Select Committee on European Communities Report


49.  COUNCIL DIRECTIVE ON THE BURDEN OF PROOF IN CASES OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX

Letter from the Rt Hon Andrew Smith MP, Minister for Employment, Department for Education and Employment to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 22 January[25] commenting on my explanatory memorandum of 16 January.

  You have asked for an explanation as to why the re-examined proposal and explanatory memorandum were not made available to the Select Committee until 16 January. I have looked at the timing of events in relation to the burden of proof Directive and I agree that, in retrospect, it should have been possible to inform the Committee of the substance of the Commission's re-examined proposal before the other Member States rejected it at the Council on 15 December. I am sorry that there was a delay but I can assure you that there was no deliberate intention to withhold information from the Committee nor to frustrate the proper procedures for scrutiny.

  You will know from my urgent consultation with the Committee on the 1998 Employment Guidelines the importance which we attach to ensuring that matters of substance coming before the Council are not agreed by Ministers without keeping the Select Committees fully informed of the reasons and giving prior notice of the Government's intentions. However, in the case of the Commission's re-examined proposal on the burden of proof Directive, we knew that the other Member States would agree to the common position text without amendment at the 15 December Council, as I was able to confirm in my letter of 16 December. In previous correspondence, I had made clear the Government's support for the common position text and it was in this context that the Commission's re-examined proposal was not accorded the attention which it might have merited.

  I shall, of course, keep the Committees fully informed of developments when the Commission presents its proposal to extend the Directive to the United Kingdom.

17 February 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Andrew Smith MP, Minister for Employment, Department for Education and Employment

  Thank you very much for your letter of 17 February explaining the reasons for the delay in depositing the explanatory memorandum on the Re-examined Proposal on the Burden of Proof Directive. I am grateful to you for looking into the circumstances of the delay, and I am grateful also for your assurance that there was no deliberate intention to withhold information from the Committee nor to frustrate the proper procedures for scrutiny.

  I am sure that you will use your best endeavours to ensure that a similar situation does not arise again.

23 February 1998


25   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 11th Report, Session 1997-98, p 65. Back


 
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