Speech by Philip Bushill Matthews MEP, Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament during the Debate on the French Presidency
Firstly may I thank you on behalf of the British Conservative Delegation for your hospitality last week, and say how much we look forward to working with you to ensure a highly successful Presidency.
We are confident of your energy and your commitment, and having read a very good book recently, we are confident of your vision.
I refer of course to your own book, Temoignage - or Witness in the English version.
For those colleagues who have not had the benefit of reading this remarkable work, may I suggest you do so. And in particular I recommend that you open the book on page 146.
There you describe the follies of the 35-hour week, originally introduced by a Prime Minister who is now a most distinguished member of this House. You describe the benefits, to use the UMP slogan in French, Travailler plus pour gagner plus.
You then go on to say, and I quote: "Rather than the uniform and rigid policy of the 35 hours and the guillotine of retirement at 60, I think our fellow citizens expect a policy of free choice, which permits those that wish to earn more to work more, and for everyone to regulate their own working hours according to their lifestyle."
Mr President, you have got it in one. It is not for Governments to force people to work more. But it is for Governments to enable people to work more if people choose to work more.
Your party is about freedom. Your party is about choice. This is what the British Conservative Party is about as well.
So if these principles guide your Presidency, we shall be alongside you all the way.
When the Working Time Directive is revised:
we shall be on the side of freedom and choice.
When the Temporary Workers Directive is reviewed:
we shall again be on the side of freedom and choice.
And finally may I say this.
Our parties should not be just about enabling free choice. They are also about respecting the people's choice once the people have freely chosen.
So I urge you to respect the choice of the people of Ireland in their recent referendum. I urge you to regard their decision not as a problem to be addressed - but as an opportunity to be grasped, an opportunity for Europe to reconnect with its people. This will take much work with your colleagues - but as you yourself have said: "travailler plus pour gagner plus".