Straw accuses Howard of planning to drop EU rules on workers' rights

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Conservatives were accused of "coming apart at the seams" over Europe yesterday after the party denied it had dropped plans to scrap the European Social Chapter on workers' rights and pay.

Conservatives were accused of "coming apart at the seams" over Europe yesterday after the party denied it had dropped plans to scrap the European Social Chapter on workers' rights and pay.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, went on the attack after Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said the party was pledged to renegotiate the chapter as part of its opposition to the proposed European constitution.

Mr Ancram said the document, which sets standards for holiday rights, working conditions, employment, social security and trades union rights, would be reviewed as part of plans to cut European bureaucracy. "We have consistently made clear that we do not believe the EU needs to have a uniform social policy for the whole of Europe," he said. "We [want] to modernise the EU and make it more flexible. The EU needs to confront its problems and a no vote against the constitution would force it to do so.

"We want a 25 per cent reduction in the burden of regulation, and this would require a review of the contents of the Social Chapter. This is the right way forward for the EU and should be supported by those who want to see a prosperous and successful Europe. That is why we will be campaigning for a no vote on the constitution."

But Mr Straw called on Michael Howard, the Tory leader, to "sort out the chaos" over Europe in his party. The Conservatives' manifesto for next month's European elections fails to mention the chapter.

In a letter to Mr Howard, Mr Straw wrote: "Will you confirm that opting out of the Social Chapter remains Conservative Party policy as part of the wholesale renegotiation of Britain's existing treaty obligations you have committed yourself to?"

Mr Howard opposes the Social Chapter and threatened to resign from John Major's cabinet if Britain did not opt out of it. A Labour spokesman said: "What this means is they are intent on stripping away the rights of working people, whether they are rights to paid holidays or taking paternity leave."

Comments