The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview at Launch of Gas-Powered Cars – 12 November 1996

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview whilst at a launch of gas-powered cars on 12th November 1996.


[Mr Major was asked about the European Court of Justice ruling about the Working Time Directive]


I think it is a very depressing ruling that we have had from the Court this morning. Europe for a very long time has been losing jobs and losing competitiveness compared to the rest of the world, compared to South East Asia, compared to the United States, compared to Japan. And I think the most important thing for the whole of Europe, including the United Kingdom, is to make sure they are competitive to make sure their economies are fit and healthy and to make sure they are creating jobs. This ruling does nothing to help any of that. In the United Kingdom we now have a very bouncy, very competitive economy. We can see growth rising, we can see unemployment falling. I would like to see unemployment fall by a very great deal yet, it is still far too high. I want to see it fall very fast, nothing in this ruling will help that happen.

I find it extraordinary that the EU cannot see the damage that legislation like this has done in the past, will do with this piece of legislation, and, perhaps most importantly of all, will do with further legislation like this that we have already been promised. So I believe it is a bad piece of legislation. I don’t accept that it is appropriate for the United Kingdom. We shall go to the IGC and we shall insist on reversing this legislation at the IGC and taking further measures there also to make sure that there can be no repeat of similar legislation in the future.


[Mr Major was asked if he had a realistic chance of defeating this at the Inter-Governmental Conference]


People asked me that question when I said I wasn’t going to accept the Social Chapter at Maastricht, but I didn’t accept the Social Chapter at Maastricht and our partners accepted that that was going to be the case. This is just as important, it isn’t just the question of this particular ruling, let me make that clear. This is a bad piece of legislation but it isn’t just that. It is the question that if we were to accept this piece of legislation, there would be a raft of similar legislation following it and I think the European Commissioner has already made that clear. There comes a time in those circumstances where you just have to say “No”, that this is not in the interests of the United Kingdom economy. It is not a question of being against good employment practice. I am very much in favour of good employment practice, but I want an economy in which we can create jobs not in which we put up barriers that prevent the creation of jobs. I would like British people back in work, not debarred from work because of the raft of legislation that makes it too expensive or too difficult to employ them. That is the point of issue, that is why we oppose this directive, that is why we are going to have it changed at the IGC and that is why we propose to have the Treaty changed so that this legislation is reversed and that no similar legislation can subsequently be imposed upon the United Kingdom.