Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report




COM(01) 415

Commission Opinion on the European Parliament's amendments to the Council's Common Position on a draft Directive concerning the organisation of working time for mobile workers performing road transport activities and for self-employed drivers.

Legal base:Articles 71 and 137 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Deposited in Parliament: 28 September 2001
Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 21 February 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-iv (2001-02), paragraph 16 ( 7 November 2001)
To be discussed in Council: Date not set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared (decision reported on 7 November 2001)


  11.1  When we cleared this document in November, we asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr David Jamieson) to let us know the outcome of the conciliation process, which was about to start.

The Minister's letter

  11.2  The Minister has now written with information about the agreement reached by the conciliation committee on 17 December 2002. He tells us that the scope of the directive is still restricted to all who are subject to European drivers' hours regulations[22]. He considers that, overall, the text agreed by the conciliation committee is acceptable to the UK, which will support it on its return to Council.

  11.3  The Minister outlines the main points of the agreement under the following headings.

Maximum working week

  11.4  The Minister tells us that there was no disagreement over this issue. As a result, the text retains the 48 hour average working week (over a 4 month reference period) and the 60 hour weekly maximum.

The Self-employed

  11.5  The conciliation text provides for a three year transposition period. Following that, and a further four years (by early 2009), self-employed drivers would be automatically included. However, if the Commission's review of the industry in 2007 finds that the self-employed should remain excluded (in whole or in part) it would be possible for the directive to be amended, if both the Council and the European Parliament agreed the proposal.

  11.6  The conciliation text contains a new definition for the self-employed as those who have "a Community licence or any other professional authorisation...are not tied to an employer by an employment contract or by any other type of working hierarchical relationship..., whose income depends on profits made" and who have "commercial relations with several customers". The Minister tells us that his officials believe that many UK self-employed drivers would not currently meet this requirement. If they do not meet it, they will be subject to the Directive from the outset, in 2005.

Night work

  11.7  The common position's ten hour maximum for night workers and its definition of night time are retained.


  11.8  All the derogations in the common position text have been retained. It is therefore possible to derogate:

  • for drivers to work longer than the 60 hour maximum week (as long as they keep to the 48 hour average week);

  • for night workers to work longer than the ten hour maximum; and

  • to increase the four month reference period for calculating the 48 hour average working week to a six month period.

  11.9  Member States will be able to adopt these derogations under domestic legislation. Although the European Parliament's proposal that derogations should be introduced via collective bargaining was not adopted, companies will have to reach a "workplace agreement" before they can take advantage of these derogations. The Minister considers that this will be acceptable to both sides of UK industry, and points out that a similar condition is included in the original working time directive[23].

Definitions of "working time" and "periods of availability"

  11.10  The common position text has not been substantively altered. Periods of availability (while accompanying a vehicle on a ferry crossing, for example) will not count as working time. The text also ensures that double-manning remains a practical proposition.


  11.11  We thank the Minister for his full account of the conciliation outcome.

  11.12   In our last report on this measure, we quoted him as saying: "We do have some concerns about these [less significant] amendments, but they are far less important to the haulage and bus industries than the EP's proposed amendments for night workers, the scope for derogations and the definition of working time"[24] His letter makes it clear that these latter amendments have not been reflected in the conciliation text. We can therefore understand why the Government plans to vote in favour of the measure when it returns to Council. We note, however, that the tighter definition of "self-employed" may exclude many UK drivers from this category.

  11.13  We have already cleared the document.

22  EC3820/85. Back

23  EC93/104. Back

24  HC 152-iv (2001-02); see headnote to this paragraph. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002