UK Politics

Adrian Beecroft work report not doctored, No 10 says

Red tape
Image caption The report included plans to make it easier for firms to sack under-performing staff

Downing Street has dismissed a Labour suggestion it "doctored" an independent report on possible changes to employment law to avoid embarrassment.

The report by Adrian Beecroft was published early after an initial draft had been leaked to the Daily Telegraph.

The two versions suggest a number of controversial ideas originally mooted by the Conservative donor were removed before the final draft was completed.

Labour said it had been a "cynical piece of doctoring".

The Telegraph published a draft of the report by the venture capitalist, which was dated 12 October last year.

In it there were three ideas that were not contained in the final report published by the government on Monday, which was dated 24 October.

The proposals called for a delay to plans to introduce flexible working for parents, to abandon proposals to allow all workers to request flexible working, and to remove regulations surrounding the employment of children.

'Politically unpalatable'

A copy of the document leaked to the Telegraph stated: "The proposal (on flexible parental leave) is very expensive for the Exchequer and will impose significant operational problems on business.

"The proposal should (preferably) be scrapped or alternatively be deferred until the deficit has been eliminated."

On flexible working, it added: "If it is a burden to their particular business, they should, in the current economic climate, be free not to introduce it."

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told the BBC there had been a "cynical piece of doctoring" which "questions the independence" of the report.

His suspicion is that these ideas were ditched because they would have proved to be politically unpalatable, BBC political correspondent Chris Mason says.

However, a Downing Street spokesman told the BBC: "This is Adrian Beecroft's report. What was in the final report was his decision."

Urgent question

A separate Downing Street source said reports were often altered prior to their publication.

Some of the ideas in earlier drafts, for instance on paternity leave, went against previous ambitions set out by the coalition to ensure families could work out an appropriate work-life balance, the source said.

Mr Umanna said he would be tabling questions in Parliament on Tuesday to ask about what changes were made to the report, by whom, when and why.

On Monday, Business Secretary Vince Cable strongly criticised one idea that did make it into the completed document; a proposal to make it easier for companies to sack under-performing workers.

He described it as "the wrong approach" and told the BBC it was not the job of government to "scare the wits" out of people.

Many Conservative MPs back the plans as a means to boosting UK businesses.

When asked to comment on newspaper reports that the prime minister might not pursue the idea of the "no-fault dismissal" given the reaction on Monday, including from Mr Cable, Downing Street said a "call for evidence" was still under way on the "no-fault dismissal" proposal.

That would run by Mr Cable's department and explore the idea for the smallest businesses employing fewer than 10 workers, it said.

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