LEGALLY AND POLITICALLY IMPORTANT: CLEARED
COUNTERFEITING THE EURO
Draft Council Regulation on the protection of the euro against counterfeiting.
||Articles 123(4) and 308 EC; consultation; unanimity
|Basis of consideration:
||SEM of 1 February 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (1 November 2000)
|To be discussed in Council:
||12 February 2001|
||Legally and politically important
||Cleared, but request to be kept informed
9.1 On 1 March 2000 the Committee reported
and cleared a draft framework Decision on increasing protection
of the euro against counterfeiting by means of penal sanctions.
On 1 November 2000, the Committee reported on but left uncleared
a draft Regulation that would require the Member States to take
further steps to safeguard the euro against counterfeiting. The
Committee shared a number of concerns expressed by its sister
committee in the House of Lords and requested further information.
9.2 These concerns were that the proposal:
- sought to amend the intergovernmental Europol
Convention by requiring Member States to "ensure" that
a unit is set up by Europol to combat counterfeiting;
- created a new offence in the case of non-compliance
by financial institutions and similar bodies regarding their obligations
under the proposal to withdraw counterfeit euros; and
- lacked clarity regarding whether such "offences"
would be civil or criminal matters.
9.3 The revised proposal reflects the discussions
that have taken place in the Working Party, most recently under
the Swedish Presidency, but leaves the aim of the original proposal
largely unchanged. It provides:
- for the gathering and processing of technical
information on counterfeit notes and coins. Amongst other things,
Member States would have to establish a National Coin Analysis
Centre (NCAC) which would transmit information to the European
Technical Scientific Centre (ETSC to be established),
and financial institutions (including bureaux de change) would
be obliged to withdraw counterfeit euros and pass them to national
- for the processing of operational and strategic
data, including allowing Europol access to data held by the European
Central Bank (ECB); and
- for co-operation and mutual assistance both between
Member States and within the proposed Europol unit.
9.4 The original proposal would have required
Member States to introduce "effective, proportionate and
dissuasive penalties" for non-compliance by financial institutions
with their obligations to withdraw counterfeit euros. The Presidency
proposal, however, removes the explicit requirement upon institutions
to make appropriate checks on the authenticity of all euro notes
and coins that they receive. Instead institutions have a number
of obligations: to make appropriate and systematic checks before
distributing euros to the public; to withdraw from circulation
all euro notes and coins that they know or have sufficient reason
to believe are counterfeit; and to hand them over to the competent
national authorities. In the event of non-compliance, sanctions
will be of a non-penal nature and will take the form of incentives
to ensure that counterfeits are not rife. For example, financial
institutions would have an incentive to ensure that their reputations
and finances are not damaged by receiving or passing on counterfeit
9.5 The Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum
also makes clear that there is now general agreement among Member
States and the Commission that legislation adopted by Community
institutions cannot be used to amend the Europol Convention, a
convention agreed between Member States. This feature of the original
proposal has been removed. The revised proposal still includes
a role for Europol in that it will have access to technical and
statistical data on counterfeiting held by the ECB, but this is
to be achieved by an amendment to the Europol Convention agreed
by Member States.
The Government's view
9.6 In her Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum
of 1 February 2001, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Miss
Melanie Johnson) reaffirms the Government's commitment to the
principle of protection of the euro against counterfeiting. The
Government emphasises that counterfeiting of any currency is a
serious criminal offence in the UK.
9.7 The Government welcomes the requirement
for Member States to designate or establish a National Analysis
Centre (NAC) for notes and a National Coin Analysis Centre (NCAC).
The Minister reports that, after a series of discussion with possible
bodies, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) has
said that the preferred option would be for NCAC to be located
9.8 It is the Government's view that the
revised proposal has resolved the problem of using Community instruments
to place an obligation on Europol. The Government also welcomes
the removal from the regulation under the Presidency compromise
of the obligation upon financial institutions to verify all euro
9.9 The current proposal is tabled for the
ECOFIN meeting on 12 February.
9.10 In our earlier report, we joined
our sister Committee in the House of Lords in setting out a number
of concerns relating to the original draft regulation. Following
receipt of the Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum we consider
that the Presidency compromise proposal addresses those concerns
without undermining the degree of protection given to the euro.
9.11 We now clear the document, but request
to be kept informed of developments.
A GENERAL FRAMEWORK FOR EQUAL TREATMENT
IN EMPLOYMENT AND OCCUPATION
Amended proposal for a Council Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.
Council Directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.
||Article 13 EC; consultation; unanimity
||(a) 12 October 2000
|Forwarded to the Council:
||(a) 13 October 2000
|Deposited in Parliament:
||(a) 3 November 2000
(b) 15 January 2001
||Education and Employment
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 25 January 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||None; but see (20801) 13540/99: HC 23-vii (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (2 February 2000), HC 23-xix (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (24 May 2000) and HC 23-xxiv (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (12 July 2000).
|Discussed in Council:
||27 November 2000|
||Legally and politically important
10.1 We recommended an earlier version of
for debate in Standing Committee C , where it was debated, and
the motion agreed to, in July 2000. During the debate, the Minister
for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities at the
Department for Education and Employment (the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell)
"In negotiating the proposal, we are working
towards a final text that is clear and workable to the employers,
workers and training providers whom it will affect".
10.2 The proposal received political agreement
at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 17 October 2000.
