13 Forced labour |
||Legally and politically important|
|Committee's decision||Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
|Document details||(a) Draft Council Decision authorising Member States to ratify the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention 1930 of the International Labour Organisation with regard to matters related to social policy; (b) Draft Council Decision authorising Member States to ratify the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention 1930 of the International Labour Organisation with regard to matters related to judicial cooperation in criminal matters
|Legal base||(a) Articles 153(1)(a) and (b) and 218(6)(a)(v) TFEU; QMV; EP consent; (b) Articles 82(2) and 218(6)(a)(v) TFEU; QMV; EP consent
|Document numbers||(a) (36329), 13158/14, COM(14) 563; (b) (36328), 13157/14, COM(14) 559
Summary and Committee's conclusions
13.1 The purpose of these draft Decisions is to authorise Member
States to ratify a new Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention.
The aim of the Convention is to "suppress the use of forced
or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible
was agreed by the General Conference of the International Labour
Organisation (ILO) in 1930 and has been ratified by all Member
States. The Protocol, agreed in June 2014, contains additional
measures for the prevention and elimination of the use of forced
labour and the protection of victims.
13.2 Membership of the ILO is only open to state
parties. The EU participates as an observer, without voting rights.
The Commission considers that the EU has exclusive competence
in the areas covered by the Protocol and that, as a consequence,
EU authorisation is necessary to enable Member States to ratify
the Protocol. It has proposed two draft Decisions, the first
document (a) ("the social policy Decision")
concerning the working environment and working conditions, and
the second document (b) ("the judicial cooperation
Decision") concerning judicial cooperation in criminal
matters, in particular human trafficking and the rights of victims
of crime. Document
(b) includes a Title V (justice and home affairs) legal base.
The Commission considers that the UK is automatically bound, by
virtue of its participation in EU Directives on human trafficking
and the rights of victims of crime, and that the UK's opt-in does
13.3 The Government rejects the Commission's analysis.
It contends that the EU does not have exclusive competence for
any matters covered by the Protocol and, as a consequence, there
is no requirement for the EU to authorise Member States to ratify
it. The Government also contends that, if the draft Decisions
are to proceed, the judicial cooperation Decision (document (b))
is subject to the UK's Title V opt-in. It has confirmed that
it has decided not to opt into that Decision, and to vote against
the social policy Decision (document (a)). The Government nevertheless
supports the Protocol and intends to ratify it in its own right.
13.4 In her latest update, the Minister for Modern
Slavery and Organised Crime (Karen Bradley) responds to questions
raised in our Twenty-eighth Report, agreed on 7 January 2015,
and explains how she expects the Latvian Presidency to take forward
13.5 We thank the Minister for her latest update.
As we have stated in our earlier Reports, until there is greater
clarity as to the Presidency's intentions, the form in which any
revised proposals are put forward for adoption, and the Council's
position on the extent of EU competence in relation to the Protocol,
we wish to retain the draft Decisions under scrutiny. We ask the
Minister to continue to provide progress reports on the negotiations.
In the event that the draft Decisions are adopted on the basis
that the EU has exclusive external competence, we also ask the
Minister to provide a copy of the minute statement made by the
UK, which in our view should cover both the Commission's assertion
of exclusive competence and its assertion that the UK opt-in to
the judicial cooperation measure is not engaged.
Full details of
the documents: (a)
Draft Council Decision authorising Member States to ratify, in
the interest of the European Union, the Protocol of 2014 to the
Forced Labour Convention, 1930, of the International Labour Organisation
with regard to matters related to social policy: (36329), 13158/14,
COM(14) 563; (b) Draft Council Decision authorising Member States
to ratify, in the interest of the European Union, the Protocol
of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, of the International
Labour Organisation with regard to matters related to judicial
cooperation in criminal matters: (36328), 13157/14, COM(14) 559.
13.6 Our earlier Reports, listed at the end of the
chapter, describe the basis on which the Commission seeks to assert
that the EU has exclusive competence to authorise Member States
to ratify the Protocol, as well as the Government's reasons for
believing that Member States alone are entitled to do so, without
requiring prior authorisation from the EU.
13.7 As we have already made clear, we consider that
the Government has good grounds for arguing, in this case, that
the criteria for establishing exclusive EU external competence
for the matters covered by the Protocol have not been met, given
that the relevant EU acquis and the Protocol itself are
based on minimum standards. The Government's position is, in our
view, weakened by its acquiescence, on previous occasions, in
the assertion of exclusive EU external competence in relation
to other ILO Conventions which suggests a lack of consistency
for which no convincing explanation has yet been given.
13.8 We last considered the draft Decisions at our
meeting on 7 January 2015. We asked the Minister to:
whether there had been further discussions or agreement on the
proposals at the end of the Italian Presidency and, if not, how
she expected the incoming Latvian Presidency to take matters forward;
whether other Member States agreed with the Commission's analysis
that the UK's Title V opt-in did not apply to the judicial cooperation
Decision and whether the Government would consider the UK to be
bound by it, if adopted.
13.9 We also reminded the Minister that, if
the draft Decisions were to be adopted at a future Council, contrary
to the Government's wishes, we expected to hear what steps the
UK intended to take, within the Council and within the ILO, to
record its objection to the assertion of exclusive EU external
competence and to make clear that the UK would be ratifying the
Protocol on its own behalf.
The Minister's letter of 28 January 2015
13.10 The Minister confirms that compromise proposals
prepared by the Italian Presidency, which sought to limit the
judicial cooperation Decision to areas of exclusive EU external
competence, were opposed by a number of Member States and were
not considered by the Council in December. She adds:
"The UK led this opposition on the basis
that we do not consider there is any exclusive EU competence arising
from the Protocol."
13.11 Whilst the Latvian Presidency is "keen
to move forward" and has been willing to offer drafting changes,
the UK continues to make clear that it sees no need for the draft
Decisions, as the EU lacks exclusive competence and any shared
competence should be undertaken by Member States.
13.12 The Government continues to argue that the
UK's Title V (justice and home affairs) opt-in applies "in
all cases where a Title V legal base is cited, even where there
is exclusive EU external competence". She continues:
"Most Member States do not engage in these
discussions, and there is no overt support for the UK's position
on this issue. The Government considers that the UK would not
be bound by the judicial cooperation Decision, if adopted in its
current form, as the UK has asserted the opt-in and not opted
13.13 Finally, the Minister explains that if the
draft Decisions are adopted in their current form, on the basis
that the EU has exclusive external competence, the UK will "put
down a minute statement setting out its position". She invites
us to clear the proposals from scrutiny.
Previous Committee Reports
Twenty-eighth Report HC 219-xxvii (2014-15), chapter
10 (7 January 2015); Twenty-fifth Report HC 219-xxv (2014-15),
chapter 8 (10 December 2014); Twentieth Report HC 219-xix (2014-15),
chapter 6 (19 November 2014) and Thirteenth Report HC 219-xiii
(2014-15), chapter 24 (15 October 2014). Also see (35961), 8988/14:
Second Report HC 219-ii (2014-15), chapter 18 (11 June 2014)
and Fiftieth Report HC 83-xlv (2013-14), chapter 9 (14 May 2014).
61 Article 1 of the Convention. Back
Two Council Decisions are needed because all Member States are
bound by the EU's social policy acquis and are therefore
entitled to vote for the first Council Decision, document (a).
By contrast, a different decision making procedure, excluding
Denmark, applies to the second draft Decision, document (b), as
it is a Title V (justice and home affairs) measure. Back