18 Employment guidelines |
|Committee's decision||Not cleared from scrutiny; recommendation for debate in European Committee B made on 24 March 2015, along with the draft Council Recommendation on broad guidelines for economic policies of Member States and the EU (Council document 6813/15 + ADD 1), recommendation for debate rescinded; further information requested
|Document details||Proposal for a Council Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States
|Legal base||Article 148(2) TFEU; ; QMV
|Work and Pensions
(36703), 6144/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 98
Summary and Committee's conclusions
18.1 The EU Treaties provide that Member States are to regard
their economic policies and the promotion of employment as "a
matter of common concern".[ 170]
In March, our predecessors considered a proposal for a Council
Recommendation establishing four broad guidelines for Member States'
economic policies,[ 171]
as well as this proposal for a Council Decision setting out four
further guidelines for Member States' employment policies. As
each set of guidelines has a distinct legal base in the EU Treaties,
they have been proposed as separate legal instruments which are,
however, "intrinsically interconnected".[ 172]
Together, they constitute the new "integrated guidelines"
which are intended to provide the framework for policy coordination
within the annual European Semester and to underpin the remaining
years of the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy for jobs and growth.
18.2 The Government noted that the guidelines were
not legally binding and considered their content to be broadly
acceptable, whilst highlighting concerns about the use of "inappropriately
prescriptive language on labour taxation and Member States' social
18.3 Our predecessor Committee recommended that the
proposed new integrated guidelines, covering economic and employment
policies, as well as a number of additional documents relating
to the 2015 European Semester, should be debated together ahead
of the June Employment and Social Policy (EPSCO) Council (in the
case of the employment guidelines) and the European Council (the
remaining documents).[ 174]
18.4 The Minister for Employment (Priti Patel) now
writes to inform us that, as anticipated, the EPSCO Council agreed
a general approach on the employment guidelines at its meeting
on 18 June.
18.5 Elsewhere in this Report, we explain that
it has not been possible for the Government to schedule a debate
ahead of the June EPSCO and European Council meetings.[ 175]
As the substance of the proposed new integrated guidelines on
economic and employment policies has now been agreed, we rescind
our predecessor Committee's debate recommendation.
18.6 We would, nevertheless, welcome further information
on the outcome of the June EPSCO Council. The Minister tells us
that the Council agreed "a de facto general approach"
on the employment guidelines set out in the proposed Council Decision.
Although no formal vote was called, she notes that "it was
clear that, as we did not have scrutiny clearance, the UK would
abstain on this proposal". We ask the Minister to clarify
whether the UK did, in fact, abstain and how the UK's abstention
was expressed, given that her Written Ministerial Statement to
Parliament on the outcome of the Council makes no reference to
a UK abstention or to a Parliamentary scrutiny reserve. We also
ask her to provide us with a copy of the general approach agreed
by the Council.
18.7 Pending the Minister's reply, the proposed
Council Decision remains under scrutiny.
details of the documents: Proposal for
a Council Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of
the Member States: (36703), 6144/15 + ADD 1, COM(15) 98.
18.8 The employment guidelines have to be agreed
each year by a Decision of the Council and must remain consistent
with the broad economic guidelines. They form an important part
of the Europe 2020 Strategy, agreed by the European Council in
March 2010, and the European Semester, an EU-level framework for
coordinating and assessing Member States' structural reforms and
fiscal/budgetary policy and for monitoring and addressing macroeconomic
imbalances. The proposed new employment guidelines place particular
emphasis on addressing the social impact of the economic and financial
crisis through the effective functioning of labour markets and
social welfare systems. Our earlier Reports, listed at the end
of this chapter, provide more detailed information on the content
of the proposed broad economic guidelines and the employment guidelines,
as well as the Government's position.
18.9 In its Explanatory Memorandum on the proposed
Council Decision, the Government noted that the guidelines were
not legally binding and were intended to "frame the scope"
of Member States' national employment policies. Whilst describing
their content as "broadly acceptable", the Government
suggested that some of the language used on labour taxation and
Member States' social policies was "inappropriately prescriptive".[ 176]
The Minister's letter of 2 July 2015
18.10 The Minister for Employment (Priti Patel) explains
that the proposed employment guidelines were considered by various
EU-level Committees during March the Employment Committee,
the Social Protection Committee and the Education Committee
as well as by the Public Employment Services Network and by EU
social partners (employers and trade unions). She continues:
"During these rounds of negotiations, we
managed to relax the language on labour taxation and on Member
States' social policies. Other minor changes were also agreed,
for example, including a reference to Public Employment Services,
removing redundancies or changing the order of the text to make
it flow better. All of these changes were in keeping with UK policies
and were agreeable to us."
18.11 The Minister notes that these changes were
agreed by the Employment Committee on 31 March and discussed at
Council working group meetings in April and May. Further changes,
all broadly acceptable to the UK, were made to the recitals to
the proposed Decision. The Minister continues:
"On 10 June, the Employment Guidelines were
discussed at COREPER, where there was consensus to include a broad
recital that describes that labour market reforms should consider
Member States' practices and circumstances, which is agreeable
to the UK.
"Finally, the Employment Guidelines were
scheduled for general approach at the Employment and Social Policies
Council (EPSCO) on 18 June. Due to the electoral period, it has
not been possible to schedule a debate as requested by your Committee.
It was clear that, as we did not have scrutiny clearance, the
UK would abstain on this proposal. No formal vote was called.
As no Member States raised any objections to the proposal, the
Presidency concluded that there was a de facto general approach."
18.12 The Minister expects the Employment Guidelines
to be formally adopted at a future Council, once the European
Parliament has published an opinion on the Guidelines (expected
in early July). She adds:
"We will continue to hold a parliamentary
scrutiny reserve and abstain within Council until a debate has
Previous Committee Reports
Thirty-ninth Report HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter
2 (24 March 2015). See also our Thirty-seventh Report HC 219-xxxvi
(2014-15), chapter 2 (18 March 2015) concerning the draft Council
Recommendation on the broad economic policy guidelines is relevant.
170 Articles 121 and 146(2) TFEU. Back
171 See our Thirty-seventh Report listed at the end of this chapter
for further details. Back
172 See p.2 of the Commission's explanatory memorandum accompanying
the draft Decision. Back
173 See para 20 of the Explanatory Memorandum dated 17 March 2015
submitted by the then Minister for Employment (Esther McVey). Back
174 (36690), 6632/15; (36691), -, SWD(15) 47: see Thirty-sixth Report
HC 219-xxxv (2014-15), chapter 2 (11 March 2015); (36712) 6813/15
+ ADD 1: see Thirty-seventh Report HC 219-xxxvi (2014-15), chapter
2 (18 March 2015); (36703) 6144/15 + ADD 1: see Thirty-ninth Report
HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter 2 (24 March 2015). Back
175 See chapter 77 of this Report on the European Semester 2015: Country
Specific Recommendations. Back
176 See the Explanatory Memorandum dated 17 March 2015 submitted by
the then Minister for Employment (Esther McVey). Back