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Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 8 and 9 December in Brussels. Employment and Social Policy issues will be taken on 8 December. Health and Consumer Affairs will be taken on the 9 December. The Council will be chaired by my right hon. Friend Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, apart from the agenda item on Working Time which will be chaired by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I will sit in the UK Seat apart from the Working Time Directive agenda item when my hon. Friend, the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Fair Markets will represent the UK.

The first item is a Presidency Report from the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government, Hampton Court, 27 October.

There will be a policy debate on Demography and Human Capital. The discussion will focus on the following questions: Which steps should be taken by Member States and by the EU in order to increase the overall employment rate for people of working age? How should measures to improve human capital
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support this work? What specific measures should Member States pursue in order to maximise the employment opportunities for young people, older workers and disadvantaged groups and what are the specific barriers to raising the employment rates for these groups? The background to this discussion is provided by the Commission Green Paper on Demography and the EMCO report on Human Capital.

There will be a report from the Chairman of the Employment Committee on the Examination of National Reform Programmes. These are the annual reports on each Member States' progress towards achieving the Lisbon goals outlining their focussed policy objectives.

On the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, the Presidency will be seeking political agreement on an amended proposal.

The Council will reach partial political agreement on a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity—PROGRESS. This is the EU-level spending programme for the period 2007–13, which will provide financial support for the
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implementation of the Community's objectives for employment and social affairs and the achievement of the Lisbon goals.

Ministers will be expected to endorse political agreement on the gender recast directive which will simplify, modernise and improve existing EU law on equal treatment between men and women.

The Commission and the Presidency will present information on the Directive on portability of supplementary pensions. This is intended to make it easier for workers with occupational pensions to move around the EU.

Under "Any Other Business" there will be four written items presented by the presidency. I do not expect any debate on these items: "Annual follow-up to the Beijing Platform", "Health and safety conference", "Round table on poverty and social exclusion", and "Corporate social responsibility".

There is one written item from the Luxembourg delegation reporting on their conferences on poverty held under the Luxembourg Presidency, and two written items from the Commission, one on their first biennial report on disability and the other on a memorandum of understanding between the European Commission and China on co-operation on employment and social affairs. None of these will generate discussion.