Leading Article: Party of cut-price family values

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The Independent Online
UNIVERSAL Challenge, your starter for 10, no conferring: who said on Thursday in Brussels that the profitability of a company was more important than the family life of its employees? Bzzzz] Yes, that's right, Michael Portillo, the Employment Secretary. First bonus question: Who said in June that business was contributing to the break up of families by forcing employees to spend 'outrageous' hours at work away from their children? Yes, that's right, Alistair Burt, the Social Security minister. Second bonus question: Isn't the Conservative Party The Party Of The Family? Well, yes, there certainly was a time when that was thought to be the case. There was a time, too, when the goal of a civilised society was thought to be the organisation of work so that people had more time to spend with their families, books, dog or golf ball, a belief that work was a means rather than an end. But then Margaret Thatcher disinvented society and everyone became confused.

Mr Portillo's remarks came as he vetoed the European Union scheme to allow three months unpaid paternity leave. Asked if he would be more concerned with profitability than with his family's health, he replied: 'I don't think even in those circumstances I would want to put my company in a difficult position'. You might prefer Mr Burt: 'Too many companies and businesses demand outrageous time commitments from those who work for them, without thought of the damage to family structure or for the strength their employees should get from a sound family life.' Third bonus question: Does this Government have a coherent policy on anything? Perhaps Mr Blair can help. It is time to rescue the family from the faltering, sanctimonious grasp of those who fail to understand its precious ability to teach obligation with love.

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