Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


COM(02) 59

Draft Council Regulation extending the provisions of Regulation (EEC) No. 1408/71 to nationals of third countries who are not already covered by these provisions solely on the ground of their nationality.

Legal base:Article 63(4) EC; consultation; unanimity
Document originated:6 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 6 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 22 February 2002
Department:Work and Pensions
Basis of consideration: EM of 8 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (18743) 13485/97: HC 23-iv (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (15 December 1999)
To be discussed in Council: June 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  9.1  Regulation (EEC) No.1408/71 co-ordinates the operation of Member States' social security schemes so as to provide protection of rights to social security (including health care) when persons covered by the Regulation move from one Member State to another. It is a detailed piece of legislation which has been the subject of regular interpretation by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It currently applies to Community nationals, refugees, stateless persons and third-country nationals who are family members of Community nationals.

  9.2  The Commission first put forward a proposal to simplify and modernise the Regulation in January 1999[20]. The previous Committee considered it twice, and has been kept informed of developments through a series of progress reports. The work is on-going, but slow, since the whole Regulation is being re-examined. The Barcelona European Council called for the new Regulation to be ready for adoption before the end of 2003[21].

  9.3  The Commission first proposed an extension of the Regulation to cover third-country nationals in November 1997[22]. It originally cited Article 43 EC — a legal base to which the UK was strongly opposed. The previous Committee questioned the Government on a number of occasions about its opposition to the legal base.

  9.4  As the legal base of the current proposal falls within Title IV of the EC Treaty (Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons), the UK has three months from the formal publication of the proposal in which to decide whether to opt in to the measure (in accordance with the provisions in the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland now annexed to the EC Treaty and the Treaty of European Union).

The document

  9.5  The document simply extends all the current provisions of the Regulation to legally resident nationals of third countries who are not already covered. It applies only to those who have moved between Member States, not to those who enter the EU and stay in one Member State.

The Government's view

  9.6  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle) tells us that the Government considers the new legal base to be appropriate. She explains that negotiations are about to start, and the Government is currently preparing its position both on participation, and on the content of the proposal.

  9.7  The Minister also tells us that, although the proposal would have no impact on business costs and jobs, there would be operational and programme costs for the Government, estimated at about £13.5m annually.

  9.8  Finally, the Minister reports that the Presidency hopes that the proposal will be agreed at the Employment and Social Policy Council in June.


  9.9  In previous Explanatory Memoranda on earlier versions of this proposal, the focus was always on the unacceptability of the legal base. Now that a new legal base is proposed, we look forward to learning more about the Government's view of the proposal itself.

  9.10  We therefore ask that, once the Government has prepared its position, the Minister report it to us fully. As part of that report, we ask to know the Government's decision about whether to participate in the measure, and the reasons for that decision. We also ask the Minister to confirm that the present proposal carries no threat to the UK's border controls.

  9.11  We shall keep the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's response.

20  (19764) 5133/99; see HC 34-xi (1998-99), paragraph 2 (24 February 1999). Back

21  Conclusion 33. Back

22  (18743) 13485/97; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

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