Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



"67A (1) Section 52 (meetings of the London Assembly) is amended as follows.
(2) After subsection (4) there is inserted—
"(4A) There must be at least 21 clear days between a meeting under subsection (3) above and the last such meeting before it, but this does not apply to the gap between the first such meeting after an ordinary election and the last such meeting before that election."
(3) In subsection (6)(b) (notice of meeting under subsection (3) to be given at least 28 clear days before meeting), for "28" there is substituted "14".
(4) Subsection (7) (notice of meeting not to be given during currency of a notice already given) is omitted."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Repeals and revocations]:

Lord Rooker moved Amendment No. 29:


On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

European Union (Accessions) Bill

9.26 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

10 Sept 2003 : Column 396

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Freedom of movement for workers]:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean moved Amendment No. 1:


    Page 2, line 16, leave out from "instrument" to the end of line 17 and insert—


"(5A) Regulations may not be made under this section unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(5B) But, in the case of regulations other than the first set of regulations under this section, subsection (5A) does not apply if it appears to the Secretary of State that by reason of urgency they should be made without being approved in draft.
(5C) Where by virtue of subsection (5B) regulations are made without being approved in draft, the regulations—
(a) must be laid before Parliament, and
(b) cease to have effect at the end of the period mentioned in subsection (5D) unless they are approved during that period by resolution of each House of Parliament.
(5D) The period referred to in subsection (5C)(b) is the period of 40 days—
(a) beginning with the day on which the regulations are made, and
(b) ignoring any period during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.
(5E) The fact that regulations cease to have effect by virtue of subsection (5C)—
(a) does not affect the lawfulness of anything done before the regulations cease to have effect, and
(b) does not prevent the making of new regulations."

The noble Baroness said: This is the Government's sole amendment to the Bill. It is the response to the reports by the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform. I am grateful to the Select Committee and, in particular, to its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for the committee's work on the Bill. The Committee will see, in the Select Committee's 21st and 23rd reports, that we have had several courteous and reasonable exchanges about the appropriate level of parliamentary control of regulations made under Clause 2 on freedom of movement for workers.

The amendment is a compromise between the Government's position and the Select Committee's original recommendation. The amendment takes up directly a suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in his letter to me dated 9th July. Because of that, I hope that the Government's amendment will be generally acceptable to the Committee. For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the issues, I shall briefly explain the Government's position on the compromise suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and accepted by me in the form of the amendment.

10 Sept 2003 : Column 397

It is the Government's intention, in line with our declared policy, to bring regulations under Clause 2 into force on 1st May next year. The regulations will grant the right to freedom of movement for work to nationals of all eight states affected by the treaty's transitional provisions. The regulations will take the form of an amendment to the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2000.

The Government took the view that the negative procedure was the appropriate level of parliamentary control for two reasons. First, the EEA regulations were adopted under the negative procedure, and, secondly, Parliament will have the opportunity during the passage of this Bill to debate the issues of principle underpinning the regulations. Nevertheless, the Government are willing to accept the Select Committee's judgment that the freedom of movement of workers will continue to be an issue of political interest. In turn, that justifies a greater degree of parliamentary control over the regulations than the Government originally envisaged. However, as I made clear in my published response to the Select Committee's recommendation, the Government are concerned that the procedure chosen should not impair our ability to react appropriately, if it becomes necessary—contrary, of course, to expectations—to apply safeguards. If we encounter disturbances in the labour market or find that the regulations are being abused, the Government may need to act swiftly. The affirmative procedure is not compatible with that swift action.

Public and parliamentary interest is likely to be most acute when the regulations are first made, since these will fully liberalise access to our labour markets for citizens of the eight states concerned. Subsequently, regulations are likely to be of a technical nature. Even if those subsequent regulations were used to apply some form of safeguard, that safeguard could only be temporary. I am sure that your Lordships will recall that the accession treaty limits the application of safeguards to a maximum period of seven years after the date of accession.

