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Volume 976: debated on Wednesday 16 January 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he is taking to reduce the amount of EEC legislation.

The Government have made clear on a number of occasions that they are against unnecessary legislation and standardisation for its own sake.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that we need a drastic reduction in legislation? Is he aware that the legislation is a particularly heavy burden on small businesses, it is costly and it is unnecessary? Does he appreciate that such a practice spoils the good legislation that can come out of Brussels? Will he make a special effort to ensure that a drastic reduction in legislation occurs? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the stupidity of the directive concerning harmonisation of bathing water.

I do not remember that particular incident, but it seems a most cogent example.

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that some public scrutiny would help to curtail the mass of legislation from the EEC—most of which is trivial and absurd? Rather than keep the decisions of the Council of Ministers behind closed doors would it not be of help to open those doors to the public, so that they may know what is going on within an absurd Common Market?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is against excessive legislation, but if that is so within the context of Europe, that is a matter for him. It would not be helpful for Council meetings to be open to the public. As the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, a good deal leaks out, despite the so-called privacy. Apart from anything else, there is no space in the room. There is, therefore, a good technical reason for leaks.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be reductions in all forms of legislation, both nationally and within the Community? Will he remind the House that it is always constitutionally open to the Council of Ministers to say "No" to the Commission if it wishes to on any proposal?

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that these EEC regulations have the force of law and that there is great disquiet in the House about the number of decisions that are taken without giving the House an opportunity to discuss them? Will he look at this question again and will he bring many more issues before the House as quickly as possible before decisions are taken, rather than afterwards?

I was not aware of great discontent. I thought that we had been most scrupulous. I shall certainly look at the point.