HC Deb 01 December 1992 vol 215 cc136-7
17. Mr. Watson

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what study she has made of the employment rights for employees in the United Kingdom relative to those in other EC member countries; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

In 1991, the Department commissioned a study of race discrimination legislation in EC member states and it also regularly collects comparative information on employment rights. The results show that Britain leads on race discrimination law and practice and British workers enjoy an extensive range of employment rights that compares well with other EC countries.

Mr. Watson

That is a selective response from the Minister. Why will workers in the United Kingdom be denied the protection under the social chapter that will be given to their fellow workers in other EC countries when the Maastricht agreement comes into force? Workers in the United Kingdom have poorer working conditions, including hours of work, and are denied collective bargaining rights. Why do the Government think that the social chapter will damage industry and destroy jobs in this country? The other 11 EC countries do not believe that it will happen to them. What is the difference between the United Kingdom and the other EC countries?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman must have been asleep during Question Time. On several occasions it has been said that a higher proportion of the British work force is in employment. We have more women in employment, and there are more opportunities in the job market. What my right hon. Friend achieved at Maastricht in getting an opt-out for the social chapter was to create the opportunity, as Mr. Jacques Delors said, to make Britain an investment paradise. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is against that.