Conflicts between the Conservative UK government and its MEPs in the European Parliament have resulted in contradictory instructions being issued to their MEPs.
UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom
, who has tabled 28 amendments to the bill which is officially opposed by the UK government, said that organisational chaos meant the government needed 'better contraception' to protect the UK from unwanted Pregnancy directives.
The official UK briefing issued by the UK's Permanent Representative called for MEPs to oppose Amendment 2 on the grounds that it made reference to the 'work-life balance', which UK REP said was outside the scope of supposed health and safety legislation. Eight amendments later, it recommends that MEPs support Amendment 10, which states that 'maternity leave complements parental and paternity leave to achieve work life balance'.
The UK REP also recommends rejecting Amendment 119, which was submitted by Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis. In an e-mail circulated in Strasbourg, Ms Yannakoudakis describes her amendment as being 'vital for British interests', clearly a view not shared by the British government.
Of Mr Blooms 28 amendments (87 - 114), the UK government supports seven, is neutral on one, and opposes the remainder, although the effect of all would be to maintain the status quo, which is officially what the government wants.
Mr Bloom said, "The government is in danger of believing its own propaganda about the EU. Its shambolic approach to opposing legislation which is likely to severely damage young women's employment prospects is a betrayal not just of young women, but of the competitiveness of British industry in the global market.
"The government appears to be trying to cherry pick the bits it wants, while relying on other member states to throw out the bits it doesn't. When will the Tories learn that such an approach is doomed to failure, and what will they cost Britain while they learn this hard truth?"
Voting on the directive takes place today in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The appropriate sections of HMG's opinion on the legislation is copied below.
||Adds reference to work life balance
The Pregnant Workers Directive is a health and safety Directive and we believe that work life balance should remain out of scope.
||New recital stating that maternity leave complements parental and paternity leave to achieve work life balance
Maternity, paternity and parental leave are all part of a package of support for working parents.
|| Extends Directive to self-employed workers
This provision is not necessary. Maternity protections for self-employed workers are addressed by the directive on equal treatment for self-employed workers and assisting spouses which was recently agreed.