The Forbes Charge Sheets

Daily Mail (London), February 17, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Forbes Charge Sheets


YESTERDAY, the world's foremost business magazine launched a devastating attack on 'RedTape Tony' Blair and New Labour.

The influential Forbes Global warned that a flood of stealth taxes and restrictive new regulations are strangling British business and eroding the advantages - low tax and flexible labour markets - we had over our trading competitors.

Here, below, we reproduce the main charges levelled by Forbes and on the right, we cite the experience of one American woman, a former banker based in Moscow, who launched the Bagel Street Company in London in 1999.

Her conclusion? 'It is far more difficult to run a business here than it is in Russia.'

FORBES Global lays a string of charges at the feet of Tony Blair and his Government, accusing Labour of throttling the economy with red tape, high taxes and its failure to understand what makes business work. The magazine quotes the calculation of the Confederation of British Industry, which says that over the past year there have been ten new business regulations every day, and that the extra red tape has cost firms [pounds sterling]16 billion since Labour's 1997 election victory. This is the charge sheet from America's most influential business journal ...

In 1997 Tony Blair embraced the EU social chapter that John Major had always resisted. The result was that British employment laws had to be rewritten.

Whitehall has established a reputation for 'goldplating' the EU directives, adding its own extensive and niggling requirements to what is already an open ended and extremely costly guarantee of new rights.

Tony Blair has brought back the union powers that Margaret Thatcher stripped away to the huge benefit of the British economy. Among the new union privileges are a statutory right to recognition, strengthened collective rights and laws that mean the burden of proof for wrongful dismissal now falls on the employer and not the sacked worker.

New maternity leave regulations threaten a business nightmare. In Britain, women have 18 weeks' paid maternity leave and the right to go back to work inside 40 weeks. Men can take three months' unpaid leave. All firms with more than five workers must grant these rights. By contrast, American firms with fewer than 50 workers are not covered by maternity rules, and maximum paid maternity leave is 12 weeks.

Cherie Blair is an ardent supporter of more generous parental leave. The Prime Minister has proposed extending paid maternity leave to six months and this can be expected to happen if Labour wins the election. Forbes quotes a fashion business owner who has to replace a pregnant office manager but who says no competent manager can be hired when they must be told they will have to leave within a year. …

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