Good spin for Redwood, getting the story of his wide-ranging policy review boiled down to just inheritance tax in the papers today, rather than coming over as an evil masterplan to work us til we drop, and then mortgage an unregulated timeshare to our remains. The structural flaws in the unreported iceberg seem to be getting bigger though, thanks to the Chancellor, the Work Foundation, the TUC, and even Railway Gazette.
Kicking off with the employment rights stuff that caused a stir earlier this week, the Work Foundation’s David Coates said:
“The UK is already a lightly regulated economy and there is no strong evidence to show that Mr Redwood’s proposals would increase our national prosperity. In contrast, it seems more likely that bad employers will exploit these measures to worsen the position of the most disadvantaged workers.”
The £14 billion saving from red tape looks pretty tenuous. Just dropping the minimum standards on employment rights won’t actually save money on the majority of jobs, for the simple reason that the majority of jobs exceed statutory minimum levels anyway. Redwood seems to have forgotten that there are a lot of decent employers out there, who wouldn’t want to jeopardise working relations by sinking to the depths that his changes would let them.
The people who would most likley see a reduction would be poorly paid, vulnerable workers with bad employers – the kind of people who need the protections most. There’s also less money to be saved in slashing the conditions of someone near the current minimum anyway – as meanness goes, it’s not even practical meanness.
Coates reckons Redwood’s economic analysis is pretty fundamentally flawed anyway:
“The OECD have made clear in their report, Going for Growth 2007 that the policy priorities for the UK are the reform of Incapacity Benefit, tackling basic skills problems, strengthening incentives for lone parents to return to work, investing in infrastructure and improving public service efficiency.
The deregulatory agenda has reached the end of the road. Other policy instruments must be used if the UK is to face the challenge of intensifying competition and rising skill levels in China and India, the emerging economic superpowers.
Most seriously, the proposals to withdraw from some key elements of European social policy are not consistent with the UK’s continued membership of the EU. Leaving the single market would do immense damage to British business. This would more than outweigh the supposed benefits of tearing up the Working Time Regulations “
The whole agenda on working time and the Social Chapter seems designed purely to pick a fight over Europe, regardless of its implications to the economy, and the TUC point out there even seem to be inconsistencies with Cameron’s earlier prononcements on flexbile and family friendly working, which draw heavily on working time rights.
And back to inheritance tax. It’s a middle England bugbear, even though it actually affects only a minority of the richest, and mainly the South East. The Express and Mail will get good campaign fodder out of it, but you could undercut much of the support by simply raising the exemption rate by another £100,000, and pegging it to house prices in the future. Straight off you’d lose most of the sting to voters without losing most of the income to the Treasury.
Myself, I’d rather see it left though, as it has a purpose wider than lining Darling’s pockets. Looking at the Express, you’d think this was the main thing holding people back from owning their own homes, but surely a braver case for it can be argued? Keeping assets from generation to generation entrenches income inequality, and is much more important a factor in taking home ownership out of most people’s reach. Waiting for your parents to croak just in order to get a house as part of a gated community in a sea of sink estates? Not the way I want to live.