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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 22 February in Brussels. There are no health or consumer affairs issues. I shall be representing the UK.
The first and main item is Preparation for the Spring European Council which will be held on the 8-9 March 2007. The Key Messages paper, prepared by the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee, identifies the key messages emerging from the various other reports for adoption and endorsement at the March Council. The Key Messages paper will be adopted following a policy debate.
The second item is an information point from the Presidency on the content of the Tripartite Social Summit. This will be held on 7 March in advance of the Spring European Council to allow the European Social Partners to feed in their views to the Spring Council. Attendees are the current Presidency, the two subsequent Presidencies (Portugal and Slovenia), the Commission and the social partners.
The Council will also deal with the opportunities and challenges of demographic change in Europe. The exchange of views on "Structuring the European Debate on demographic change" will be the main discussion on the Council's agenda. I shall insist that Europe should avoid the temptation to set up new or duplicate processes at EU level where perfectly good mechanisms already exist. We need to place any new actions we take within the context of achieving greater growth and jobs and the existing open method of coordination. Within the context of demographic change in Europe, the Council will also be asked to adopt a resolution on the contribution of older people to economic and social development.
Under Any Other Business, there is a Commission presentation on the "New Community Strategy on Health and Safety at Work 2007-2013", which we expect to be published on 21 February. Also, the Committee Chairs will give an oral presentation of the 2007 Work Programmes of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee. The Council is informed annually about the Committees' work programmes.