Orders of the Day — Maastricht

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 18th December 1991.

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Photo of Mr Neil Kinnock Mr Neil Kinnock Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:20 pm, 18th December 1991

The Prime Minister should get a grip on the facts—there is no obligation, except where there is the same social security entitlement as for full-time employees. The Prime Minister should check the directive.

The Prime Minister is so frightened of the pressures, so ready to depart from the undertakings he gave in his Opportunity 2000 speech, that he will not accept the social chapter relating to equal treatment of women in work. The Government insist that the British economy depends on resisting decent minimum conditions and employment rights for British workers. They have spent 12 years following that dogma and taking away even basic protections. At the end of that 12 years, Britain is a country with high and rising unemployment, with the balance of payments in deficit—even in a recession—and with negative growth, reduced investment, spreading poverty, rundown public services, a housing crisis and record bankruptcies. Whatever else cuts in provisions and rights do, they certainly do not produce economic success, and they never will.

Modern competitiveness depends on competing in quality—competing up-market. It depends on a highly educated, well-trained work force—[Laughter.] I know why Conservative Members are laughing—they want a sweatshop in Britain. Economic success depends on a well-informed work force, with highly motivated men and women. Modern Governments have a duty to contribute towards that by making the proper investment and by insisting on good conditions. In 12 years, the Government have never done that and they never will. That is why, after 12 years, we have economic recession and underperformance.

The Government have compounded that failure with the "turn your back" policy that they adopted at Maastricht. That policy might be relatively harmless if the other countries in the Community were standing still, but they are not. They are getting on, as full participants, with the monetary union process and with building one community. British influence over both has now diminished; the gap has widened. After the passage of stage 2, Britain will be faced with a structure that others have fashioned. That cannot be in British interests. This Government are not only allowing that to happen, they are causing it to happen. Such a Government are no longer fit to lead Britain. The British people know that and, come the election, they will show it. [Interruption.]