Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Seventh Report


The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed to the following Report:—






COM(02) 119

Draft Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Legal base:

Articles 40, 47(1), 47(2), 55 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting (but see paragraph 1.4 below)


Document originated:

7 March 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

26 March 2002


Education and Skills

Basis of consideration:

EM of 10 April 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

No date set

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Not cleared; information on progress requested




  1.1  This proposal marks the first major attempt to modernise the EU system of professional recognition. It is intended to contribute to wider EU work on improving skills and labour mobility and making the labour and services market more flexible. The need for such an initiative has been flagged in a number of Commission Communications and in the Conclusions to the Lisbon, Stockholm and Barcelona Councils.

  1.2  In its Explanatory Memorandum, the Commission notes:

"To date the rules on professional recognition have evolved in a piecemeal fashion with numerous parallel provisions and variations. Detailed variations in, and links between, different parts of the legislation have produced a system which has been criticised by migrants and professionals alike as too complicated to understand, difficult to follow, often unclear and sometimes slow in its application and in places out-of-date or unsuited to the particularities of a specific profession."

The document and the Government's view

  1.3  The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education (Margaret Hodge) describes the main features of the document, together with the Government's views, as follows:

"This proposal for a single Directive consolidates all of the Directives founded on mutual recognition, already implemented in the United Kingdom, while maintaining the principal conditions and guarantees. To ensure the effectiveness of the system the proposal offers improvements to the working of the system, these being:

greater flexibility for provision of services; it is proposed that a provider of services may pursue activities in another Member State on the basis of 'home state title' subject to safeguards and time constraints. The UK Government strongly supports liberalisation of services and this is welcome. The full implications of how the flexibilities will work in practice will need careful consideration during negotiations of the Directive, particularly as regards striking the right balance between free movement and public health and safety protection;

procedural improvements, which at present form part of the Code of Conduct (good practice guide for dealing with applications) approved by National Co-ordinators of the General System Directives. This will bring the Code within the legal framework and will strengthen the effectiveness of the system;

the introduction of common platforms (agreements between professional bodies in Member States on common training standards and qualifications) has the potential to create greater flexibility for movement in certain sectors. The full implications will need to be discussed during negotiations of the Directive;

incorporation of the principle of case law of the European Courts (424/97 Haim) in respect of language skills. National language requirements may be applied, but must be proportionate to the practise of the profession; and

the establishment of a single committee to administer the new regime and to replace all the committees set up under current systems. The full implications of this and Member States' supporting structures will need to be discussed in detail."

  1.4  With regard to the legal base, she tells us:

"The Council has indicated that voting will be by qualified majority voting in accordance with Article 47(2) of the [EC] Treaty. However, this assumes no change in existing law in any Member State governing the professions with respect to training and access for self-employed persons. If that assumption fails, adoption of the proposal must be by unanimity."

  1.5  The Minister says that there will be no financial implications for UK businesses. Regulatory authorities will still be able to levy a fee upon individuals for the processing of applications for recognition or registration, but it is too soon to assess what the effect of any revised arrangements will be on the authorities or on the fees they levy.

  1.6  The Minister gives us the following information about consultation:

"During last summer the European Commission undertook an open consultation exercise on the prospects of a new regime for professional recognition. The UK consulted in turn with the regulatory authorities for the professions concerned and with professional bodies, some of which chose to make direct representation to the Commission. The UK's pan-Whitehall response generally welcomed the Commission's initiative and made suggestions to further strengthen the working of the system, some of which have been incorporated into the new proposal.

"Consultation in the UK on the Commission's formal proposal are about to be taken up with the regulatory authorities for the professions concerned, with professional bodies and with other organisations which also have an interest."

  1.7  Although no timetable for the measure has yet been published, the Commission's action plan indicates adoption of the Directive in 2003 and implementation by 2005.


  1.8  This bids fair to be an extremely helpful measure. At this early stage, we have a number of questions about the document and the Government's comments.

  1.9  First, we ask for a full list of all the Directives which will be consolidated into this new measure.

  1.10  Secondly, in relation to the legal base, we are puzzled by the reference at the beginning of the draft Directive to "the first and third sentences of Article 47 (2)", since there appear to be two sentences only. Moreover, we do not understand the Minister's comment that adoption of the proposal would have to be by unanimity if there have been changes in existing law in any Member State governing the professions with respect to training and access for self-employed persons. We ask her to explain both these points.

  1.11  We also ask for an explanation of her phrase "home state title", and why the greater flexibility for provision of services may have implications for public health and safety protection; and for a fuller explanation of "common platforms", and why the implications of their introduction will need to be discussed during negotiations.

  1.12  More generally, we ask the Minister whether the impression we gain from the Explanatory Memorandum that this measure is unlikely to be controversial is correct, and what the main points at issue, if any, are likely to be.

  1.13  We would like to be informed about the outcome of the UK consultation process, and to have some indication of its timetable.

  1.14  Meanwhile, we will keep the document under scrutiny.


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 13 May 2002