HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc619-21W
Mr. Dover

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the meeting held by the EEC Council of Ministers, Labour and Social Affairs, on 22 November at which Her Majesty's Government were represented.

Mr. Jim Lester

The United Kingdom Government were represented by my noble Friend the Minister of State. The main item discussed was a draft resolution on the reorganisation of working time, submitted to the Council as part of the European Commission's proposals on work sharing aimed at reducing Community unemployment levels. The resolution was agreed after a wide discussion which took account of differing views among Ministers of the scope there was for a Community approach to work sharing measures. For the United Kingdom my noble Friend referred particularly to the Government's policies of containing inflation and increasing competitiveness of industry, to the importance we attach to improving productivity and growth, and to the autonomy of unions and employers in the collective bargaining process. He stressed the need to ensure that work sharing measures did not add to inflationary pressures and damage the competitive position of the Community. In agreeing the resolution, the Council considered that limits should be applied to systematic overtime working provided that these took account of such factors as the necessary flexibility of the production process and the situation in the labour market, and were introduced in accordance with procedures in force in the member States and with due regard to the independent role of unions and employers. The resolution also invites the Commission to examine further with unions and employers the possibilities of a Community approach to questions of flexible retirement, part-time work, temporary work and reducing annual hours of work.

The effect of the resolution in the United Kingdom is that the possible introduction of work sharing measures is a matter for unions and managements to consider in the course of collective bargaining procedures.

A copy of the resolution when available in final form will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Council also agreed a draft resolution to encourage systems of training based on alternating periods of employment with educational or training activity, with the intention of assisting the transition from school to work and in general breaking down the barriers between education/ training and employment. The United Kingdom welcomed the resolution which is in accord with the Government's approach to encouraging the improvement of vocational preparation for young people through, for example, the youth opportunities programme and other training measures. A copy of this resolution, when available, will also be placed in the Library of the House.

In taking note of a progress report on the proposal to extend the social security regulations to insured self-employed and non-employed nationals of member States, the Council indicated its agreement in principle to the amending regulation, subject to the solution of three outstanding problems.

The Council also adopted conclusions agreeing, on a proposal from the Commission, to promote consultation between the member States on migration policies towards third countries.

Among other matters, the Council referred for further examination, the Commission's communication on employee participation in asset formation which the United Kingdom welcomed as a useful basis for discussion and in accord with the Government's policy to encourage wider ownership of real and financial property.

The Council also took note of the Commission's seventh report on the European social fund.