Ed Miliband mocks Kwasi Kwarteng's 'road to Damascus conversion'
- Credit: Parliament Live
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has savaged the new business minister over his attempts to 'review' workers' rights after Brexit.
The former Labour leader turned his attention on Kwasi Kwarteng over his previous remarks about the rights of workers.
In a debate in the Commons, where Tory MPs abstained on protecting the rights, Miliband pointed to the numerous pamphlets Kwarteng had written calling for cuts to rights.
He said: “This was not some Whitehall accident, this is what they believe. Let’s talk about their record – this is a government that has cut rights to unfair dismissal, imposed tribunal fees and slashed the HSE budget.
“And I know (Kwarteng) is now rather sheepish about it, but he can’t get away from his back catalogue. It wasn’t just one rogue pamphlet, Britannia Unchained, it is a systematic set of beliefs, I’ve been reading up on him. In 2011, in After The Coalition, he wrote, ‘people should be forced to take out private unemployment insurance’, I wonder if he remembers that one.
“In the Innovation Economy in 2014, he said, ‘government should exempt new firms from all employment rights for three years’. In 2015, in The Time For Choosing, he specifically targeted the 48-hour week, saying it cost the economy billions of pounds.
“And of course in the infamous ‘Britannia Unchained’, he said British workers were the worst idlers in the world. To paraphrase one of his predecessors, the noble Lord Heseltine, (Mr Kwarteng) advocated cutting workers’ rights before breakfast, lunch and dinner and woke up in the morning and wrote another pamphlet advocating the cutting of workers’ rights.
“And now he expects us to believe he’s had a road to Damascus conversion, he’s dumped all his previous beliefs, he’s gone if you like from Britannia Unchained to Workers of the World United, you have nothing to lose but your chains, from blue Kwasi to red Kwasi. How gullible does he think the working people in this country are?
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"All his previous convictions and all his beliefs — he never believed a word of them. Come off it! The truth is that he is caught between what he truly believes, which is what he wrote time after time, and where he knows the British people are. He cannot solve the problems of power, class and inequality in the workplace because it is not what he believes, and it is not what this government believe."
But Kwarteng told MPs he wanted to be “extremely clear” that the government will not reduce workers’ rights.
He told the debate: “There is no government plan to reduce workers’ rights. As the new Secretary of State I have been extremely clear that I do not want to diminish workers’ rights and on my watch there will be no reduction in workers’ rights.
“I do not want there to be any doubt about my or the government’s intentions in this area.”
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