Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Third Report



Letter from Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to the Chairman

I read with interest the Select Committee's 21st Report (11 June) and have noted its recommendation on the parliamentary procedure for regulations under clause 2 (freedom of movement for workers) of the European Union (Accessions) Bill.

The Government is giving very serious consideration to the Committee's recommendation, but is concerned by some of its possible implications. I thought it might be helpful if I set out our thinking at this stage.

In general terms, the Government does not expect the regulations on free movement to have a "considerable" effect on the UK labour market. In reaching its decision last year to allow nationals of the eight acceding states affected by transitional measures to work freely in the UK from 1 May 2004, the Government took account of a series of reports which suggest that free movement of workers within an enlarged European Union will not cause substantial migration flows into the UK. The Home Office has recently published detailed research by University College London which backs up earlier studies.

Nevertheless, at the time of announcing its decision and subsequently, the Government has drawn attention to the importance of safeguards, in case the regulations, contrary to expectation, give rise to difficulties on the labour market. Under the terms of the Accession Treaty, the Government has a free hand to impose or reimpose restrictions on the eight relevant states until 30 April 2006. From 1 May 2006 until 30 April 2011, it can maintain or reimpose restrictions subject to certain formalities of a largely procedural kind. The Government will, accordingly, be monitoring closely the effect of its policy on the UK labour market after accession.

In the event that it became necessary to apply safeguards, the Government might need to act swiftly to deal effectively with whatever problems had arisen. The Government is concerned that the affirmative-resolution procedure could, if applied comprehensively to regulations under clause 2, severely curtail its capacity to do so. This would not be in the UK's interest. For this reason, we have been considering whether it would be possible to square the Committee's recommendation with the Government's need for flexibility on the handling of safeguards. One possible way forward would be to make the first set of regulations under the clause subject to the affirmative procedure, while allowing subsequent regulations, whether amending or repealing the first regulations, to be subject to the annulment procedure. I would welcome the views of the House on this suggestion in the forthcoming debates on the Bill.

On a point of significant detail, I would like to correct one particular impression given, perhaps inadvertently, by the Select Committee's observations on the Bill. It is important to be clear that, irrespective of the power conferred by clause 2, nationals of all of the new Member States will have the immediate right, upon accession, to enter and reside in any Member State for a variety of purposes (e.g. to study or take holidays). The scope both of the transitional restrictions provided by the Accession Treaty and, therefore, of clause 2 is strictly limited to entry and residence for the purpose of work.

I am copying this letter to the clerk and members of the Select Committee, the Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Union, Andrew Macintosh, Denis Carter and First Parliamentary Counsel.

July 2003

Letter from the Chairman to Baroness Symons

Thank you for your recent letter in which you responded to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the European Union (Accessions) Bill.

We appreciate your suggestion that the first set of regulations under clause 2 (freedom of movement for workers) should be subject to affirmation procedure. However, the Committee's main concern was that the power could be used over a period of seven years and that regulations at any time during that period (not just initially) could have a considerable impact on the labour market. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's memorandum for the Committee very helpfully explained the way in which it was proposed to exercise the power in the first instance, but could not, of course, say how the powers would be used in several years' time.

The Committee appreciates the difficulty of reconciling the usual draft affirmative procedure with the need to act urgently. This difficulty is sometimes resolved by use of a procedure whereby, in an emergency, the instrument can be made and come into force immediately subject to subsequent approval.

9 July 2003

previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003