Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary letter from the Baroness Harris of Richmond, Chairman of Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) of the European Union Committee, to Alan Johnson MP, Minister of State for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions, Department of Trade and Industry


  Thank you for your letter of 20 May providing an update on developments on this proposal, which Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) considered on 21 May.

  We were grateful for this information, but I have to say that we have found the way the scrutiny of this important proposal has been handled by your Department most unsatisfactory. Agreement in the Council appears to be imminent, yet you last submitted an Explanatory Memorandum in January (on a text dated 28 November 2002) and have not provided any updates directly to us since the (undated) letter you sent me in March. Crucially, your letter of 6 May to Jimmy Hood was not copied to us (contrary to the statement in the final paragraph) so that we only learnt of the likelihood of the Directive being agreed at the Council when we saw the annotated agenda.

  On the substance of the proposal we would like to reiterate our view that in principle the draft provides a sound basis for establishing equal treatment for temporary workers. If the objective of equal treatment is not to be frustrated, it is essential that any derogation period is strictly limited. We note from your letter of 20 May that no fewer than 11 out of 15 Member States support day one equal treatment or a transitional qualifying period which would expire after a number of years. On this crucial point you merely note that the Government "is pressing very hard for the UK's legitimate concerns to be recognised".

  We have noted with interest in this context an article in The Times on 19 May reporting that the UK have sided with Germany in opposing the adoption of a Directive on Takeover Bids in return for Germany's support "in wrecking the Temporary Agency Workers Directive". Both directives are, of course, currently of close interest to this Committee as Sub-Committee E is undertaking an inquiry into the Takeovers Directive. We would welcome your comments on the accuracy of this report and an explanation of any action that the Government has taken to link the two measures. This is a matter to which Sub-Committee E will return immediately after the Whitsun recess. An early response is therefore requested.

  We note that no agreement has been reached on the length of the derogation period and that the matter was due to be discussed again in Coreper on 21 May. We would be grateful if you could provide us with an update of these discussions as soon as possible before the Council and, if possible, a revised text if one is available. In the meantime the Committee decided to retain the proposal under scrutiny.

22 May 2003

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