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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,
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.
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 policiesthe second part of the employment package.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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