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EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations, Competition and Consumers (Gerry Sutcliffe, Member for Bradford South) represented the UK at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 20 October 2003.

The Council held a public debate on the Commission Communication on Immigration, Integration and Employment.

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The UK stated that immigration alone would not solve Europe's demographic problem and that the employment strategy provided the appropriate framework for improving the participation of immigrants in the labour market. Several delegations argued that member states should meet their demand for additional labour from national and European sources before seeking immigrants from outside the EU.

On integrating immigrants, the UK stressed the need to provide language, skills and citizenship training for recent and next generation immigrants to prevent social exclusion and burdens on the public purse and argued that a job was the best means of social integration.

The Council adopted conclusions on the open method of co-ordination of adequate and sustainable pensions. There will be a progress report to the Council on 1 December about pensions indicators.

The Council reached political agreement on a directive protecting workers from the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and waves, as well as on the decision to renew the spending programme to prevent and combat violence against women, young people and children (Daphne II). The UK supported both decisions.

The Council agreed an orientation towards political agreement on Chapters 7 and 8 of Regulation 1408/71 on social security co-ordination. The chapters cover pre-retirement benefits and family benefits.

The Council agreed an orientation towards a political agreement on a regulation amending Regulation 1408/71 to align provisions in readiness for the launch of a European health card in June 2004.

The Council approved the opinion of the Social Protection Committee on a Commission Communication on streamlining open co-ordination in the field of social protection.

The Council adopted without discussion a resolution on transforming undeclared work into regular employment in the context of the European employment strategy, and a resolution encouraging member states to consider the provisions of various services for victims of trafficking.

Under "Any Other Business", the Belgians presented a short paper on growth and competitiveness.

No health or consumer affairs items were on the agenda.

No votes were taken at this Council.

National Insurance: Employers' Contributions

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider merging employers' national insurance contributions with corporation tax so as to shift the tax burden away from small businesses.[HL4970]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): There are no such plans. The Inland Revenue, however, continues to work with employer representatives and others to examine scope for aligning the tax and national insurance rules at a practical level while having regard to the contributory principle and the need to protect the individual's benefit entitlement.

Tax Compliance

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why tax compliance currently costs per year an average of £288 per employee for small firms, but only £5 for the largest firms.[HL4971]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The figures quoted are from the Bath report (Vol 1, table 3.6 page 30) published by the Inland Revenue in November 1998. They reflect the cost to the employer of complying with the PAYE and national insurance responsibilities as they stood in 1995–96 when the research was undertaken. A more up-to-date numerical measure is not available, although the 2001 Review of Payroll Services by Patrick Carter gives a more recent qualitative view.

The Inland Revenue has pursued a number of initiatives to address the fact that the costs of tax compliance for small firms are disproportionately higher than those for large firms. Many of the specific recommendations in the two reports cited have been implemented or are under development. In addition the Inland Revenue now has a target to reduce the compliance costs of small businesses. Work is currently in hand on a range of measures including implementation of the electronic approach recommended by the Carter review. From 2004–05 businesses with fewer than 50 employees will receive financial incentives to help them to switch to new technology and realise benefits for their business. For the past two years small employers have benefited from a twice-yearly CD-ROM issued by the Inland Revenue. This gives ready access to the key information which the employer previously had to access in sizeable paper information packs. Small employers have commented that this cuts the cost both of accessing the information and of correcting unnecessary errors.

Civil Service

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What costs have been incurred in financing additional Civil Service posts created in the years:


    (a) 2001–02;


    (b) 2002–03; and


    (c) 2003–04 (as forecast in the estimates).[HL5206]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is for departments to provide data and estimates on the cost of the increase in public sector jobs. All departments have met and are forecast to meet staffing costs within budget allocations.

Elected Regional Assemblies

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to hold a campaign to raise public awareness of the forthcoming referendums on elected regional assemblies.[HL5286]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister will be launching an information campaign in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber on 3 and 4 November. This campaign will explain to voters the issues around the referendums on regional assemblies and the associated local government changes, which we expect to be held next Autumn. Further events will be held over the next year. Copies of the voter-friendly leaflet are available in the Libraries of the House. ra

Renewables Obligation Buy-out Fund

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to restore confidence to the market in renewable obligation certificates so as to assist firms seeking finance for developing renewable electricity generation; and[HL4981]

    Whether they will use some of the £100 million surplus funds raised through auctioning output from non-fossil fuel obligations contracts to fill the hole in the renewables obligation buy-out fund; and[HL4982]

    When they expect to learn the outcome of their discussions with the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets aimed at seeking a resolution of the problems caused by the administration of the TXU Europe Group not meeting the deadline for paying the sum due to the renewables obligation buy-out fund; and [HL4956]

    Whether they will allocate the £60 million earmarked in the Sustainable Energy Bill for promoting the use of energy from renewable sources to the renewables obligation buy-out fund, in order to restore confidence to the market in such certificates.[HL4958]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government are consulting on proposals to mitigate the market impact of any future shortfall in the buy-out fund. These proposals have been developed in discussion with the Industry and with Ofgem.

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The Government have no plans to use any of the £100 million non-fossil fuel obligation surplus to meet the shortfall in the renewables obligation buy-out-fund.

Likewise, use of any of the £60 million, which has been earmarked (from the NFFO surplus) in the Sustainable Energy Bill, to meet a shortfall in the buy-out fund is not permitted.

Haemophilia Patients: vCJD Blood Donors

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 6 October (WA 42), whether they will take steps to establish at the earliest possible date the number of haemophilia patients who have been informed by the National Health Service that blood products from donors diagnosed with vCJD were used in their treatment.[HL4697]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): We do not have any plans to collect this information. Any such collection would raise difficult issues over patient confidentiality.

Committee on Safety of Medicines: Membership of Vaccines Subgroup

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the membership of the vaccines subgroup of the Committee on Safety of Medicines at its meeting on 10 February following the request to the committee to review the licensing information on the administration of the anthrax vaccine.[HL5113]

Lord Warner: The membership of the vaccines subgroup of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) is detailed as follows: Membership of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Biologicals Sub-committee and the Vaccines Working Group 10 February 2003


    Professor Gordon W Duff


    Professor Deborah Ashby


    Professor Derek H Calam


    Dr Michael Corbel


    Dr Stephen C Inglis


    Professor Donald J Jeffries


    Dr Elizabeth Miller


    Professor Michael J S Langman Observer


    Professor A M Breckenridge

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The vaccines subgroup of the CSM also met on 4 March to consider the anthrax vaccine: Membership of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Biologicals Sub-committee and the Vaccines Working Group 4 March 2003


    Professor Gordon W Duff


    Dr Barbara A Bannister


    Professor Peter Blain


    Dr Chris Box


    Professor Derek H Calam


    Dr Michael Corbel


    Dr Stephen C Inglis


    Professor Donald J Jeffries


    Dr Elizabeth Miller


    Emeritus Professor Geoffrey C Schild


    Dr David Salisbury Observer


    Professor A M Breckenridge


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