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Social Security (European Commission)

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 25th June 2012.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 2:30 pm, 25th June 2012

What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the influence of the European Commission on UK social security policies.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the influence of the European Commission on UK social security policies.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I continue to have concerns about the efforts of the European Commission to increase its influence over the social security policies adopted by national Governments. I am working closely with European colleagues to resist encroachment on our national welfare systems, and last week met with some of them to discuss this. I am determined that social security should remain a national matter, and will continue to resist efforts by the EU to interfere.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I am very grateful to the Minister, who has almost answered my question. Does he share my view that social security policy should be left entirely to member states, and what does he believe that we can do in practice to ensure that that is the case?

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I think that it has to be overwhelming pressure from member states. The Austrians, for example, are now facing a case in the European Court that would have a similar impact on them as the court cases we are facing in this country. I increasingly find that other member states are recognising that this is a problem. The best way for us to deal with it quickly is to work together to get the Commission to rethink policy totally on this front and to do what member states believe is right.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

My experience, Minister, of the European Commission is that it always wants to seek more powers, so I welcome your answer but I think you need to redouble your efforts to make sure that we do not hand over social security policy to the Commission.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am absolutely clear that we have to get the Commission to change. It is, after all, part of a collection of member states, all of which believe that the current direction of travel is wrong. We have to win battles in the Commission, the Parliament and the European Court. I will not hesitate to take legal action in the European Court wherever we have grounds for arguing that the Commission is acting against the terms of the Lisbon treaty and its predecessors.