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BSA meets EU Commissioner

15 December 2008

Charlie McCreevy, the EU Commissioner responsible for business services, addressed a breakfast in the House of Commons last week attended by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Business Services and members of the Business Services Association.

Over the croissants, the MPs and leading members of the FM and business services sector quizzed the Commissioner about their key business concerns.

“This was an important meeting for the industry and for Parliamentarians interested in outsourcing and FM because it demonstrates the senior level at which the BSA is now representing the sector to Parliamentarians and politicians in the UK and in Europe," said BSA Chief Executive Mark Fox. "This means the UK industry can be confident that it is being effectively represented in the corridors of power at home and over the water.”

Commissioner McCreevy’s responsibilities cover Internal Markets and Services, and he has worked on free movement of services and capital across the EU. He has supported initiatives to develop the internal market, as well as efforts to challenge member states for infringements of EU integration rules. He was Ireland’s Finance Minister from 1997 to 2004 and is credited with much of Ireland’s economic success in that period.

He commented on the strong track record in the UK in public procurement, and said that this year had seen the EU clarify interpretion on public/private companies formed to deliver public sector projects and services, and on the private company’s share of public capital. He explained that clarification will emerge in procurement law to address concerns on exploitation of workers and on contracts for public services for which fees are levied, such as toll roads.

Tim Boswell, MP, asked how the EU could break the ‘cartel approach’ of non English speaking member countries on outsourcing and encourage public private partnerships as part of the innovation process. Recognising that economic recession was likely to see calls for more protectionism from individual member states, Commissioner McCreevy said “We need to open up markets not close them down.” The Commission will crack down on infringements, but it could only act on recepit of a complaint. It needs people to complain and for us to be more zealous.”

Tom Stanton, OCS, expressed concern about national policies that obstruct global sourcing intitiatives through differing interpretations and restrictive terms and conditions on procurement contracts in some EU member states. Commissioner McCreevy advised that by the end of December 2009, such barriers that exist will have been challenged in every national and federal government and intepretation of EU rules standardised. He explained that every government will go through the process, including those with federal systems such as Germany where interpretation can vary between internal regions. A single point of contact for intepretation of legislation will also be established in each country.

Asked whether EU measures on environmental protection and carbon reductions will take ‘a backseat’ during the recession, Commissioner McCreedy said the EU was determined to continue the pace of its climate change agenda, and that it was important to the enconomic recovery of the region.

Richard Springer MP asked whether the current unrest in Greece and criticism of the Gordon Brown led economic recovery plans by German politicians was symptomic of wider divisions. According to Commissioner McCreedy, different approaches to ecomonic policy was not unusual among EU states and many different VAT rates were in operation.

However, he noted that the 2009 European elections and the new Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were likely to be critical to the future of the enlarged EU. Describing Brussels as “the epicentre of form filling”, Commissioner McCreavy said the Lisbon reforms were important to streamline the operation of the enlarged EU.

Asked whether the UK’s opt out of the 42 hour working week regulations would continue, Commissioner McCreevy said that the issues were currently in discussion in the European Parliament and that the British and Irish position on the opt out had not changed.

Update 17th December 2008:
When news came through yesterday that the European Parliament had voted to end the 48 hour week opt out, Mark Fox condemmed the MEP vote. “The European Parliament has voted today in a way that could significantly damage the UK’s ability to respond flexibly and effectively, if implemented. The vote is particularly damaging to the UK business and outsourced service industry as it navigates its way through the serious economic challenges that face us. The business and outsourced service industry strongly urges the UK Government to resist by all means the consequences of the vote today by the European Parliament. If necessary we call on the Government to take special powers to ensure the UK remains outside of this restrictive piece of regulation.”









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