Vote On Key Service Liberalisation Law Descends Into Farce

Responding to today's vote in the European Parliament on the controversial Services Directive, SNP MEP Ian Hudghton criticised the outcome as 'messy, ill conceived and bad news for workers and consumers'.

The controversial plans to liberalise Europe's services industries ran into trouble when a back-room deal between the European Parliament's Socialist and Conservative groups was put under severe pressure during a chaotic voting session at the Strasbourg parliament.

The SNP has been heavily critical of the proposals which many fear would drive down standards in the provision of key services and undermine working standards for employees.

Commenting on the outcome, SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP, a member of the Parliament's Internal Market committee which has been scrutinising the proposals, said:

"This is a very disappointing outcome - rather than reject the plans outright and go back to the drawing board we've now got a set of rules that may well be quite unworkable. Rather than making it easier for service industries to operate on a pan European basis, this messy result could actually complicate things further.

"We need a period of calm and reflection to analyse the detailed impact for workers, service providers and consumers. Certainly the chaotic and confused scenes in Parliament will not inspire confidence as the mammoth voting session descended into farce. On measures of this importance it is unacceptable for decision making to be done in such a way."

Ian Hudghton added:

"We voted against these plans because we see them as bad news for workers and consumers in Scotland and elsewhere. The blame for such a shambolic voting session lies in no small part at the door of the Conservative and Socialist groups who tried to stitch up a shoddy back-room deal. Their efforts came unstuck and their behaviour has badly let down workers and consumers.

"The sensible option at that stage was to go back to the drawing board. As it stands we have an outcome that many believe will be unworkable and which may end up having to be interpreted by the courts - hardly the boost for Europe's service industries that many would have claimed."


The compromise package agreed by the Labour and Tory Groups creates an unclear result. For example, the two large groups refused to back an out right exemption on social services from the directive's scope, despite the deep concerns of many working in the social care sector. They did however exempt social services "such as social housing, childcare and family services". This non-exhaustive list of certain social services creates legal uncertainty and it is impossible to judge what social services will be affected by the directive outwith the fields of housing, childcare and family services.

The Labour and Tory groups refused to back outright exemptions of such key sectors as education, water and culture.

The compromise threatens consumer rights by not permitting member states to impose requirements based on consumer protection.

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