The `Working Time Directive' case

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(1996) C-84/94 United Kingdom v Council. Measures regulating the amount of time an employer can lawfully require an employee to work were implemented under powers conferred by what was then Art. 118a of the ECTreaty (broadly similar powers now exist under Arts. 137-138). Art. 118a gives the EU competence to legislate by qualified majority vote in the area of health and safety at work. The UK voted against the proposal and, it argued, Art. 118a did not create legislative competence in the area of conditions of employment. While the UK accepted that the EU did have competence in that area, it argued that the correct treaty provision to use was either (what is now) Art. 94 or (what is now) Art. 308. Both these Articles require a unanimous decision in the council of the eu, which would not have been achieved.

With some minor reservations, the European Court of Justice held that measure to restrict a person's hours of work could be regarded as measure to protect health and safey and, therefore, the EU did have competence to act by QMV (see competence of the eu for discussion).

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