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UK Politics

Adrian Beecroft employment law report accelerated


The publication of a controversial report on employment law reforms has been brought forward today, after an earlier draft was leaked to the press.

Plans contained in the report by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, which would make it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff, have been blasted as "complete nonsense" by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

But business minister Mark Prisk today told the House of Commons that 17 of the 23 recommendations in Mr Beecroft's report were already being put into action, while the rest were subject to consultation until June 8.

Announcing the decision to publish the report today, Mr Prisk told MPs: "This Government is taking positive action to reform the labour market to make sure we can get more people back to work as soon as possible."

But Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who forced Mr Prisk to come to the Commons by securing an urgent question, denounced the Government's handling of the issue as "a complete and utter shambles".

"We do not think that watering down people's fundamental rights at work is a substitute for a proper growth strategy," Mr Umunna told MPs.

"The Business Secretary has already said there is a reasonably good balance between workers' rights and employers' flexibility. The Prime Minister and Chancellor however suggest the balance has gone too far in favour of employees.

"Would (Mr Prisk) tell us who is determining Government policy in this area - his boss or his ultimate masters in Downing Street?"

Mr Cable today said that the bulk of the Beecroft Report was "pretty uncontroversial", but made clear his opposition to its proposals for "no-fault dismissal".

"I don't see the role for that," the Business Secretary told the BBC. "Britain has already got a very flexible, cooperative labour force. We don't need to scare the wits out of workers with threats to dismiss them. It's completely the wrong approach."

In a direct attack on rival MPs who are expected to throw their weight behind the proposals, the Liberal Democrat wrote in The Sun that he was opposed to the "ideological zealots who want to encourage British firms to fire at will".

He wrote: "Some people think that if labour rights were stripped down to the most basic minimum, employers would start hiring and the economy would soar again.

"This is complete nonsense."

Although Beecroft was commissioned by Mr Cable's department to draw up the report last year, the Business Secretary made clear he was not bound by its findings.

"This particular proposal came from one particular individual, who doesn't have any representative political role. We act on evidence, we don't just act on somebody's prejudices," he told the BBC.