Controversial Beecroft report on employment reform ‘doctored’ by No 10 – Telegraph

A document leaked to The Daily Telegraph shows that three proposals in the controversial Beecroft report were removed after being submitted to No10 before it was sent to the Business Department. They called for the Government to delay plans to introduce flexible working for parents, to abandon proposals to allow all workers to request flexible working, and to remove regulations surrounding the employment of children.

Adrian Beecroft, the businessman who conducted the review of employment law reforms, is not thought to have approved the changes, although a Downing Street spokesman insisted that what was included in the final version was “his decision”.

At the time the recommendations were removed last October, the Prime Minister was facing accusations that he was alienating women voters and had publicly apologised for making sexist comments to a female MP.

Business leaders have repeatedly called for the Government to delay plans to allow fathers to take more time off work — and for all workers to be allowed to request flexible working — until the economy has recovered. The original version of the Beecroft report agreed with this position.

A copy of the document leaked to the Telegraph, stated: “The proposal [flexible parental leave] is very expensive for the Exchequer and will impose significant operational problems on business. The proposal should (preferably) be scrapped or alternatively be deferred until the deficit has been eliminated.”

On flexible working, it added: “If it is a burden to their particular business, they should, in the current economic climate, be free not to introduce it.”

The Government on Monday agreed to publish the Beecroft report after it was leaked but the recommendations warning against Mr Cameron’s family-friendly policies had been removed. There was speculation that Downing Street aides may have altered the report to remove recommendations that undermined the Prime Minister’s family-friendly ­credentials.

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said he would seek answers in Parliament about the “doctoring” of the report. “They have told us that this is an independent report but now it seems that they have sought to doctor the final report,” he said. “It shows what a complete shambles there is within government over policy-making at the moment.”

The row came just a day after Mr Cameron insisted that he was intent on carrying out radical reforms and follows his repeated insistence that he wants to encourage growth.

Downing Street sources were growing exasperated over the controversy surrounding the Beecroft report, which was effectively commissioned by Steve Hilton, the former director of implementation. The proposals have already triggered a row within the Coalition.

One source said: “No one really has any idea what went on with this report, it was very much Steve Hilton’s project. The whole thing is a bit dodgy and we wish it had never happened.”

The Beecroft report also included a proposal for employers to have the power to make “no-fault dismissals”, which was branded “firing at will”. It also suggested that small companies be exempted from seven employment regulations and that the introduction of compulsory pensions for employers be delayed.

The recommendations have led to a rift between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, described some of the plans as “bonkers”.

“The UK already has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world, as evidenced by the deal struck by the Vauxhall workforce in Ellesmere Port last week,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“At a time when workers are proving to be flexible it would almost certainly be counterproductive to increase fear of dismissal.

“One of Mr Beecroft’s recommendations was a suggestion to bring in no-fault dismissal. In my daily conversations with businesses, this has very rarely been raised with me as a barrier to growth.

“Businesses are much more concerned about access to finance or weak demand than they are about this issue.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted on Monday that the report was among a number of “submissions”.

“The Government’s position on employment law is that it needs to support business, encourage growth and ensure that employment rights of workers are not weakened,” the spokesman said.

Adam Marshall, the director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “At a time when millions of people are unemployed, ministers should be looking for ways to make it easier and less costly to employ people, not the other way around.

“Of course employment rights are important, but should be weighed against opportunities for the unemployed who are looking for work.

“Ministers should consider and progress all proposals that would give businesses greater confidence to hire.”


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