Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(00) 624

Amended draft Council Directive on the right to family reunification.

Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter (undated) and EM of 9 November 2000
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (20806) — ; HC 23-vi (1999-2000),
paragraph 3 (26 January 2000), HC 23-xii (1999-2000),
paragraph 1 (15 March 2000), HC 23-xviii (1999-2000),
paragraph 2 (17 May 2000) and HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000),
paragraph 15 (1 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but information on progress requested


  14.1  On several occasions earlier this year, we considered the first version of this proposal[28], which sets out guiding principles for a common European policy on family reunion. In April, the Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) wrote to inform us that the Government had decided not to opt in to the measure (which has a legal base within Title IV of the EC Treaty). In November, on receipt of a response to outstanding questions, we cleared the document. However, we pointed out that we had received only one of the comments from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which the Minister said she had attached to her letter, and asked for the others to be supplied.

  14.2  The Minister has now sent us the missing documents. She has also deposited a new version of the proposal, together with an Explanatory Memorandum.

NGO comments

  14.3  The NGO documents comprise a copy of the report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) on the Government's Explanatory Memorandum together with her reply, comments from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, Save the Children, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaign (NCADC) and Southall Black Sisters and a draft alternative proposal submitted by the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA).

  14.4  All the responses but one broadly welcome the proposal, while identifying areas of concern, and areas where, in their view, further work is needed. (The exception is the ILPA, which takes a more critical stance.)

  14.5  Several of the organisations consider that the proposal should contain a "standstill clause" which would protect existing higher standards in Member States, as well as provision permitting more generous national provisions to be adopted. Other issues include the possible exclusion from the proposal of persons fleeing indiscriminate violence arising in situations of war and conflict, the denial of entry to family members on grounds of health, the limitations on access to employment and vocational training, and the need for urgency in the treatment of unaccompanied minors.

  14.6  Three of the NGOs — JCWI, NCADC, and Southall Black Sisters — express the hope that the UK will decide to opt in to the proposal.

The amended document

  14.7  The new document has been published by the Commission, in the light of amendments proposed by the European Parliament. The Minister highlights the significant changes as follows:

    "One fundamental change restricts the scope of the proposal by excluding those persons granted 'subsidiary protection'[29], on the basis that the absence of a harmonised concept of subsidiary protection at Community level constitutes an obstacle to their inclusion in the proposed Directive. The Commission intends to present a separate proposal on subsidiary protection next year, for adoption by 2004, which will include provisions for family reunification.

    "Other amendments of interest are at Chapter III, Article 7, which now makes it clear that applicants may simultaneously make applications for the admission of several family members at a time; at Chapter IV, Article 9, which establishes an objective and precise criterion for the assessment of accommodation; and at Chapter V, Article 12(2), which allows for Member States to exercise discretion in deciding whether to allow access to employment and vocational training for relatives in the ascending line and dependent children of full age. Recital 5 has been added to the text to reflect the European Parliament's request for statistical monitoring of the proposal".

The Government's view

  14.8  The Minister repeats most of her earlier criticisms of the proposal, but does not comment specifically on the amendments. However, the fact that she has omitted her critical comments on Article 12 implies that she is in agreement with the amendment allowing Member States to exercise discretion over access to employment and vocational training.


  14.9  We thank the Minister for sending us the non-governmental organisations' responses. We note that, apart from the changes related to access to employment and vocational training, the revised proposal does not meet the key concerns expressed by the organisations. Indeed, the exclusion of persons granted subsidiary protection may have an adverse effect on those fleeing indiscriminate violence arising in situations of war and conflict.

  14.10  We clear the proposal, given the Government's decision not to participate in it. Nevertheless, we ask to be kept informed of further amendments to the text, and the Government's view of them.

28  (20806) - ; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

29  "Subsidiary protection" means any third country national or stateless person authorised to reside in a Member State pursuant to a subsidiary form of protection in accordance with international law, national legislation or the practice of Member States. Back

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