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EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, 2 and 3 June

Lord Patel of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My honourable friend then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (David Lammy, Member for Tottenham), represented the UK for the health element of the Employment, Social Policy,

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Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 2 June.

The main health business of this Council related to the Safety of Tissues and Cells Directive. The Council reached political agreement on a text that did not include any of the amendments, proposed by the European Parliament at its first reading, to which the UK was strongly opposed. The UK voted in support of the Council text.

The Council adopted a proposal which will enable member states to sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The UK voted in favour of this proposal.

Member states also reached political agreement on two elements of the pharmaceuticals review. These address changes to the human medicines directive, and to the regulation that established the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (the EMEA) and a Community marketing authorisation procedure for certain human and veterinary medicines. The UK voted in favour of the Council text overall. A progress report was received on the veterinary medicines directive on which discussions are not as far advanced.

The Council adopted Council Conclusions on combating stigma in relation to mental illness, the product of a conference which took place in Athens under the Greek Presidency. The UK voted in favour of adopting these conclusions.

The Commission updated the Council on activities in the area of joint activity on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), including the announcement of funding into diagnostics research. They also gave an update on the high level process of reflection on patient mobility and health care development, indicating that the second ministerial plenary session would take place in July.

Under any other business the Commission updated the Council on the programme of co-operation on bioterrorism and health security. The Commission also presented a proposed recommendation on cancer screening. Voting was not required on either of these items.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Andrew Smith) represented the UK together with my honourable friend, then Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions (Alan Johnson, member for Hull west and Hessle) at the employment and social policy part of the ESPHCA on 3 June in Luxembourg.

The Council agreed a general approach to the 2003 Employment Guidelines. The EP will now be consulted as directed by the Treaty and the guidelines will be adopted at a future Council as an A point. The UK are content with the simplified guidelines which are more focused on the employment targets set at Lisbon in 2000 and are geared more towards outcomes. Council also agreed the recommendations on member states employment policies—the second part of the employment package.

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There was a lengthy discussion on the proposed Directive on Temporary Agency workers which was originally tabled for political agreement. The Council was unable to reach agreement on the proposal and the Presidency remitted further negotiations to the Italian Presidency, recalling that the Brussels Spring Council urged agreement on the directive by December 2003. The UK maintained its position that it could back a directive that supported agency workers without putting their jobs at risk. Any directive must reflect the realities of our labour market.

Council agreed the rest of the items on the agenda with little or no discussion. Council reached political agreement on a regulation on the European Co-operative Statute and a parallel directive on employee involvement.

Council also reached political agreement on a decision setting up an Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work. The UK and Denmark made a written declaration, to be included in the minutes of the Council, regretting the use of Article 202 as the legal base for this decision.

Council adopted two resolutions without discussion: one resolution on building social and human capital in the knowledge society; and a second on promoting the employment and social integration of people with disabilities.

Council also agreed a general approach on the three chapters of a regulation to replace Regulation 1408/71, the co-ordination of member states' social security systems, that have been discussed under the Greek Presidency. The chapters concerned cover invalidity benefits, pensions and special non-contributory benefits.

Work will continue under the Italian Presidency with a view to completing the simplification of this regulation by December 2003, as requested by the European Council at Barcelona in 2002.

The Council approved, without debate, the Social Protection Committee's plans to carry out themed studies on pensions issues.

Under the Council's new rules of procedure, both the Commission and the Presidency presented "any other business" items as written information. There was no discussion of these points.

No votes were taken in this part of the Council.

London Wholesale Markets Review: Government Response

Baroness Wilkins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will make their response to the report of the review of London wholesale markets. [HL3006]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): In its special report on the Covent Garden Market Authority of March 2001 the House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture

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recommended that the Government, together with the Greater London Authority and the Corporation of London instigate an independent review to take a rapid, rational and strategic view of the provision of wholesale markets in London. In June last year, jointly with the Corporation of London, we commissioned Mr Nicholas Saphir to undertake this review and his report was published on 22 November. This statement puts on record the Government's response to the main recommendations of the report.

