§ Mr. Stevens
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Labour and Social Affairs Council meeting held in Brussels on Tuesday 29 May.
§ Mr. Howard
The meeting was very constructive. The main business was the adoption of a resolution put forward by the Irish Presidency on action to assist the long-term unemployed.
The council also adopted a resolution on the fight against racism and xenophobia; and a proposal for an action programme on continuing training. I expressed my support for the objectives of this decision; but made clear our objections to the inclusion of the social charter in the recital.
There was a discussion of how we should amend existing regulations governing the freedom of movement for workers within the Community; and of a proposal for a new regulation on eligibility of migrant workers and their families to non-contributory benefits. It was agreed both issues needed further consideration.
The council also adopted a resolution on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work, which is concerned with protection against sexual harassment; the third joint programme to encourage the exchange of young workers within the Community; and two directives on minimum health and safety requirements for workers in these areas: handling heavy loads where there is a risk of back injury for workers; and for work with display screen equipment. A common position was reached on a third directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to biological agents at work.
In informal discussion, we considered how we might support the efforts of Poland and Hungary to move to a free market economy. Their Ministers for Employment had addressed Community Employment Ministers at an informal meeting on 28 May.
Finally, Commisssioner Papandreou gave a first informal report on member states' implementation of measures already agreed in the social area. This was in response to my request for regular reports on implementation; and I have asked her to let member states have her report in writing.