European Working Time Directive

Part of Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 10th March 2009.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health 7:15 pm, 10th March 2009

I beg to move,

That this House
opposes the forthcoming blanket imposition in Britain of the 48- hour working week under the European Working Time Directive in August 2009;
welcomes improvements in the workplace which improve safety and general wellbeing but does not believe that the further implementation of the Directive is necessary to deliver this;
notes in particular the potential impact on patient safety arising from reduced and inflexible working hours for NHS doctors;
recognises the additional constraints imposed on the NHS by the SiMAP and Jaeger judgements;
is disturbed by the negative impact of the Directive on medical training and on the viability of some frontline services;
further notes that the New Deal for Doctors in 1991 would have secured the necessary reduction in junior doctors' hours;
regrets a series of missed opportunities to amend the worst aspects of the Directive since 2003;
expresses solidarity with other member states who are finding the Directive impracticable, including the 15 countries that currently depend on derogation;
further notes that the loss of the opt-out and the distinction between active and inactive on-call time would also be deeply damaging to British business and other public services such as those provided by retained fire-fighters;
fully agrees with the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform that the UK should stand firm in support of the opt-out;
deeply regrets that most Labour Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have failed to support the Government's position;
advises Labour MEPs to support the retention of the opt-out;
and urges the Government to give full consideration to alternative solutions.

We have given up waiting for the Government to allow Parliament to debate the issues that will have most impact on the health service, so I am very glad that my colleagues have once again allowed us to raise an issue that is timely and important as regards the management of the national health service. I hope that we have not gone beyond the point at which the Government can do something to remedy the problems. The timing is important.

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