TRIPARTITE SOCIAL SUMMIT (10564/02)
Letter from the Chairman to Stephen Timms
MP Minister of State for E-Commerce and Competitiveness Department
of Trade and Industry
Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and
Home Affairs) considered these proposals at its meeting on 6 November.
We note the Government's concerns about the
proposed Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment and
would be grateful to be informed when the Government has decided,
in the light of its consultation, whether to support it.
As regards the Communication, we noted that
the UK's social partner organisations will be fully consulted
in the forthcoming assessment of the European Social Fund's contribution
to the UK national employment action plan. Does this mean that
the Government intends to accept the Commission's recommendation
to use part of their funds earmarked for ESF technical assistance
to support operations by the social partners?
6 November 2002
Letter from Alan Johnson MP Minister of
State for Employment Relations, Industry & the Regions to
The Commons Scrutiny Committee is seeking further
information regarding the motivations for replacing the Standing
Committee on Employment with Tripartite Social Summit. I thought
it would be useful for you to be aware of the following comments.
The impetus for change in the structure of forum
for Employment policy debate came from social partners, and was
supported by both European Commission and European Council. In
the "Joint Contribution by the Social Partners to the Laeken
European Council", published on 7 December 2001, the social
partners suggested a Tripartite Social Summit, bringing together
the troika, the Commission President and a restricted delegation
of social partners, and that this should replace the Standing
Committee on Employment. This demand was both acknowledged and
agreed in the Presidency's conclusions on the Laeken Council.
The tasks laid down in the 1970 decision, and
amended in 1998, to establish Standing Committee on Employment,
"to ensure . . . that there shall be continuous dialogue,
joint action and consultation between the Council . . . Commission
and the two sides of industry . . .", are still relevant
today. However, the social partners consider that the operations,
the membership, the working methods, and the use to which its
results are put, are out-of-date. In particular, it was not synchronised
with other tripartite mechanisms, such as the Macroeconomic Dialogue,
nor was it linked effectively to the delivery of the Lisbon strategy,
which is the focus of the Spring Economic Councils. The social
partners broadly welcome TSS as both beneficial and timely. CBI
follow UNICE in considering that dismantling SCE implies finding
alternative channels between Employment and Social Affairs Council
and social partners, acknowledging that this can be done without
a formal council decision. UNICE also requests an additional dialogue
on education and training. CEEP UK registers specific disaccord
with their omission from the technical co-ordination of the employers'
delegation. TUC warmly welcome tripartism at European level, reserving
a degree of comment until proposals are further defined.
Clarification of certain technical and procedural
issues is currently being pursued at working party in conjunction
with the Council Legal Services.
26 November 2002
Letter from the Chairman to Alan Johnson
Lord Brabazon wrote to Stephen Timms on 6 November
about these proposals. In your letter of 12 November to Jimmy
Hood you said that you were writing in similar terms to Lord Brabazon,
but I understand that no such letter was ever sent.
However, as the proposed Council Decision is
due for consideration at a forthcoming Council, Sub-Committee
F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) considered it again
at a meeting on 27 November, on the basis of your letter to Jimmy
The Committee remains uncertain of the extent
to which the proposal will be a genuine improvement on existing
arrangements, but in view of the explanation that the change is
welcomed by the social partners themselves we are content to clear
the document from scrutiny. We would, however, still be grateful
for responses to the questions raised by the Committee on the
Letter from Alan Johnson to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 2 December. In
his letter of 6 November, your predecessor as Chair of the Select
Committee raised two points.
On the first, the Government is in favour in
principle of formalising the Tripartite Social Summit by means
of a Council decision. The Summits are a good opportunity to tune
the Social Dialogue towards delivery of the Lisbon Strategy. The
Council Legal Services have raised some procedural problems which
still need to be resolved. Thus the Employment Social Policy Health
and Consumer Affairs Council agreed on 3 December that the next
summit ahead of the Spring Economic Council in March 2003 could
go ahead as before on an informal basis. The Greek Presidency
will continue work on the formal decision. The Government believes
the General Affairs and External Relations Committee should have
a role in preparing the social summit as part of its coordination
role for the Spring Economic Council, by for example receiving
agendas and preparatory papers two weeks in advance. This should
remove the concerns raised by the Council Legal Services.
On the second, European Social Fund (ESF) technical
assistance is used to support preparatory, publicity, evaluation
and monitoring activities related to the operation of ESF programmes.
There are no plans to use ESF technical assistance to support
operations by the social partners to implement or monitor the
employment guidelines. This is because, firstly, social partner
organisations can apply for mainstream ESF to support projects
which address employment guidelines.
Secondly, the mid-term evaluations of ESF programmes,
which have already been commissioned, will assess how ESF contributes
to activities described in the UK employment action plan. Social
partners will be consulted on the findings of the mid-term evaluations
through their membership of ESF programme monitoring committees.
The operation of monitoring committees is supported by ESF technical
17 December 2002