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On Former Yugoslavia, the Council expressed appreciation for the contribution of Lord Owen and welcomed his successor, Mr. Bildt. Agreement was given to open negotiations with Croatia for a Trade and Co-operation Agreement.
The Presidency concluded that the situation in Chechnya did not yet allow the EU to proceed with signature of the Interim Agreement with Russia. But the Council agreed to keep the question under review, and to prepare to sign the agreement as soon as possible.
The Commission reported on the state of play in negotiations for Agreements with Morocco and Egypt, and announced details of a new Mediterranean Financial Regulation. There was a brief exchange over lunch on the forthcoming Barcelona Euro-Med Conference.
Sir Leon Brittan reported on subjects on the agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Council took note without debate, and endorsed the procedural conclusions on trade and social standards agreed previously in COREPER.
The Council agreed, following a vote, the Commission's proposed negotiating directives for the revision of the protocols of textiles with the Central and Eastern European countries. Italy, Portugal and Greece were opposed, and made minutes statements.
Lord Inglewood: As the Foreign Secretary's representative, my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Davis) attended the second meeting of the study group in Luxembourg on 13/14 June. The meeting concentrated on institutional arrangements in the European Community (the "first pillar"). Members of the group agreed that there was no need to change the overall balance between the central EC institutions (the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament).
My honourable friend stressed the need to arrest centralising tendencies in Europe, and to banish the notion of a European Government in embryo. The European Parliament (EP) had acquired important new powers in recent years. The EP needed to demonstrate that it was using its existing powers responsibly, and to the full, for example to secure better value for money from Community programmes and to hold the Commission more closely to account.
With respect to the Council, my honourable friend repeated our opposition to any extension of majority voting, and put the case for changes in the voting system to increase democratic legitimacy and to reduce the present bias against large member states.
My honourable friend argued that with the accession of new member states including perhaps some very small ones there could be a case for re-examining the system of 6-monthly rotating Presidencies in the EC.
Turning to the Commission, my honourable friend commended Mr. Santer's emphasis on the need to do "less but better". The Council should take a closer interest in the Commission's legislative programme to help to achieve this. He suggested that we might examine the possibility of requiring the Commission to withdraw proposals which had not been agreed within, say, three years: (a "sunset clause").
How many Health Authorities have access to bone density scanning devices and what is being done to encourage the early diagnosis of osteoporosis by early detection so that treatment can be given to prevent further fractures.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The report of the Advisory Group on Osteoporosis (AGO), copies of which have been placed in the Library, was published in January 1995. The AGO report's recommendations included that: the National Health Service should make bone densitometry more widely available to help clinical decision-making for those identified as being at high risk of developing osteoporosis; there should be better co-ordination and communication between specialists dealing with osteoporosis; and that there should be nationally agreed clinical guidelines on treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.
Information on the number of health authorities with access to bone density scanning devices is not held centrally. It is for the NHS to decide locally what priority to give to making bone scans more widely available. I have sent the AGO report to chairmen of NHS bodies, drawing attention to its recommendations, and asking them to consider the cost effectiveness of identifying local "lead clinicians" to improve co-ordination between specialists. Discussions are also taking place with Royal Colleges with a view to developing national clinical guidelines for osteoporosis.
Baroness Cumberlege: The Clinical Standards Advisory Group's Report on Dental Anaesthesia is due to be published in early July and the Government's response will be included as an appendix to the report. Copies of the report will be placed in the Library.
Baroness Cumberlege: I understand from the Commission that their recent monitoring has shown an improved awareness in the mental health services of the need for clear and well understood policies in this area.
Baroness Cumberlege: Paragraph 20.1 of the code states categorically that leave of absence can only be granted by a patient's responsible medical officer. The Mental Health Act Commission is about to publish a Commission Practice Note on Section 17 leave which will emphasise this point. The commission has also been highlighting this matter in its recent visits to hospitals.
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