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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Volume 501: debated on Thursday 26 November 2009

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 30 November and 1 December 2009 in Brussels. I shall represent the United Kingdom on all items on 30 November, except for the intervention on “gender equality: strengthening growth and employment”, where the United Kingdom will be represented by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equality. Health business will be taken on 1 December 2009.

The first and main item of the agenda will be a policy debate on recovering from the financial crisis and preparing for the post-2010 Lisbon strategy. The presidency wants a contribution to the debate on a successor to the strategy after 2010, in the context of demographic change and economic recovery. There will also be a policy debate on gender equality, strengthening growth and employment. The United Kingdom wants to ensure that the post-2010 Lisbon strategy reflects the realities of the changing requirements of the European labour market by focusing on the need for fairness.

The presidency will seek political agreement on a revised parental leave directive. Social partners signed a new framework agreement in June 2009 and the European Commission published a proposal for a directive to implement the new agreement. The United Kingdom welcomes that agreement. The presidency will also seek political agreement on work on the fishing convention which applies to all fishers and all fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations. The United Kingdom supported the development and adoption of the convention, and is committed to working towards ratification. The other item for political agreement is a directive on equal treatment between men and women engaged in a self-employed capacity. This aims to promote equal treatment between self-employed workers and their “assisting spouses”. The United Kingdom welcomes the progress the Swedish presidency has made with the text and is working with the presidency to achieve a reasonable outcome at Council.

The presidency will seek adoption of Council conclusions on healthy and dignified ageing. The United Kingdom supports the text which acknowledges the importance of active ageing in light of the demographic challenge. The Council will also seek adoption of Council conclusions on follow-up of the implementation by the member states and the European Union institutions of the Beijing platform of action to strengthen institutional mechanisms for promoting gender equality. The United Kingdom fully supports this and has submitted a report on progress in implementing the platform.

There will be a progress report on the anti-discrimination directive. The United Kingdom has taken a positive approach to the directive but emphasises the need for the directive to be clear and that any action has to be proportionate to the issue being tackled.

Under any other business, there will be information on conferences held under the Swedish presidency. The incoming Spanish presidency will also give an outline of their work programme.