Do you want the truth from your government? (Part 2): The evidence free Beecroft Report (video)

In May 2012, the government asked British workers to give up their employment protections in exchange for cash or shares in the company that employed them.

“Employees will be given between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares that are exempt from capital gains tax. In exchange, they will give up their UK rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and will be required provide 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual 8.” (George Osborne’s policy proposal 2012)

following Adrian Beecroft‘s report that recommended removing the rights of workers to claim unfair dismissal about which Beecroft wrote:

“The downside of the proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them. While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from the change.”

As you know if you have read Part 1 of this examination of recent government policies and announcements I am not a fan of coalition statistical manipulations.

Sometimes they cannot find the answers that they seek even by spinning the real numbers to the extreme.  So what do they do in this all too frequent event?  Well, they get someone who  shares their views (preferably one that has more extreme views than their own so that theirs look moderate by comparison)  to write something for them – it’s obvious isn’t it? And who better than a supporter of deregulation, Conservative Party donor (£537,000 at the last count) and venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft?  The fact that Beecroft is also an owner of Wonga the payday loan company that charges its impoverished customers APR’s of 4,600% was just icing on the cake.

So the Tory’s want to deregulate employment and need a report to back the decisions that they have already made. Now they have Adrian Beecroft an arch capital exploiter that already has an axe to grind having been forced by the courts to pay a former HR staff member £150k after he unfairly dismissed her.


This is what the Tories want your boss to be able to do without any liberal rights laws getting in the way. (Modified Image: Original photo by Reuters via Daily Telegraph)

This is what he wants your boss to be able to do without any liberal rights laws getting in the way. (Original photo by Reuters via Daily Telegraph)

Having set the scene, listen to Financial Times journalist and seeker of statistical truth Tim Harford‘s More or Less programme from Radio 4 to find out about the valuable research based findings that Beecroft reviewed before issuing his recommendations.

Video © imincorrigible
Audio © BBC


If you cannot link to the audio or simply cannot be bothered, you may find some of the important details covered by Tim Harford in the following blog post that appeared in following the Beecroft Report publication with a link to the post at the bottom of the page.

“The Beecroft report has finally been published, both in its original form, as leaked to the Telegraph, and in its final official form. (Hat Tip to Signal for the links.) And what an anti-climax it is! Sure, many managers will read it and find things that they agree with. After all, most of us have our employment law pet-hates. Some will applaud the proposed cap on compensation for loss of earnings in discrimination cases, others will cheer the suggestion that TUPE protection of terms and conditions should only last for a year. The report contains all sorts of interesting ideas, though I am not sure how workable some of them are. Doubtless someone better qualified than I am will give it a proper line-by-line fisking in due course.

But, while there are plenty of suggestions in the report, it is short on data. Beecroft provides no solid evidence to show that, even if the report were to be implemented in full, it would make any difference to Britain’s flat-lining economy.

I have done it to death on this blog but, to recap: The UK has one of the lowest levels of employment regulation in the developed world; A lot of countries with higher levels of employment regulation than the UK have higher growth, better employment rates and are more competitive; Where regulation is already low, cutting it further makes very little difference to employment levels and might even make things worse.

The Beecroft report does not attempt to answer any of these objections. It contains no data at all. As Conservative MP John Redwood found, when he asked his question in Parliament yesterday, the government has not even a rough idea of the likely impact of the report’s implementation.

Mr Redwood, usually thought of as one of the more right-wing MPs, does not think it will make much difference:

“I asked how much extra GDP we might get from the full Beecroft. The government said it did not know. I suspect it would be mildly positive, but it is unlikely to be the game changer that tips us into fast growth on its own.”

Even “mildly positive” is probably an over-estimate, based more on faith than any empirical evidence. Those supporting labour market deregulation have, so far, failed to come up with any justification for scrapping existing laws.

The OECD has concluded:

“There appears to be little or no association between employment protection legislation strictness and overall unemployment.”

Even the government’s own call for evidence on the likely impact on micro-businesses is inconclusive. The advocates of further

Really, the Beecroft report is simply a list of all the employment laws that Adrian Beecroft and the people he talked to don’t like. Nothing more. It’s classic Politics of I Met A Man – long on opinion and anecdote, short on data and analysis. My mates and I reckon all this stuff is a load of crap and we know because we’re business celebs. There’s more of the same in his Telegraph interview today.

Much as the pet-hates and gripes of a few business people might make interesting reading, it is no basis for making policy. Whatever the level of regulation, business people always moan about red tape. Even if the government implemented every measure in Adrian Beecroft’s report, the regulation-haters would still be whingeing and the economy would still be screwed.

As you might expect from what is actually little more than a polemic, the Beecroft Report contains a few amusing quotes. This one, for example:

“The downside of the proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them. While this is sad I believe it is a price worth paying for all the benefits that would result from the change.”

All what benefits? Before I decide whether or not a price is worth paying I like to know what I am going to get. I looked inside Dr Beecroft’s medicine chest and I did not find much more than a few quack remedies.”

Post first published 22 July 2013



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