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Written Statements

Wednesday 4 June 2008

EU: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 9 June in Luxembourg. The UK will be represented by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (John Hutton). Health and consumer affairs issues are being taken on 10 June.

The presidency hopes to reach agreement on an amended proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the council amending directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (9554/05, formerly 12683/04). UK priorities remain a solution to the problems caused by the ECJSIMAP andJaeger judgments and the retention of a workable individual right to opt out of the 48-hour maximum working week. The UK is still analysing the proposal from the presidency, but believes that it is a further step forward in that it provides further legal clarity on the use of the opt-out and the solution to the issues raised by the SIMAP and Jaeger judgments.

The draft directive of the European Parliament and the council on working conditions for temporary workers (15098/02 (24066)) is also on the agenda. The UK has twin objectives in relation to this directive: flexibility for employers and fairness for workers. The UK has been seeking a directive that gives people a fair deal at work without putting their jobs at risk or cutting off a valuable route into employment. With these goals in mind, the UK Government welcomed the recent agreement between the CBI and TUC on how fairer treatment for agency workers in the UK should be promoted. The UK Government will seek agreement on the terms of the directive that will enable this agreement to be brought into legal effect in the UK.

The council will seek the adoption of conclusions on the Commission recommendation to enhance administrative co-operation in the context of the posting of workers. These relate to measures to improve the implementation of the posting of workers directive through enhanced administrative co-operation and exchange of information between member states and to set up a committee to identify and exchange experience and good practice. The UK supports the recommendation.

The council will also seek adoption of conclusions on anticipating and matching labour market needs, with special emphasis on youth. This is a presidency priority, as youth employment has remained stubbornly high in some EU member states. Additionally, the

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council will also seek to endorse the Employment Committee’s opinion on skills, jobs and youth. The opinion does not call for the prioritisation of youth over other disadvantaged groups, as measures that ease unemployment generally also benefit youth. The UK supports the text.

The council will aim to agree a partial general approach on the latest instalment of an implementing regulation for social security co-ordination, regulation 883/2004 title IV—financial provisions. This is a continuation of the work to simplify and modernise the co-ordination rules by discussing implementing procedures. This presidency has covered financial provisions, in particular issues relating to recovery of overpaid benefits and contributions. The UK fully supports the council text and welcomes improved provisions for recovery.

In addition, the council will aim to agree a general approach on the proposal to amend the annexes to regulation 883/2004 on the co-ordination of social security—Articles 42 and 308 of the treaty. The annexes cover issues such as special rules for applying member states’ social security legislation, which parts of social security agreements between member states are still to be taken account of, lists of benefits that are not paid abroad and how pension calculations are to be carried out. The UK is happy that the presidency has pushed negotiations forward so well.

The council will also seek adoption of conclusions on two further items in a follow-up to the Beijing platform: indicators in respect of the girl child and women in political decision-making. The Slovenian presidency has chosen to work on the subject of the girl child and has produced draft council conclusions and a report including a set of indicators. The presidency has also prepared a review report on women in political decision-making and produced draft council conclusions, which among other things encourage the member states and the Commission to launch quantitative and qualitative studies on the outcome of positive measures for increasing women’s access to and participation in power and decision-making and to promote dissemination of good practices.

The council will also seek adoption of council conclusions on elimination of gender stereotypes in society. The conclusions among other things call on the member states and the Commission to “continue and strengthen active co-operation with the social partners and other stakeholders in order to reduce gender segregation and gender gaps on the labour market, including by taking concrete actions to eliminate the gender pay gap and improving the recognition of the value of work in jobs and sectors predominantly occupied by women”. The UK has no objection to the draft council conclusions.

Under any other business, there will be an oral report from the chair of the Social Protection Committee on social services of general interest (following up the 2007 communication annexed to the single market review). There will be reports from the presidency of recent presidency conferences. There will also be information from the presidency about a proposal for a council directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the

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purposes of highly qualified employment. In addition, the Bulgarians will report about European social policy week, which was held in Sofia from 26 to 30 May 2008.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Ann Keen) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 9 and 10 June 2008. The Health and consumer affairs part of the council will be taken on 10 June.

Items on the main agenda are: adoption of council conclusions on reducing the burden of cancer and on a co-operation mechanism between the council and the Commission for the implementation of the EU health strategy; and conclusions on antimicrobial resistance. The UK supports these conclusions. There will also be a progress report from the Slovenian presidency on the proposal for a regulation on novel foods.

Ministers will have a policy debate on the provision of information to patients on medicinal products and will be asked to adopt draft council conclusions on this. The UK is broadly supportive of the council conclusions.

Over lunch, the presidency has arranged an introductory presentation by Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and will chair a debate and exchange of views on an EU action plan to fight tuberculosis. This follows on from the publication in February 2008 of the Framework Action Plan to Fight TB in the EU, which the UK supports.

Under any other business, the presidency and the Commission intend to provide information on the proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare and patient rights; the conference on eHealth without frontiers, which took place in Slovenia on 5 to 7 May; the EU strategy to support member states in reducing alcohol-related harm; nutrition, overweight and obesity-related health issues; the framework convention on tobacco control; organ donation and transplantation; the proposed package on patient safety to be published later in 2008; health security-related matters; the strategy for Europe on mental health; the proposal for a directive on the variations to the terms of marketing authorisations for medicinal products; the networking meeting of the competent authorities for pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceuticals, which was held on 28 and 29 April 2008 in Slovenia; and, finally, the food improvements package.



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Land Registry: Framework Document

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Minister of State (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Land Registry’s revised framework document is published today, 4 June 2008.

Land Registry became an executive agency of the Lord Chancellor in July 1990 and over the past 18 years has enthusiastically grasped the opportunities that agency status and, since 1993, trading fund status have provided. During that period, it has met improving financial, customer service and development targets while making land registration services progressively more efficient and cheaper.

The framework document is a statement of Land Registry’s legal position and reflects its status as a non-ministerial department. It sets out the role and responsibilities of the Chief Land Registrar and those of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Copies of the revised framework document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available on the internet at www.landregistry.gov.uk.

Ministry of Defence: Agency and Trading Fund Key Targets

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Key targets for the financial year 2008-09 for the following Ministry of Defence agencies and trading funds have been placed in the Library of the House:

Defence Support Group;

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory;

Defence Storage and Distribution Agency;

Hydrographic Office; and

Met Office.

Key targets for the Defence Vetting Agency, Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency, People Pay and Pensions Agency, Service Children’s Education and the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency will be published shortly.


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