European Scrutiny Committee

No. 7
(Session 2004-05)



On Wednesday 23 February the European Scrutiny Committee will take evidence in public from the Rt Hon John Hutton, Minister of State, Department of Health, on a Commission Communication proposing that the EU's "open method of coordination" be applied to health care and long-term care.  This evidence session will take place at 2.30 pm in Room 19, Upper Committee Corridor, House of Commons.

The open method of coordination involves fixing guidelines for the EU combined with specific timetables for achieving the goals; establishing indicators and benchmarks as a means of comparing best practice; translating the guidelines into national and regional policies by setting specific targets, and periodic monitoring, evaluation and peer review.

In April 2004, the Commission published a Communication proposing three objectives:  to ensure fair and universal access to health care and long-term care; to promote the provision of care of high quality; and to ensure that high-quality, universally accessible care is financially sustainable in the long term.

The Government says that the opportunity to share information, facilitated by the Commission, could be helpful, but "it should not be heavy handed and dominated with indicators".

The Committee's view is that, while sharing information can be helpful, the open method of coordination goes far beyond this, involving detailed reports and the setting of benchmarks and targets.  It is not clear to the Committee why the open method of coordination needs to apply to health care and long-term care-where the primary responsibility rests with Member States-and why exchanges of views could not be achieved by less obtrusive means.  It therefore invited the Minister to give evidence.

The Committee's report on the Communication is attached.

For further information telephone 020 7219 5467/3292

9 February 2005

Note for Editors

The main purpose of the European Scrutiny Committee is to report to the House on the legal and political importance of each EU document and to determine which EU documents are debated.  Such debates take place either in a European Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House.  The Committee normally reports weekly on a range of documents when the House is sitting.  The Committee also monitors business in the Council of Ministers, especially the activities of UK Ministers in the Council, and produces occasional reports on wider EU developments.

The Committee currently has 14 Members, as follows:

Jimmy Hood MP (Chairman) - Labour - Clydesdale
Richard Bacon MP - Conservative - South Norfolk
William Cash MP - Conservative - Stone
Michael Connarty MP - Labour - Falkirk East
Wayne David MP - Labour - Caerphilly
Jim Dobbin MP - Labour/Co-op - Heywood & Middleton
Nick Harvey MP - Lib Dem - North Devon
David Heathcoat-Amory MP - Conservative - Wells
Sandra Osborne MP - Labour - Ayr
Anne Picking MP - Labour - East Lothian
Angus Robertson MP - SNP - Moray
John Robertson MP - Labour - Glasgow Anniesland
Anthony Steen MP - Conservative - Totnes
Bill Tynan MP - Labour - Hamilton South

The text of all Committee publications, including Press Notices and Reports, can be found on the Committee's website:

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