Will my hon. Friend confirm that the working time directive, which is causing much concern to successful businesses in my constituency. was adopted as a health and safety measure? In the light of this country's admirable record on health and safety, is it not ridiculous that social engineering is being introduced under the emotive guise of health and safety? Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the Government, at the intergovernmental conference, will defend vigorously our admirable opt-out and do away with that most unwelcome measure?
I give that assurance. My hon. Friend has a great deal of experience in these matters. He is correct to say that that directive is wrong in law, has the wrong treaty base and is wrong in practice. Moreover, these things should be decided here, not in Brussels, and should be decided here between employer and employee.
I think it is pertinent to recognise that in this country, we have the widest spread of working hours in Europe. Our average working hours are pretty much the same as those in the rest of Europe: some people work shorter hours in this country; some work longer. It is part of the flexibility of our labour market.