Skip to main content

Repatriation of Powers (EU)

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Government have already made progress on securing reforms to the EU, by ending Britain’s obligation to bail out eurozone members, by ensuring that the smallest businesses are exempted from EU regulations, by securing protections on banking union and by achieving a shift in fisheries policy towards local and regional management.

But did President Van Rompuy not have a good point last week when he said that, rather than prioritising treaty change, the Government should be leading the charge for growth in Europe? With our economy having grown by a dismal 0.2% last year, should the Minister not take that advice rather than trying to weaken the rights of work for millions of employees across Britain?

It is this Government’s commitment to growth, jobs and prosperity in Europe that lay behind the achievement of the EU’s free trade agreements with the Republic of Korea and with Singapore, attained during the lifetime of this coalition Government, and it is the firm alliance between our Prime Minister and the German Chancellor that is driving forward, with the Commission, moves in Europe towards an historic transatlantic trade deal. I wish that the Opposition were sometimes a little less grudging.

Does the Minister agree that seeking to repatriate powers in the areas of employment and social affairs would not be about regaining powers from Europe, but rather about taking away the rights of working people here at home?

I sincerely hope that the hon. Lady is not seeking, by means of that question, to suggest that she supports an end to our opt-out from the 48-hour working week under the working time directive. I hope that she is not being complacent about the European Court of Justice judgments that have caused such difficulties for the national health service and for the social care sector, problems that are not unique to the United Kingdom and concerns about which are shared by many other member states.

Has the Minister drawn any conclusion from the fact that at last Thursday’s Eastleigh by-election a majority of voters voted for candidates who want to see the United Kingdom repatriate all powers from the European Union?

I think that what the voters in every constituency in the country will be looking for is a Government who actually deliver results for the people of the United Kingdom, at both the economic and political level, in Europe and globally.

Does the regionalisation of fisheries waters not show that we can repatriate powers under the present treaty and that that augurs well for the future repatriation of powers to the United Kingdom?

I believe that there are many reforms that can be achieved within the current treaty framework and further reforms that, in due course, would be best settled within the framework of treaty amendments.