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Parliamentary Sovereignty

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:04 pm on 22nd January 1988.

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Photo of Mrs Lynda Chalker Mrs Lynda Chalker , Wallasey 3:04 pm, 22nd January 1988

—and British buses. Indeed, I have tried to help my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East to get British buses going across Germany, and I shall continue to do so.

What marks the Community apart from every other international organisation to which we belong is the significance of everything that is agreed within the Community for our national economic life. Where measures are proposed which affect our national life, the British Government and Members of Parliament should always scrutinise them vigorously. When we disagree, we say so loudly and we lobby effectively against those measures—and shall continue to do so. We must also examine where the overall balance of advantage lies.

My hon. Friend mentioned the recent example of a ban introduced by the Government on polyurethane foam. He mentioned the requirement of Commission approval. The directive that requires us to notify the Commission of any new measures that constitute a technical barrier to trade is one that is useful to us. It prevents member states from indulging in disguised protectionism, and there is a great deal of work to be done on that score. It is explicitly not designed to prevent genuine safety measures, such as the ban that the Government have announced. Similar bans have already been introduced in some other member states.

The EC treaty provides for the possibility of restricting imports on grounds of public security, as the Commission has acknowledged. Under the Community consumer legislation, the Commission has the ability to alert other member states to the existence of a dangerous substance on the basis of evidence produced by member states such as ourselves. That means that if evidence comes to light in, for example, France of the existence of a dangerous material, there is a good prospect of preventive action being taken in the United Kingdom or Community-wide before further avoidable tragedy occurs.

I understand my hon. Friend's anxieties, which he has mentioned frequently before. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) made clear to the House, the United Kingdom is required by directive EC 83/189 to notify the Commission of any new measures that might constitute a technical barrier to trade. The purpose of that directive, as I said, is to prevent member states from indulging in disguised protectionism, which is why I said it was useful. I believe that the Commission wants that law to be a protective piece of legislation in the best sense of the word.