HC Deb 27 November 1996 vol 286 cc334-6
26. Mr. Bernard Jenkin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to table proposals at the forthcoming intergovernmental conference to reverse the process of legal integration in the European Community. [4612]

Mr. David Davis

I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting two bites of the cherry.

Areas of European Union activity such as the single market require a common legislative framework. Other areas—such as foreign policy and justice and home affairs—do not. The treaty broadly reflects those differences in its pillared structure. We will oppose any erosion of that structure.

Mr. Jenkin

If my hon. Friend is to reverse the process of the imposition of the working time directive and to ensure that something similar does not happen in future, should not he congratulate himself, to start with, on his prescience in the White Paper, "A Partnership of Nations", which talked about limiting Community actions where they overstep the mark—but does not that require removal of sections of the treaty, not just changes in voting procedures?

Mr. Davis

I think that my hon. Friend's question said the reverse. In our actions on the issue of the working time directive, we are seeking to put things back to where we believed they were at Maastricht—and where everyone else appeared to believe they were at Maastricht—which appears to have been undermined now. I regard that not as a reversal, but as a preservation of what we have.

Mr. McNamara

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, on justice and home affairs, there should be European common standards to deal with such things as the Mafia, drug imports, terrorism and extradition? They are the proper areas in which a European Community should have a role in establishing common standards and common systems to ensure that all the citizens of Europe are not subject to the depredations of people involved in those activities.

Mr. Davis

I agree that the peoples of Europe should not be subject to the depredations of the activities that he mentioned. The hon. Gentleman and I have come to a similar common conclusion on Northern Ireland in the past. However, that common aim should be advanced not through the theology of the European Court and the first pillar, but through proper intergovernmental co-operation. For example, in the first six months of operation of the Europol drugs unit—an entirely intergovernmental body—there were 500 or 600 requests for information, and 1,400 pieces of information were provided. That was information not on small aspects of criminality, but on major drug crimes. That shows what can be done through properly applied intergovernmental action.

Mr. Jessel

Can my hon. Friend say whether legal integration includes integration of laws on the free movement of goods within the European Union? If so, what are we to think of French people being allowed to blockade their ports so that they can get pensions at 55, to block their roads with tractors, or even to set fire to lorries containing British live animals for export? Will the Government think long and hard before increasing our involvement with such a lawless people?

Mr. Davis

We are all horrified at the effects on British drivers and British companies of the action by French trade unions. It is most reminiscent of the behaviour of trade unions in Britain under the last Labour Government.

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