UK Presidency

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 4 February 1998.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley 1:40, 4 February 1998

What plans he has to press for the simplification of EU rules and administrative procedures during the UK presidency. [25367]

Dr. Clark:

My presidency initiative is to press for the simplification of European Union rules and administrative procedures. To make these as effective as possible, I have secured the support of my Austrian and German counterparts to continue the initiative during their presidencies, which follow ours. That means that there will be a 18-month campaign to make European regulations more relevant and focused. I hope that that will mean that silly talk of square eggs and straight bananas will become a thing of the past.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. When I was a Member of the European Parliament, I spent much of my time trying to translate the gobbledegook of European language into language that people could understand. Will he look at that matter and see whether we can give information to people in clear, simple language so that they know their rights and opportunities as European citizens?

Dr. Clark:

I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, last week I spent a day with Members of the European Parliament in Brussels trying to explore ways in which to tackle this particularly difficult issue, because it is important that rules and regulations emanating from Governments should be clear and understandable to our citizens. We also took the initiative of launching citizen—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Hon. Members should stop this hullabaloo when the leaders of the parties come in. It is a total waste of time. I had hoped that the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons might have got it through to Members before now that we do not want these last hurrahs when the leaders of the parties come into the Chamber.

Dr. Clark:

I also took the opportunity the week before last to launch the citizen first campaign in Britain, which draws to the attention of the British people their rights under European legislation.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Will the Chancellor acknowledge that the difficulties of interpretation of European regulations can be compounded by the work of our parliamentary draftsmen, who should be encouraged to follow the best practice of the Government in bringing in clear language that does not restrict discretions in the way in which some legislation, particularly agricultural subordinate legislation, of which he will be aware, has in the past?

Dr. Clark:

The right hon. Gentleman raises a real point. We need to be careful that we do not have "gold plating" of European legislation when we incorporate it into our domestic legislation.