John Major's statement prior to the Maastricht summit that he was considering pushing growth of the charity sector during Britain's EC presidency in 1992 may have seemed a banal attempt to avoid hotter issues. But should he do it, he will plunge into a minefield. British corporate managers have for some time viewed the Conservatives' attempt to drag them into charitable works with a deep suspicion that this might be used as an excuse to cut the state welfare budget. If Major seeks an EC ruling to allow charities cooperate freely across borders (which is what they want him to do) he could be accused of pushing this British way of 'selfhelp' on countries dedicated to government responsibility for social welfare. In France and Germany the voluntary sector is much smaller than in Britain, where its turnover is put at some £17 billion, but the welfare resources of local authorities are much greater than here. EC politicians might relish shifting some of the load, but their electors may not. Corporate managers too might see some gain in linking up with EC-wide charities to enhance their public image, but they may well frown on the EC pushing issues that could be interpreted as telling them how to run their businesses - rather than focusing on cutting the red tape.
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