Clarke clashes with Delors over deregulation of jobs

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KENNETH Clarke, Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday backed new moves to deregulate Europe's jobs market and attacked the EU Commission for resisting them.

Britain is trying to make sure that a new EU strategy for fighting unemployment does not lead to new labour rules or new borrowing outside the control of national governments. The row shows that there is still no consensus in the EU about how to tackle unemployment, set to rise to nearly 12 per cent of the workforce next year.

Mr Clarke said a German proposal for a special task force to look at the burden of legislation on employers would help improve Europe's competitiveness. 'The British government thinks this is an excellent idea and I gave it my strong support,' said Mr Clarke, during a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

But he added: 'President (Jacques) Delors is resisting this.' He said this illustrated that 'bureaucracy will not reform its own procedures and is somewhat impervious to suggestions that we might make faster progress in relieving the burden on industry caused by excessive legislation'.

As part of a White Paper on economic growth agreed last year, the EU is planning new initiatives to reform labour markets. Britain heads those who want to see this plan lead to reductions in labour legislation, saying that this would help create more jobs.

The Commission wants deregulation to allow labour to move more freely across Europe, but wants to match this with strengthened protection elsewhere.