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10 Mar 2009 : Column 263

Although the proportion of people who work long hours has fallen, the opt-out remains an important flexibility for individuals and the economy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate) said, it is important that the opt-out is voluntary. We do not believe that people should be forced to work long hours against their wishes. Any worker who feels that he or she has been forced to opt out as a condition of taking a job, or is disadvantaged as a result of not opting out, can take a case to an employment tribunal.

The Government were also prepared to accept the introduction of additional safeguards when we agreed the common position on amending the directive with other member states last June. However, it would be wrong to deprive people of the right to work longer and earn more if they wish, or to deprive businesses of the flexibility that people working longer hours can bring.

At the moment, some people have either lost their jobs or are on short-time working, which may have reduced their earning capacity. The Government believe that it would be wrong to say to the partner of such a worker that we wanted to limit their choice to work longer and earn more if they can, thereby perhaps allowing them to continue to pay their mortgage and other family bills. We have made that point to fellow member states in the negotiations.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Moray (Angus Robertson), for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), for Poole (Mr. Syms) and for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) raised the important issue of retained firefighters. The value and importance of the service were rightly highlighted. I want to make it clear that, contrary to what some believe, there are no general exemptions for emergency services in the directive, so an end to the opt-out would have implications for them. In the case of retained firefighters, who give their time and effort, normally on top of doing another full-time job, it is difficult to understand how that valuable and important service, which benefits the whole community, could continue in its current form without the opt-out. Let me reassure the House that the Government fully appreciate the importance of the retained fire service. That is another reason for our belief that it is important to build into legislation the sort of flexibility that the opt-out provides.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health said, our policy on the NHS is guided, above all, by considerations of patient safety. We know that there is evidence of a link between long hours in the health professions—some of the surveys that have been conducted were mentioned—and the quality of care offered to patients. We are committed to ensuring sensible limits on the hours that health professionals work in the NHS. We have made sustained investment in that commitment, and two thirds of junior doctors already work no more than 48 hours a week.

Again, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, there are exceptional circumstances, in which some doctors have less choice than others to work longer hours. That is why we notified the European Commission of our intention to use an extended derogation available under the directive to retain a maximum working week of up to 52 hours for a further three years. That will be limited, but will also provide important flexibility to help make the change.

10 Mar 2009 : Column 264

Mr. Clifton-Brown: So that the general public can understand what is happening in the debate, will the Minister say whether he agrees with my analysis of the conciliation process—that a stalemate is likely and that the matter will go back to the Commission, where it will remain beyond the life of the Commission?

Mr. McFadden: The hon. Gentleman has intervened at the right time, because I am about to deal with the conciliation process and update the House on the negotiations. Throughout the lengthy negotiations, the Government have had two key aims: to reach a sensible solution about on-call and rest time, which the SiMAP and Jaeger judgments raised, and to secure the future of the individual opt-out. I believe that there is broad unity in the European Council on tackling the issues of on-call and rest time. Indeed, the vast majority of member states are seeking greater flexibility on those issues, precisely because of the SiMAP and Jaeger rulings.

I stress again that the opt-out is not an issue just for the UK. Fourteen other member states make use of the opt-out and there is good support for our position in the Council. That was reflected in the common position that we agreed last June, and it continues to be reflected in discussions in the Council since then. Following the European Parliament’s votes in December, we are now entering the formal process of conciliation, through which I hope that we can reach an agreement that secures our objectives. Several trialogue meetings involving the Parliament, the Commission and the Czech presidency have already taken place. The first formal conciliation meeting is scheduled for 17 March, with possibly more to follow. I can assure the House that we will continue to argue for the retention of the opt-out. We have been completely clear about that with the Commission, the Czech presidency and other member states.

Mr. Cash: Does the Minister anticipate a result before the European elections?

Mr. McFadden: We will know one way or the other whether the conciliation process has succeeded before the European elections.

We believe that the flexibility shown in the way that the UK has implemented the working time directive has been right. It cannot be argued that it has had a damaging effect on workers’ health and safety in the UK, because our health and safety record is good, but it can be argued that it is an important element of choice for workers, businesses and the economy as a whole. As we take the negotiations forward, it is important to contrast our engagement in Europe with the policy that would be pursued by the Opposition. How they hope to achieve anything for Britain in Europe by pursuing an isolationist approach that draws away from the mainstream of European politics is completely beyond most people in mainstream thinking. That approach will not achieve for the UK; our approach can.

We believe in opportunity and in the chance to work harder to lift oneself up and make a better life for oneself and one’s family. Sometimes, choosing to work longer hours is part of that. It is important to retain the opt-out, and that will be our objective in the weeks and months ahead. On that basis, I ask the House to back the amendment in the Government’s name.

10 Mar 2009 : Column 265

Question put (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House divided: Ayes 213, Noes 296.
Division No. 57]
[9.57 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Nadine
Duncan, Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Jeremy Wright and
James Duddridge

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Austin, Mr. Ian
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael

Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mason, John
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael

Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Ward, Claire
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Hywel
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Chris Mole and
Helen Goodman
Question accordingly negatived.
10 Mar 2009 : Column 266

10 Mar 2009 : Column 267

10 Mar 2009 : Column 268

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

Question agreed to.

The Speaker declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to (Standing Order No. 31(2)).


Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 56), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 56), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Representation of the People

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 11 March (Standing Order No. 41A).

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