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 962.

    Can no one see the underlying propoganda at work here ! the "lower classes" are all bone idle who do not deserve the money they get either through sickness, unemployment, or just can not be bothered to work when they have a job.. And what do we do with this information, we jump on it and start pointing at thoes we think are the most guilty of what ever crime the Torrys claim !

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    What next from the government? Work til you drop?

    I know quite a few people who's hours are being reduced by companies in order to save money. Yet it doesn't help my friends who have to live off this lack of income yet can't get a second job to compensate because they're on 'flexible' time contracts.

    Idle? No We're just not slaves to be worked til we burn out. Standards of living have to apply

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    If you compared the time MPs spent working with how much they are paid I doubt you would find a bigger group of deadbeats in the country. They spend most of the year on holiday and off every weekend,is that value for money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    920.Steve Lynham

    I doubt very much that you know any farmers at all. My neighbour who is a farmer works the days/hours mentioned and has not had a holiday for two years. As for being heavily subsidised my neighbour earns around £3 pound an hour.

    Farmers demanding a fair price for the goods they produce is hardly contributing to the woes of UK society is it now you silly billy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    With labour and their 'There is no money left' (ha ha), and the tories with 'The British workforce is lazy' (guffaw guffaw) I am proud to declare myself a member of the None of the Above party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    The "idle workers" are often subject to government-set targets - unlike MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    It takes a particularly ignorant Tory pronouncement to get me siding with Union spokespeople. As an employer, I have found my colleagues unfailingly efficient, professional and reliable - a joy to work with. Where managers are uninvolved, inconsiderate, aloof or lazy, their staff may take advantage - and who can blame them. In my experience, poor management is ALWAYS the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    How nice to know that our lords and masters think so highly of their serfs!

    I can only laugh at this. I urge people to check out their bios to understand who these idiots are.

    Do these 5 people actually think they've got a proper job?

    Here's toasting their hard-cover bound political suicide note!

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    If the report was navel gazing in the houses of parliament I could believe it. There should be time sheets kept of MPs activity whilst at work, they should be allowed other interests on a voluntary basis. It is common that employees are not allowed second jobs and this should only be allowed if they are unpaid with no benefits. they are depriving someone else of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    I'm a little confused I was in the queue at my local supermarket the other day and suddenly noticed by back felt wet, when I turned around it was my local Tory MP and he told me there was no need to worry as it had been raining! Can this be true?

    Later on I noticed the stain on my coat was blue with a yellow streak running through it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    What's most depressing about this is that people vote for this shower.

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    Modern business practice is based on the 'next fool' principle.

    Since most native Brits are the descendants of three generations of skilled industrial workers who saw their employers scarper with the capital that they had worked to create, it is not surprising that they will not play ball.

    Hence the dependence on imported non-disillusioned labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    I work in construction. It is really difficult to find people to a) turn up to work sober regularly and b) stay dedicated to their jobs. Lots of labourers wont work as they can get paid £200 per week not to.

    The ones that do work, work hard - but they are in the significant minority and tend to have families to support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    We are missing vital information here.
    You have not told us in the article what jobs, REAL JOBS these five people have ever done. I await information about their productivity and the wealth they have created or the services they have worked for. Self promotion and grandstanding to get your name in the paper does not count.

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.


    I agree with your view.

    Much of the moaning about workers is just poor management skills and abilities.

    Don't moan and groan - MANAGE the situation. Someone needs their performance managed, or sickness managed, then DO it!

    But remember ... a spoonful of honey often works better than a barrelful of vinegar.

    Learn people skills and use them in your management technique.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    Stick em' all in camps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    This government run this country on fear and division, the riots last year were manna from heaven to them, Police on the streets(who they later slated), public willing to accept troops on the streets(also stabbed in the back by dave). Now their "brightest" insult every working man and women in the UK, do they want trouble on the streets?. I thought V for Vendetta was sci-fi, TORY SCUM!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    So now we move on from the idle unemployed and sick to the idle working.

    Honestly this is just too funny !

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    I was just thinking.....Wasn't it a few weeks ago that tory mp's were spouting that we should be talking Britain up and not be negative ? Seems by the look of this that some tories do not agree with that...

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    I am NOT a Tory but I am self-employed and there is no doubt that the work in this country by SOME is one of 'I expect only to work a 5 days week, I expect two days off a week and I expect holiday pay, sick pay , maternity pay, paternity pay, etc. etc.' That is the culture that is wrong - too many expectations. When times are rough you work harder and for less - ask most self-employed people.


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