Equality: EU Law

Women and Equality written question – answered at on 11 January 2010.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will place in the Library a copy of the reasoned opinion of the European Commission on the compliance of the UK's equality legislation with the EU Equal Treatment Directive.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Minister of State (Ministry of Justice) (also in Government Equalities Office), Minister of State (Government Equalities Office) (also in the Ministry of Justice)

The understanding between the European Commission and member states is that infraction correspondence remains confidential. The Commission publishes the fact that a Reasoned Opinion has been sent, but not the letter itself. The Government will therefore not be placing a copy of this Reasoned Opinion in the Library.

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Philip Boggis
Posted on 23 Jan 2010 2:45 pm (Report this annotation)

In order for a swift passage of the Equality Bill through both Houses, and in order for MPs and Peers to table amendments that are realistic and in harmony with the EU Commission's view (that Her Majesty's Government is in non-compliance regarding the correct transposition of EU Directive 2000/78/EC), it behoves Maria Eagles to at least outline clearly the exact areas where current legislation does not meet the Commission's criteria. After all, the Commission itself does so, by publishing in broad terms, the content of their Reasoned Opinion. (The first stage in legal measures for non-compliance to be taken by the ECJ (European Court of Justice) against a member state (formerly under article 226 of the TEC).
Since, in view of the Commission's judgement, that Her Majesty's Government are currently in non-compliance of the correct transposition of the Directive, and since the Equality Bill, now before the House of Lord's, will correct this situation (under certain schedules, particularly 9), it would, as already stated, help Peers with their various debates and tabled amendments, for Maria Eagles to be more constructive than she has been. (It is senseless to potentially debate amendments that may well be an illegality (as far as EU law is concerned) because of, in my view, a lack of helpfulness by Her Majesty’s ministers in explaining the situation!). In this respect, The House of Commons Library is most helpful with regard to the Equality Bill 2008-09:sexual orientation and religious employment, Standard Note SN/BT/5132, sec. 1.2, page 4 where it says that Regulation 7(3) of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 may very well be intra vires - meaning Parliament has no power to enact it. Maria Eagles should have made a statement about this in her reply! (Note English case law has supported Regulation 7(3)in the case before The Honourable Mr Justice Richards, between Amicus, UNISON, NASWAT, Public Commercial Services Union, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and the NUT as the Claimants, and The Secretary for Trade and Industry as the defendant.

Philip Boggis
Posted on 25 Jan 2010 2:38 pm (Report this annotation)

Correction to post dated 23 Jan 2010 at 2:45 pm.
At the appropriate places the narrative should read: 'Maria Eagle' not 'Eagles' and 'ultra vires' not 'intra vires'.