Documents considered by the Committee on 7 December 2016 Contents

6European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; scrutiny waiver granted for the Council meeting of 8 December

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation establishing the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), and repealing Council Regulation (EC) 2062/94

Legal base

Article 153(2)(a) TFEU

Department

Health and Safety Executive

Document Number

(38025), 11531/16, COM(16) 528

6.1The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) collects, analyses and disseminates technical, scientific and economic information on occupational safety and health. The Commission proposes to update EU-OSHA’s objectives and tasks in the light of changing circumstances and changes that have been agreed for all EU Agencies under the Common Approach to EU Decentralised Agencies.

6.2When the Committee first considered the proposal—at its meeting of 14 September—the Committee raised issues about the legal base, the size of the Management Board, the timing and nature of an evaluation, the implications of Brexit and the progress of negotiations.

6.3The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, (Penny Mordaunt), responded to the Committee on 23 October and 28 November. In her most recent letter, she explains that a General Approach is scheduled to be agreed by Ministers on 8 December. She is supportive of the compromise text and therefore asks for the Committee’s agreement to clear the proposal from scrutiny in order that the Government may indicate its support in Council.

6.4The details of the Minister’s response are set out below. The one issue on which the Government’s position has had little traction with others is that of the size of the Management Board. On the implications of Brexit for the UK’s relationship with the Agency, the Minister affirms that this will form part of the withdrawal negotiations. She observes that the Agency already works with third countries and she considers that future cooperation with the Agency as a third country is something that might be considered further.

6.5We thank the Minister for her synopsis of developments. We note the recent acceleration of discussions towards a General Approach at Council on 8 December and the Minister’s request that we clear the document from scrutiny in order that the Government may support the compromise text.

6.6The Minister makes no comment on the parallel discussions taking place in the European Parliament, which is a co-legislator on this proposal. We are not prepared to accede to her request to clear the document from scrutiny as there could well be further developments in negotiations once the position of the European Parliament has become clear. We do not, however, wish to fetter the Government’s negotiating position at the Council and we therefore waive the proposal from scrutiny in order that the Government may give its agreement to a General Approach at the 8 December meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. We look forward to an update on that Council and on developments in the European Parliament in due course.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation establishing the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), and repealing Council Regulation (EC) 2062/94: (38025), 11531/16, COM(16) 528.

Background

6.7The reasons for the proposed revision of EU-OSHA are twofold. First, the revision will align certain provisions of the existing Regulation governing EU-OSHA with the Common Approach on Decentralised Agencies. These guiding principles for all EU agencies were adopted in 2012 to make the agencies more coherent, effective and accountable. Second, the revision also offers the opportunity to update the objectives and tasks of EU-OSHA to reflect developments since its establishment in 1994.

6.8Further details on the background to EU-OSHA and on the Commission’s proposal were set out in our Report of 14 September.9

6.9We raised the following issues in our earlier Report:

Minister’s letters of 23 October and 28 November 2016

6.10The Minister explains that her letter of 28 November updates the Committee on latest developments and—for ease of reference—repeats the material previously set out in the letter of 23 October.

6.11She explains that the Slovak Presidency is planning to agree a General Approach on the proposal at the 8 December meeting of the Employment and Social Policy Council (EPSCO) and she requests that the Committee considers releasing the proposal from scrutiny.

6.12On the legal base, the Minister says:

“The Commission has stated the position that Article 153(2)(a) provides the best match with the aims and objectives of the Agency. After further reflection, we have come to the same view. None of the other member states have questioned this change. To answer your specific question, there is no alternative legal base aligned with the purpose of the Agency that would preserve unanimity.”

6.13Regarding the size of the Management Board and an evaluation of the Agency, she responds:

“We have raised the issue of the proposal not adopting the streamlined Management Board structure recommend[ed] in the Common Approach to European Union decentralised agencies. We continue to believe that a smaller board is preferable for decision-making than a board of over 80 members. However, no other member state was willing to support us when we questioned why the Common Approach was not being adhered to for this part of the Agency. Other member states were not prepared to countenance a reduction in the membership of the Management Board. They link a reduction with threatening the tripartite nature of the Agency. This view probably reflects the strong social partnership arrangements in their national systems. It is also clear that the social partners themselves had lobbied hard to maintain the membership of the Agency’s current Governing Board and this had the desired effect.

“You also asked in September whether the Commission had done an evaluation of the Agency before issuing its proposal. We are not aware of any Commission evaluation. However, the Agency did commission an evaluation of itself in 2011. This did not cover its Governing Board. We have also raised this matter during the negotiations, particularly as the Agency is due to be evaluated in 2017. However, it is not something that the either the Presidency or most other member states have picked up on. The Commission, when questioned about this aspect, has responded that the planned evaluation will address the mandate of the Agency and the current negotiation is about the governance of the Agency and its alignment with the Common Approach.”

6.14Turning to the implications arising from Brexit, she says:

“Whether we have a relationship with the Agency from outside of the EU is something that will need to be decided as part of the exit negotiations. However, the Agency already works with countries outside of the EU. Article 30 of the proposal covers cooperation with third countries and international organisations. We already have a good working relationship with the Agency and future cooperation with it from outside of the EU is something that might be considered further.”

6.15On the negotiations, the Minister explains:

“For the purpose of the negotiations the Agency has been considered with the proposals to revise the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training. The meetings of the working party have been split between looking at the horizontal changes proposed across all three agencies and looking at the changes specific to each agency.

“The aspects that have dominated the discussions have been the horizontal changes. With some adaptation to incorporate existing EU-OSHA procedures, the Commission’s proposed alignment for the Agency with the Common Approach has remained mainly intact. There has been some tinkering, such as to clarify the role of the various governance structures.

“The discussions on the aspects specific to EU-OSHA have been relatively uncontentious. The Presidency has taken on the board comments we have made about some aspects. In particular, removing ‘legal information’ from the types of information that the Agency is asked to collect, analyse and forward to the EU institutions. We do not think it has the resources or skills to get involved in collecting or analysing legal information.”

6.16The Minister concludes by re-iterating the Presidency’s intention to seek a General Approach on 8 December and repeating her request that the proposal be cleared from scrutiny:

“Notwithstanding the issue of the Management Board structure, on which no other member state has supported us, I am satisfied that we can support the Presidency’s compromise text on EU-OSHA. I would therefore be grateful if your committee could consider scrutiny clearance for the proposal ahead of the EPSCO meeting.”

Previous Committee Reports

Eleventh Report HC 71-ix (2016–17), chapter 4 (14 September 2016).


9 Eleventh Report HC 71-ix (2016–17), chapter 4 (14 September 2016).




9 December 2016