§ 11. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)
What assessment she has made of the implications of the working time directive on (a) the service sector and (b) manufacturing industry. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe)
The Department of Trade and Industry has commissioned research into the implementation of the working time regulations that considered a range of organisations, including those in the manufacturing and service sectors. The general conclusions drawn were that the regulations had marginal or no impact in 10 of the 20 organisations interviewed and that, where an impact was felt, it acted as an impetus to review work practices and work smarter. A recent follow-up study, published in July 2003, of a subset of those firms concluded that the recent legislative changes have not been problematic for most employers interviewed.
§ Miss McIntosh
Will the Minister confirm the figure given by the British Chambers of Commerce showing that the total cost to industry of implementing the working time directive is £2.3 billion? Will he give a commitment today that he will meet the 23 November 928 deadline to negotiate an opt-out from the 48-hour limit? Will he stand up for British business and resist the working time directive?
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
I cannot help but notice that the hon. Lady is the only Back Bencher sitting on the Conservative Benches—perhaps lots of job application forms are going in after the coronation of the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard).
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
The right hon. and learned Gentleman needs a mention because he refused to accept the working time directive in 1991. The working time directive is important to employees and employers because it gives people four weeks holiday and an appropriate working week. Good employer-employee relations develop from the working time directive. We are happy to ensure that the United Kingdom's position remains as it is.
§ Hugh Bayley (City of York)
Is my hon. Friend aware that for the second time in just a few weeks, the Nestle Rowntree factory in my constituency announced a large number of redundancies, in three figures? The working time directive is important in the confectionery industry because of the Easter and Christmas production peaks. The factory supplies throughout the EU, in the eurozone as well as the UK. It is essential that we have a level playing field so that we compete fairly with the Nestle Rowntree factories in Hamburg and Dijon. Does my hon. Friend agree that the regulations must be applied in exactly the same way in all factories?
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to have a level playing field. I am sorry to learn of the situation with Nestle Rowntree, which has been in his constituency for many years in a variety of guises. I am happy to report that I work with Employment Ministers across the EU and the new accession countries. It is necessary to have a flexible approach to labour markets while ensuring that there are minimum standards for employees.