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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  • Comment number 1442.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1441.

    ''Patel born in London, England to Ugandan Indian immigrant parents''

    So after her parents were kicked out of Uganda to allow Ugandans to have a greater part in the country's future they come in London.

    Daughter Priti, never having done a day's work in her cosy life, now berates the people funding her non-work lifestyle.

    As an MP she is leeching on the tax payers of Britain, her parent's haven.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1440.

    Lazy politics to appeal to lazy thinkers

  • rate this

    Comment number 1439.

    This MP's seem to equate GDP with quality of life. Their obsession with economic growth is fanatical. Why do they insist that we must work hard and long hours? Will it increase our happiness? I'm not so sure. They are on the sides of the people that will benefit the most, i.e. where the profits go, i.e. the shareholders and the executives. They are not supporting the majority of people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1438.

    Surely these Tory MPs Parents should ask the Independent Schools they attended for a refund.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1437.

    Truly unbelievable! If this report is accurate, the MP's who wrote the book clearly have no knowledge of the rest of the world, even of the rest of Europe. I have travelled and worked worldwide for many years - the British workers - at all levels - are amongst the BEST in the world. The fundamental problem in the UK lies with management and government - support British industry not destroy it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1436.

    Ignore this cretinous , inflammatory claim that we are lazy. Simply ignore it like you would ignore an idiot in the classroom.

    I feel re-ignited hatred towards Ian Brady today on hearing that Mrs Bennet has died.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1435.

    I saw my boss pull up in a fancy new sports car the other day.

    I couldn't help but admire it. "Nice car" I said, admiringly.

    He patted me on the shoulder, smiled and said, "well, if you work really hard and put the hours in, I could have an even nicer one next year".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1434.

    It just goes to show how detatched politicians are from the everyday working person in the UK. I can only assume they base their opinions on the workers around them ie other politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1433.

    Given the lack of attendance in Commons debates, there is a substantial amount of irony in that this was probably cobbled together by career politicians who have never held down a full time job, nor except as MPs, could they.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1432.

    On the flip side

    Who in their right mind would willingly create wealth for these people??

    Only the desperate and people with no choice would give them the time of day

  • rate this

    Comment number 1431.

    Perhaps the MPs are judging the workforce by their own standards. Or maybe they've forgotten that they've eradicated jobs of hardworking frontline public sector employees in favour of keeping the office people who spend most their time protecting themselves.

    I worked hard, with a disability, helping public and paying full taxes until the govt took away my job. Shame the MPs don't deal with that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1430.

    #1368 ex tory voter
    there are lots of what look like small or part time jobs that can produce a very decent standard of living if you have the guts to start up.
    Gardeners get well paid hourly rates doing gardens for pensioners cash in hand! Decorators etc doing same, self employed but if people want to sit watching tv all day the benefits scheme cannot be beaten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1429.

    Spot on. It's about time this problem is acknowledged. Having moved to Singapore from the UK, the difference is unbelievable. Businesses are relocating from the UK because of the double whammy of punitive taxation and a poor workforce.

    The choice is to be in denial, attack the MPs who said this and watch the jobs slip away, or tackle the problem head-on and bring prosperity back to the country

  • rate this

    Comment number 1428.

    Nobody wants to have to live on Job Seeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit. It provides a terribly poor standard of life. I loathe it. Unfortunately because they are taking so long to process my claim and pay me (since April), my depression and anxiety is getting worse and it is becoming increasingly harder to keep on pushing through, not to mention I can't afford interview clothes or transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1427.

    The ridiculousness of Western 'democracy' . .

    If they were talking about another group it would be classed racist.

    I think Greek immigrant taxi drivers are a bonus because the pakistani ones are lazy.

    I don't actually think that.

    The BBC should class these comments from the tories as racist propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1426.

    1392 The GingerF

    Don't forget the aspen stake through the heart! Otherwise, they will be back and you will feel their fangs on your jugular......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1425.

    It is totally beyond belief that these idiots are allowed to say anything. Tories through and through...they won't be satisfied until we are back in Victorian England...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1424.

    Lazy and Feckless spot on a great new way to describe the bankers lazy with no morals and feckless with other peoples money . its a disgusting way to describe hard working people in this country who get up and go to work every day and pay thier taxes on time either weekly or monthly no offshore tax havens for them , the unions are right its simply and utterly ridiculous .

    James Noel Aberdeen

  • rate this

    Comment number 1423.

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


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