Letter: Road to impoverishment if we abandon Maastricht's Social Chapter

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your editorial on the Social Policy Protocol to the Maastricht treaty ('Cost of the Social Chapter', 3 February) is interesting but uninformed. You base your comments on the assumption that all social regulation affects labour costs, and the assumption that labour costs are measured exclusively through the wages bill; neither assumption is correct.

Of course employment regulation can have cost implications, but the way to assess these is to consider (a) whether it meets general social policy expectations of society (for example, that we will not send children up chimneys, or allow casual employment practices to inflict widespread damage on health, or compromise our ability to have a well-trained workforce), and (b) whether the costs are offset by other advantages (such as higher productivity, lower absenteeism, less damage to equipment, the retention of a more specialised and committed workforce, and so forth).

It is almost certainly the case that Hoover's decision to relocate to Scotland is based on a set of considerations that are far more complex than Britain's 'opting out' of the Social Protocol (which I suspect actually means nothing in practice anyway). But in any case, it is ludicrous to believe that Britain's future as an industrialised economy can be helped by allowing fly-by-night cowboy operators to set an agenda for our social and employment policy.

If this is not the objective of the Government, and if it is not what you yourself would propose (as I am sure it is not), then is all the stuff about the EC's role in social policy not merely posturing, designed to persuade the more gullible multinationals that in Britain exploitation is OK?

Yours sincerely,



Professor of Law

The University of Hull