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 982.

    Unbelievable as most of the rubbish is that pours out of a politicians mouth. What they should be saying is that the age of retirement is coming down to 55 and the minimum wage will be set at £10.00 per hour if we all retired at 55 think of the job opportunities for the unemployed but no of course not "it costs to much money" to keep so many retired workers if anyone is idle its them

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Yet again we have thirty something careerist politicians from affluent backgrounds trying to make a name for themselves. They are also public sector workers, but unlike lower paid public sector workers they have a long ummer holiday. They return to Parliament in the Autumn, take their time to settle in, then get a good break for Christmas and Easter. Have any of them ever had a real job?

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    I cannot believe what I am reading. In which country does these MP live in ?
    I have worked for several companies in the UK, and always encountered hard working people (even working extra hours and taking on extra-duties for the sake of the company).
    Strange coming from MPs who probably never did a hard day work in their lives (and certainly do not know what working in bad conditions means)

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    876.: coram-populo-2010

    There's no such thing as MWP.

    They're called AM's (Assembly Member) in English or AC (Aelod Cynulliad) in Welsh

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    An Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman and a Welshman were all stood outside their local pub which had closed, one was disabled, one was unemployed, one was on minimum wage and one was retired. They were all worried what the future held for their families, the NHS, Schools, their Employment prospects, their pensions, the Armed forces personnel over seas!

    This joke writing is harder than it seems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    The disconnect between the establishment and the people is now a chasm. We are resembling some sort of East German state every day. The link between absoulute capitalism which the Rich want and communism is there for all to see. Personally I question the morals of people who vote for these far rightwinger MPs. They are not British but owe alleigence to an ideology not the Nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    All letters should be sent to their address:

    37 Ivory Towers
    Plenty of money
    Co Offshore Investing

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    "They would say that, wouldn't they?" Fifty years on, that acute observation by someone who knew Tories intimately remains frighteningly true. Plus ca change.

    Tories and their masters already live in a "low tax culture". That's a large part of this country's problems. If we all paid a fair share, tax receipts would go up and tax rates could fall without loss of essential services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    This system only survives by dividing the people, by mass pauperization, and the continuity of the Ponzi Scheme Pyramid that underpins the 'Money, Wealth, Inheritance = Power' ethos.
    The vast majority of wealthy people are wealthy because they were born into it. Others became rich by expropriating (privatizing) things we already owned and then making us pay for them!
    Are you buying in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    What I want is more out of work politicians....and some new prisons built to house bankers while we're at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    Those MP's must be only directing their comments to their electorate's within their constituency, Where is that exactly? those people must be really peed off. lol
    I know they stated British Workers so those from outside of Britain are much better lol what we are no longer the UK we are no longer in Europe EU ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    Of course we have more than our fair share of lazy,incompetent morons working in this country-they are to be found in the palace of Westminster and the board rooms of our Banks and other companies.
    Lions led by sheep?

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    A lot of comments critising the present Govt and MPs but why is it that no one is doing anything about doing something and kicking them out now before they ruin this country further. Start rebeling against their views for not living in the real world but looking after the rich in getting richer and more themselves and not worried about ordinary hard working class families who are struggling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    So a bunch of Tax Avoiding, Expense Fiddling, Back Scratching IDLE RICH Tory MP’s want to brand British workers as “among worst idlers” while THEY are on 3 Month Break.

    People in Glass Houses Shouldn’t throw stones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    Roll on 2015...

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    be worried people these are the sort of people that would "rid this country of the yolk that is the minimum wage" for the oiks and plebs but its fine to give the banks hundreds of billions of £ to then sell back to us plebs making billions of profit and paying them selves millions and the avoiding tax and donating to these very same politicos so they can write this rubbish who's lazy ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    I work to live not live to work! I work hard whilst at work and want to spend more time with my family and friends, not more time at work thank you

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    It's all abit rich coming from MPs many of whom have never had a proper job - especially the rulling elite in the cabinet who are more interested in sending money abroad in foriegn aid than supporting real industry that makes and builds real wealth. We should also not forget that MPs get much more holiday than those who actually work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    They asked David Cameron to comment, but he was too busy playing Fruit Ninja.

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    British workers Idle and Lazy..........I find it amazing but then all MP's are money grabbing, expense fiddling, upper class never had a "real" job in their lfe with no grip on reality fools.......or is that a generalisation based on myths, biased media reporting or my own personal agenda...........
    Every walk of life has a miniscule minority of shirkers particularly MPs


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