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Employment and Social Policy Ministers Meeting (Belfast)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt): On 7 and 8 July, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions hosted a meeting of EU employment and Social Policy Ministers in Belfast, to discuss how member states might raise employment levels and improve social inclusion. The event, which launched our six-month presidency of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (ESPHCA) Council, used a mix of workshops, plenary sessions and visits to promote exchange of ideas and sharing of best practice.
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My right hon. Friend stressed how Ministers, in the context of demographic change, had a shared interest in raising employment rates and improving social inclusion. This formed part of the wider debate on how to modernise the European social model. Ministers and the commissioner welcomed the opportunity to share best practice.

Ministers visited one of two sites in socially disadvantaged parts of Belfast: a jobs and benefits centre on the Shankill Road and the Springvale training centre. Ministers learnt about the practical steps the UK was taking to tackle the problems of unemployment and social exclusion. Ministers attended one of three parallel workshops looking at practical measures to raise employment levels and improve social inclusion for a particular target group: young people, older workers and the economically inactive.

In the workshop and plenary discussions there was general agreement on foundations of the European social model and with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's view that the social model needed to be modernised. There was also agreement about the importance of Ministers getting together to share best practice and committing to action at the European level.

As is customary, the meeting of Ministers was preceded on 7 July by a meeting between the Council Troika (Ministers from the current and next two presidencies, Austria and Finland), the social partners, the Commission and the European Parliament, which discussed the same theme. I deputised for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as chair at those discussions, which also voiced broad support for the Prime Minister's wish to modernise the European social model.

Asbestos-related Diseases

The Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform (Margaret Hodge): The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council report (Cm 6553) has been published. After careful consideration I have accepted all the recommendations. Amending legislation will be laid before Parliament.

In brief the changes are as follows. In the case of Prescribed Disease D8 primary carcinoma of the lung the following easements are introduced:

The report has been placed in the Library, and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.