Select Committee on European Communities Report



15.  AMENDED PROPOSAL FOR A DIRECTIVE ON MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPROVING THE SAFETY AND HEALTH PROTECTION OF WORKERS POTENTIALLY AT RISK FROM EXPLOSIVE ATMOSPHERES (7388/97)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Angela Eagle MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your informative letter of 21 November[6] on the above proposal, which was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  In your letter, you set out the Government's negotiating position in the event that other Member States were to support the ATEX proposal in its present form. The Committee shares the Government's concerns and supports the Government's position on limiting the cost impact of the proposal. We note that the ATEX proposal will not be given priority during the UK Presidency. We would be grateful if you could keep us informed of any developments as and when they may occur.

  This letter lifts the scrutiny reserve.

23 March 1998

Letter from Alan Meale MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I promised to keep you informed of significant developments on this proposal. Progress in negotiations under the Austrian Presidency has been very quick and the current position closely reflects the UK's basic approach of ensuring that duties on employers are proportionate to the risks involved. I am writing to ask if you could clear Scrutiny to enable the UK to vote in favour of political agreement to the proposal at the Social Affairs Council on 2 December.

  My letter of 5 October explained the introduction of an Austrian Presidency compromise text. That text had been developed in conjunction with HSE and was close to the agreed UK fallback position, as set out in Explanatory Memorandum 7388/97. Since then Austria has pushed ATEX negotiations forward rapidly in preparation for voting on political agreement at the Social Affairs Council.

  The proposal which has emerged for discussion at Council has been amended significantly and the final text is expected shortly but may not emerge until just before the Council. I attach a copy of the most recent text for your information. The final version will contain a small number of amendments to that and show that most of the reserves made by Member States have been lifted.

  The speed with which negotiations have been conducted and the regular alterations to the text have meant that my officials have not been able to finalise the Explanatory Memorandum requested by Jim Marshall on 28 October.

  The main changes (action linked to risk, clear hierarchy of control measures, removal of the vademecum, removal of many duplications with other directives) bring the proposal very close to our established fallback position. It closely reflects the UK's basic approach of ensuring that duties on employers are proportionate to the risks involved. The costly and unacceptable features of the original proposal have been removed. Agreement with this proposal will help bring about real improvement to the safety and health protection of workers across the EU at costs commensurate to the benefits involved, an aim we support and will continue to support.

  The Austrian Presidency are seeking political agreement to the proposal at the Social Affairs Council on 2 December. It is in the UK's interest to be able to support the proposal and for Andrew Smith to vote in favour of political agreement. Clearly this gives your Committee very little time to consider this matter and I apologise for that. But I ask for your help in maintaining the very positive progress we have made.

November 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Alan Meale MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions

  Thank you for your letter (undated) and Explanatory EM dated 8 December on the above proposal which were considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  In your letter you explain that progress made meant that there was "very little time" for the Committee to consider this proposal. The Committee regrets that this was the case. We recognise, however, that the final outcome reflects the Government's negotiating line, particularly in the case of reducing the disproportionate cost of the proposal. While we welcome this, we would be grateful for further information on (a) the costs to industry of implementing the current legislation and (b) the cost of enforcing that legislation effectively.

  This letter formally clears the proposal.

21 January 1999


6   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 11th Report, Session 1997-98, p28. Back


 
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