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Wednesday 6th February 2013 | 18:12
Poor old Viscount Younger of Leckie (the new BIS minister in the Lords, after Lord Marland departed) has been having a tough time of it.
The new minister was sent in to bat on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill's 'shares for rights' plan today and it wasn't pretty.
The plan is, of course, George Osborne's personal wheeze. It involves workers giving up their rights in return for shares of as little as £2,000. But it has been met with a big fat shrug of the shoulders in business circles and there are few who want to actually take it up.
Viscount Younger was today under fire from not just Lord Adonis but also crossbencher Lord Pannick and former Tory minister Lord Deben (John Gummer).
Lord Deben was scathing with his cool verdict, declaring the plans to be 'mystifying':
“I cannot imagine in any circumstances whatsoever that this would be of any use to any business that I have ever come across in my entire life.”
Lord Pannick added:
“What is so objectionable is that these employment rights were conferred by Parliament over the past 50 years and they have been protected by Governments both Conservative and Labour precisely because the inequality of bargaining power between employee and employer means that freedom of contract is quite insufficient to protect the employee.
“To allow these basic employment rights to be traded as some sort of commodity frustrates the very purpose of these entitlements as an essential protection in the employment context.”
There is a working assumption in Whitehall that Vince Cable always thought this was a mad idea, ill-thought out and ill-prepared. Is that why the minister was a bit all over the shop today, a lack of a full briefing?
And is that why Cable allowed the plan to go ahead in the first place - knowing that they would go down like a lead balloon, with the Treasury to blame?
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