HC Deb 27 November 1991 vol 199 cc908-9
13. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many directives under the single market programme have been implemented by the United Kingdom; and what percentage have been implemented by the other EC members.

Mr. Redwood

As a result of the United Kingdom initiative, the Internal Market Council of the European Community now receives regular updates on the implementation of single market measures. The last meeting was given the figures up to 15 October 1991. The United Kingdom had implemented 111 of the 137 measures required—81 per cent.—and we have implemented more since then. That confirms that the United Kingdom is at the forefront in implementing single market measures. Comparable percentage figures for other member states show that Denmark has implemented 91 per cent., France 86 per cent., Portugal 79 per cent., Spain, Greece and Germany 77 per cent. each, the Netherlands and Belgium 72 per cent., Luxembourg 69 per cent., Ireland 64 per cent. and, I am afraid to say, Italy 54 per cent.

Mr. Bowis

Do not those excellent figures show that this party and this country are sincere and wholehearted in their activities within the European Community? Do not they also draw attention to the willingness of some countries and some parties to sign up to measures that they have no intention of implementing? For that reason, is not one of the most important elements of the draft treaty now under discussion the proposal to tighten penalties for nations within the Community that fail to meet their obligations?

Mr. Redwood

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government believe in serious negotiation to get the details right before signing the directives. Sometimes that is difficult because we will implement them and we want them to be fairly applied across the Community. The Commission is with us on that and it was especially firm with Italy at the most recent informal Internal Market Council about its poor state of implementation. The Italian Minister was unable to promise more than having implemented one out of two by the end of the year. Many of the other member states agreed with the Commission that more should be done to ensure that that implementation goes ahead.

Our business men expect nothing less. They expect good law that makes sense for business and they expect it to be applied uniformly across the Community, both by implementation and by proper enforcement. My hon. Friend may like to know that the Government are now studying the Frankovich judgment, which may also have some bearing on speed of implementation in the Community.

Mr. Enright

Is not the social charter regarded on the continent by both right and left as an essential complement to a single trading area? British Ministers are looked on as grubby messengers with grubby messages.

Mr. Redwood

That is quite untrue. Many people on the continent agree with us that business must not be overburdened and that it should be allowed to make choices about how best to involve employees in the process of the business. We want our system, just as surely as France and Germany want to be free to enjoy their systems. They have evolved over time; one is not right and one is not wrong. They are good for our countries.

Mr. Oppenheim

Bearing in mind the figures and the fact that French farmers regularly burn lorry loads of English lamb and Italian grapes with complete impunity and that it is not possible for an English lorry firm to go to Germany and to load up with goods to bring back to the United Kingdom, should not the European Community try to walk before it tries to run?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend has spoken for me. We want to see full progress with the single market as the priority programme for the European Community. As the man who has to do most of the negotiating on single market measures, I know that there is still a long way to go. I pledge to the House that there will be no lack of effort by the Government to make a success of that programme.