Employment Harmonisation (EU)

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1999.

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Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood 12:00 am, 29th April 1999

When he last discussed with the European Commission the harmonisation of policies to stimulate employment within the EU. [81530]

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Minister of State (Department for Education and Employment)

Ministers have regular discussions with the European Commission and other member states, and we are making good progress through the employment guidelines on active labour market policies to promote employability and to combine flexibility with security. However, that progress is being achieved through co-operation, not harmonisation. Employment policy and employment action plans remain the responsibility of individual member states.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

Are the Government aware that the harmonisation of value added tax on the importation of works of art from outside the European Union will effectively double the rate of VAT on those works and will gravely damage the London art market? Far from encouraging employment, it will destroy jobs in London and throughout the country. What do the Government intend to do about that? Will they ignore the proposal and just accept it blithely, or make a stand for British jobs and the prosperity of the British people?

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Minister of State (Department for Education and Employment)

The hon. Gentleman should know that the Government have made vigorous representations in the interests of the British art market. We want to sustain the jobs and the commanding competitiveness that that market enjoys. The employment guidelines to which I referred earlier explicitly include—at the behest of the United Kingdom—the requirement that every regulation be examined to gauge its effect on employment levels. Moreover, we will promote adaptability, flexibility, equal opportunities and entrepreneurship in employment policy. We want to sustain that entrepreneurship in the British art market of which we are so proud.

Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Liberal Democrat, South East Cornwall

Will co-operation, or the harmonisation or co-ordination of employment policies across Europe, have any effect—good or bad—on the new deal?

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Minister of State (Department for Education and Employment)

The employment guidelines promote an active approach to the labour market which guarantees young people who have been out of work for six months the help that they need through an adviser, training programmes and assistance into employment. The good news is that that approach is being extended to other countries. I have received an enormous amount of interest, not just from Europe, but from countries throughout the world, in the achievements of the new deal.

In answer to the accusations that Opposition Members made earlier today, youth unemployment among the eligible group has fallen by more than a third since the new deal was introduced. We have the lowest long-term youth unemployment in this country for 20 years, and we are proud of the fact that the Labour Government have reduced long-term youth unemployment further in 18 months than the previous Government managed in 18 years.