The recommendations of the report

The report concluded that markets perform an important but reduced function in the distribution of perishable foods. In order to meet the changing needs of the market, and especially of the catering supply trade, the existing markets should be consolidated to provide three composite markets each providing facilities for the sale of fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, so allowing catering customers to meet all their needs in one market. New Covent Garden Market at Nine Elms should provide a particular service to the central London catering trade and should develop its facilities accordingly. The other two consolidated markets should be New Spitalfields Market in East London and Western International Market, near Heathrow.

There should be no central planning, management or liaison body for London markets but legislation which restrains trade and limits competition between markets should be removed. This would allow the markets to compete with each other and so generate an efficient response to the needs of the market.


The Government have undertaken a public consultation on these recommendations and have published a summary of the responses they received. We have considered these responses and taken forward discussions with a number of interested parties including the Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Wandsworth. Useful discussion has taken place with the Corporation of London before, during and following the preparation of the Saphir report. However, despite agreement on much of the analysis there is no consensus on a single way forward. The corporation's proposal to develop a single composite market at New Spitalfields, serving central London, is a significant departure from the recommendations of the report.

The Government's response

We welcome and generally agree with the analysis offered by the report. We accept in particular the view that the London markets should be allowed to develop in competition with each other to provide services which are well adapted to the present and future needs of the capital and especially of its catering trade. We recognise that some of the legislation which governs the markets may inhibit such development and are sympathetic to the view that such legislation should be amended or repealed as the opportunity arises. Within the existing framework of law we believe that markets should be given as much freedom as possible to meet

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the needs of their customers and to take initiatives to broaden their role as resources allow.

At the same time, we recognise the important role played by markets in the economies of the parts of London in which they are situated. This is also recognised in the Mayor of London's draft London plan. The existence of the markets and their impact on the local economy and environment will need to be taken into account in wider decisions on economic and town and country planning, traffic management and other issues.

Future action

In further discussions about the markets, Defra will be guided by the following considerations:

    The London markets should be allowed to develop to meet the needs of their customers and tenants without undue intervention from government. Together with the Corporation of London we have taken an important first step in setting out the way forward by commissioning the Saphir report. Whilst we agree with the conclusion of the report that there is no need for central direction we greatly welcome the interest of the Greater London Authority in undertaking further studies on the options for the markets in London's future economic development and the impact of these on planning, transport and other issues. It is for the market owners to plan for the future of each market in consultation with the relevant local authorities, the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency and other stakeholders. We are ready to play our part as consultees in this process.

    It is for the owners of the markets to determine the scope for future investment and development in response to market stimuli. Market owners will need to make provision for such investment from the earnings of the markets or from other sources to which they have access.

    In relation to New Covent Garden Market, in which Defra has a direct interest, it remains the Government's policy to disengage as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. In so doing, however, we shall aim to secure arrangements which will maintain the market as a going concern which can both accommodate the businesses which are established there and allow it to develop as a consolidated market as envisaged by the Saphir report.

    We see no need for Defra to exercise any direct control over the use of the market premises at Nine Elms. Where the legislation governing New Covent Garden Market requires the Secretary of State to grant permission for new forms of trading we propose normally to grant such permission, subject to consideration of the circumstances of each case.

    To that end Defra Ministers have already indicated that they are minded to approve any application to allow trading in meat and fish at New Covent Garden Market subject to

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    consideration of the circumstances of each case; we see no reason now that consultation on the Saphir report has finished to further delay that decision. This is in the knowledge that the Corporation of London or its tenants at other London wholesale markets may seek to challenge the legal validity of such a decision (based on the medieval restriction of trade to six and two-third miles from a chartered London market). This may therefore be a matter on which the Courts will be called upon to decide.

    We have no proposals at present to amend the legislation governing markets generally or to promote amendments to the legislation governing specific London markets (which would need to come from the relevant market owners).

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    As far as New Covent Garden Market is concerned, we would need agreement in principle on the future ownership and management of the market as a basis for any legislation to remove or modify the present responsibilities of the Secretary of State and the Covent Garden Market Authority.

    Central to the future of the market, we are ready to consider proposals from any source for the future development of New Covent Garden Market and its site, which provide for the continuation of market activity on the site. Proposals for the injection of private finance into the site have been and will be welcome.

This statement is without prejudice to the consideration of any planning application relating to the future development of any London wholesale market.

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