British workers 'among worst idlers', suggest Tory MPs

Car plant Unions say British workers put in some of the longest hours in Europe

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British workers are "among the worst idlers in the world", a group of Conservative MPs has claimed.

The UK "rewards laziness", does not encourage risk-taking and must strive to emulate the work ethic and low-tax culture in parts of Asia, the five MPs argue in a book due out next month.

The authors include Elizabeth Truss and Dominic Raab, both tipped to be promoted in a future reshuffle.

"Too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work," they argue.

The other contributors to Britannia Unchained are Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Kwasi Kwarteng, influential members of the "class of 2010" - MPs elected to Parliament at the last election.

Unions described their comments as "ridiculous" and said the most serious challenge facing the economy was a "severe lack of jobs".

'Rewarding laziness'

The MPs' arguments will intensify the debate in the coalition government about how to reverse the slide in the economy, which has seen the UK slip into a double dip recession.

Many Conservatives on the right of the party argue the government's pro-growth initiatives are inadequate and that changes to the labour market, tax cuts and other "supply side" measures needed to boost competitiveness are being held back by the Lib Dems.

The five MPs - who are all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs - say the UK needs to reward a culture of "graft, risk and effort" if it is to compete with fast-growing nations.

"Britain will never be as big as China and Brazil but we can look forward to a new generation, ready to get to work," they argue in excerpts of the book published in the Evening Standard.

"If we are to take advantage of these opportunities, we must get on the side of the responsible, the hardworking and the brave.

"We must stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness."

The UK, they argue, is being held back by an excessive public sector, substantial public sector pension liabilities and a welfare system which does not provide sufficient incentives to work.

'Poor productivity'

Most controversially, they suggest "poor productivity" is due in part to attitudes to work in the UK - which they compare unfavourably with countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.

"Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world," they write. "We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor."

Start Quote

The problem with the UK economy is not its workers, but a severe lack of jobs”

End Quote Brendan Barber TUC General Secretary

Under the EU Working Time Directive, most employees cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours although the UK has an opt-out enabling people to request to work longer if they choose.

The coalition government is currently planning to raise the retirement age for men and women to 67 by 2025, eight years earlier than previously planned.

In contrast, new French president Francois Hollande has said he wants to lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

'Lack of demand'

Unions said the millions of people out of work or working fewer hours than they wanted would find the MPs' arguments "deeply irritating".

"The problem with the UK economy is not its workers, but a severe lack of jobs," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"It's not the UK work ethic which is holding the country back but a lack of demand in the economy - a situation that is being made considerably worse by government spending cuts.

He added: "Economic success won't come about by turning the screw on British workers, but by investing significantly in jobs, skills and infrastructure for the future."

Ministers say efforts to reduce the deficit and to unlock growth in the economy go hand in hand.

The government has promised further initiatives to boost employment and investment in the autumn on top of recent announcements on housebuilding, broadband and train building.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    We, the people, must start to realize that our present 'system' is nothing but a world-wide, multifaceted, sprawling and all-encompassing Ponzi Scheme that has permeated through to the very essence of what we are as individuals.
    It's FAILURE is INEVITABLE, but the brochures still look so impressive and enticing to so many who have been nurtured to want to buy into it ...
    Time for DEEP CHANGE ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    This is ironic really, as I have always thought of Tory MPs as being idle wasters who spend most of their time entertaining big business and not enough listening to economists and other experts about how to fix the economy. 30 years of this and still they are able to suggest the size of the public sector is to blame and still get voted in? The Tories are bad for Britain and bad for Britons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    Britain is held back by a poor macho bullying management culture focussed on short term targets and rewards rather than long term sustainable results. They prefer to exploit workers and battle unions rather than engage with them. We have seen SO MANY times this does not work or create jobs and it is this that holds us back. A 'sweatshop' economy would not be sustainable. Just ask China..

