Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from Lord Geddes, Chairman of Sub-Committee B, to Glenda Jackson CBE, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  The above proposal was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning. The Sub-Committee noted that the present text differs in some respects from the earlier version it considered last year and on which my predecessor, Lord Elibank, wrote to your predecessor, Mr Norris[2]. In particular, we welcome the fact that the previous Government's concerns about the inclusion of the address and date-of-birth of the holder have now been satisfied.

  Nevertheless, the Sub-Committee remains unconvinced that any good case has yet been made for a European model parking card, given that a reciprocal arrangement already exists with which disability organisations are, apparently, satisfied. In view of the likely costs to local authorities outlined in your EM, we would therefore urge you to take a firm line in the continuing negotiations. In particular we would urge you to seek amendments that would allow existing orange badges and signs to continue to be used in the UK, with the new blue badges available on an optional basis for disabled drivers travelling abroad.

  We shall maintain a scrutiny reserve pending your reply.

12 June 1997

Letter from the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Geddes, Chairman of Sub-Committee B

  Thank you for your letter of 12 June with your Sub-Committee's views on the European Commission's amended proposal for a recommendation on a parking card for disabled people.

  We would support your reservations on this proposal. When the amended proposal comes forward for discussion in the Social Questions Working Group we will be pressing for it to be amended to allow for our existing scheme to continue in perpetuity and for the European badge to be issued in parallel for those who wish to travel to continental Europe. We would, of course, also recognise a European Parking card from another member state.

  At this stage we have no indication of when the proposal is likely to be discussed, but I will ensure that your Sub-Committee is kept informed as the proposal progresses.

23 June 1997

Letter from Lord Geddes, Chairman of Sub-Committee B, to Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your letter of 23 June which was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  The Sub-Committee was grateful to you for your assurances that you will be pressing for amendments in line with the views of the Sub-Committee expressed in my letter of 12 June. On that basis, the Sub-Committee agreed to lift the scrutiny reserve on this proposal and welcomed your commitment to keep it informed of the outcome of negotiations on this proposal.

3 July 1997

Letter from Glenda Jackson CBE, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  The draft Council Recommendation on a parking card for people with disabilities was considered by the House of Commons European Legislation Committee following the submission of Explanatory Memorandum 6480/97 dated 21 May. The Committee deemed the matter to be legally and politically important and further information was sought. I am writing to inform you of the latest developments with regard to this Recommendation.

  The Committee questioned the use of Article 75(1)(c) of the Treaty as the legal base for the proposed Recommendation as this deals with measures to improve transport safety". They suggested Article 75(1)(d) would be more appropriate. I am please to report that the European Presidency and Council legal services accepted this criticism and proposed instead that the legal base for the proposed Recommendation should simply be Article 75(1).

  Furthermore, there have been welcome amendments to the proposed Recommendation which have been agreed in the Social Questions Working Group and in COREPER. The starting date has been revised to 1 January 2000. Changes to the recital will also enable us to introduce security features to address our concerns about possible forgery of the parking card. These amendments are in addition to those secured earlier of which your Committee is already aware ie, the deletion of the requirement for the holder's date of birth and address. The Commission has also clarified the position with regard to the eligibility criteria, which remain firmly with Member States.

  The Committee also sought further information on costs, reflecting concerns which the Government had expressed about the costs of replacing the existing badges and replacing or altering road signs which use the wheelchair symbol on an orange background. My officials are now in the process of compiling a Compliance Cost Assessment and drafting a supplementary Explanatory Memorandum to accompany it, and I hope to be able to send these documents to you very shortly. However, I am glad to say that there now appears to be less of a problem here than we feared. The Recommendation will allow the new cards to be phased in over our normal three-year cycle for replacing Orange Badges. The cost of road signs will depend on a domestic decision about the replacement period - essentially, about how long we can tolerate an anomaly of having orange signs related to blue badges.

  Whilst the Government would have preferred that the proposal allowed for the parallel operation of the European model parking card with the UK's existing national Orange Badge Scheme, this approach did not find favour among other Member States. To the extent that this preference reflected a concern about costs, it was, I believe, adequately met by the transitional provisions. We therefore decided not to press this point.

  Similarly, although we are still not convinced of the need for the proposal our concerns about proportionality did not attract support from other Member States and, given that the details of the proposal had become much more satisfactory, we decided that this point should also not be pressed.

  The proposal was on the agenda for the Labour and Social Affairs Council meeting on 7 October and, in view of the success that had been achieved in addressing our major concerns, and as a common position between Member States had been attained, the Government confirmed that it welcomed the amendments which had been made to the proposal and that it was content for the proposal to be approved, though it retained a Parliamentary scrutiny reserve. I am sorry that we had not sought scrutiny clearance by that time. However, we felt that the importance of securing the success achieved in negotiating a revised timetable and changes to the detail of the parking card's design was such that it was sensible for the Government to confirm its support for the revised text on 7 October. That does not, of course, bind us to implement the Recommendation and we shall want to discuss the way forward with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee before taking any final decisions.

22 October 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Glenda Jackson CBE, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your letter of 22 October in which you explain the Government's reasons for indicating approval for the amended proposal at the Council meeting on 7 October.

  Lord Geddes, Chairman of Sub-Committee B, to whom the proposal was sifted for scrutiny, wrote to Mr Strang on 3 July to inform him that the Sub-Committee had that day lifted the scrutiny reserve. In that letter, the Sub-Committee re-iterated the support it had expressed in earlier correspondence for the negotiating position the Government was pursuing.

  I have passed your latest letter to Sub-Committee B for information and I am sure it will welcome the fact that you have managed to secure changes to the proposal that go some way to meeting the concerns it had expressed. I am grateful to you for keeping us informed of these developments.

28 October 1997

2   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 9th Report, Session 1995-96, pp15-16. Back

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