At its most extreme form, the safeguard would simply return us, for a temporary period, to the immigration regime operating today for workers of the eight states concerned. However, a safeguard might well take a more limited form than that. It is for that reason I suggested, in my response to the Select Committee, that the first regulations might be subject to affirmative procedure with subsequent regulations subject to the negative procedure. The most important incidental effect of this would be to allow the Government to apply those safeguards swiftly should the need arise.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, was not attracted to this compromise proposal, his letter to me conceded that some account could be taken of situations where that swift action might be necessary. The mechanism that he suggested—the so-called delayed affirmative procedure—is acceptable to the Government. It is embodied in my amendment, which proposes that regulations under Clause 2 would be

10 Sept 2003 : Column 398

subject to the affirmative resolution of both Houses. However, where, by reason of urgency, the Government need to act swiftly, my amendment would allow the Secretary of State to bring regulations into force prior to the resolutions of both Houses. The Secretary of State would then need to secure resolutions within 40 days. Without them the regulations would lapse at that point.

In drafting the amendment, we have followed closely the recent precedents in the European Parliament(Representation) Act 2003, Sections 13 and 18. Subsection 5(B) of my amendment makes clear that the urgency procedure cannot be used for the first set of regulations. In proposing the amendment, I have sought to meet fully the concerns of the Select Committee while retaining in situations of urgency the ability of the Government to apply safeguards swiftly. That is a good compromise. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for suggesting it. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are agreeable to this amendment with just one or two caveats which I should like to explain. The Minister has helpfully set out the background, which is that they want to allow nationals from accession states to come here and work freely. They expect that there will be no considerable impact from that decision. However, the Government are prudent. Just in case they are wrong—I refer to the explanatory memorandum and the Minister's letter—and the proposed regulations give rise to market difficulties, they want powers to make new regulations. The excellent Select Committee on delegated legislation examined the issue closely and said that at first flush these powers should be by affirmative resolution.

The Minister has explained that flexibility is needed "to act swiftly". Hence, this compromise, with the first regulations being subject to affirmative procedures and subsequent regulations being subject to the negative procedure. However, I notice that the chairman of the Select Committee, in his last letter to the Minister, suggested a late approval formula. I am unsure as to whether that coincides exactly with what the Government are now proposing, but it sounds near to it.

That is how we have reached this position and why the amendment has been proposed. I just need to ask about the word "swiftly". Will the Minister describe the circumstances of "urgency" and "swiftly"—she has used those words several times—in which suddenly it becomes necessary for the Secretary of State to say that there are market difficulties, and so forth? It is quite a difficult situation to envisage and I just wonder how it would shape up. We hope that the Government's relaxed attitude is the right one even though other countries are not following it. An influx of skilled workers is enormously welcome and greatly helps the growth and dynamism of this country.

The general view seems to be that numbers will not be large. However, some elaborate research by reputable think tanks is coming to different views.

10 Sept 2003 : Column 399

Lombard Research says that the UK could become the target destination for a wave of East European workers and that there would be surging immigration, which it welcomes. So do I, if they are skilled people. They are less welcome if they turn out to be the Mafia. The Government are taking a bold view and one that we support. However, I hope they turn out to be right and that they are also right to have these prudent back-up arrangements. They are right to monitor closely the situation as it unfolds.

In agreeing to this amendment I would like reassurance that the monitoring will be real and constructive and that Parliament will have an opportunity to see how things unfold. My wish would be that regular reports from this monitoring should extend not only to job movements and job flows but also to trade flows and investment. I say that not to hinder or protect our own arrangements against the new accession states. I say it to encourage and reinforce their position so that we do not forget their interests and do not allow them to be too battered down by the European Commission's rather threatening intention to monitor them to see that they have complied with the 80,000 page acquis.

We should be their friends and their supporters. I have always wanted this country to be much more of a champion of the smaller states than it has been so far. We do need to be kept informed. There needs to be real monitoring to justify the powers given and taken under this Bill. In order to keep the Government up to the mark and to fulfil these aims we may need to put down an amendment at Report. In the mean time, we are content with this compromise. We believe it is a sensible one and should go forward.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page