Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


ROAD HAULAGE: ATTESTATIONS FOR LORRY DRIVERS


(21951)
13905/00
COM(00) 751

Draft Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No. 881/92 on access to the market in the carriage of goods by road within the Community to and from the territory of a Member State or passing across the territory of one or more Member States as regards a uniform Driver Attestation.
Legal base: Article 71 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: Environment, Transport and the Regions
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 21 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 6 (28 February 2001)
To be discussed in Council: April 2001
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

Background

  3.1  We considered the proposed Regulation on a uniform driver attestation on 28 February when we asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty) to explain more clearly the reasons for the proposal and its context. We were concerned that, although the proposal was said to address a serious road safety problem, as well as a serious distortion of competition, its effect appeared to be to reserve jobs for European Union nationals to the detriment of third-country nationals lawfully resident in a Member State. This appeared to us to be inconsistent with the conclusions of the Tampere European Council on the integration of third-country nationals lawfully resident in the European Union.

  3.2  We were also unclear about the effect of the proposal on foreign drivers holding a permit recognised under the international conventions to which the United Kingdom is a party, or who are otherwise permitted to drive in this country under international conventions. We also asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to explain the basis for the view taken by his Department that it would never issue an attestation under the proposed Regulation to a non-European Union driver.

The Minister's letter

  3.3  In his letter of 21 March 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary describes the purpose and effect of the proposed Regulation as follows:

"—  The introduction of a Community-wide attestation would facilitate more effective enforcement and introduce transparency. It would enable EU enforcement authorities to check effectively and immediately if a driver engaged in intra-Community transport is legally entitled to drive for the haulage company operating the vehicle. At present, the conditions under which non-EU nationals may work in the Community vary from country to country. These conditions are governed by national legislation only, which cannot be enforced in another country. For example, it is illegal for someone not in possession of an EU HGV driving licence to drive a British-registered lorry in this country. However, if this lorry were to be driven in France then it would fall outside UK jurisdiction. The proposed Regulation would provide Member States with the necessary legislative powers to apply appropriate sanctions against hauliers found to have infringed the requirements in respect of the employment of third country nationals, irrespective of where the infringements might be taking place.

"—  In line with the Conclusions reached at the EU Transport Council of 21 December, the proposal envisages that non-EU citizens working for EU haulage firms would be required to carry a driver attestation certificate. The application for such an attestation would be made by the haulier (i.e. the employer) as licensed in the Member State of establishment to carry out international road haulage, in accordance with Regulation (EEC) 881/92. The attestation, as issued by the competent authorities of a Member State, will simply serve to demonstrate that all the requirements in respect of employment, driver licensing and any other relevant legislation in that Member State have been properly fulfilled. There is absolutely no question of this precluding the legal employment of third country nationals in the European Community. National laws and regulations in respect of the employment of third country nationals will be completely unaffected by this measure. There was never any intention that it would be otherwise. The proposal is merely seeking to combat the illegal employment of third country nationals by EU haulage companies. Consequently, it is entirely compatible with the Conclusions of the Tampere Council.

"—  As stated in our Explanatory Memorandum, the UK was opposed to such a scheme being applied to EU citizens both for its administrative and the financial burden it would place on the haulage industry. But these were not the only reasons. It was also because there was no justification for doing so. This initiative came about as a result of concerns over the illegal employment of non-EU drivers by EU hauliers. Consequently, it is our view, as reflected in the Council Conclusions of 21 December, that the scheme should target the actual problem, which is the illegal use of third country drivers by disreputable EU haulage companies. The proposal has since been amended accordingly."

  3.4  In reply to our questions about the effect of the proposed Regulation on foreign drivers holding a permit recognised under the international conventions to which the United Kingdom is a party, and about the basis or the view taken by his Department that it would never issue an attestation under the proposed Regulation to a non-European Union driver, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary replies as follows: —

"You also asked that I explain the basis of the statement that DETR would not issue a driver attestation to a non-EU driver. In that context, what is meant by a non-EU driver is someone who is not in possession of a valid heavy goods vehicle driving licence issued in an EU Member State. By virtue of Article 2(2) of the Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) Order 1975, a person not in possession of a Community driving licence (for heavy goods vehicles) cannot legally drive a British-registered lorry in the UK. The international Conventions to which you refer apply either to non-UK registered lorries which are being driven in this country under a non-Community driving licence, or to British-registered light goods vehicles. The entitlements afforded under these Conventions do not apply to the driving of British-registered heavy goods vehicles. A driver attestation would certify that a driver had satisfied all the employment and driver licensing legislation applicable in the Member State in which the haulier is established. As it is illegal for a person not in possession of a Community driving licence to drive a British-registered lorry, DETR could not issue an attestation to such a person."

Conclusion

  3.5  We thank the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for his letter, which addresses our concerns in part. We remain concerned that the proposal will act to the detriment of third-country nationals lawfully resident in a Member State. It seems to us that under the proposal, a third-country national who is entitled to drive a British-registered heavy goods vehicle will need to seek an attestation, whereas a European Union national will not. Having regard to the points made in the Explanatory Memorandum and the Regulatory Impact Assessment on the costs of attestation (which would be passed on to the United Kingdom haulage industry), the conclusion seems to us inescapable that the proposal will operate to the disadvantage of third-country nationals and will therefore discriminate against them on grounds of their nationality. We therefore do not share the Parliamentary Under-Secretary's view that the proposal is compatible with the conclusions of the Tampere European Council.

  3.6  We are grateful for the clarification of the statement in the Explanatory Memorandum that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions would not issue an attestation to a non-European Union driver. We infer from this clarification that an attestation would be issued to a third-country national who holds a valid heavy goods vehicle driving licence issued in a European Union Member State, and we ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to confirm that our understanding is correct. We also ask if the same would apply to a third-country national who holds such a licence issued in an European Economic Area State.

  3.7  We note the concerns expressed by our sister Committee in the House of Lords on the question of whether Community action under Article 71 EC is justifiable or whether, consistently with the principle of subsidiarity, another solution would be preferable, such as by addressing the questions of jurisdiction and enforcement of Member States' existing criminal laws. We share those concerns, and will therefore retain the proposal under scrutiny pending the reply from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the questions raised by our sister Committee as well as by us.


 
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