Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, before I was elected to this Parliament I was the leader of a Scottish local authority which was, if I may say so, a very successful one in terms of both value for money and meeting local aspirations for public service provision in the County of Angus. It was then, and remains today, the predominant interest of local government to protect its right to local self-government. It is therefore vital that in any new EU initiative we put an end to uncertainty. Let us not be satisfied with woolly wording in relation to vital public service. Let us not interfere in any way with the principle of local self-government. Let us distinguish clearly between private enterprise, which is subject to EU competition law, and public service: services of a local nature provided for the public good, which have little or no cross-border effect and should be provided free of EU competition rules. The setting of standards in general interest services should also be subject to local decision. Some local authorities are sceptical of the need for new EU legislation. I say that if we are to have a framework directive, let us have one that gives cast-iron guarantees of the rights of local authorities to define, organise and finance public services in the way they see fit. I recognise that significant economic benefits to business will arise from removing barriers to commercial service provision, but let us not further alienate public opinion by interfering with or undermining the provision of essential local public services.

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