The CBI at Harrogate: Hunt outlines Europe vision

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The Independent Online
DAVID HUNT, Secretary of State for Employment, gave support to a Europe with Britain at its heart.

Mr Hunt, who was dubbed anti-European after a speech last month at the Tory party conference, said that his attack on what he views as creeping socialist corporatism in Europe had been seen wrongly as an attack on Europe itself.

He said he had a vision of a Europe committed to co-operation and free trade, as had already been described this week by Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, and by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade.

What Mr Hunt had been attacking was not Europe itself but 'the creeping socialist corporatism which is distorting my vision of Europe'.

He said: 'My personal commitment to this country's place right at the heart of Europe is central to my own personal political philosophy. Let no one confuse my opposition to socialism and corporatism with opposition to Europe.'

But his vision was of a 'free- trade, free-enterprise Europe which, above all, is competitive' - not one with an imposed socialist dogma, ridiculous social costs and a compulsory 35-hour week.

Mr Hunt said he had always favoured the single market with a single European currency and economic and monetary union as the ultimate goal.

Addressing CBI concerns over the Government's commitment to Europe, he said: 'Although we hear what you say about a single or common currency for Europe, we are focusing on the practical objectives or promoting economic recovery and economic convergence among the countries of Europe.'

He said unemployment, now running at 18 million, remained the biggest problem for Europe and would be made worse if regulations on employment were increased.

He refused to answer growing concerns that the Government might force businesses to bear more of the burden of maternity and sickness pay. Earlier, Bryan Rigby, chairman of the CBI's employment committee, warned that any such move would be a straightforward tax on jobs.