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 862.

    Is it to late to start thinking again about electoral reform? How dare these part-time meddlers lecture British workers (who actually produce goods and services for the nation) about working harder and longer just to inflate our national ego? It was shown on these very website that German workers work shorter hours and are less productive than Brits on average. And they are Europe's powerhouse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 861.

    Conservative MP's are easily the idlest people in Britain, so they can speak with authority on idleness. Let's hold a People's Inquiry into this moribund class of MP's, Bankers, Press et al, and purge ourselves, once and for all, of these parasites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 860.

    #279 OLDCOMP "teachers, lecturers should all be made to work 38hr weeks with 4 weeks holiday."

    Yes, please. I worked 35 years as a teacher and for almost all of those I had to work more total hours to get my job done properly. I'm retired and still do 3 days a week helping disadvantaged people get back on their feet and back to work.

    What do you do other than utter illinformed opinions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 859.

    It is not British workers who are idle, it is politicians and business leaders with their short term-ism. Just look at what happens when foreign investment arrives i.e. Jaguar, Nissan Sunderland(world's most productive car plant). Give us the tools and we do the job and do it well. Too many wooden tops at the top in the UK. Directors who know German car brochures better than their businesses

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    831.Mr W

    China pays slave wages that barely covers the cost of housing and food.

    How can we compete with them?

    Remember that as you polish the Brogues made by a ten year old with missing fingers they trapped whilst making your shoes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    How about an alternative headline:

    "Tory MP's 'among worst idlers', suggest British workers"?

    If they concentrated on their day jobs - ie representing their constituents - and less time writing books, lecturing, part-time but highly lucrative directorships, presenting tv documentaries etc ad nauseum, perhaps we the British tax payers would get better value out of this self-promoting bunch.

  • Comment number 856.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    If British management were to improve by 100%, then it just may make abysmal!
    Unfortunately UK management has been taken over by the ISO9000 lot and HR no-hopers; they only know performance reviews and bullying. I contrast this with the quality of management coming from Johnny Foreigner.
    I wonder if any of these MP’s can tell us anything about say The Toyota Production System?

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    do not fall into the trap of thinking that Labour are any better than this bunch of nincompoops, They are not they are just as bad. Kinnock Blair Eddie Prescott have stuffed their bank account full.. do you really think the likes of Mrs Blair would spit on the average person in the U.K. ? They are all the same any colour you like blue red yellow. different wrapping same thing in the parcel !

  • Comment number 853.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    I've just landed a job that I start Monday after 4 YEARS out of work.
    Cos there ain't no jobs round here, save for part time cleaning work and the like.
    Aaaaarrghh!! The nerve of these people!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.


    Simple, basic Tory principle, the needs of the rich outweighs the needs of everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    Might I suggest the 'fab five' who suggested that UK workers are lazy hold their hands up so we know who NOT to vote for in the next election?

    We know some you:

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    That is all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    this is the tory party in a nutshell let us serfs carry on working till we drop while there friends in the city make millions, wake up uk before its too late

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    Most of our MP's work 24 / 7...........that is, 24 hours a month, 7 months a year!

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    I wonder how the BBC decides which news stories to allow comments on. This was obviously going to provoke responses about MP's work ethic, or lack thereof.

    And of course, the utter stupidity of making sweeping generalisations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    The workers in the UK are not unproductive, their products are just more expensive compared to imports from the Far East. If Tory Boys wanted to see more production from the UK, place high Import tariffs on non EU products. BUT NO Dave and Co would rather return us to the workhouse and continual reduction in living standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    I agree that the system in the UK at present encourages people not to work and it penalises hard working people with high taxes. Working as a GP I realise how people are almost competing to get onto the dole by any means possible! It has become a familial trait- passing on from one generation to the next. The benefits system has to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    Sadly, their remarks don't only discredit them, they also discredit, the whole Tory party, MPs generally and the UK Paliament too.

    I mean people in other countries must be thinking 'What a pile of total pillocks they have in their Parliament running the UK!'


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