'Low-key' debate on social policy attacked

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

THE GOVERNMENT came under fire yesterday for relegating a debate on its response to the European Union green paper on social policy to a low-key committee meeting rather than have it discussed on the floor of the House of Commons, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Ann Clwyd, Labour's European employment spokeswoman, said she was 'horrified at this lack of proper scrutiny of European legislation'. The paper covers social issues including equal opportunities, race discrimination, part-time workers and parental leave.

European Standing Committee B, which considered it yesterday, was created by Parliament to exercise greater scrutiny over EU legislation, but Mrs Clwyd said the importance of the paper merited a debate on the floor of the House.

Michael Forsyth, minister of state for employment, reiterated that the Government would turn down the opportunity to apply for EU grants worth pounds 500m for retraining workers at risk of losing their jobs through technological change.

He added that the Government was seeking legal advice on the recent Law Lords' ruling on part-time workers' rights. That conflicts with a report earlier this week that the Department of Employment agreed with the Equal Opportunities Commission that tens of thousands of workers could make legal claims dating back to 1976.