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Social Charter

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment has been made by his Department of the implications for job creation in the United Kingdom of the implementation of the measures contained in the European Commission's social charter.

The implementation of the social action programme would increase the burden of regulations on employers, impose new taxes on workers on low pay and deny workers legitimate opportunities for employment and earnings. It would put up employers' costs, damage the ability of firms to compete in world markets and destroy jobs.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that most people who work part time do so because they want to and that there is no point in smothering them in red tape and bureaucracy? Is the social charter absolutely necessary for the completion of the single market, or would the whole affair be better referred to the European Court of Justice, which has views on absolutely everything these days?

It is certainly unnecessary to have the social action programme to complete the single market. Although we hope to support some of the proposals contained in that programme, many of them would undoubtedly be damaging in precisely the way which my hon. Friend suggested.

Is not it true that, behind the rhetoric of the social charter, the provisions of health and safety at work put forward in EEC directives will mean an erosion of standards—often absolute standards—in United Kingdom health and safety legislation, such as section 14 of the Factories Act 1961? Its words would be replaced by the words "so far as reasonably practicable". Does not that mean a lowering of health and safety standards in our country?

The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that I shall do everything that I can to make sure that our health and safety standards are not lowered. On the contrary, I am keen that other European countries increase their standards of health and safety to match those in this country. That is one point that I shall make when the social action programme is under discussion.