'Uncivil' workers rights criticised by MP

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A "sledgehammer" has been taken to workers' rights, according to former minister Michael Meacher.

Mr Meacher, a Labour MP and former environment minister, accused the Conservatives of "viciously attacking" workers rights and that Britain' employment rights meant it could no longer call itself "civilised".

Addressing the Commons during his backbench business debate on 12 September 2013, Mr Meacher said "this sledgehammer... the attacks delivered piece by piece to weaken the whole range of employment rights, I think, is clearly designed to overturn the social settlement after 1945 and to return Britain to the workplace conditions similar to those operating in the 1920s, 30s, when employers flaunted overwhelming market power".

Responding to Mr Meacher's claims Conservative MP Richard Harrington said business should not be seen as "the enemy" and a thriving economy needed to be flexible with employment rights to reflect that.

Mr Harrington, who had previously run a property development firm that employed over 2,000 people, said "the old idea that this perpetual battle, between labour and capital, between management and working people, makes me really wonder which century people are living in. It's not like that in the real world.

"I think that as politicians we should actually pay credit to people who employ people. They are not the enemy. It's a great privilege in life to employ people and to wake up in the morning and think I'm responsible for so many people's living; it's a big responsibility and it's a big burden and it's actually more of a burden than we have as politicians.

Speaking for the government Business Minister Jo Swinson argued against getting too involved and implementing "heavy" employment legislation.

Ms Swinson said that the government had made important advances in employment law, pushing for greater flexibility in working hours and had introduced shared paternity leave.

Concluding the debate, Ms Swinson said "employees and individuals are in the best position to decide what works for them. The role of government is to provide the right frame work to facilitate that."

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