§ 22. Mr. Michael Brown
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to ensure that the United Kingdom is no longer required to implement the working time directive.
§ Mr. Lang
We shall insist that the intergovernmental conference addresses our concerns. As I told the House on 12 November, that means both ensuring that the working time directive no longer affects the United Kingdom and securing measures to prevent any other "social engineering" directives being forced on the United Kingdom by similar manoeuvres.
§ Mr. Brown
While I wish my hon. Friend success in those discussions, have not we learnt a clear lesson? Whatever opt-outs we may have on a single currency, the social chapter or whatever, will the Minister confirm that, when we sign those deals, we need to ensure that we are satisfied, five or 10 years down the track, that we have obtained something that means something to us? If we do not join the single currency and if we sign a special deal on the stability pact, is not the lesson to be learnt that we should ensure that we and the European Union agree on the meaning of that deal?
§ Mr. Lang
Of course I agree with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend, but he will be aware that the working time directive did not form part of the social chapter. Our objection to the working time directive is the way in which it was artificially brought into force through article 118A of the treaty, which is a health and safety 1040 measure. By no stretch of the imagination can the working time directive properly be called a health and safety measure.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to re-phrase what he has said and to use proper language in the House, and not to accuse Ministers of misleading or anything else.
§ Mr. Sheerman
I withdraw it—economical with the truth, then. The President of the Board of Trade knows that that was the reason why the Government went to the European Court, but the decision went against them. If they are a party of law and order, they should now follow the court's judgment and implement the directive. That is the truth, is it not?
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that the Government have already made it clear that we will implement the directive. At the same time, however, we will ensure at the intergovernmental conference that arrangements are made so that it ceases to have effect in the United Kingdom. Moreover, very soon we shall publish a consultation paper, and then take account of industry's attempts to reduce the burden that the directive will impose on us. We shall then introduce appropriate legislation.