The Directive was adopted by the Council on 27 November 2000.
10.3 Earlier in November, the Minister deposited
an updated text (document (a)), which contained amendments made
by the European Parliament but took no account of progress made
by Member States in negotiations. She has now deposited the final
text (document (b)), together with an Explanatory Memorandum which
covers both documents. As document (a) has been superseded by
document (b), our report concentrates on the latter.
The final text
10.4 In her Explanatory Memorandum, the
Minister helpfully reminds us of the key features of the Directive
and tells us about the derogations, and the timescale for implementation,
"The Directive requires Member States to introduce
laws giving effect to 'the principle of equal treatment', which
prohibits direct and indirect discrimination and harassment on
the grounds of a person's age, disability, religion, belief or
sexual orientation in the fields of:
self-employment and occupation;
" vocational training and guidance;
" membership of, involvement in,
and benefits from workers' or employers' organisations and professional
"It will also require employers to provide 'reasonable
accommodation' to enable disabled people to have access to, participate
in or advance in employment, or to undergo training. Moreover,
Member States will have to repeal all laws, regulations and administrative
principles which are contrary to the equal treatment principle.
They will also have to give aggrieved individuals the right to
"The Directive provides for certain derogations:
" differences of treatment based
on a characteristic related to the grounds of discrimination covered
by the Directive may be permitted in certain circumstances on
the basis of 'genuine and determining occupational requirement';
" Member States may retain laws and
practices already in place that permit religious organisations
to treat employees or prospective employees differently on account
of their religion or belief where the ethos of the organisation
means that a person's religion or belief becomes a genuine occupational
" service in the Armed Forces may
be exempt from the provisions on age and disability;
" Member States may provide for differences
of treatment on grounds of age to be justified (even where this
would otherwise amount to direct discrimination). They may also
completely exempt occupational pension schemes when transposing
the provisions of the Directive relating to age;
" a public policy exemption will
allow Member States, when implementing, not to give protection
to paedophiles, religious cults or other similar groups where
there is a public policy interest in limiting or preventing their
" payments made by the state, for
example under state social security schemes, are not covered by
"Special provisions are included in respect
of the situation in Northern Ireland. There is an exception for
the special recruitment measures under the Police (N.I) Act 2000
(which addresses imbalances in the composition of the police service
in terms of religious communities). There is also an exemption
for the recruitment of teachers in schools to maintain a balance
in recruitment between the religious communities.
"Member States are required to implement the
sexual orientation and religion or belief provisions by 2 December
2003 (i.e. within three years of adoption). They have until 2
December 2006 (i.e. within six years of adoption) to implement
the age and disability provisions. If Member States choose to
take six years to implement the age and disability provisions,
they will be required to submit annual progress reports to the
European Commission after three years."
The Government's view
10.5 The Minister tells us:
"The Directive represents a significant improvement
over the original proposal. The final text offers a reasonable
framework which allows Member States to put in place workable,
implementing legislation where necessary.
"...The agreed text will allow the UK to maintain
the approach of the DDA [Disability Discrimination Act] which
does not distinguish between direct and indirect discrimination.
There will need to be some amendments to the DDA, in particular
extending the range of employment and occupation currently covered...
"The extended implementation period for the
age provisions will allow time for research and widespread consultation
with employers, individuals and expert groups to clarify which
differences in treatment on grounds of age are justified and which
are not. The way in which the provisions are drafted, and the
exceptions secured will allow the UK to shape its implementing
legislation to confirm existing best practice on non-ageist approaches
"The provisions of the Directive will allow
the UK to give legal force to its policy of equality for all in
the workplace, whilst safeguarding specific national provisions
such as section 60 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act
1998 which allows schools with a religious character,
when recruiting teachers, to give preference to candidates who
adhere to the particular religion or denomination concerned. Implementation
of the provisions on religion in Great Britain will be guided
by the results of research currently being carried out into the
extent and nature of religious discrimination in England and Wales.
"The provisions on sexual orientation are in
line with the Government's commitment to equality for all in the
workplace. It will mean legal protection from discrimination and
harassment on grounds of sexual orientation in the area of employment
and occupation. The Directive does not affect national laws on
marital status and the benefits dependent thereon."
10.6 The Minister points out that new legislation
will be needed throughout the UK to give effect to the provisions
prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of age and sexual orientation.
New legislation will also be needed in Great Britain to implement
the provisions concerning discrimination on the grounds of religion
and belief, and the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland)
Order 1998 will need to be extended and amended in some respects
relating to religious belief.
10.7 Now that we are (at last) able to
see the final text of this Directive, we are pleased to be able
to agree with the Minister that it represents a significant improvement
over the original proposal. The provisions about which we were
particularly concerned those relating to discrimination
on grounds of disability and of age have been more tightly
drafted, and Article 8, dealing with "occupational requirements"
now presents fewer problems for religious schools and other organisations.
10.8 The other key problem which arose
in relation to this proposal its last-minute negotiation
on the basis of confidential texts is neatly illustrated
by the emergence, in the final text, of derogations related to
service in the Armed Forces and special provisions in respect
of Northern Ireland, neither of which we had any opportunity to
consider. We hope such a situation will not arise again.
10.9 We clear both documents.
19 (20624) 12585/99; see HC 23-x (1999-2000), paragraph
13540/99; see headnote to this paragraph. Back
Report, Standing Committee
C, 24 July 2000, col.3. Back