Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Adrian Beecroft And His Report

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

There is some confusion right now surrounding a report authored by Tory Party donor Adrian Beecroft on the subject of employment law. The normally loyal Maily Telegraph has secured a copy of what it claims the Government is trying to hush up, but the status of Beecroft’s submission – not to mention its signal lack of research or corroborative evidence – remains uncertain.

The Tel maintains that this was an “Independent report and that it was commissioned by “10 Downing Street”. But Young Dave does not seem at all keen on it, nor on its conclusions, giving the impression that it may have been requested by now-departed advisor Steve Hilton, and with a message that ties in with the latter’s “smaller state” and “freer market” ideology.

So how official was the Beecroft report? Was Hilton given sufficient leeway that he was able to make the request without the Prime Minister knowing? And what was the purpose of the exercise, given the nature of Coalition Government and the certain knowledge that much of what Beecroft concluded would be totally unpalatable, as well as potentially highly embarrassing?

The idea of “no-fault dismissal” – employers being able to sack workers on a whim and not have to tell them why – may be the headline grabbing recommendation, but there were also suggestions to end flexible working, flexible parental leave, and to make it easier for organisations to employ children, the last of which is a genuine Victorian Value writ large.

And the danger of this kind of report entering the Government machine is that it becomes subject to the same Freedom of Information (FoI) rules as Parliament bar and restaurant prices, MPs’ expenses, and how many Civil Servants are paid via Limited Companies. So it should have been no surprise to see the characteristically tenacious Chuka Umunna putting in an FoI request to see it.

All of which causes the thought to enter that Hilton’s departure, along with the fog of blatantly misleading information – such as the whopper about the Empire being run by just 4,000 mandarins – may have been precipitated not merely by his frustration at not being able to wave a wand and see instant results, but also by Cameron running out of patience at his dysfunctional behaviour.

The official line is that Hilton is merely on a year-long sabbatical and that all will be smoothed over ready for him to return to advise Young Dave. But it should surprise no-one if Hilton is instead kept well away from Whitehall and parked somewhere outside the reach of FoI, mainstream politicians, and the Civil Service if he ever does deign to come back from California.

Cameron has quite enough to deal with. One loose cannon is one too many.

[UPDATE1 1825 hours: despite the confusion over Steve Hilton and the controversial elements in the Beecroft report, a Telegraph editorial has lauded the work as "Tough measures in pursuit of growth", and asserted that it gives a "sharp edge" to hack away at the much detested "red tape".

Such is the glowing recommendation given by this piece that it causes the thought to enter that the report's appearance in the Telegraph may not have been a deliberate move to embarrass the Government rather than an attempt to assist Young Dave in moving towards that mystical commodity of "real Conservatism".

Whatever the reason, it looks increasingly likely that the Beecroft report and its "no fault dismissal" idea will be quietly consigned to the dustbin of history, especially as Channel 4's Fact Check has tested the claim that regulation is to blame for unemployment, and concluded that this is one for the fiction section]

[UPDATE 2 23 May 1040 hours: it is now clear that this is a deliberate move by the Telegraph, most likely at the - anonymous - urging of disgruntled MPs on the Tory right. This has been made clear today as Beecroft has given an interview to the paper, which, sadly, can be picked apart in short order.

Readers are told that "entrepreneurs are going abroad", which, in a country with a population of 60 million and freedom of movement across the EU, should surprise nobody. Other entrepreneurs are doubtless moving the other way.

Beecroft asserts that failure to do as he wishes will mean the economy growing at 5% less than it would otherwise have done. In support of this he offers no evidence, save that he has served on the boards of 20 companies, and thus a particularly questionable appeal to authority.

He talks of the Lib Dems and the Government as if they were two separate entities, then says of Vince Cable "People find it very odd that he's in charge of business, and yet appears to do very little to support business". Yes, Adrian, like he worked tirelessly to not only secure over 2,000 jobs at the GM plant at Ellesmere Port, but also helped to bring around 700 more to the area.

Beecroft claims that Young Dave was supportive of his proposals, but the though remains that this was a Steve Hilton initiative and Cameron knows full well that some of the ideas put forward would merely confirm the old adage of the Tories being the "Nasty Party". And the "socialist" jibe at Cable, a former chief economist at Shell who is also a popular minister, will get him and his supporters nowhere]

No comments: