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Mr. Pound: I cannot comment on what the hon. Gentleman got up to before lunch today because I was not there and I have not seen the video, but the jobs summit provides a good example of our voice being heard. The Government's input and emphasis on promoting employability and adaptability was accepted by the rest of the people at the summit. With the greatest respect, I cannot see that that degree of agreement would have been reached by any previous Government. I freely confess to a complete lack of knowledge of what the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but if he would like to give me details of his movements before lunch I will be happy to discuss them later.

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The UK Government insisted that the employment title recognise that the key to a high level of employment is

That, too, has been copied by our partner nations in Europe. We are at the table and what we are saying is being listened to, respected and adopted by many of the other nations.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): The hon. Gentleman is making a strong case against the United Kingdom having an opt-opt on anything at any stage, because, he says, we should be present at the table and in a position to influence the debate. Why are the Government therefore so proud of the opt-out that the Prime Minister says that he secured--although it was secured by the previous Government--over border controls? Should we not be at the table on that matter, playing our happy part as part of the European family?

Mr. Pound: We have not exercised that opt-out in discussions on the employment title and the social chapter. I have a personal view on the Schengen situation that is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. As a loyal supporter of the Government, however, it would not be appropriate for me to mention that view now. [Hon. Members: "Oh?"] Conservative Members cannot split Labour Members on the issue with the ease and frequency with which they split themselves.

Mr. Letwin: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his patience in taking interventions, but I think that he has failed to realise the force of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins). He asked not about the hon. Gentleman's views on Schengen but about the structure of his argument. So far, the hon. Gentleman has made an argument in favour of certain types of social legislation; the House understands that. Such legislation could be enacted domestically. The only argument that he has made so far in favour of incorporating such provisions in the treaty--and, more specifically, incorporating the treaty into English law--is that we should have a voice at the table. If that is a general principle, it should extend throughout the scope of European legislation. He must therefore--I hope--be about to present some other argument for incorporating into English law the provisions dealt with by this group of amendments and new clauses.

Mr. Pound: I should have hoped that it would be self-evident that in both this and the next century employment patterns are and will be multinational rather than merely national and that we have to view our employment and social legislative practices in the European context. I should have hoped that that was self-evident.

Mr. Letwin: I am tremendously grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I assure him that I will not intervene again in his speech. In claiming that we have to take a European view, however, he has now hit the nub of the issue. Will he admit that we are part of a global

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marketplace and that the real competitive threat faced by all Europe is a global threat, especially from the tiger economies?

Mr. Radice: Tiger economies?

Mr. Letwin: Yes, the tiger economies: notwithstanding their current difficulties, they will beat the British and the rest of the Europeans hands down if we cannot match their practices, practice for practice. Does the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) agree that we are part of a global marketplace and not merely part of the European marketplace?

Mr. Pound: I should hope that all hon. Members realise that if global competitiveness has proved one point--especially in the part of the globe that the hon. Gentleman mentioned--it is the necessity of a strong trading and economic bloc, of which Europe is the exemplar. I do not wish to go into the entire debate on economic and monetary union, although I should be happy to do so if Conservative Members so wish, but it makes sense--if for no reason other than defensiveness--for us to be part of a strong united Europe. The day of the former tiger economies--currently the stuffed pussy-cat economies--may return, and their cause may re-emerge. That is all the more reason for us to be strong in Europe and not to be where the previous Government chose to be--on the periphery.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Pound: Mr. Lord, will you advise me on whether I am able to give way to three hon. Members at once?

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): The hon. Gentleman will have to decide on one hon. Member.

Mr. Pound: What a pleasure it is to see the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd).

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): I realise that the hon. Gentleman believes in high employment levels and that he holds that as a valuable and important objective of the current Government. Can he not appreciate, however, the concern of the many Conservative Members who fear the institutional arrangements that we are debating? Conservative Members have no objection to social progress as the hon. Gentleman has outlined it--the Conservative party's history is one of social progress, such as "the widow's shilling", under Chamberlain--but what will the hon. Gentleman do when there is a genuine belief that the specific route or measure being proposed by the European Union conflicts with the objectives of the Labour Government in maintaining a high employment level? What will he do if he has to deal with a law that is superior to anything that he will be able to affect through the Labour Treasury Bench? That is the conflict and the resolution that we are trying to identify. My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) has implied that we could enact the social provisions domestically, so that we are not ruled or governed in circumstances in which the judgment of elected Members of Parliament is in conflict with the views of the European Union.

Mr. Pound: I have strong admiration for the hon. Gentleman, who has been consistent in his views, which

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have earned him great admiration both among hon. Members and from the public. In response to the points that he made, I would point out that we still have the veto. If we accept that the only way of achieving economic success is constantly to undercut working terms and conditions and to drive down wages, we do not need regulation or the social chapter--but that way madness lies. We must consider the health of the entire nation, not just the health of the employing section of the nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South specifically dealt with the points made by the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), with far more elegance and brevity than I could manage.

7.15 pm

Mr. Bercow: I am richly enjoying the hon. Gentleman's speech, but he resembles nothing so much as a shifting goal post. Let us try to identify exactly where he stands. He regards himself as a good European. Does he therefore believe that holiday pay throughout the European Union should be harmonised under the provisions of the social chapter--yes or no?

Mr. Pound: There is much evidence to suggest that what those using the Anglo-Saxon model might regard as excessive holiday pay, particularly in Germany, is being harmonised from within Europe. Across Europe, such forms of harmonisation are the precise results of Maastricht. I believe that workers deserve a break. Perhaps holidays do go on too long in some parts of Europe, but I will not name any specific countries.

Before my soup gets cold--it may well already be cold as it is quite a fashionable dinner, I am told--I should like to make my final points. The new social and employment provisions provide an excellent basis for improving prosperity, tackling unemployment and tackling the issue that has been raised only peripherally in this debate: social exclusion. Across Europe, we must consider the issue of social exclusion. The social chapter goes a long way towards incorporating that concern and that philosophy into the heart of our Government's actions.

As hon. Members are well aware, the social chapter provides a mechanism for agreeing Europewide standards for minimum levels of fairness at work. What on earth is wrong with that? How can anyone carp and cavil at that basic demand? Do people oppose it only because it is pan-European? I should hope that anyone who cares for the people whom they represent would be a strong supporter of it.

The Government went to Amsterdam determined to put jobs at the head of the EU agenda and to bring the social chapter provisions into the treaty. As one of the humblest and most obscure Government Back Benchers, I am proud of what the Government achieved in Amsterdam. I am utterly convinced that the way forward in achieving an inclusive, economically successful, low-unemployment nation within the rest of Europe is precisely as delineated in the two issues that we are debating today.

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