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Britain seeks to block EC plans over corpses

THE GOVERNMENT wants to block a proposed European Community law on moving corpses between the 12 member states.

According to a leaked Foreign Office document, the 'draft council directive on intra-community transfer of mortal remains' is one of dozens of proposals from the commission that should be resisted, or at least amended, because they defy the principle of subsidiarity.

'In particular, there seems no case for harmonised standards in relation to coffins,' the commentary document, obtained by Ken Collins, the Labour Euro-MP for Strathclyde East, says.

The movement of corpses directive sets out measures and health checks for bodies on the way to their last resting place. It has not yet been formally adopted by the European Commission or proposed to ministers of the 12. The United Kingdom says it should never be. Any government involvement can best be handled by discussions and agreements between individual member states. A new directive would bring 'no economies of scale or added value'.

The document shows that the United Kingdom is also resisting harmonisation of zoo standards, speed limits and maximum legal blood alcohol levels for drivers.

Ministers are resisting several proposed directives with far more important consequences covering working hours, part-time work and the employment of young people. 'No trans-national justification; employment protection and social security are matters properly for decision at national level,' the document says.

According to Mr Collins it was a draft for part of a British submission to the EC explaining its views on subsidiarity before the Edinburgh summit.

Apart from employment, the other key policy area involved in the United Kingdom's campaign for subsidiarity is the environment. The United Kingdom wants to amend - rather than scotch - four proposed 'green' directives. Getting them dropped altogether would probably be too difficult as they have already been tabled at council of ministers' meetings.

Three concern packaging, harmonising standards for the landfilling of municipal rubbish and industrial waste and the 'ecological quality of water' in so far as it affects wildlife.

But the fourth directive has potentially the largest impact of all; it would require member states to formally and explicitly take environmental impacts into account in drawing up all policies, plans and programmes.

'How to take account of environmental (or any) considerations in policy making must be up to national governments,' the commentary document says. '(The) directive would require changes in fundamental constitutional arrangements such as the relationship between government and Parliament and the principle of collective responsibility.'

Edinburgh summit, pages 10 and 11