GUIDELINES FOR MEMBER STATES' EMPLOYMENT
POLICIES FOR 2002
Amended draft Decision on guidelines for Member States' employment policies for the year 2002.
|Legal base:||Article 128(2) EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
|Document originated:||9 November 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:||12 November 2001
|Deposited in Parliament:||7 December 2001
|Department:||Work and Pensions
|Basis of consideration:||Minister's letter and corrigendum of 28 January 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||HC 152-xi (2001-02), paragraph 3 ( 9 January 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:||Not applicable
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
13.1 When we considered this document in January, the
guidelines for Member States' employment policies had already
been agreed, along with the other components of the "Employment
Package" (the Joint Employment Report for 2001 and the Recommendations
on the implementation of Member States' employment policies),
at the Employment and Social Policy Council on 3 December, and
adopted at the Laeken European Council.
13.2 Nonetheless, we raised some questions with the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education and Employment
(Mr Malcolm Wicks) about his Explanatory Memorandum on the document.
The Minister has now responded.
The Minister's letter and corrigendum
13.3 Our first question related to the receipt of the
Explanatory Memorandum. We asked why it had not been provided
before 18 December, given that the document was forwarded to the
Council on 12 November. The latter date would seem to have allowed
for the Committee to have considered the amended proposal before
the Council meeting on 3 December.
13.4 The Minister explains:
"The reason for the delay was that the official document
was initially only available in French and was not available in
English in time for the Committee to consider. [The] Cabinet Office
did not receive the document in English through official channels
until 4 December 2001. An unofficial version in English was available
earlier but we expected the official version to become available
rather earlier than it did. When, by 23 November, we approached
the Clerks to the Committee to see if an unofficial text would
be acceptable, my officials were advised that the Committee could
not consider this in time [for the Council meeting on 3 December]
, since its planned meeting on 28 November 2001 would not take
place [the Committee was in Spain on that date]. Therefore, the
document was deposited to the standard timescale and the EM was
prepared for the 18 December 2001 deadline as requested."
13.5 We also asked for a fuller explanation of the Minister's
comment about the document being "effectively overtaken by
events", which implied to us that the Council took no account
of the consultation with the European Parliament in coming to
its agreement. The Minister assures us that he did not intend
this implication. He outlines the sequence of events as follows:
"The European Parliament produced its Opinion on 24 October
and the Employment (EMCO) and Economic Policy (EPC) Committees,
following discussion with the Commission, produced a Joint Opinion
on 29 October. The Council Working Group met on 6 and 12 November
to consider all proposed amendments to the proposed decision.
The group adopted the EMCO/EPC amendments en masse, and agreed
a small number of minor amendments proposed by the Commission,
based on the European Parliament Opinion.
"As to the remaining elements in the Commission's amended
proposal these were overtaken by events in that the detailed discussions
of the guidelines in EMCO and EPC had firmly established a consensus
among the Member States against the idea of compulsory national
13.6 The Minister continues:
"I should also like to draw the Committee's attention to,
and apologise for, an error which appeared in my Explanatory Memorandum
of 18 December...which states that the agreement at the 3 December
Council was based on the Commission's original proposal [(22669)].
In substance, the text agreed by the 3 December Council was, save
for the three minor amendments mentioned above, identical to the
revision of the Commission's original proposal which emerged
from EMCO. However, in formal terms, that text was a revision
of the Commission's amended proposal. The attached Corrigendum
is for circulation to all recipients of the Explanatory Memorandum
to rectify the error.
"Given the clear political consensus in the Council the practical
and policy effect of the agreement would have been the same regardless
of which Commission text had been taken as the starting point.
I thought it important, however, to advise the Committee of this
error once it had come to light."
13.7 We thank the Minister for his response and corrigendum.
We now understand the reason for the delay, and we are reassured
to learn that account was taken of the European Parliament's proposed
amendments (although few of them were adopted).
13.8 The Minister's account of the meetings which
took place before the Council fuels our growing concern about
how we can properly discharge our duty when Council agreements
are based on unpublished amendments to deposited texts. We shall
be considering this problem further. Meanwhile, we ask for a copy
of the final agreed text.
13.9 We clear the current document.