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The government is stepping up efforts to have the Acquired Rights Directive simplified, with Prime Minister John Ma...
The government is stepping up efforts to have the Acquired Rights Directive simplified, with Prime Minister John Major now understood to be taking a personal interest.

Mr Major has written to a backbench MP claiming the European Commission has accepted the case for the Directive to be revised and simplified.

The Directive is implemented in the UK by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. 'I do not yet know the outcome of this process but be assured the UK government will be pressing for the maximum change and flexibility', the letter says.

The news emerged after a claim in the Sunday Times that the European Union summit in Brussels last weekend had agreed to scrap the Directive.

'Although the first press reports may have been optimistic we now know from this letter that revision of the Directive is on the prime minister's personal agenda', said Cliff Davis-Coleman, the co-ordinator of the Clause 26 Group, a contractors' pressure group. The UK government is pressing for the Directive to be amended to exclude contracting out and for some terms and conditions to be negotiable between employers and employees when undertakings are transferred.

Confusion reigned this week about what the summit had agreed. The Foreign Office said the European Commission had reported to ministers that it accepted the Acquired Rights Directive should be modified. But a senior EC official told the Association of Metropolitan Authorities the Directive was not discussed at the summit.

It has been known for some time that the EC is working on a redraft of the directive but it is thought likely the result will simply make it explicit that it does apply to contracting out.

The AMA accused the government of duplicity after Mr Major said on Monday the Directive was on a list of directives to be repealed or examined. 'This deliberate lack of clarity suits the government's purpose by putting off the evil day it has to admit that TUPE applies to contracting out', said AMA Assistant Secretary Stephen Bubb.

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