Tories abstain on motion to protect post-Brexit workers' rights

Kwasi Kwarteng responds to a debate in the House of Commons

Kwasi Kwarteng responds to a debate in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

Conservative MPs have abstained on a motion to protect holiday pay, paid breaks, the 48-hour working week limit and legislation that bans firing and rehiring.

While the motion was supported by 263 MPs, Tory MPs did not vote, with many Tory politicians failing to turn up for the debate.

Labour frontbencher Andy McDonald told the Commons: “In the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, ministers are considering ripping up workers’ rights.

“This could see people across the country worse off, losing out on holiday pay and working longer hours. Scrapping the 48-hour working week cap could mean many key workers feel pressured to work excessive hours.

“The government should be focused on securing our economy and rebuilding the country, not taking a wrecking ball to hard-won rights. The government’s true colours are on full display once again and it’s clear their priorities couldn’t be further from those of workers and their families.”

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Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “I wasn’t shocked to learn that the Tories were reviewing trade union rights – it’s what Tory governments do every time they’re elected.”

He added: “Nobody can trust the assurances from the Secretary of State (Kwasi Kwarteng) this evening, a man who has spent his life threatening trade unions and employment rights.”

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Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband meanwhile said it is “pretty clear” that the government looked at whether to scrap existing employment rights.

“The very fact that they were considering taking away vital rights to 40-hour limits, on workers’ rights for nurses, ambulance drivers, lorry drivers, supermarket delivery drivers speaks volumes.”

Defending the government position, Conservative Lee Anderson said the “real workers” in the UK are “sick to death” of Labour “moaning all the time”.

He continued: “I’ve done my time, done my graft, done my shift down the pits, but what do they really know about workers’ rights? Absolutely nothing, because most of them have never done a proper day’s work in their life.”

Kwaswi Kwarteng, the new business secretary, insisted that on his watch, “there will be no reduction in workers’ rights”.

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