 1408/71, which co-ordinates the Member States' social security systems in respect of persons moving within the EU. The dossier is subject to a German reserve which the Presidency hopes will be lifted before the Seville European Council, allowing an agreement on a general orientation to be reached.

The Council also agreed a general orientation on the European Co-operative Statute, which consists of a Regulation and a Directive on employee involvement. The European Parliament will be re-consulted on this amended Commission proposal, including the change of legal base.

The Council reached political agreement on a Directive amending Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks of exposure to asbestos.

The Council adopted two Resolutions at this meeting: the first, on a Community strategy on health and safety at work, is broadly similar to the recent Commission Communication; the second follows up the Commission's recent Action Plan on Skills and Mobility.

There was a lunchtime discussion on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines which endorsed the Opinions of the Employment Committee and Social Protection Committee, stressing the importance of a balanced approach to economic, employment and social issues. A number of delegations, including the UK, argued that Member States should do more to co-ordinate policies at national level.

The rest of the (shortened) meeting was taken up with reports on Spanish Presidency activities over the last six months, including: a Presidency report on the Barcelona Spring Council; the presentation of a paper on a Study and Guide that the Presidency had drawn up on methods of tackling violence against women; and a Presidency report on gender mainstreaming in different Council formations and the structural funds. The Presidency also provided reports on recent conferences, including the UN World Conference on Ageing.

The Social Protection Committee presented its report on Social Protection in Europe.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission presented its plans for a Directive on agency workers, following the failure of the social partners to reach agreement last year; and a Recommendation on the Health and Safety of Self-employed Workers. Both of these are likely to appear at the next Employment and Social Policy Council in Luxembourg in October.

I am copying this letter to the Clerks of Committees of both houses.

14 June 2002

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