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    never in our history has so many been screwed over by so few

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    It's hard to take in the arrogance of our politicians, THEY have systematically ruined this country not the workers, they created a system that allowed people to live on benefits to conceal unemployment numbers, each Party has used Parliament for ideological follies rather than the betterment of its people, The workers biggest crime is that we keep voting for these self serving traitors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    @74 injected
    "This is a very misleading BBC summary of a report that has actually been carefully thought through."

    Of course it is, it's based on "excerpts of the book published in the Evening Standard". Since the BBC admits that, maybe we should all shut up until we know what the book really says. And blast the BBC for inflammatory reporting based on sloppy work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    880.Dr Bob Matthews

    Many Tory MP's are not fit for purpose. many MPs appear to be in the pockets of the biggest corrupt risk takers in the UK,.. . Perhaps if the same Tory MPs had had a proper job which meant physical hard work their comments would have some weight, but they don't.

    Labour and Lib-Dem likewise. All work shy and in many cases, demonstrably corrupt. Expenses scandal anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Oh my goodness this makes me so angry. MP's the lazy bunch who ripped us off with the their expenses, who have the whole summer of plus their annual leave, plus the best pensions going, plus their family as assistants, extra houses on us, an over the top salary three weeks off at Christmas etc etc. THEY are the public sector. Would they be happy to send children back down the mines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    Research all 5 "AUTHORS"......

    Almost none have ever held a job outside politics...
    All preselected from a Tory party "A" list of candidates for safe seats...

    an Affair, letters claiming racism, praise for £100k expenses cheats..

    .So don't worry too much about these "authors", as they are nothing but little FINGER PUPPETS.........worry more about whose fingers are doing the work!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    This is surely the case of "a kettle calling the pot black". The most useless, idle & pointless people in the UK are shiftless grabbing MP's who have no concept of the real world because they are far to busy grubbing in the trough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    We are a small country , we need fields we excel in and become an exporter to all the bigger nations . We need patents , intellectual property , protection from the far east stealing our ideas or buying them . When i see many students from the far east at our universities i know that many will return with what they have learned to make themselves more competitive against us . Sigh .

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    "Mr W
    In 20 years China has become a powerhouse .. We need to be very competitive in terms of pay"

    Paying Chinese wage rates in the UK would not make the UK competitive in producing commodity products. China has economies of scale by being able to manufacture cheap goods for the whole world, lowering unit costs of production. We have to compete for high value goods which justify high wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    Oh really?
    I'm at work on a Saturday, how many Tory MP's are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    So that's how you get your PM to notice you!

    Slag off the electorate...

    What an innovative bunch.

    It's blindingly obvious to all of us that being in the Tory party is the best way to avoid doing work of any value. It's them who are failing us, and therefore really do need to increase productivity, because they're not worth the money we pay them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    There is a dawning realisation across a broad spectrum of opinion that the performance of the current Government is mostly characterised by incompetence and failure. Seems like a good time to distract attention somewhere else!

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    The Tories are abandoning any pretence of democratic values and are mutating into an authoritarian party. They are pandering to the prejudices of the rural right, rather than the philosophies of the urban right and will be punished at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    The comments only go to show the ignorance of the attitude of the many workers who graft and go unrewarded, but continue to be motivated and loyal. I can't imagine that a book by a group of misinformed individuals with a highly inflated opinion of their own worth has much of a market. Maybe one of the many idle british workers will have time to read it. I don't have the time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    There seems to be a dawning realisation across a broad spectrum of opinion that the record of the present government is one of incompetence and failure. Seems like a good time to deflect attention onto someone else!

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    People in glass houses really shouldn't throw stones!

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    I hope i can use this comments page to ask why the government is doing nothing about the reckless behaviour of 'Farmers for Action' who are blockading businesses ... is it because farmers are their chums and the look after their chums? When ordinary and caring people picketed against live animal exports they were attacked by the police and even a pensioner was thrown over a wall. Equality?


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