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 1462.

    1435. GravityBeckons
    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".
    Probably this is nearer the truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 1461.

    1454. coram-populo-2010

    ' Charles Dickens . . A classic literary giant often overlooked today. '


    Not really, the BBC take every opportunity to shove him down our throats.

    A ' Great Expectations ' adaptation during the worst depression since the depression . . amongst various vampire, blood sucking productions

    How very positive and industrial.

    No wonder A-level results are down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1460.

    756.peter - ".....Jobs are there for those who want them...."

    And the award for most patnetly absurd HYS comment of the day goes to......someone who either hasn't bothered checking out the unemployment figures/available job vacancies or if they have has just deciding to conveiniently ignore them......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1459.

    ''Priti(?) Patel ... studying economics at Keele University and then going on to the University of Essex.''

    Hard work?

    If Priti had worked harder herself she could perhaps have gone to a better Uni. than Keele!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1458.

    In my last job, before I retired, the directors, of a medium sized family business, managed to give me multiple additional responsibilities having laid off two staff members. I did not have a choice.

    Since retiring I have found that this is common practice by employers.

    Lazy no, over worked yes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1457.

    This. Were do there think the money comes from to pay all there taxes. prehapes he was jugding us on the standard of an MP who is payed four times what I am payed, whos holidays work out to nearly six months of the year and then try to screw the hard pushed tax payer by putting in claims for expenses which some people can only dream about to live on .there is no other form of live LOWER THEN AN MP

  • rate this

    Comment number 1456.

    Since when has a Tory MP done a hard days work in his life? Or even livwd in the real world for that matter....back to the old Tory garbage rheypric we used to see all the time in the 80's blaming workers and unemployed for a failed ecomomy they themselves created.If British worlers were so poor as claimed,why are the Chinese and Japanese investing in manufacturing in Britain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1455.

    These politicians need to experience the real world. 40 hour weeks, 25 days holiday, statutory sick pay, no travel expenses to get to work, second jobs not allowed without express approval of the employer (the public in this case).. and how about a few years relevant work experience before they can stand for election. I wouldn't employ one of them, not a hard working team player amongst them all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1454.

    Charles Dickens, through his writing, was actually highlighting the inequalities in Britain without any obvious political intent.

    A classic literary giant often overlooked today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1453.

    1439. Jaiysun44
    "This MP's seem to equate GDP with quality of life. Their obsession with economic growth is fanatical"
    To quote from Muppet Christmas Carol:
    #"Old Scrooge he loves his money
    "'Cause he thinks it gives him power"#
    The Tory MP's have taken old Ebeneezer's lifestyle at the start of the tale as being a shining beacon to aim for, not the horrible warning and fate to be avoided.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1452.

    The ''Class of 2010'' need to to look very hard at their ''research''? if any.
    It smacks of Biting the hand that feeds you !
    Hours have increased for nearly all British workers over the last 20years.
    I call for an inquiry into their real reasons for the printing of this book other than very cheap destructive publicity. Considering the 2.4million unemployed,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1451.

    This from a pack of Tory lay abouts most of whom have never done an honest days work in their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1450.

    "...This is the worst government we have ever had surely?"

    Back then, I thought similar things about the Heath govt 1970-74. Then we had that most pained & tortured of political beasts; - a Labour govt with no money to spend (rather, having to make cuts). I suspect history is about to repeat itself...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1449.

    Truss (Oxford) Raab (Oxford) Skidmore (Oxford) Kwarteng (Cambridge) have had the best education at the BEST universities. Shame they couldn't put it to better use other than beating the already overtaxed and unrepresented working people of this country. We don't submit false expense claims do we Mr and Mrs Politician. New Labour where is your defence of the working masses. Election please .......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1448.

    1430 - start your own business (and borrow large amounts of money) - hardly a sensible suggestion in the middle of a recession! (why bother getting elected to gov't if they would rather put the responsibility for the economy on the people - utter spin)

    The onus is on the gov't to ensure what money we do have we spend wisely, investing in jobs, instead of cutting them and actually borrowing more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1447.

    Pretty rich that, coming from people doing what the late Bob Cryer once described to me as "the easiest job I have ever had".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1446.

    These MPs have obviously forgotten their place, they are our servants, not our masters... That we are in this miserable mess in the first place is their fault, they should be the ones putting in the extra graft, but no, they sit back and criticise US. Well, come the elections hopefully THEY will have to find real jobs instead of lording it over us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1445.

    Seems to me Brits have the same problems as the US. A bloated,over paid public sector producing nothing but hassle/stress for the taxpayer, and diminishing job opps for the rest of us,who are expected to sacrifice our living standards to maintain those of public sector leeches. The US/UK are rapidly becoming banana republics- rich/ poor & governent workers forming what's left of the middle class

  • rate this

    Comment number 1444.

    @ 1435 GravityBeckons
    Excellent! Too funny..., and too true!
    This Ponzi Scheme system we live in is close to pulling itself down now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1443.


    Sick media.

    Why have they chosen to release these details from Brady ?
    Why . . because they knew the poor woman was on her death bed.

    Brady wouldn't have known would he..

    As for employment . .

    I'm unemployed, and I suppose you're expecting the next bit to read
    ' through no fault of my own '

    Well it is my fault.

    But I'm still going Canada next week.

    Thank you Polish tax payers.


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