Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twelfth Report


TWELFTH REPORT


The European Scrutiny Committee has made further progress in the matter referred to it and has agreed to the following Report:—

AMENDING THE 1976 EQUAL TREATMENT DIRECTIVE

(23013)
14492/01
COM(01)689

Commission Opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's common position regarding the draft Directive amending Council Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions.


Legal base:Article 141EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:27 November 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 28 November 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 3 January 2002
Department:Cabinet Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 7 January 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22485) 9907/01: HC 152-iii (2001-02), paragraph 6 (31 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council: Not applicable
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:For debate in European Standing Committee B



Background

  1.1  The draft Directive aims to bring the 1976 Equal Treatment Directive (76/207/EEC) up to date. The Council adopted a Common Position in July 2001. The European Parliament produced its Second Reading Opinion on 24 October 2001, proposing fifteen changes to the text.

The document

  1.2  The document sets out the Commission Opinion on the fifteen proposed amendments. The Commission accepts seven amendments either partially or with some suggested rewording; it rejects the remaining eight. Several amendments are rejected as going beyond the scope or legal base of the Directive.

The Government's view

  1.3  The Minister for Women (Mrs Barbara Roche) includes with her Explanatory Memorandum a detailed list of the proposed amendments with the Commission's Opinion and the UK response to each. (The list is annexed to this paragraph.) She notes that the Commission supports the Common Position to a significant extent.

  1.4  The Minister highlights UK concerns over amendments which relate to the Directive's scope and definitions; over the amendment to cover "work life balance" and parental problems (which the Government considers should be distinguished from sex discrimination); over some aspects of the sexual harassment amendment; and over the proposal that would require Member States to encourage employers to have specific equal opportunity programmes. She also considers that some of the amendments may go beyond the bounds of subsidiarity — the requirement to have sanctions, for example, and the requirement about funding for a designated equal treatment body.

  1.5  The Minister tells us that the Council has three months from the end of October 2001 in which to consider the proposed amendments. Preparations for a probable conciliation process will continue under the Spanish Presidency.

Conclusion

  1.6  In view of the importance of this subject area and the significant divergence between the European Parliament and the UK position on some of the amendments, we recommend the document for debate in European Standing Committee B.

  1.7  The European Standing Committee may wish to ask the Minister to explain the UK's position on the proposed amendments.


 
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Prepared 25 January 2002