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European Community (Unemployment Proposals)

Volume 22: debated on Friday 23 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what position was adopted by Her Majesty's Government at the most recent meeting of European Economic Community Ministers which he attended to the various proposals from the Presidency concerning further Community-wide action on unemployment; and what position was adopted by the EEC Governments at that meeting on the issue;(2) what position was adopted by Her Majesty's Government at the most recent meeting of EEC Ministers which he attended concerning proposed obligations on multinational companies to disclose information to their employees; what were the positions of the other EEC Governments at that meeting; if he has had consultations with representatives of British industry and trade unions on the subject; and what representations he has received on this matter from within the United Kingdom and from any other interested parties.

I represented the United Kingdom at an informal meeting of European Community Ministers held in Brussels on 5–6 April.It has become customary for the member State holding the EC Presidency to hold an informal meeting of EC Employment Ministers. These meetings enable Ministers to discuss current employment issues in a relaxed and informal atmosphere but are not intended to reach formally agreed or published conclusions. It would therefore be inappropriate to indicate the positions adopted by member States.The meeting on 5–6 April was mainly devoted to a wide-ranging and useful discussion on a report from the Presidency covering a number of issues related to unemployment in the Community. These issues are also discussed in a communication from the European Commission on a Community action programme to fight unemployment, which we expect to be considered in the Standing Committee on Employment to be held on 27 April.The draft EC directive on informing and consulting employees in complex undertakings was also discussed. The United Kingdom Government have made clear their commitment to the principle of employee involvement, but we have stated on many occasions that a rigid legal system, such as that set out in this draft directive, is contrary to our approach. The EC Commission has now indicated its intention to revise the draft after the European Parliament has debated it. We have therefore not yet held formal consultations on the draft directive. However, we have received numerous representations from employers who are opposed to the directive since it was first mooted in July 1980. We have also received the views of the TUC, which supports the proposal.