EUROPEAN UNION (ACCESSIONS) BILL
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
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
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