Documents considered by the Committee on 6 March 2019 Contents

10European Accessibility Act

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested

Document details

Proposal for a Directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States as regards the accessibility requirements for products and services

Legal base

Article 114, TFEU; Ordinary Legislative Procedure; QMV

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Number

(37371), 14799/15 + ADDs 1–8, COM(15) 615

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

10.1The objective of this proposed Directive, known as the European Accessibility Act (EAA), is to improve disabled persons’ access to products and services, minimising existing and potential differences between Member States—such as in the design of cash machines—as they implement the accessibility requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). While the Government has been supportive of the objective, it has been concerned about excessive prescription, a lack of clarity in some places and the risk of overlap with other legislation. For those reasons, the UK abstained when the General Approach was adopted in December 2017.

10.2We last reported this document to the House on 31 January 2018,56 following the General Approach and requested an update on the progress of negotiations with the European Parliament. Since then, we have considered two update letters57 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Henley PC) and—in response—we sought clarity on whether any of the legislation would fall within the proposed post-Brexit common rulebook for goods. The Minister acknowledged that some of the provisions of the legislation apply to manufactured goods but noted that the extent to which they would form part of a common rulebook will be subject to negotiations on the future relationship.

10.3The Minister has written58 with a further update following the conclusion of negotiations. He explains that the European Parliament and Council reached an informal “trilogue” agreement on 8 November 2018, following which a provisional text was published.59 Adoption by the European Parliament is anticipated during the 11–14 March plenary session and Member States will then be invited to give their final approval of the EAA.

10.4Throughout trilogue discussions, explains the Minister, the UK worked with like-minded Member States to try to achieve a balanced outcome and limit expansion of the scope beyond the General Approach agreed in December 2017. For example, he says, the UK successfully resisted such expansion to include tourism services, and application of the accessibility requirements in the EAA to all publicly procured goods and services, by limiting application to goods and services that are within the scope of the EAA. The UK also protected the existing exemption for micro businesses providing services as well as securing a disproportionate burden test. The Government is content with the time allowed for implementation and transitional measures, for example balancing the development of self-service terminals with flexibility for their continued use until the end of their economic life, or for 20 years (whichever is sooner).

10.5The Minister indicates the UK’s intention to maintain its previous position of abstention when the text comes for a final vote. This is because the text has moved away from the UK’s preferred position, most significantly through “prescriptive” provisions on answering emergency service calls and the addition of payment terminals to the scope. These require that:

10.6In terms of future relevance to the UK, the Minister observes that, once the EAA has entered into force, Member States will have three years in which to adopt the national measures necessary to comply with the EAA. Member States will be required to apply those measures six years after the EAA has entered into force. Given this timescale, the Government will consider under what scenarios the UK may need or wish to align with all or part of the EAA post EU-Exit and ensure that implementation is in keeping with discussions about our future relationship with the EU.

10.7The Minister concludes by inviting the Committee to clear the file from scrutiny so that the UK can vote on the final text.

10.8While the Minister does not require scrutiny clearance to abstain, we are nevertheless content to clear the document from scrutiny at this point.

10.9We note, and accept, the uncertainty as to the extent to which the UK may need or wish to align with this legislation in the future. Noting that some degree of alignment may be necessary or desirable, we would welcome further information on the Government’s concerns regarding the provisions relating to emergency service calls and the addition of payment terminals to the scope.

10.10Finally, we recall that the Government tabled a Statement60 to the Minutes of the Council when the General Approach was adopted in order to explain the UK’s abstention. We commended the explanation and the submission of a written statement to that effect and we would encourage the Minister to table a similar explanation of its position on the final vote.

10.11After the final vote, we expect the Minister to write to us confirming adoption, providing a copy of any statement tabled and providing the information requested above.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States as regards the accessibility requirements for products and services: (37371), 14799/15 + ADDs 1–8, COM(15) 615.

Previous Committee Reports

Twelfth Report HC 301–xii (2017–19), chapter 1 (31 January 2018); Second Report HC 301–ii (2017–19), chapter 1 (22 November 2017); Fortieth Report HC 71–xxxvii (2016–17), chapter 2 (25 April 2017); Thirtieth Report HC 71–xxviii (2016–17), chapter 3 (1 February 2017); Third Report HC 71–ii (2016–17), chapter 2 (25 May 2016); Eighteenth Report HC 342–xvii (2015–16), chapter 1 (13 January 2016).


56 Twelfth Report HC 301–xii (2017–19), chapter 1 (31 January 2018).

57 Letters from Lord Henley PC to Sir William Cash MP, dated 17 July 2018 and 18 October 2018.

58 Letter from Lord Henley PC to Sir William Cash MP, dated 13 February 2019.

59 Directive on the accessibility requirements for products and services 15174/18 ADD 1.

60 3583rd meeting of the Council of the European Union 15576/1/17 (p 15).




Published: 12 March 2019