HC Deb 06 December 1996 vol 286 cc826-7W
Mr. Dover

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is his response to the rejection by the Court of Justice of the European Communities of the United Kingdom's application to have the EU working time directive annulled; what plans he has to consult on implementing the directive; and if he will make a statement. [8510]

Mr. Lang

The European Court of Justice has now given its judgment, and we will obey the law. In due course, we will secure changes to the EC treaty which will mean that the directive no longer affects the United Kingdom.

The directive is a complicated document. Its implementation will mean imposing novel limits and controls on working time. Unlike any other EU member state, we have no framework of law which we could easily extend or modify to comply with the arbitrary working time limits required by the directive. Implementation measures must be carefully tailored to the circumstances of British business, to minimise disruption and avoid imposing any unnecessary burdens. That is why we need to consult widely on all the issues and options arising from the terms of the directive.

I am today issuing a consultation document on implementing the directive. The consultation document seeks views on various issues, such as enforcement arrangements; taking advantage of "derogations" and "options" the directive allows; defining certain terms, for example, what hours are to count as "night time"; and setting particular limits, for example, the duration and terms of a standard "in work" rest break and the standard reference period for averaging night work hours.

The consultation period will last until 6 March. We will then take stock of the position in the light of responses.