Letter: Social Chapter amendment

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'Dishonourable Members' (10 February) argues that it would be cynical for Tory Euro-sceptics to vote for Labour's amendment 27, which you state would end Britain's opt-out from the Social Chapter. You further argue that the Conservative whip should be withdrawn from members voting for the Social Chapter which they oppose.

It really is quite scandalous that your paper should publish such nonsense and one can only assume that you have not read the treaty or the amendment.

The Agreement on Social Policy, which applies to only 11 member states, is printed on pages 118 to 120 of the treaty and sets out the social provisions that these states wish to pursue. Because such an agreement of 11 is unusual, a protocol is published on the previous page which gives the 11 the power to use the facilities of the EC to pursue their policies and provides that the UK, despite its opt-out, should pay its share of the administrative arrangements. It is this protocol that the Labour amendment seeks to remove.

If the amendment succeeds, it does not have the result of applying the Social Chapter to the UK. That issue does not arise. The only consequence would be to make it rather difficult for the 11 member states to operate their Social Chapter. Mr Garel-Jones, who is one of the Foreign Office ministers, has stated that the legal confusion would be so great that it might not be possible for the UK to ratify the treaty.

I would be grateful if your paper would therefore withdraw the scandalous and wholly untruthful statement that Conservatives voting for amendment 27 would be voting either for the Social Chapter or for its application to the United Kingdom.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Southend East (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

10 February