Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


Letter from the Minister for Public Health, Department for Health (Yvette Cooper) to the Clerk of the Committee

HEALTH COUNCIL: 5 JUNE 2001

SUMMARY

Susan Deacon MSP, Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland, represented the UK.

Council reached agreement on a budget of 280 million euros for the new framework programme on public health, prior to negotiations with the European Parliament on a common position. Agreement reached on a Council Recommendation on drinking of alcohol by children and adolescents and conclusions were adopted on a Community alcohol strategy, support for the WHO tobacco framework convention and on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).


DETAIL

Public Health

Council reached political agreement to adopt unanimously a common position on the six year framework programme on public health, which will replace the existing eight individual programmes.

The main area of contention had been the budget for the programme. The UK, Germany, Netherlands and Austria supported a budget of 260 million euros, whereas all other member states supported the Commission's original proposal of 300 million euros. A compromise figure of 280 million euros was reached, with Spain asking that a budget review should be included in the mid-term evaluation process. The Commission and Greece noted that they expected the outcome of negotiations with the European Parliament at second reading to result in an agreement closer to 300 million euros.

On the mechanism for co-ordinating health monitoring and rapid reaction to health threats, Council agreed to the use of term 'structural arrangements' instead of 'structure'. The Commission feared the latter would interfere with its right to organise their own resources as they saw fit. The Commission made a declaration undertaking to review, in close collaboration with member states, the need for further development of such arrangements.

Council agreed France's request to include rare diseases within the scope of the programme.

Alcohol

Council agreed the Recommendation on drinking of alcohol by young people. The Recommendation proposes education and information and self-regulation of promotion, marketing and retailing to reduce alcohol abuse by children and adolescents.

Council adopted Conclusions inviting the Commission to put forward proposals for a Community strategy on alcohol, which would complement national policies, and held a debate to inform the Commission on what they would like this strategy to address. The majority highlighted the need for Community action on gathering and disseminating data and information.

The UK, along with Belgium and Austria, warned of the need to focus on alcohol-related harm rather than consumption per se. The UK also warned that any action should be proportionate and respect subsidiarity principles and highlighted advertising and excise duties as areas on which agreement to Community action might prove problematic.

The Commission agreed to review the alcohol advertising code contained within the Television Without Frontiers Directive to ensure they are being properly implemented.

Tobacco

Commissioner Byrne presented revised proposals for a tobacco advertising Directive, which would ban tobacco advertising in the press, publications, radio, internet and sponsorship (including free distribution) with a cross-border element. He was keen to stress the compatibility of these proposals with the ECJ judgement striking down the previous tobacco advertising Directive.

Council adopted Conclusions expressing the EU's support for the WHO Framework on Tobacco Control following receipt of the Commission's report on progress with negotiating the Convention.

Variant Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (vCJD)/Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE)

The Commission gave an oral update on the epidemiological situation of vCJD and developments in research, surveillance and information exchange at Community level. The UK provided information on progress with a care fund to support CJD patents, measures to protect against person to person transmission (e.g. single-use instruments for tonsil surgery) and tenders for research into diagnostic tests for vCJD and BSE.

Council adopted Conclusions which calls on Member States to build on existing work on surveillance and prevention for all TSEs as they affect human health.

Information items

The Commission updated Council on their intensified efforts to ensure that health was being taken into account in other policies, and their action to co-operate with the candidate countries on health issues.

Sweden explained that a full report on the Northern Dimension was due to be presented at the Gothenburg Council and would include a health element, with particular focus on communicable diseases and antibiotic resistance.

Other Business

France called for Health Council to meet twice per Presidency, receiving support from the Commission and Ireland. Belgium would not be holding a second Health Council under their Presidency, but Health Ministers would be invited to their mental health conference in October, which could be considered an informal Council.

France and Italy gave information on their proposals for a partnership of hospitals to increase the availability of anti-AIDS drugs in African countries, urging support from the Commission and other Member States. No conclusions were reached. The Commission explained that its action plan on nutrition, announced in the White Paper on food safety, was still under development and they could not say when it would be finalised.

Denmark raised the issue of transportation with Schengen countries of medicines for personal use, and in particular psychotropic substances and asked that the position be clarified.

28 June 2001



 
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Prepared 30 July 2001