HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc87-8W
Mr. Redwood

To ask the President of the Board of Trade which regulations and directives being negotiated in the Council of Ministers during the British presidency will(a) impose and (b) remove restrictions or controls on European labour markets. [28621]

Mr. Andrew Smith

I have been asked to reply.

The Government intend that all relevant dossiers being negotiated in the Social Affairs and Education Councils of Ministers during the UK Presidency should reinforce progress towards its objectives of employability, flexible and adaptable labour markets, fair minimum standards and job generation.

In the field of health and safety, proposals for a Chemical Agents Directive, a Carcinogens Worker Protection Directive, a Scaffolding Directive and proposals to amend the Asbestos Worker Protection Directive either are or will be subject to proper assessment to ensure that they are well targeted or scientifically justified. While they are not considered to have a major impact upon current practice in the UK, they should have the effect of raising standards elsewhere and in particular help to reduce the toll of 6,000 fatal accidents and thousands of cases of fatal disease each year in the EU.

The directive on part-time work, which is likely to be extended to the UK during our Presidency, will require employers to treat part-time workers no less favourably than equivalent full-time workers. By promoting part-time work and raising its status, the directive should increase flexibility in European labour markets. The Government are also consulting publicly about whether to seek amendments to the Acquired Rights Directive to make it more flexible, e.g. by allowing derogations agreed by the social partners in certain circumstances.

The proposal for a Supplementary Pensions Directive, the co-ordination of social security regulations for migrant workers who are EU citizens and the proposal to extend those regulations to all insured persons would neither impose nor remove restrictions on the labour market but may allow more labour market mobility within the EU, which is a positive step forward.

The Burden of Proof Directive would make very little difference to the way in which sex discrimination cases are in practice decided in the UK, or to the outcome of industrial tribunal cases. The European Company Statute would provide an alternative form of incorporation for companies but since it will be voluntary, it will not affect restrictions or controls on European labour markets.

Finally, the Government aim to secure a common position on the Commission's proposal for a third Directive on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, which will simplify procedures for seeking work in other member states. This proposal will further ease barriers to employment.