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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (Agenda)

Volume 519: debated on Friday 3 December 2010

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 6 December 2010 in Brussels. I will represent the UK, except for the agenda item on the pregnant workers directive where the UK will be represented by the Minister responsible for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey).

There will be two orientation debates. The first is on the pregnant workers directive, which is being renegotiated in a co-decision procedure between the Council and the European Parliament. As the European Parliament’s position goes much further than the Commission’s original proposal, and would require 20 weeks’ fully paid maternity leave, two weeks’ paternity leave and 20 weeks’ adoption leave, the UK will not agree to these changes.

The second is on retirement pensions, in particular maintaining a “living standard to a reasonable degree” and our reaction to the Commission’s Green Paper. This will include the presentation of a joint report from the Social Protection (SPC) and Economic Policy Committee (EPC) on pensions. The UK will stress the need to ensure that pensioners have the income to live with dignity in retirement and that each member state should find its own balance for public pensions.

There will be an exchange of views on the Employment Policies in Europe 2020 and the European Semester. This will include information from the Commission and presidency on the EU 2020 flagship projects “New Skills and Jobs” and “Youth on the Move”, approval of two Employment Committee (EMCO) opinions, on employment and climate change and an initial country analysis of the draft national reform programmes, and approval of a joint EMCO-SPC opinion on the Joint Assessment Framework and the Employment Monitor. The UK will stress how important it is that employment is at the heart of the Europe2020 strategy and that there must be a robust methodology for assessments, but it is important to recognise that this should not lead to policy prescriptions in an area that is primarily member state competence.

There will be a discussion of the general approach to the European Year of Active Ageing 2012 which proposes to promote active ageing and to do more to mobilise the potential of the rapidly growing population in their late 50s and above.

There will be a progress report on the directive on equal treatment where some progress has been made under the Belgian presidency. The Commission will also present its joint report with the SPC on the social dimension of the crisis.

The Commission will present the biannual report on social services of general interest which annexes a voluntary framework that was developed collaboratively with member states and stakeholders. The report is an overview of the initiatives implemented to guarantee and assess the quality of social services.

Ministers will consider a number of Council conclusions. There are two sets on gender; one on the implementation of the strategy on equality between women and men, and one on the fight against inequalities in salaries between women and men. There are also conclusions on the fight against poverty and social exclusion, employment policy for the low carbon economy, the impact of the ageing workforce, adequate and sustainable pensions, the social dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy and social services of general interest.

Under any other business, there will be information from the Commission on the New Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and the presidency will provide information on the second Euromed conference, the third conference of Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM), conclusions of the 5th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial cohesion, and the Equality summit. There will also be information on various conferences under the Belgian presidency and the Hungarian delegation will outline the programme and events for their forthcoming presidency.