§ 14. Mr. Ian Bruce
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she will make a statement on the proposed European directive that would restrict the overtime that British workers are allowed to work.
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
The Social Affairs Council did not reach a common position on the proposed working time directive on 24 June so we do not have a directive. In discussions on the text, the United Kingdom secured all its key objectives, in particular the right for employees to work for more than 48 hours a week if they choose to do so. I made it clear that the United Kingdom continues to have very severe doubts about the directive as a whole and its proposed legal base.
§ Mr. Bruce
I wonder whether the next time my right hon. Friend meets her colleagues in Europe she will express my concern that, having been a Member of Parliament for more than five years—[Interruption.]—I have yet to receive a single letter from a single constituent complaining that he has too many hours to work. [Interruption.]
§ Madam Speaker
Order. Will the House come to Order? The hon. Gentleman cannot be heard. Even though he has been here five years, he is going to be heard.
§ Mr. Bruce
Opposition Members cannot take it, Madam Deputy Speaker.
176 Will the Minister tell her Employment colleagues at the Council of Ministers that although they may be Euro workaholics working well over 100 hours a week each, they are in no position to legislate for people who would like to arrange with their own employers their own hours of work?
§ Mrs. Shephard
I shall be pleased to pass on to my European counterparts the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend, who may now find that he receives a letter or two on the issue, and I feel certain that they will be in support of the position taken by the United Kingdom. The number of hours worked by MEPs and MPs would be excluded from the provisions of the directive, should it ever come to pass.